Wednesday, January 06, 2010

How do we mortify sin?: part one
Having underscored in my past three posts what mortification is and what it is not, I now want to turn our attention to a much more practical question: how do we mortify sin? Since mortification is the lifelong process and work of every Christian, by the divine power of the Holy Spirit, to crush, sap, root out, weaken, and subdue all known manifestations of indwelling sin - what then are the means of grace God has supplied for us to kill sin? Based on how we have defined mortification from Romans 8:13, we know that this is chiefly a work accomplished only through the power of the Holy Spirit. But understanding the importance and absolute necessity of the Spirit's role in our mortifying sin, we are still left wondering, "What do I do?" Answering this question will take up my next few posts.
In the first place, we mortify sin by remembering the truth of our death to sin's dominion and our new life in Jesus Christ. This is what we are commanded to do in Romans 6:11, "So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus." This divine imperative falls on the heels of Paul's incredible exposition concerning the death of every Christian to their former slavery to sin, as a consequence to their spiritual union with Christ (see 6:1-10).
Paul declares that because we have "died to sin" and have been united with Christ - we have received a new life whereby our life in sin is dead and gone (6:3-6). Hence, because we are no longer under sin's dominion, then we must count this as a fact everyday. This is the command of Romans 6:11. No matter how harassed we may be by the temptations of remaining sin (Rom.6:12-13; 7:14-25), it will never change the fact of who we are in Jesus Christ as His people who have been set free from sin's enslaving power.
This must be the first mortal blow we give to indwelling sin. As each new day begins, we need to remind ourselves: "I am dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Sin has no authority over me. Sin has no right to bully me. I belong to God. I live in union with Jesus Christ who is now my life." This is the truth of what God's grace has done for all His people, despite how they may feel. And this is how we start each day to put sin to death.
In the second place, we mortify sin by abstaining from fleshly lusts. In First Peter 2:11, we are commanded: "Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul." Probably the most simple and straightforward response to the ongoing attacks of indwelling sin, is to abstain from it. This verb translated "abstain" in First Peter 2:11, comes from a Greek term that means "to hold one's self away from." Used in the present middle construction, Peter is calling on all believers in Christ to be actively, unceasingly staying away from those things that pertain to the flesh. This means that whatever thoughts, words, images, sounds, feelings, and actions which are sinful in nature - must be at all costs, put away from ourselves. No sin of any kind should be entertained.
This is what Paul meant when he wrote to the Ephesian church, in Ephesians 4:31, "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice." And again in Ephesians 5:3-4, "But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which is out of place..." The simple point of these prohibitions is this: "Stay away from it! Don't do it! Abstain from these things."
Martyn Lloyd Jones (1899-1981) once nailed down the directness of such a command when he said: "...stop doing it, stop it at once, never do it again! You have to be a total abstainer from these sins, these 'fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.' You have no right to say, 'I am weak, I cannot, and temptation is powerful.' The answer of the New Testament is, 'Stop doing it.' "
So, how do we mortify sin? Here is some of the most practical counsel of God's Word: just stop it! Abstain from sin. Understand this: we have no excuse here. We have been set free from sin's enslaving power, we have a new nature, a new life in Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit indwells us (Rom.6:1-8:17; I Cor.6:19-20; Gal.2:20; Eph.1:3-14; Col.3:1-5) - henceforth, there is no justifiable excuse whenever we give in to the temptation of indwelling sin. God has supplied us with all we need to put sin to death, and thus to abstain from its subtle and deceitful desires.

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