Some thoughts on the mortification of sin: Dynamics

John Owen, 1616-1683, author of On the Mortification of Sin

My thanks to Guy Davies for this:

Colossians 3:5-7

Those who are still dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-3) have no hope of mortifying sin. False teaching cannot help us either Col 2:20-23. But those who have been united to Christ crucified and risen are empowered to put sin to death and bring holiness to life. In the concluding post in this series, we take a look  at some of the dynamics of mortification according to the New Testament:

i. Remember who you are

Paul makes this point in Romans 6:11-14. Never forget that sin is no longer your lord and master. Christ has set you free, John 8:32. Live as a free man or woman in Christ.

ii. Expect a life-long struggle

It is no easy thing to put sin to death. Sins that we once thought were mortified may return. New situations or stages in life may find new sins raising their ugly heads. Don’t believe anyone who tells you of quick and easy way to mortify sin. Sins are like a persistent weeds. And  gardeners never finish weeding. There is growth in grace and progress in the fight against sin, but it is hard work, Galatians 5:17.

iii. Look to Christ

He is able to help you in the struggle to put sin to death, Hebrews 12:1-3. His blood cleanses us from all sin, 1 John 1:7-9. John Owen makes this point in his classic, On the Mortification of Sin,

“Set faith at work on Christ for the killing of thy sin. His blood is the great sovereign remedy for sin-sick souls. Live in this, and thou wilt die a conqueror; yea, thou wilt, through the good providence of God, live to see thy lust dead at thy feet.” (Works of John Owen, Volume 6. p. 79).

iii. Kill sin by the Spirit’s power

If you are in Christ, then the Holy Spirit is in you, Romans 8:912-13. Walk in the Spirit,Galatians 5:16 and see his fruit being produced in you, Galatians 5:22-23. Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit or quench his work. He will empower you to mortify sinful desires and crucify covetousness. The mortification of sin is not something you can do on your own. But you are not on your own. God has united you to his Son by his Spirit.

iv. The future hope

The mortification of sin is a work for believers who live between the already of being raised with Christ to a new life of holiness and the not yet of full resurrection glory. Our “members” will only be completely mortified when we are raised from the dead by the power of Christ. Then our life which is now “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3) will be revealed, Colossians 3:4. This hope motivates us to “purify ourselves even as he is pure”, 1 John 3:1-3.

The gospel-driven life is a constant battle against sin. You have died with Christ to the old life of sin. You have been raised with him to a new life of holiness. Therefore obey the gospel imperative and put sin to death that you may be holy as the Lord your God is holy.

Peter serves as a pastor-teacher, at home and abroad, resourcing gospel-centred communities.

2 thoughts on “Some thoughts on the mortification of sin: Dynamics

  1. Peter, are you really wanting to tell believers this?

    “Don’t believe anyone who tells you of quick and easy way to mortify sin. Sins are like a persistent weeds. And gardeners never finish weeding. There is growth in grace and progress in the fight against sin, but it is hard work, Galatians 5:17.”

    Does verse 17 nullify the promise of verse 16, that we will not gratify the sin nature if we walk in the Spirit? How long does it take to walk in the Spirit? In addition, would you want to teach that we can’t ‘mortify’ aka KILL off our sins by the Spirit per Romans 8:13? Thus, are these comments you reproduce here coherent at all?

    Moreover, where does the cosmic law of slow cooking come from? Prove it by scripture, brother.

    I’m not so good with making links and junk, but here’s my thoughts on the speed of sanctification:

    Just seeking to encourage the body and not limit our hope for progress in this life. God Bless. TW

  2. To clarify my point about whether you are contradicting the idea of killing off deeds of the flesh, your post states at paragraph iii:
    “He will empower you to mortify sinful desires and crucify covetousness.”

    If the power is coming from God, why must we presume it will take such a long period of time? He can be quite the fast worker via his omnipotence and omniscience.

    On the other hand, if my volition has anything to do with it, why should I choose to grow slowly? If all I need do is surrender, submit and practice someone’s ideas of a spiritual discipline to make myself available to let God unilaterally change me, then why does He not get on with it at break neck speed? If, once I submit, it’s all Him, what’s the hold up?

    If we look at guys like Jonah, we see that a stiff necked guy can’t be changed quickly, lest his stiff neck be snapped off. The problem is he is not seeking his growth; in fact, he is running from it, not submitting.

    But if you look at guys like Job, you see that they’ve been proactively getting their act together in cooperation with God all their life. Job, in particular, is quite the mature believer by the time God sicks Satan on Him in the book of Job.

    Nevertheless, instead of submitting to God in response to this affliction, Job became angry and defiant toward the Lord. He felt God was treating him unjustly, because he believed he was righteous before God.

    Folks that claim God should not allow affliction on them because they are so ‘righteous’ don’t grow very quickly. It doesn’t matter that God agreed Job was righteous and that he did not sin until God afflicted him. For the self-righteousness that demanded God treat him a certain way was an iniquity lurking under the surface of Job’s righteous actions, in his heart.

    Because Job had not proactively rooted that out of himself by the Spirit, God used Satan to discipline him, to bring him to see his own iniquity and repent of it. Finally, Job said, “Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:6.

    So, if your post material is only meant to apply to stiff necked people, then I agree heartily with you.

    But as to Christians who desire the Lord and desire to be like Jesus, who seek the Lord in their sanctification, pretending there is a cosmic law of slow cooking is an unnecessary discouragement.

    Once we become aware of our iniquity, it does not take long to repent, unless we are stiff necked toward the Lord. If our sin is that we hold something to be more important than obeying our God, and for that reason refuse to repent, then we must first seek His help to remove that idolotrous thing from our heart.

    In any case, for those who zealously desire to become like Christ, the idea that of necessity it takes a long, long time to be sanctified is without basis and without Biblical warrant. In fact, that assertion is incoherent with the Romans 8:13 principle that “by the Spirit” we are to be “putting to death the deeds of the body”. Look how fast Job grew, once he stopped fighting God, acknowledged his sin and repented in dust and ashes.

    What would happen if we learned to seek full repentance the moment we became conscious of our inquity? Would we more resemble Jonah or Job?

    My post, how long does it take to grow, discusses some of the reasons folks tend to think sanctification must take so long. But there is not question that the number one reason they think that is that they have not grown quickly themselves, because they don’t know how.

    Thank you for the opportunities to comment. TW

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