“If you cut the flesh any slack, you’ll watch it regroup and revive.” (40)
This has been one of the more important books in my life, one that I’ve re-read several times. I was first introduced to it at a men’s Bible study group, and have since found myself falling back upon it when I see “the enemy within” rearing its ugly head again and gaining precious ground.
Lundgaard’s carefully distilled paraphrase of two unintelligible classics by John Owen get to the very heart of the issue of inbred sin in the believer’s life. While I could cover many a topic from every chapter, I’ll only discuss one: the need for vigilance. As quoted above, Lundgaard writes that “if you cut the flesh any slack, you’ll watch it regroup and revive” (40). One constant excuse that I personally give my flesh is this: “I have done so well in godliness lately that I deserve a break.” So then I open the door to sin again, whether it’s overindulgence in physical pleasures or filling my eyes and ears with borderline improper entertainment or outright raunchy stuff. It’s an incessant problem, and this giving of slack to the flesh certainly has allowed it to regroup and revive.
But Lungaard continues: “If you violently war against the flesh, you’ll win ground” (40). While it seems like an obvious jump to conclusion, I fear that very few believers ever make it. Too many of us are satisfied with the middle ground of not giving in to sin, but also not actively battling it.
Too many believers—myself included— also use the excuse of culture to indulge in sin. For example, they say something like this: “I need to know the culture around me in order to engage that culture. Therefore it is actually healthy for me to watch every episode of Breaking Bad—with its nudity, drugs, violence, godlessness, and cursing included—and it is also healthy for me to do so 3, 4, maybe 5 episodes a day. After all, since I’m paying a monthly fee for this NetFlix subscription, and I have to be a good steward of my money. All so I can engage the culture around me.” That example might be extreme, but it’s accurate to say that we all try to justify our sin in one way or another. And that’s our flesh’s way of reasoning. Nothing more. If we give in to such excuse making, then our sin nature winning the battle against the Spirit Who has already saved us from such a life, and given us a new heart.
We are all in a war against the flesh, but too many of us don’t realize that we are living daily on the front lines. The only answer to this problem, the only way for us to find victory through our Lord Jesus and His Holy Spirit is to be constantly, violently at WAR with sin—with the enemy within.
[From a Previous Post]
Lundgaard makes it clear from the very Preface of this book that much of the material he presents in The Enemy Within is but a modernization of the writings of that great Puritan author, John Owen. Specifically, Lundgaard focused in his research on Owen’s The Nature, Power, Deceit, and Prevalency of The Remainder of Indwelling Sins in Believers and The Mortification of Sin. Lundgaard knew that Owen’s thoughts on the reality, power, results and ultimate defeat of sin would prove greatly beneficial for all Christians, if they would but read the man’s antiquated works. But very few regular-Joe Christians would have the time or patience to ever do so, and so Lundgaard found this modernizing process to be his calling. Much to his own discomfort, then, he took the pains to understand Owen’s style and backbone ideas and to offer the Christian public of this new era a glimpse of the past that is still reality today.
Lundgaard fills his pages with real, personal examples and illustrations to ensure his readers that he is writing not just from a scholarly perspective, but from the perspective of a man who knows sin, who battles sin, who sometimes loses to sin, but who also hates sin and who has discovered for himself the reality of Romans 8:13: “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (ESV). I appreciated throughout this book Lundgaard’s clear writing style and obvious outline format in each chapter. Such writing helps me keep the lessons organized in my own mind as I read, and it definitely helped me and my Bible Study Group as we moved our way through his text as a group each week. I also very much appreciated the very apt study questions following each chapter, as these always helped my Group focus in on our own specific needs each week.
I would recommend The Enemy Within for personal study, though I believe its blades cut even deeper in a group format.
© 2011 E.T.