Monday, November 14, 2005

Book Summary/Review: The Enemy Within

For my own pursuit to kill sin, I decided not just to read The Enemy Within by Kris Lundgaard, but to summarize and review it. I hope you find this summary useful to your own sanctification.

What a great question to start off a book with: “If God has redeemed me from sin, and given me his Holy Spirit to sanctify me and give me strength against sin, why do I go on sinning” (p. 13)? I want to know the answer to this question! I want to dishonor God less! I’ll keep reading and hopefully find something helpful.

Chapter One: Evil at my Elbow
I love it when authors come right out and tell me the reason(s) for their book. Lundgaard is very clear when he says, “The reason for this book is that the first step to fighting this enemy is to know it—and to know it well” (p. 22). If we are going to fight sin effectively, we must be familiar with its tactics. The majority of this chapter is spent expositing Romans 7:21: “So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.” Lundgaard emphasized four key truths from this text:
1. Sin living in us is a “law.”
2. We find this law inside us.
3. We find this law when we’re at our best.
4. This law never rests.
Lundgaard says, “To understand these four truths about indwelling sin is to arm yourself against it. In your struggle against sin, there is only one thing more important to grasp than these four facts: the free, justifying grace of God in Christ’s blood” (pp. 26-27). Praise God that this book starts with the gospel!

Chapter Two: The Long Arm of the Law
This chapter goes more in depth with the idea of sin being a “law.” Sin offers rewards and punishments just like the Law of God. Sin loves to parade the promises of suffering given to Christians. Sin reminds us of the pleasures it offers. Lundgaard also reminds us that sin takes no breaks. Sin constantly bombards us and won’t allow us to rest from the fight. Lundgaard ends this chapter with an appeal to those who do not sense the luring power of sin in their lives. He reminds us that no one who is born of God can live at peace with sin (1 John 3:9).

Chapter Three: The Haunted House
In this chapter, Lundgaard compares our sinful hearts to a haunted house. Sin lurks in the darkness ready to bombard us at all times. Just when we think we have found these monsters, they slip away into the crevices of our hearts and ready for their next attack. Lundgaard says, “Sin can be like trick birthday candles: you blow them out and smile, thinking you have your wish; then your jaw drops as they burst into flames” (p. 39). The Holy Spirit is the blazing torch we carry into the haunted house, and he ferrets out the monsters.

Chapter Four: Irreconcilable Differences
The flesh is more than just God’s enemy: it is the enmity, the pure hatred itself. The power of sin will not accept a cease-fire, much less a peace treaty. We must fight this enmity for the rest of our lives. There is no common ground between God and the flesh. Lundgaard describes the power of sin by saying, “Digging around in the Bible to find a juicy new insight to impress your small group is like sailing the Caribbean, but poring over the Scriptures to find the Lover of you soul is like skiing up Mount Everest. Conjuring up a happy mood with some music you don’t even know the words to is like solving 2 + 2 with a calculator. But savoring the glory of Christ and his tender love until your heart is softened toward him is like using mental math to calculate pi to the thousandth place. And giving a birthday present to your best friend is like forcing down some double-fudge brownies. But giving up your extra bedroom to a homeless person in the name of Jesus is like eating the Rockies for breakfast” (p. 47).

Chapter Five: The Tricks of the Trade
This chapter is all about deception. Sin works by deceiving us. It does not tell us the whole truth about anything. We must use our minds to evaluate and screen everything that sin throws at us.

Chapter Six: Getting Carried Away
In this chapter, Lundgaard uses the example of Joseph and a modern illustration of temptation to help us see the importance of the mind in the battle against the flesh’s deceptions. He says, “Remember that the mind is the watchman of the soul, commanded to judge and determine whether something is good and pleasing to God, so the affections can long for it and the will can choose it. If the mind fails to identify a sin as evil, wicked, vile, and bitter, the affections will be not safe from clinging to it, nor the will from giving consent” (p. 63). At the end of this chapter, we are reminded again of our need to be “cross-eyed.” The cross shows God’s hatred of sin and helps up forsake it for the glory of God.

Chapter Seven: No Idle Mind
This chapter is about two of the most important tools God has given us to kill the flesh. These two great tools of the mind are meditation and private prayer. Because these tools are designed by God to kill sin, the flesh opposes these tools with all its wily strength. Lundgaard is not talking about casual Bible reading and intercessory prayer. He is speaking about deep and constant meditation on God’s Word and prayers aimed at God’s work of sanctification. Lundgaard gives us three things to keep in mind as we pick up these priceless tools: (1) Meditate on God with God, (2) Meditate on the Word in the Word, and (3) Meditate on your self in the Word and with God.
Lundgaard compares the flesh to a wolverine. Suppose your Biology professor gave you a live wolverine and asked you to dissect it with no anesthetic and no way to tie the beast down. Lundgaard says, “Your flesh won’t sit still for meditation and pray any more than a wolverine would submit to your surgery. The flesh resists with its last breath anything that smacks of communion with God…” (p. 73). He goes on to give us four “claws” we can expect when we take up the tools of meditation and prayer:
1. The first claw aims at your weakness – (example: your flesh will make you sleepy)
2. The second claw is the tyranny of the urgent – (you will have to neglect important things to devote yourself to God’s Word and to prayer)
3. The third claw is the duty swap – (the flesh will argue that your corporate or family worship is enough)
4. The fourth claw is the big promise – (you can pray and meditate next week when you get past this particular hump)

Excursus: Loving God with All Your Mind
This excursus on the mind deals with the true nature of obedience. It is not merely enough to do what God says, we must also do it in the way he has commanded. This is deep thinking about the heart of obeying God. Also, Lundgaard helps us understand the flesh’s counteroffensive to these meditations on obedience.

