If you have often struggled to find a balance between learning about Scripture and living it out, then Owen on the Christian Life is a good book to better see how this can happen. I have enjoyed learning about Christian doctrine, but I find too often an inconsistency in how I apply the truth of scripture to my life. To know about God has really been more of a hobby, something I find great interest in, but is done more for my glory rather than to know God as he is revealed in Scripture. Owen is a great help for me in mending that inconsistency.
This quote by John Owen captures well the two springs of mind and heart:
“Our belief of the Scriptures to be the word of God, or a divine revelation, and our understanding of the mind and will of God as revealed in them, are the two springs of all our interest in Christian religion. From all those streams of light and truth derived whereby our souls are watered, refreshed, and made fruitful unto God.”
Owen upholds the supremacy of Scripture for faith and practice, and therein lies the challenge to live in light of the glory of the truth of God’s Word, and to not merely acquire knowledge about God but to know Him more intimately.
1 John 3:16 says this: “By this we know that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brother.” To say that I love God and then to have hatred or enmity against a brother is to really say I don’t love at all. This is a grave inconsistency in what I truly believe about God and the clear commandment to love God with your whole heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.
John also says later in this chapter that, “Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him” (1 John 3:24). This obedience is not to gain approval or to somehow earn our acceptance before God, but is rooted in the gospel truth that we have been rescued from trying to earn our salvation and that we have an Advocate before the Father who is greater than our hearts (1 John 2:1-2; 3:20). For while we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly to be reconciled to God (Rom. 5:6-8), that we may rejoice in the new life we have in Him. We are then seeking to know God more through His Word but grow more in the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, that will shine in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:4-6.
This book is a good intro into the doctrine and life of John Owen, and I enjoyed reading about the way his explanations of Scriptural truth lead to praise and worship. Reformed doctrine in the mid sixteenth century, on the heels of Reformation, has a strong conviction that salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:9).
My favorite chapter of the book dealt with this key doctrine, and it brings great joy to know that what God starts He will finish. If left to myself, I wouldn’t want to seek God and have anything to do with Him. It is by His grace alone that I have access to the Father, through the work of Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit.
I found myself wanting to read more about this great Reformer in England and to delve more into his writings. With a style unique to the Puritans, I did find that his prose was more accessible that other Puritans, chief among them Jonathan Edwards.
I am grateful for the opportunity to read this book on Owen and I pray that I’d go with eagerness to the Word and know God better. He has given us His word so that we may know Him and treasure Him above all else. There is none beside You, who can give hope and peace and the forgiveness of sins. Where else can I go?
I pray that my studies would be pleasing in your sight and be useful in edifying your church. I am praying that the truth of your Word would not be an exercise in gaining knowledge, but that I’d grow to know You better and more intimately, all for Your glory and for the benefit of Your church.
Book notes: Owen and the Christian Life. Matthew Barnett and Michael A. G. Haykin
Ryan Carr is one of the Missional Community leaders at Kaleo Church in El Cajon. Him and his wife, Kathryn, have been married for 1 year.