Well, it ought to be. And, it needs to be.
“Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” These are the words of seventeenth-century English theologian and pastor John Owen. Recently, on my study leave, I was reading a book he authored, The Mortification of Sin, which I highly recommend. (Ed. note: This work is available for purchase at places like Amazon, but it is also available for free in digital and audio formats.)
This is an aspect of the Christian life that I think (at age 62!) I’m just getting to understand. It’s a matter of life and death. Mortifying (putting to death) sin is not the same as repentance. Repentance takes place after we’ve sinned. Mortification is dealing with our sin before it deals with us.
A key verse is Romans 8:13: “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.”
Probably the best way I can get across what Owen says is to share a few quotes with you here.
Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it while you live; cease not a day from this work.
Indwelling sin always abides while we are in this world; therefore it is always to be mortified.
So, believers need to be aware that “sin is crouching at the door” and that “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” And, by the help of God’s Spirit, we must be making a fight for our lives.
Two encouraging thoughts as I conclude.
- This is a work of God’s Spirit in you (see Romans 8:13 above). Don’t do this in your own strength. Read, meditate, and look to the Scriptures. Ask God for help, talk and share with (and ask for prayer from) other believers.
- Your new natural tendency (if you know Jesus Christ) in the Holy Spirit is “to be acting against the flesh” (Owen). In other words, this is a battle, but we’ve been equipped fully to fight it!
So, is killing sin on your (and my) to-do list today? It needs to be. Jesus has set us free. We are going to make it home by his grace. But on the journey, lean on him and make it your daily work to kill sin—preemptively. Romans 8:13 promises that, as you do, you will really live!
Note: This article originally appeared in the Fall 2018 WPCA newsletter.