Chapter Eight: Hooked
In this chapter, Lundgaard compares the schemes of the flesh to fishing bait. The point of bait is to disguise the hook. Sin works in the same way. It promises satisfaction but conceals the shinny hook of destruction from our view. The point of this chapter is that the flesh uses these schemes to hook our affections. Lundgaard says, “Once your heart latches onto something, you will not be able to stop your will from consenting to it” (p. 96).

Chapter Nine: Maculate Conception
This chapter is about the role of the will in our fight against sin. After our mind is dragged away from its duty as the watchman, our affections are enticed and entangled, and then our will consents and sin is conceived (p. 99). Lundgaard writes about active consent and passive consent. He makes the point that neglecting the means God has given us to fight sin is also giving consent to sin. He ends the chapter by describing four ways of the flesh tries to capture us: (1) twisted Scripture, (2) the double standard, (3) keeping you in the dark, and (4) don’t worry about it.

Chapter Ten: Slip-Sliding Away
We are powerless against the flesh’s schemes without the power of the Holy Spirit. We must cultivate a love for Christ that cannot be quenched! Lundgaard lists seven buckets of ice water that the flesh dumps on our first love:
1. The flesh knows how to eat an elephant. He says, “Indwelling sin takes advantage of our natural laziness and negligence in spiritual things, enticing us to lay aside spiritual duties one by one” (p.116).
2. The flesh dresses up in tuxedoes and evening gowns. The flesh tries to make religion a formal affair, so that it has no power.
3. The flesh sends us down rabbit trails. The flesh wants to sidetrack us from the purity and simplicity of pure devotion to Christ.
4. The flesh turns sin into a cuddly pet. The flesh tries to get us comfortable with sin in our lives.
5. The flesh pumps up our heads and shrivels our hearts (more knowledge and less affection).
6. The flesh gets us to do our own thing. The flesh gradually persuades us to live according to our wisdom.
7. The flesh is a cat that gets our tongue. The flesh cultivates a neglect of private communion with God.
Lundgaard ends this chapter by helping us cultivate a love for Jesus by lifting Him up before us.

Chapter Eleven: A Bone-Marrow Transplant
This chapter is about humility. The main point is that, “sin can’t thrive in a humble heart” (p. 128). When we see God for who He is, we see ourselves as sinful and needy. When we ponder the greatness of God, we are humbled and sin looses its grip on our hearts. Sin withers in humility.

Chapter Twelve: No Easy Peace
This chapter is devoted to the discernment of true peace from God as opposed to the easy peace of the flesh. The flesh seeks to trick us with false peace in our relationship with God. Lundgaard helps us with four distinguishing marks:
1. You know it’s your flesh talking when the peace comes and you don’t yet abhor the sin.
2. You know it’s your flesh talking when peace comes only by logic.
3. You know it’s your flesh talking when you take peace lightly.
4. You know it’s your flesh talking when peace is selective.
Lundgaard says, “When you hear Christ speaking peace to your soul, you can rest in comfort. But your flesh will grow sickly and pale, drained of its power by a renewed taste of God’s mercy in Christ’s blood” (p. 139).

Chapter Thirteen: Lethal Faith
The last chapter serves as a summary and concluding exhortation. Lundgaard reminds us that all of the methods to defeating the flesh are powerless without faith in God. The most powerful way to defeat sin is to believe in the work of Christ in His death for our sins. Sin is powerless before the Cross.

This is a wonderful and rich meditation on the battle against sin. Lundgaard serves us well by laying out the battle plan of the enemy and the power of the gospel. Each chapter contains “questions for reflection” at the end. These questions alone are worth the price of the book because they are well-crafted and penetrating. Here is a book worthy to be studied and treasured in our pursuit of sanctification!


Mark Redfern said...


Our church has been using this book as a study tool in our small group ministry. I have a very good friend in our church who has created a very helpful leader's guide for this book.

Thanks for your helpful summary. Speaking of Owen, Justin Taylor will be editing and releasing an updated treatment of The Mortification of Sin, due out by Crossway in Jan. 2006. I'm sure it will be a must-read!

justin said...

Thanks for letting us know about that Taylor book coming out.
Yes, I would love to use this book as a small group study. Could you send me the leader's guide your friend created? said...

This is a great read. All the robust theology of Owen with all the readability of a modern work.

laura said...

Your summary is very helpful for me sir :) actually i already read this book and summarized it, but i can't find the file in my computer. When i tried to search in internet, i've found your blog. Thankyou :)