Tag Archives: sin

Mortification of Sin

 

Romans 8:13 “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” KJV

The conditional assertion from the Apostle Paul could not be more clear, living in the flesh results in death while mortifying, or killing, the deeds of the body through the Spirit results in life.  But what inferences are there for us to make here and how can we apply this mortification to our lives?  Sometimes, we Christians know just enough to be dangerous.  Give us one grain of truth and we’ll take it, expand it, and offer up overgeneralizations for any and every situation that arises.  Perhaps this is never more evident than the passivity with which we treat the presence of indwelling sin in our lives.  We read verses like Romans 3:10 ESV “None is righteous, no, not one,” or we see Paul’s discourse on the presence of sin in his own life, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.  For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Romans 7:18 ESV) and we apply them outside of their contextual meaning and assert that these, and similar verses on the nature of sinful man, must mean that there is nothing to be done regarding sin in our lives.  We instead hang our hat on our “decision” made to “receive” Christ as Savior, simply stopping there and neglecting the main purpose for our salvation, “to be conformed to the image of Christ” through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.

Far too quick are we to presume that since sin is ever-existent on the earth and that our past, present, and future sins are forgiven by the blood of Christ, then it really doesn’t matter if we sin or not, it’s covered and we’re still on our way to heaven.  Nothing could be further from the truth that God’s Word teaches.  Salvation is not the end in and of itself; it’s the means to the end of glorification with Jesus Christ in heaven for all eternity.  Paul affirms this later in the same chapter of our subject passage, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”  Romans 8:29-30 ESV

“Predestined to be conformed to the image of his son,” in other words, holy.  While we know holiness is impossible as long as we remain in our fleshly bodies, it still remains the goal of every person that professes Christ as Savior, the duty to obey out of love His command to “be holy as I am holy.”  It is with this perspective we can view Romans 8:13 and realize our duty as believers is to not be satisfied with the presence of sin in our lives, but to kill it, to mortify it through the power of Holy Spirit.  The Puritan great, John Owen, in his monumental work The Mortification of Sin, describes the role of believers as follows, “The choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin.”

If Owen and the Puritans recognized this nearly 400 years ago, why then have we become so desensitized toward sin these days?  The answer is likely due to multiple reasons, not the least of which include a lack of reverence for God, failure to recognize His holiness, lack of fear of God, and a lack of love for Him.  Nevertheless it is the role of those who follow Christ to put to death the deeds of the flesh, to make it our “business…to mortify the indwelling power of sin,” that we may be vessels “for honorable use.”

Owen continues, “Mortification from a self-strength, carried on by ways of self invention, unto the end of a self-righteousness, is the soul and substance of all false religion in the world.  The principle efficient cause of the performance of this duty is the Spirit – ‘If by the Spirit.’  All other ways of mortification are vain, all helps leaves us helpless; it must be done by the Spirit.”  Christianity is not a will power religion, as one pastor states, it’s a supernatural one and as such, we must constantly be looking to God for our daily bread and this is especially true in regards to our war with sin.  The key clause in this assertion from Paul is, “through the Spirit” and is a necessary statement because it removes any works-based sanctification from our own power, the self-strength that John Owen made reference, but instead instructs us to rely on the divine power of God.

What then is our role in this matter?  We must ask if it is the Spirit that mortifies sin, why then does Paul exhort us to do this, just as he did in Romans 6:12 “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body.”  We can conclude from Owen 4 principles that defines our role, 1) “It is no otherwise the work of the Spirit, but as all graces and good works which are in us are His.” 2)”He doth not so work our mortification in us as not to keep it still an act of our obedience” 3) “The Holy Ghost works in us and upon us, as we are fit to be wrought in and upon; that is so as to preserve our own liberty and free obedience.” 4)”He works upon our understanding, wills, consciences, and affections, agreeably to their own natures; he works in us and with us, not against us or without us; so that His assistance is an encouragement as to the facilitating of the work, and no occasion of neglect as to the work itself” 1

Every good we do is by the power of God’s grace and this includes the good works that He has prepared us to do (Ephesians 2:10), while our mortification of sin through the Spirit is a direct result obedience to God.  The power and presence of the Holy Spirit working in our lives sanctifies us while retaining our innate gift of liberty and freedom for obedience such that the blame of not mortifying sin, i.e. disobedience, falls squarely on our own shoulders leaving us without excuse.  Finally we see that the Holy Spirit works in us and with us, encouraging us all the while to fight the presence of sin in our lives, perhaps similar to the effect of a young child riding a bike all the while their father is holding onto the seat helping them to balance and maintain forward progress, only in this instance He will never let go but instead will guide us all the way.

We may conclude with one final thought from John Owen, “Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.”  Christian be not satisfied and complacent with the presence of sin in your life, you were called to holiness, therefore by all means strive by the Spirit to kill indwelling sin.

