John Owen (1616-1683) is my favorite Puritan that I’ve read too little of and is very hard to read. Yet, there may not be a more important Puritan voice for the American church than John Owen. For the American pastor, I would say read Richard Baxter and brace yourself. But for the greater congregation in setting aright doctrine and practice, read Owen. (As a note, some consider Edwards a Puritan, if so then read him too!)
Here is what Owen says about how to deal with a particular lust in your life…
Without sincerity and diligence in a universality of obedience, there is no
mortification of any one perplexing lust to be obtained.
The other was to the person; this to the thing itself. I shall a little explain
A man finds any lust to bring him into the condition formerly described; it is powerful, strong, tumultuating, leads captive, vexes, disquiets, takes away peace; he is not able to bear it; wherefore he sets himself against it, prays against it, groans under it, sighs to be delivered: but in the meantime, perhaps, in other duties, — in constant communion with God, — in reading, prayer, and meditation, — in other ways that are not of the same kind with the lust wherewith he is troubled, — he is loose and negligent. Let not that man think that ever he shall arrive to the mortification of the lust he is perplexed withal.
Did you catch it? If we are slack in our other disciplines (and mortifications) whatever particular lust is hammering us above others will not be removed. This reminds me of what I’ve experienced with fasting in the past. Oftentimes when trying to mortify my own flesh / lust I’ve been given to fasting. However, during the fast God has “undone me” on issues other than the lust…pride, slothfulness, materialism. Now, pride may underly them all, but the point is, the way to mortify our flesh in a particular area of failure is to have a systemic change. We must TOTALLY go after God in Christ Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
We have no idea how fallen we are and how deeply are (particular) sin goes. But we also have no idea how complete the redemption and victory we have in Christ Jesus. Let’s get a better idea of the victory we have, giving every effort to going after Him in devotion and practice. His grace is greater!
3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. – 2 Peter 1:3-4