James I. Packer has a great little article on CT’s Christian History web site, entitled God’s Chemo for My Cancered Soul. He is a fan of the puritans, and draws much help from John Owen.
Here are two paragraphs from the heart of Packer’s article…
Reaching across three centuries, Owen showed me my inside—my heart—as no one had ever done before. Sin, he told me, is a blind, anti-God, egocentric energy in the fallen human spiritual system, ever fomenting self-centered and self-deceiving desires, ambitions, purposes, plans, attitudes, and behaviors. Now that I was a regenerate believer, born again, a new creation in Christ, sin that formerly dominated me had been dethroned but was not yet destroyed. It was marauding within me all the time, bringing back sinful desires that I hoped I had seen the last of, and twisting my new desires for God and godliness out of shape so that they became pride-perverted too. Lifelong conflict with the besetting sins that besetting sin generates was what I must expect.
What to do? Here was Owen’s answer, in essence: Have the holiness of God clear in your mind. Remember that sin desensitizes you to itself. Watch—that is, prepare to recognize it, and search it out within you by disciplined, Bible-based, Spirit-led self-examination. Focus on the living Christ and his love for you on the cross. Pray, asking for strength to say “no” to sin’s suggestions and to fortify yourself against bad habits by forming good ones contrary to them. And ask Christ to kill the sinful urge you are fighting, as the theophanic angel in C. S. Lewis’s Great Divorce tells the man with the lizard to do.
We ought to take sin seriously. We ought to seek greater holiness, with the Spirit’s help.