 

1 Owen, John. Volume 6 Temptation and Sin from The Works of John Owen, ed. William Goold. 24 vols. Edinburgh and London: Johnstone and Hunter, 1850-53; vols. 1-16 reprint ed., London: Banner of Truth, 1965.

Know your Sin

 

Psalm 51:3 “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.”

For many of us in our personal lives, and sadly within many churches, we have become far to unconcerned with sin.  It’s rarely if ever preached on, never disciplined, and we personally have accepted it and gloss over it as part of who we are.  This isn’t something that’s occurred overnight, but has more been a slow progression and culture has aided in our callousness toward the recognition of sin in our lives.  We were born sinful and predisposed to overlook it in our lives.  In our culture, television, music, commercials, consumerist mentality, everything that we come in contact with has worked collectively with our nature to numb us toward sin.  Don’t believe me?  Just watch T.V. for a few minutes and you’ll either hear or see things that would not have been mainstream a few years ago but more likely been Rated-R.  It’s become so prevalent that it has actually worked to change the mindset of the everyday Christian.  Stop and think about what’s going on; our sensitivity toward sin has become so minimized that we now create faux arguments, which we claim to be Biblical, to support our sinful behaviors, such as our entertainment choices or so called “freedoms”.  The Bible calls for us to “be holy” (I Peter 1:15) yet that prosecuting statement gets often overlooked in our defense against sin.

Charles Spurgeon offers the following thoughts on the weightiness of sin in our lives:

Beware of the light thoughts of sin.  At the time of conversion, the conscience is so tender, that we are afraid of the slightest sin.  Young converts have a holy timidity, a godly fear lest they should offend against God.  But alas! Very soon the fine bloom upon these first ripe fruits is removed by the rough handling of the surrounding world; the sensitive plant of young piety turns into a willow in after life, too pliant, too easily yielding.  It is sadly true, that even a Christian may grow by degrees so callous, that the sin which once startled him does not alarm him in the least.  By degrees men get familiar with sin.  The ear in which the cannon has been booming will not notice slight sounds.  At first a little sin startles us; but soon we say, Is it not a little one?  Then there comes another, larger, and then another, until by degrees we begin to regard sin as but a little ill; and then follows an unholy presumption: We have not fallen into open sin.  True, we tripped a little, but we stood upright in the main.  We may have uttered one unholy word, but as for the most of our conversation, it has been consistent.  So we palliate sin; we throw a cloak over it; we call it by dainty names.  Christian, beware how thou thinkest lightly of sin.  Take heed lest thou fall by little and little.  Sin, a little thing? Is it not a poison?  Who knows its deadliness?  Sin, a little thing?  Do not the little foxes spoil the grapes?  Doth not the tiny coral insect build a rock which wrecks a navy?  Do not little strokes fell lofty oaks?  Will not continual droppings wear away stones?  Sin, a little thing?  It girded the Redeemer’s head with thorns, and pierced His heart!  It made Him suffer anguish, bitterness, and woe.  Could you weigh the least sin in the scales of eternity, you would fly from it as from a serpent, and abhor the least appearance of evil.  Look upon all sin as that which crucified the Savior, and you will see it to be exceeding sinful.

How true this is.  When we begin to sweep what we call “little” sins away until like a layer of skin to a callous our hearts become more and more hardened.  Our conscience becomes more willing to overlook sin until our lives take the appearance of being no different than that of nonbelievers.  We begin to watch the same shows, laugh at the same jokes, drink the same drinks, but yet we claim Christ as Savior and declare that He gives us freedom to do those things.  Meanwhile those of the world look at us a hypocrites and rightly so as we mock the name of the Lord with our actions.  Oh the dangers of not knowing our sin.

King David did not downplay his sin.  When confronted by Nathan about his murderous adulterous affair, he was sincerely broken over his sins.  How easy it would’ve been for him to sweep his transgressions away by claiming he had every right as king to do what he pleased.  We’ve talked here before about King Herod and his murderous schemes, his adulterous, incestuous affairs yet he felt entitled to act this way because he was king, but not so with David.  I often wonder if as Christians we don’t have a little bit of King Herod’s entitlement mindset and think that because we have been saved by grace through faith that we are permitted certain “freedoms” or pleasures.

David felt the weight of his sin in his life and was broken by it.  He knew his sins and came face to face with them.  And he cried out to God for forgiveness.  1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. 3For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.  Selah  5acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah” Psalm 32:1-5 ESV

It’s time for us as believers in the body of Christ to likewise begin to feel the weight of sin in our lives.  We need to come face to face with the fact that we are not good, that even our good deeds are nothing, “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” Isaiah 64:6 When we come to this realization and know our sin, we begin to see how unworthy we are to stand before the Holy God.  We can begin to understand that we’re not entitled to anything, but instead reliant on God for everything.  The weight of our sin should break us, it should make us feel like King David and swim in sorrow at night in our sheets.  Only then can a loving God put us back together and mold us in the image of His Son.  Only then can we truly realize our need for a Savior and that life apart from a total reliance upon Him is impossible.  Know your sin.  Repent of them. And run to Jesus Christ for forgiveness.

