Licensed to Kill: A Field Manual for Mortifying Sin, by Brian G. Hedges
Endorsed by Bob Lepine, Joe Thorn, and more.
The Christian life is not a playground, but a battleground. One of the fiercest foes in this battle dwells within our own hearts: the enemy of indwelling sin. The Scriptures command us to “put sin to death.” This is what pastors and theologians of another generation called the “mortification” of sin.
But how do we mortify sin? And what role does the gospel play in this effort to apply lethal force against sin? How can we avoid falling into legalism while still maintaining a passion for holiness? And what kinds of strategies actually work in the daily battle?
These are questions the author has personally wrestled with as both a Christian and a pastor. Heavily influenced by the teachings of Puritan writer John Owen, Licensed to Kill is Hedges’ attempt to answer those questions and provide a biblical and practical guide for the war against sin.
Brian Hedges is lead pastor of Redeemer Church in Niles, Michigan. He has written a number of books, including Christ Formed in You: The Power of Gospel for Personal Change, Christ All-Sufficient, and Watchfulness: Recovering a Lost Spiritual Discipline.
“This book outlines the only strategy that works.”
Click for all endorsements
“Are there things you hate that you end up doing anyway? Have you tried to stop sinning in certain areas of your life, only to face defeat over and over again? If you’re ready to get serious about sin patterns in your life – ready to put sin to death instead of trying to manage it – this book outlines the only strategy that works. This is a book I will return to and regularly recommend to others.”
—Bob Lepine, Co-Host, FamilyLife Today
“Brian Hedges hasn’t written a book for our recreational pleasure, but a ‘field manual’ to assist us in our battle against sin. Rather than aiming at simple moral reformation, Licensed to Kill aims at our spiritual transformation in this fight by addressing the ‘drives and desires of our hearts.’ Like any good field manual, this is a small volume that focuses on the most critical information regarding our enemy, and gives practical instruction concerning the stalking and killing of sin. This is a theologically solid and helpfully illustrated book that not only warns of sin’s danger, but also holds out the gospel confidence of sin’s ultimate demise.”
—Joe Thorn, author, Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself, Lead Pastor, Redeemer Fellowship, Saint Charles, IL
“Are you ready for a serious fight to the death? My friend Brian Hedges goes for the jugular by dusting off a near antique word (and worse, a scarcely-used yet lethal weapon): mortification. Are Christ-followers really licensed to kill? Read this ‘field-manual’ and you will discover that you have a monstrous and aggressive antagonist who is aiming to annihilate you. It’s your duty to fight back! Brian has given us a faithful, smart, Word-centered guide to help us identify and form a battle plan for mortally wounding the enemy of indwelling sin.”
—Wes Ward, Senior Director of Media and Content Strategy, Revive Our Hearts
Blog Review –
“Provides excellent insight into how the believer should deal with sin in their lives.”
Mortify your sin. That is likely a sentence most have not heard recently despite being a persistent point of emphasis by great Puritan authors such as John Owen. Mortifying sin involves putting to death the flesh so that the things of God may replace those earthly desires. Pastor and author Brian Hedges in his helpful and powerful book Licensed to Kill: A Field Manual for Mortifying Sin, provides excellent insight into how the believer should deal with sin in their lives.
Hedges begins his book by helping the reader understand what and where to target. He rightly notes “That target is not merely bad behavior but the sinful desires of the heart that produce the behavior.” Dealing with sin involves getting down to the root cause of that sin instead of merely lopping off the head of the dandelion hoping the weeds will no longer grow. Mortifying sin necessitates the need to deprive that which so easily entangles us of its ability to grow and breed in our life. Hedges reminds the reader of the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 13:14, namely “Make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Ultimately, the goal of mortification of sin is a progressive movement towards holiness through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. Hedges correctly states the important point that one “cannot mortify sin unless that sin has already been nailed to the cross of Christ” or as John Owen once stated, “the death of death in the death of Christ.”
Sin is dangerous and not to be trifled with. Thus, the believer must understand that we are to engage in the battle against sin at all times. There should be no toleration of sin in our hearts. Hedges reminds the reader that such an approach is completely opposite of the current cultural mindset towards wrong behavior. This is because “sin portrays itself as something other than what it really is…sin is dehumanizing.” Dealing with sin in our lives will involve some rather drastic measures and Hedges reminds the reader that Jesus even utilized “hyperbole as a call for literal self-mutilation” when Jesus stated it would be better to only have one eye and enter eternal life than have two eyes and be subject to everlasting damnation. Also noted by Hedges is the necessity to mortify sin “in all areas of our lives, not just some areas.” This calls for a complete examination of our lives on a constant basis.
