by Mike Ratliff
1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. 6 For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, Colossians 3:1-6 (NASB)
I find it appalling that our version of the church in the early 21st Century has so neglected Discipleship that Christians across the board are clueless about the deadly issue of resident sin within them. They not only do not know it is there, but they are given no training on how to deal with it. After salvation they are told that they are new creations in Christ, the old has passed away, behold the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17) Well, that is true, at salvation believer’s hearts are quickened. What was dead is now alive. What this means is that where there was zero spiritual life before there is now abundant spiritual life. However, this means that believers are now in Christ spiritually and He is in them spiritually. They can pray, worship and read their bibles with understanding. However, it does not mean that their “old man” sin nature is dead and gone. He is still there. He now has an alive Spirit to deal with whereas before, the sin nature controlled everything. Now there is huge battle taking place between the Spirit and sin nature for dominance in the heart of the believer.
9 I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; 10 and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; 11 for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
13 Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful.
14 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. 17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. Romans 7:9-25 (NASB)
In Part 1 and Part 2 of this study we have looked at the teaching of Puritan John Owen on the Mortification of Sin. We saw where he gave us a three step process that, when applied to our sinful desires, will drain the life from them. Step one is an habitual weakening of it. This is the development of a habit of taking every thought capture to the Word of Christ and the Holiness of God. It is habitually never letting our hearts even think about sinful desires. It is cutting sin off before it even happens. Step two is in constant fighting and contending against sin. This is taking the habits developed in Step one and putting them into action constantly. We never let up. We beat on our sinful desires, we cut them, we stab them, we bleed them, we club them, we declare all out continual war on them. Even when it appears the life is draining away from those sinful desires we continue to attack. This is the brutal tearing away from our wicked hearts what it really wants. It can be quite painful, but the result is deliverance and victory. In this post we will look at Step three from John Owen. It is: Mortification consists in success.
(3.) In success. Frequent success against any lust is another part and
evidence of mortification. By success I understand not a mere
disappointment of sin, that it be not brought forth nor accomplished,
but a victory over it, and pursuit of it to a complete conquest. For
instance, when the heart finds sin at any time at work, seducing,
forming imaginations to make provision for the flesh, to fulfil the
lusts thereof, it instantly apprehends sin, and brings it to the law
of God and love of Christ, condemns it, follows it with execution to
When I read this section the first time I was puzzled by this. How can having victory or success frequently over sin be a step in killing it? However, I understand this a little better now. John Owen is telling us that our sinful desires will either be fully living or slowly dying. Either they will control us mercilessly or we will be constantly draining the life from them. They never really die completely until we cross the threshold of Heaven. However, if we fight this good fight for personal holiness we will experience success in fighting off temptations that used to dominate us. The more we have success the more dead these sinful desires become. Look at how the heart that has taken on Christ’s character treats temptation. It pays attention to what is going on. “When the heart finds sin at any time at work, seducing,forming imaginations to make provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof, it instantly apprehends sin, and brings it to the law of God and love of Christ, condemns it, follows it with execution to the uttermost.” That is the process we must learn, practice and become proficient in to kill our sinful desires.
Now, I say, when a man comes to this state and condition, that lust is
weakened in the root and principle, that its motions and actions are
fewer and weaker than formerly, so that they are not able to hinder
his duty nor interrupt his peace, — when he can, in a quiet, sedate
frame of spirit, find out and fight against sin, and have success
against it, — then sin is mortified in some considerable measure,
and, notwithstanding all its opposition, a man may have peace with God
all his days.
This is vital for our understanding of why we must take up the sword against our sin nature. Why is it imperative that we do this? We will not have peace with God in an abiding sense if we are wallowing in sin. Even if we are broken hearted and mourning until we are tearless, if we are not actively fighting this fight we will have sin issues in our hearts that block our Abiding in Christ. This walk that keeps us on the way of the cross is a walk of repentance. The Mortification of Sin is a vital part of walking in Repentance. If we are walking in Repentance then we are Abiding in Christ. We are walking by faith. We are walking in the Spriit. If we are not then we are walking in the flesh. We may have a Born Again Heart, but we have defiled consciences and darkened minds. On the other hand, if we are actively fighting this fight, abiding in Christ and submitting to the Lordship of Christ then our consciences will be pure, our hearts tender and we will have an abiding peace with God. His Holiness will be apparent to our consciences and we will live in the very healthy fear and dread of the Living God.
Unto these heads, then, do I refer the mortification aimed at; that
is, of any one perplexing distemper, whereby the general pravity and
corruption of our nature attempts to exert and put forth itself:–
First, The weakening of its indwelling disposition, whereby it
inclines, entices, impels to evil, rebels, opposes, fights against
God, by the implanting, habitual residence, and cherishing of a
principle of grace that stands in direct opposition to it and is
destructive of it, is the foundation of it. So, by the implanting and
growth of humility is pride weakened, passion by patience, uncleanness
by purity of mind and conscience, love of this world by
heavenly-mindedness: which are graces of the Spirit, or the same
habitual grace variously acting itself by the Holy Ghost, according to
the variety or diversity of the objects about which it is exercised;
as the other are several lusts, or the same natural corruption
variously acting itself, according to the various advantages and
occasions that it meets withal. — The promptness, alacrity, vigour of
the Spirit, or new man, in contending with, cheerful fighting against,
the lust spoken of, by all the ways and with all the means that are
appointed thereunto, constantly using the succours provided against
its motions and actings, is a second thing hereunto required. —
Success unto several degrees attends these two. Now this, if the
distemper hath not an unconquerable advantage from its natural
situation, may possibly be to such a universal conquest as the soul
may never more sensibly feel its opposition, and shall, however,
assuredly arise to an allowance of peace to the conscience, according
to the tenor of the covenant of grace.
In his closing of this sermon, John Owen tells the very things that we must do in the killing of certain sinful desires. These things will be the weapons we have in our hands to deal the deadly blows to those “distempers.” “So, by the implanting and growth of humility is pride weakened, passion by patience, uncleanness by purity of mind and conscience, love of this world by heavenly-mindedness: which are graces of the Spirit, or the same habitual grace variously acting itself by the Holy Ghost, according to the variety or diversity of the objects about which it is exercised;” We cannot fight this battle alone. We must have the Holy Spirit working in our Hearts as we pray, fast, and humble ourselves. Along with the workings of the Holy Spirit and His promptings, we must do our part which is in our prayers, devotions, confessions, repentings, and fastings.
Dear Christian, I pray that this little study on the Mortification of Sin has blessed you. I pray it has sparked a deep driving hunger for personal holiness and an abiding peace with God. From that, I pray that you will seek to understand your enemy then go all out to kill it all by the grace of God.
Soli Deo Gloria!