The Reformed Life

Equipping followers of Christ to live in a manner worthy of their calling

Knowing Sin

“Other than knowing God, your greatest advocate, nothing else in this world is more important than knowing sin, your greatest enemy,” writes Mark Jones, senior minister at Faith Vancouver Presbyterian Church (PCA). Is this true? Why is possessing an awareness of our greatest enemy (sin) so important? Because, as Jones argues, “Christians should know that a proper understanding of grace requires a thorough grasp of sin (13).” 

Knowing Sin is a thorough, challenging, and convicting read. Divided into eighteen chapters, Mark Jones explores the doctrine of hamartiology (doctrine of sin). He argues that a “distorted, weak view of sin will lead to a disfigured, anemic, and unproductive theology (13).” As Thomas Watson (c.1620-86) once said, “The more bitterness we taste in sin, the more sweetness we shall taste in Christ (The Doctrine of Repentance, 137).” 

Christians should know that a proper understanding of grace requires a thorough grasp of sin

Mark Jones explores the many facets of sin throughout the book, from total depravity, original sin, to indwelling sin. Although the book was terrific, I benefited greatly from a couple chapters in particular. 

Sin Remains 

Jones writes, “with conversion, the guilt of sin is eradicated, and the dominion of sin broken, yet the remainders of sin abide in believers. Welcome to the doctrine of Indwelling Sin (61).” Every believer in Christ struggles with sin. “Sin does not simply dwell in us, but it is close at hand, aiming to disrupt our living to God (66).” Sin, like a trojan horse, remains in our hearts. 

This indwelling sin constantly seeks to disrupt our private and public communion with God (68). Sin is vigilant. Therefore, the believer must stand ready to fight against the onslaught of sin’s temptations. What are we to do? Jones argues, “We can, like a king in a palace, fortify ourselves with many guards and protections, but we need to remember that no king is truly safe when his enemies are within the gates, so to speak (69).” Jones adds, “Sin surprises us in various ways. For example, we may be aiming to repent for a particular sin and then be carried away by that sin with a fresh delight in it. We can at times move from repentance to sin with more ease than from sin to repentance (69).” 

Every believer in Christ can resonate with this idea. The Christian can never relax because of sin’s indwelling presence and place his sword back in its sheath. Therefore the life of denial is a daily taking up of the cross, not a weekly or yearly one (Luke 9:23), argues Jones (69). We must understand sin’s ways. Ignorance of the nature of indwelling sin leads to a failure to prepare for the battle against it that rages in our souls and tests the loyalty of soldiers of Christ (71). 

Sin’s Sorrow 

Out of His grace, God preserves us from seeing ourselves in a manner that might cause an instant heart attack. But God also, according to His saving grace, allows His children to see themselves truly, albeit partially, that they may flee to Christ for cleansing and salvation (73). 

We must understand that every person is infected by sin equally. Adam’s sin affected all of his natural descendants (everyone throughout all time). Jones writes, “There is no sin we could not theoretically commit (75).” According to Puritan Stephen Charnock, “The best men have the worst sins in their nature, though, by grace, they have them not in their practice (Works). What a timely reminder for us all! By God’s grace, we are not as bad as we could be! 

The Christian can never relax because of sin’s indwelling presence and place his sword back in its sheath

We must demonstrate sorrow for our sin. But not just any sorrow, Godly sorrow. The Apostle Paul said, “for godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death (2 Cor. 7:10).” Jones states, “Godly sorrow takes man the offender beyond to God the offended. It transcends sorrow for the consequences for sin by recognizing, from the heart, that one’s offense is always against God (78).” 

Godly sorrow not only comes from the heart, but one bathed in humility (78). Again, Charnock is helpful. He writes, Pride is a preparation for judgment; the higher the tower aspires, the fitter tinder it is for lightning; the bigger anything swells, the nearer it is to bursting; the prouder any man is, the plainer butt he is for an arrow of God’s wrath (Works).

Do you possess godly sorrow over your sin? Or are you simply sad for fear of its consequences? Godly sorrow is also a comforting sorrow. True sorrow for sin leads to repentance, which leads us back to Christ (79). Jones adds, “The sorrow we have over our sins must be over sins great and small. We cannot excuse certain sins because they are not significant to us. No sin before God is a little thing. Jesus died for all sins, which means all of our sins are weighty before the Almighty (79).” 

Whether you are a Christian or a non-Christian, your greatest need is the One who came into the world to save sinners

My Recommendation 

I give this book a 9/10. I would recommend this book for every believer in Christ. The chapters may be dense, but your soul will be the better for wading through the deep waters. Jones ends every chapter with practical application. He doesn’t simply present these truths in the abstract; he brings them to bear on our daily lives. 

In the end, Jones points the reader to Christ. He writes, “our sins are as numerous as the sand on the sea, but Christ’s perfect, complete righteousness answers to this predicament. No one else can or will offer you what Christ alone can. Whether you are a Christian or a non-Christian, your greatest need is the One who came into the world to save sinners (1 Tim. 1:15, 192).” 

**Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Josh Chambers

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