Furthermore, it is imperative for the believer to understand how sin operates and how it entices the individual to pursue the path of unrighteousness. As noted earlier by Hedges, sin is deceitful, requiring the believer to be fully cognizant of how sin deceives the mind, entices the affections, and how it desires to conquer the will. The process of mortification involves what Hedges describes as soul surgery and this surgery is accomplished by that which pierces to the joints and marrow of our very soul, namely the Word of God. Hedges does an excellent job of orienting the reader to Scripture as the place by which we can better understand who we are and more importantly, who God is, what he calls a “right view of God” in order to do “exploratory soul surgery.”
Mortifying sin also involves understanding that dealing with sin starts with Christ and his work on the cross. Hedges elaborates on that important point, noting that the Apostle Paul in Colossians 1–3 reminds the believer to “exult in the supremacy of Christ over all things and the sufficiency of Christ alone to give us all that we need.” Also, Paul calls us “to remember our position in Christ…highlighting our union with Christ and reminding us that in him we have a new history, total security, and a glorious destiny.” The cross of Christ dealt a death blow to sin which is something we should rejoice in. Hedges states that “Sin’s death is like a crucifixion: slow, gradual, painful, and eventually final.” This means we will spend a lifetime dealing with sin knowing that the effort to deal with sin will lead us to a closer relationship with Christ as we look forward to that day when sin and death will be no more, that place of total and final sanctification.
Licensed to Kill reminded me in many ways of the works of John Owen. That is no surprise given that Hedges notes in the final pages of his book that he gleaned much of the insights that went into this book from the writings of John Owen. With that said, this book is truly an excellent handbook and field manual for dealing with sin in our lives. Battling sin is the responsibility of all believers. We must look at sin as something grotesque because it truly is just that. I highly recommend this book for all believers. Take the truths shared by Hedges to heart, implement the strategies he shares in your life, and do battle with sin leaning on the power of the Holy Spirit working in your life to the glory of God.
Mike B., Intelmin Apologetics
Blog Review –
An excellent and much needed resource today in the church….I recommend it to every believer.
Licensed to Kill is divided into nine chapters with two appendices. Each chapter is no more than eleven pages long and, truth be told, the book can be read in one sitting (as with all resources published by Cruciform Press). The first chapters defines the doctrine of mortification. This is important as this is a doctrine (and a word) that has fallen out of use today, unfortunately. Chapter two argues as to why sin must be killed while the third chapter explains that it is indwelling sin and not the physical body that must be killed.
Chapters four and five lay the primary foundation for the act of mortifying sin by detailing how sin works in our soul and helping the reader to prepare for mortification. The reader quickly finds that mortification is hard work. It can only be accomplished in the life of the believer through the power of the gospel. The final three chapters look at how the cross of Christ kills sin and how we, through prayer and meditation can effectively wage the war against sin.
The two appendices are worthwhile (I will deal with the first below). The second appendix offers some further reading in the area of mortification of sin. It is important to note that the resources listed are either by dead or Reformed theologians. I make note of this because there is not much found on this subject within Christendom at large.
The book itself is an excellent and much needed resource today in the church. In many ways, it is an updated version of John Owen’s Mortification of Sin though Hedges does not go nearly into the detail that Owen does.
My one concern is found in the first appendix. Here is an apologetic for Paul describing a believer’s experience in Romans 7:14-25. Brian definitely takes a more Reformed perspective which I actually agree with. He only gives a page and a half to this discussion that has come down through the history of the church. He offers a few sentences acknowledging that many have disagreed with his assessment, but then goes on to say that given his understanding (and mine), “this passage…speaks directly to us in our own struggles against sin.”
I believe it would have been better to simply leave this appendix out of the book given the limited space and the intended audience (that of not being academic in nature). Regardless, there is nothing about Licensed to Kill that is not worth reading. Each chapter will strengthen and equip the believer in the battle against sin. That is what is most important.
Because of the size of this book, I recommend it to every believer. There are other resources available (see his Appendix 2) but none of which can be read in one sitting. The fact that this book can be read quickly gives it its value to the reader today. In an age where mortification of sin is hardly discussed, License to Kill offers a solution. Pastors, this resource is an excellent gift to the one who just recently converted to Christ. Of course, never let it supplant the reading of the Bible!
Terry Delaney, Christian Book Notes
Blog Review –
Kept me riveted as PM rolled into AM…you cannot really ask for more!
Cruciform Press is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. These little books, usually around 110 pages, are packed full of Gospel truth and clear and practical application. The latest book published by Cruciform Press is Licensed to Kill-A Field Manual for Mortifying Sin by Brian Hedges. There have not been many modern books that have kept me riveted as PM rolled into AM but this little book by Hedges definitely did the trick.
This is not an extensive book. At 117 pages and a generous font size, this book is easily digested in one sitting. The author’s tone and wit also aid in a rapid pace of reading, allowing the reader to genuinely fly through this book. Be careful however, as you fly through this book you will be consistently struck with Gospel-drenched, sin-hating truth that confronts, convicts, and encourages you to make a more concerted and genuine effort to fill your life with the “holy violence” of slaughtering your indwelling, God-hating sin.
