Licensed to Kill: A Field Manual for Mortifying Sin by Brian Hedges

The BCC Author Interview Q & A with Brian Hedges

As part of our BCC vision, we want to help you to get to know gifted Christian authors and their books. This week we’re highlighting Brian Hedges as he talks about his book Licensed to Kill: A Field Manual for Mortifying Sin, which is part of the Cruciform Press series.

BCC: “Why did you write Licensed to Kill?” 

BH: “No one has helped me with my sanctification more than the 17th century Puritan John Owen who wrote a trilogy of books on indwelling sin, temptation, and the mortification of sin. But Owen is hard to read. I wrote Licensed to Kill in order to get the essence of Owen’s teaching into the hands of 21st century readers.”

BCC: “Are you the first person to do this?”

BH: “No, Kris Lundgaard’s The Enemy Within is a fine book that does something similar. Our approaches are slightly different, but Lundgaard’s book is excellent and I’d love to see more people reading it.”

BCC: “What does Owen mean by mortifying mortify sin?”

BH: “To mortify sin is to kill it. We’re in a life and death struggle with the flesh and indwelling sin. To quote Owen: ‘Be killing sin or sin will be killing you!’ Owen was just paraphrasing Paul: ‘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’ (Rom. 8:13).”

BCC: “You referred to the struggle with the flesh and indwelling sin. So, do you think that believers have two natures—a new nature and a sinful nature?” 

BH: “It depends on what you mean by ‘two natures.’ Scripture certainly talks about the conflict between the desires of the flesh and the Spirit (Gal. 5:17). Sometimes this feels like a Jekyll vs. Hyde struggle in our hearts and this is how I read the much disputed seventh chapter of Romans. But, on the other hand, I think it’s a misnomer to think of the believer as a dual-personality with a ‘sin nature’ that has equal sway with the Spirit in his heart. It helps me to remember that we live as citizens of two ages, between the ‘already’ and the ‘not yet.’ We are already redeemed, but not fully redeemed. We are new creations in Christ, but we still inhabit a fallen world with bodies and minds that are not yet fully glorified. The decisive victory against sin and death has been won, but we still have clean up battles to fight.”

BCC: “The subtitle for your book is A Field Manual for Mortifying Sin. That has a tactical, practical ring to it. Can you talk about some of the practical takeaways from the book?”

BH: “Sure. When dealing with sin, we need practical help in prevention, diagnosis, and cure. On the prevention side, I help readers analyze how temptation works (chapter 4) and then talk about the ministry of the Holy Spirit (chapter 8) and how to use the Word and prayer to fight sin (chapter 9). But we also need help in dealing with sins that already have a stranglehold in our lives. This involves both diagnosis and cure. Chapter 5 deals with diagnosis, and the chapters 6-7 especially focus on the gospel and the cross as the cure for sin.”

BCC: “Some professing Christians might wonder why killing sin is such a big deal, especially if God has already forgiven our sins (justification) and made us new (regeneration) creations in Christ. Doesn’t grace cover everything?”

BH: “Paul says that God’s grace teaches us ‘to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age’ (Titus 2:12). So, while it’s wonderfully true that God’s grace brings us forgiveness, it’s also important to emphasize that God’s grace also brings personal transformation. Grace isn’t just a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card. Grace changes us.”

BCC: “Some people, especially with the current resurgence of gospel-centeredness, are wary about putting too much emphasis on the role of moral effort in our sanctification. And legalism is a real danger. There’s the whole issue of ‘gospel indicatives’ (what Christ has already done for us) and ‘gospel imperatives’ (what the gospel calls us toward in response to grace). How do you steer away from legalism in Licensed to Kill?”

BH: “Luther said the church was like a drunken peasant that falls off one side of his horse, then climbs back on only to fall of the other. We’re either falling into legalism or license. But the gospel itself keeps us balanced by grounding all its moral demands (imperatives) in the gospel realities (“indicatives”) of Christ’s work for us and our union with Him. There are three chapters (chapters 1, 6, and 7) in Licensed to Kill that address this head-on, but it’s implicit throughout the book. In fact, I conclude almost every chapter by directing the reader back to the work of Christ on the cross. As someone (I don’t remember who) once said, ‘For every single look at your sin, take ten looks at Christ.’”

BCC: “Brian, how can people find out more about Licensed to Kill?”

BH: “Licensed to Kill is part of the Cruciform Press series. Readers can learn more about the book, including reading excerpts, reviews, recommendations, and readers’ comments, along with ordering the book at the Licensed to Kill page.”

BCC: “Brian, thank you for helping our readers not only to know more about your important book, but also more about the importance of mortification.”