“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5 ESV)
The Westminster Confession of Faith defines the Christian life:
“They who are effectually called and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them; the dominion of the who body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified, and they more and more quickened and strengthened, in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”
The purpose of the Christian life is to grow in holiness, to grow in the likeness of Christ. J.I. Packer put suggests that sanctification consists of two parts: vivification, or the growing and maturing of the new man; and mortification, the weakening and killing of the old man.
We spend a lot of time in churches today talking about building up the new life. Sermons are preached on godly character, classes taught on Christian virtue, and great emphasis is placed on doing more, living better, on doing what Jesus would do. All of that is fine, but unless it is accompanied by the continuous reminder to put to death the old life, it is nothing more than lipstick on a pig. Isaiah tells us we must “cease to do evil and learn to do good (Isa 1:16-17).” The two must go hand in hand, vivification and mortification. The life of the Christian is a constant battle against sin. When we are made alive in Christ, it is only because we have died to sin and been raised with him. John Owen, puritan pastor extraordinaire, once wrote “you will be killing sin or sin will be killing you.”
An important question to ask, though, is “why put sin to death?” because the motive reveals the condition of our heart. Do not engage in the battle because of fear of judgment. Terror of the wrath of God is wise, but if that is all we know of God, it is incomplete. Even the demons fear the judgment of God, but they have no love for him. Neither should you war against sin in your life as an attempt to earn God’s favor. You can’t. You will never vanquish sin from your life completely. It will be an ongoing battle. The Westminster Confession goes on to say: “This sanctification is throughout the whole man, yet imperfect in this life: there abides still some remnants of corruption in every part, whence arises a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.”
Rather, we should struggle against sin because of our love for God in Jesus Christ. Knowing how much he loves us, and how offensive our sin is to him, should drive us to tears when we toy with temptation. Because he has died for us, let us live for him!
(If you want to know how to battle sin in your life, worship with us on Sunday, or listen to “The New Life” at www.cmpres.com/sermons.)