 

Man’s Sinful Nature

Within the next month, and by the grace of God, my wife and I will be welcoming our first child.  Along with the stories and helpful advice that everyone has been offering, I’ve been paying more and more attention to our friend’s babies to see how they act or respond to certain situations.  Now yes, I agree that babies are adorable and I cannot wait until ours arrives, but there is something else entirely on display even in infants that often gets overlooked, namely the sinful nature of man and our willingness to sin.  For instance, a friend of ours was telling us a story about how they had walked to the edge of the driveway with their daughter and explained to her that she should not step across onto the road.  Immediately after this, the little girl (age 2) goes right up to the road, pauses, looks around and steps her toe onto the road.  Is that really any different than how we act as adults when we sin?  We go right up to the line, look around to see who’s watching and maybe at first just stick a toe over to test out the sin, but once we see it’s ok, we jump right in.  King David so beautifully illustrates this in his lament of Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” 

 

In the nature of man, even as infants, we can see 2 laws at work, doctrines for those students of Systematic Theology.  One is called the Doctrine of Original Sin and the other is the Doctrine of Imputed Sin.  The first refers to the “sinful tendencies, desires, and dispositions in our hearts with which we are all born,” as a result of Adam’s sin in the Garden and just as we read from David earlier.  The second is the guiltiness associated with Adam’s sin that has been transferred down through all men.  The Apostle Paul speaks of both of these doctrines in Romans chapter 5:12-21

 

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned- 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

In verse 12, we see evidence of both laws, that sin entered the world through Adam, yet we can’t blame only Adam, because we too are responsible for our sins, “death spread to all men because all sinned.”  We all sin because it’s inherent in our nature.   Likewise in vs. 18-20 we find condemnation, or the declaration of guilt, came to all men through Adam’s imputed sin.  These two doctrines that we mentioned earlier provide evidence of a problem, what then is the solution, or better how do we address each? 

 

Paul’s discourse on our sinful nature is so powerful because it serves to explain to us that sin is not just something we do with actions or even decisions we make, but also each of us are sinners by nature.  Because of that nature, each of us is born guilty in the sight of God, regardless of how “good” we think we are.  And because of this guilt each of us faces condemnation before God who must be just in His judgment of sin.  But there’s good news, in fact, there’s great news, because God is not only just, but the Justifier.  (Romans 3:26) In order to solve the dilemma of Imputed sin, man needs a Savior.  Look briefly at verse 18 again, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.”  Guilt, conviction, and condemnation came to man through Adam, i.e. his sin was imputed to us.  However, the converse of this is that through the “one act of righteousness”, namely Christ’s death on the cross, justification became available to all men.  Believing in Jesus, trusting in Him as Savior cancels Adam’s debt of sin that has been imparted to us.

 

But we’re still left with the problem of our sinful nature, did Paul forget about this or is it too solved by our justification?  In chapter 5 of Romans, Paul details the solution for our imputed guilt by way of justification by the free gift of grace through Jesus Christ.  However, chapter 6 of Romans is all about answering the problem of our sinful nature.  In Romans 6:3-4 Paul states, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”  He states again in Romans 6:6, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.”  That old self is the old sinful nature that we talked about earlier that came to us through the original sin, yet if Christ is our Savior, we died with him on the cross and were buried with him, and we therefore are no longer under the bondage of the original sin within our nature.  Paul continues by giving several commands for life, namely “let not sin reign” and “Do not present your members as sin,” with the outcome leading to sanctification, an ongoing process in which the Holy Spirit works in our lives cleaning out more and more of our old nature to make us more like Christ until we are joined together in heaven.  It is by justification that the guilt of our condemnation is removed and by sanctification that our nature is progressively becoming more like Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit.           

 

In the age of the postmodern church, no one wants to talk about sin, for fear it’s too judgmental or offensive.  Nobody wants to get to know their sin, how it works and attacks their life, and certainly no one is talking about killing sin (deeds, not flesh) in their lives through the power of the Holy Spirit.  But until we, as a Church, start to confront sin beginning with learning where it comes from and understanding that we don’t just do sin but we are born sinners, then our depravity will not resonate within us and our desperate need for a Savior will not be manifest in our lives.  Until this happens there will be no revival, no reformation or awakening, and no spiritual growth.  We’re at a crossroads in Church history that will require us to either get on our knees crying out in repentance of our sins or we will be forced to our knees crying for mercy.  Recognize your sins and eliminate them from your life.