A highlight of this text is the immensely practical nature of the whole book. Even when dealing with theological abstracts, it still has a feel of a “field manual,” only dealing with the “why-for’s” to better equip for the “how-to’s.” Normally, I would not like this. In all subjects, especially Scripture, I enjoy the abstract. I do not know if it is Hedges’ writing style or the subject manner or a combination of both, but this text spent a good amount of time in practical issues and I enjoyed it immensely.
I do not believe it would be an overstatement (or a slight) to call this John Owen-lite. The author constantly goes back to Owen and concludes the text with an encouragement to engage oneself in the writings of Owen that so greatly influenced him. Owen is a difficult read, even when compared with other Puritan authors, but the treasures found in his writings are vast. This book does an excellent job of whetting the appetite for Owen while mining much of the Gospel truth found in Owen’s writings. In doing so, it makes Owen’s writings much more accessible to the modern reader.
This book does two things, and it does them quite well. First, it introduces the writings of John Owen on mortification in a manner that will entice many to make the leap into the mind and writings of this Puritan great. Secondly, and so much more importantly, this book will encourage many, myself included, to engage in the act of mortifying sin in a much more active and victorious manner. For 117 pages you cannot really ask for more!
Before Dawn with the Son
Blog Review –
It manages to be both practical and overflowing with grace at the same time.
What is Licensed to Kill?
Licensed to Kill is a book from Cruciform Press.
I’ve mentioned them here a couple of times before, but they’re always worth another nod, because i really do like what Cruciform Press are doing. They publish just one book a month, but that book is “short, clear, concise and Gospel focused.” Their books look the same, feel the same, and are all about the same length, and for all that they benefit greatly. They even do subscriptions, so the first week of every month a new book turns up unbidden. It’s a great idea.
Licensed to Kill is a book about sin.
John Owen said “be killing sin or sin will be killing you,” and that’s very much the theme of this book. Licensed to Kill is a field manual for mortifying sin. The chapters define mortification, the nature of sin, why sin is so deadly and what we can do about it. It cuts to the heart of our pretense but at the same time graciously points us to the root anc center of all our hope, Jesus.
Licensed to Kill is a book about you.
Because it’s a book about sin, it’s also a book about you. Sin is that honey-covered poison, that secret deadly weapon, that hidden disease. We must be killing it. All of us, you as well as me. Because of that, we can all benefit from reading this book. There is no one alive who doesn’t need all the help he can fighting against sin. The fight against sin is a fight for joy, a fight for our lives. It’s a fight we need help to engage in.
Licensed to Kill is a book about the Gospel.
One thing I really appreciated about this book is how, at the end of every chapter, the reader is pointed back to the Gospel. Not in a forced, “by the way Jesus died to save you” way, but in a way that almost sneaks up on you. In each chapter we’re led almost to despair (rightly so) about our sin, and at the end the author lifts our heads and tells us of our Saviour. It manages to be both practical and overflowing with grace at the same time.
Practice and grace. Thats what we need to mortify sin, and both of those are found in this excellent book.
Ed Goode’s blog
Amazon Review –
A book that I will keep handy and refer to often. I whole-heartedly recommend this book for every follower of Christ.
In Licensed to Kill: A Field Manual for Mortifying Sin, author Brian G. Hedges deals with a subject that few people talk about but one we all must deal with. Hedges points believers to the Word of God as the source for victory. He is not just offering advice on dealing with sin, he unpacks the biblical truths that deal with mortification. This is a book that is designed to help the believer understand what Christ has already done so that we no longer have to be in bondage to sin. Chapter six is entitled “Transforming Grace: The Power of the Gospel.” Chapter Seven- “Crucified with Christ: How the Cross Kills Sin.”
It has been my experience that people go to one of two extremes on this subject. There are those who say that they are always going to be sinners because of the old nature and therefore they seem to treat it almost like an excuse for their sin. On the other hand, there are those who seem to suggest that as a believer we can attain sinlessness by our own merits. Hedges says that the goal of mortification “is not sinlessness, but progressive holiness.” This book deals with the heart, not just our actions. One of my favorite quotes in the book is “Genuine repentance always deals with heart-sins,not just bad behavior” (p59).
The title says it all. This book is a field manual. It is not a book that you will read once and never pick up again. Licensed to Kill is a book that I will keep handy and refer to often. I whole-heartedly recommend this book for every follower of Christ. It will challenge you but more importantly it just might transform you!!
J.D. Arnold, in a 5-star review on Amazon
Myles Gouger –
I have read so many posts regarding the blogger lovers except this post is truly a pleasant article,keep it up.