Putting Sin to Death

by Mike Ratliff

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. (Colossians 3:5-6 ESV)

It is one thing to compare the Biblical teaching of our Sanctification with the man-oriented false teaching that is prevalent seemingly everywhere, but then easily overlook the fact that so many believers are desperate to know how to obey the command in the passage I placed at the top of this post (Colossians 3:5-6) to put to death the sin in them. Christian living is frustrating for the truly regenerate when they forget that we are actually commanded in Sacred Scripture to “be what we already are.” That takes us aback because we do not “feel” Holy or Christlike. Why? Our repeated sins lead us to believe that are anything but. Then we hear false teachers like Rick Warren and his followers tell us that what we need is his program of behavior modification to fix us right up. When I was a youth, the big thing was “let go and let God.” Well, that didn’t work either. Both trying hard to not sin through some program and simply “letting go” to have God take over leads to the inevitable breeding of discouragement, apathy, and the lowering of God’s standards. 

Moralism or working harder through some sort of legalistic methodology to not sin is simply works of the flesh and that means those doing that are attempting to fight the sinful flesh with works of the flesh. That is a recipe for disaster my brethren.

On the other hand, it must be understood that we can actually obey this command to put sin to death within us because we actually are in Christ and are in some sense Holy. We are not yet perfectly holy in practice and it would be foolish to believe that God ignores our thoughts and deeds. Sin’s presence remains until we are glorified, and we need to repent of our sins daily (1 John 1:8-10). The passage I placed at the top of this post and others like it exist because disobedience is a reality for us. However, the Word of God defines Christians as already holy, “sanctified…in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). In our Lord Jesus Christ, we have made a decisive break with unholiness. Our Creator declares us holy in His Son – we are saints of God Most High, and He sees us as pure through Jesus’ blood (Colossians 1:2; Hebrews 9:13-14).

From God’s Word we do not read, “You are not yet holy, work on it until you get there.” No, instead we read, “You are holy, be what you already are in Christ.” From this God grows within us confidence, passion, and a true understanding of sin (Romans 12:2). When we finally grasp that God sees us as holy in His Son, we are encouraged to make real, though often slow, spiritual progress. It is by His grace that God has declared us holy. Therefore, we cannot fail utterly to make what we do line up with who He says we are. When we come to this full realization aren’t we also eager to fulfill our duty to mortify sin? Also, don’t we view sin in a completely different light? I have witnessed in some past discussions with certain well known bloggers who should know better as they become very agitated and use the word “Pharisee” and “prude” and “judgmental” when referring to one of us who is simply reacting to sin the same way that our Lord would have us do. Sin is so horrendous and powerful that the only we could ever be pure was for God to intervene and do the work needed to declare us holy. We underestimate sin at our own peril.

Soli Deo Gloria!

17 thoughts on “Putting Sin to Death

  1. Dear Mike,
    God has given me a love of writing and every once in a while a poem comes to life. This topic struck a chord:)

    To Christians wrestling with sin……….

    My most valiant attempt to slay my own sin,
    Is met with failure from the “old man” within.

    Constantly poked and proded in my tortured state,
    Not doing what I should, but that which I hate.

    Oh Lord! I cried out! Please save this wretched soul…
    He has through Christ, He died to make us whole.

    His Spirit is dwelling inside your heart,
    We must walk in His Word and never depart.

    Follow His commands and eat of His bread,
    Our path will be lit, and our soul will be fed.

    In the everlasting, lovingkindness of Christ, charisse

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  2. in the last para…
    “the only way we could”?
    Mike, I am moving along with these posts in real time!
    Praise to our God for using you to help me see !

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  3. I like this verse for how to be sanctified:
    James 1:21
Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

    Christ told the parable of the seed being planted in the soil. One was too hard, one was too shallow, one was entangled by the thorny cares of life and distracted by the pleasures of the world. And then there was the seed that took root. The soil was receptive and singularly attentive to the seed. The farmer watered it and it grew into the plant it was meant to be.

    So I am the soil. What can soil do to be sanctified? Humbly accept the world planted in me. It is the power of God that makes the seed grow.

    Mike, you said:
    I have witnessed in some past discussions with certain well known bloggers who should know better as they become very agitated and use the word “Pharisee” and “prude” and “judgmental” when referring to one of us who is simply reacting to sin the same way that our Lord would have us do.

    Here is a verse for you:
    Hebrews 12
    1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
    **3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

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  4. He must increase, and I must DECREASE !
    DAILY !!!!!!
    Lord Jesus, help me, prune me, purge me, purify me.

    (good poem Charisse)

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  5. Mike there is one other possible response to moralism: hypocrisy. Some just try and pretend that they are as holy as the Bible says they must be.

    This is why we need the gospel preached in our churches. People think the gospel is only for the unsaved. No the gospel is for the Christian. Why? Because as you just pointed out, it is who we are in Christ, who He is to us and what He has done for us and is doing in us that enables us to want to obey. God’s kindness leads us to repentance. Ephesians and Colossians are full of exhortations to godly living. But first, in the opening chapters, Paul fleshes out the gospel. He takes it like it is a gem and turns it this way and that way and shows us all of the many facets of our Savior and His great salvation. Jesus said that we must abide in Him (John 15). The branch bears fruit because it abides in the vine. It isn’t the branch that works itself up into fruit bearing, but the life-giving sap that flows into the branch from the vine. Love and obedience cannot be separated. As Christ is exalted and treasured and honored and worshipped, the Christian finds that he desires to follow Jesus Christ and live as He lived. Jesus prayed to the Father in John 17, sanctifiy them by your word. The word preached and read and studied and memorized and meditated upon sanctifies us. 2 Peter 1:3-4 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

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  6. Amen… I need to be reminded not to try and resist sin by relying on my own effort, it’s a subtle and easy trap to fall into to…

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  7. The discipline of the Spirit to deal with our sin is what will be happening if we are one of his. And we should welcome it because with it comes peace and righteousness.
    For example, when we are riding a wave of despair and we cry out as to our peril, he might come with “stop clinging to worthless idols” and we will see exactly what we have been doing. If we repent and turn from our sin, then the hammer has hit the nail with one blow.
    If we refuse, because we want what we want, as Solomon did, even though rebuked on several occasions, we may keep on sinning till we reach the end of our life, with the feeling “all is futile”.
    One thing is certain, we will sin as sure as the sun comes up in the morning, but if we cleanse our hands and purify our hearts, under his rebuke, our relief will come with speed.

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