Be Killing Sin

“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.”
(Romans 8:13)

“Be Killing Sin or Sin Will Be Killing You…” John Owen

There is, waging in us, and all around us, a battle for the righteousness of God.  When you are made alive in Christ by faith, the Holy Spirit works to produce in you holiness.  The indwelling, abiding presence of God casts out sin, purifies your heart, renews your mind, ultimately to conform you to the image of Christ.

Through Christ, we know that sin has been defeated and death has been conquered.  His cross stands to remind us that the guilt and shame has been atoned for by His sacrifice; His empty tomb confirms our hope and faith that by faith if we have shared in a death like His, we will also share in a life like His – eternal, holy, and glorifying God.

This is the power of God at work for you, in you, and to His glory.

At the same time, there is a call to daily take up your cross (Matt 16:24), to die to yourself and live for Christ (Gal 2:19), to cast off the old manner of living and put on the new life (Col 3:9-10), to lay aside the sin that clings so closely and run with endurance the race that is set before us (Heb 12:1).   How do we join in this battle, how do we begin to mortify sin?  Here are a few thoughts.

Seek Daily God’s Grace
It is crucial to remember that you do not naturally possess the weapons required to overcome sin in your life. To try to fight sin on your own is to fall back on the same moralism and self-righteousness from which Christ has delivered us.  Only Christ has conquered sin, and only by trusting in Him and abiding in the power of His Spirit will we ever share in that victory.  The only tools we have to fight sin is the armor Christ gives us: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, which is word of God – and prayer (Gal 6:14-18).

Pray, then, that God will show you your sin, and teach you to hate your sin more and more.  Hold that sin, whatever it might be that tempts you and leads you astray, hold that sin beside the cross, the symbol of His suffering and death, and realize that it is precisely that sin that put Him there.  Pray that, by God’s grace, you may come more and more to despise your sin and to love your Christ.

Recognize the Pervasiveness of Sin
The hard core fact is sin is everywhere.  It is easy, sitting there with a log in your eye, to point out the specks in the eyes of those around you.  The temptation, when you begin to fight against sin, is to treat your growth in sanctification as a checklist of personal accomplishment, Kicked that Sin, What’s Next!?!

Paul opens his letter to the Romans with an indictment against the sins of the Gentiles – and the list is exhaustive.  It includes everything from sexual immorality to disobedience to your parents.  You get to the end of the list, and you might think to yourself, “I’m glad he’s not talking about me.”

Then Romans 2 begins, “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges.  For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same thing.”  The war against sin should always be fought in humility and grace – or as we read in 1 Cor 10:12, “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”

Forgive Others
The only reason we even join the fight against sin is because we have first been forgiven.  The forgiveness that we have in Christ is the key that liberates us from bondage to sin, the fatal blow to our old enemy.  That forgiveness is our starting point, our rallying cry. Because we have forgiveness in Christ, we are to forgive others (Eph 4:32).  In fact, Jesus taught us in the sermon on the mount, that “if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt 6:15).  If you want to rob yourself of the triumphant power over sin, hold on to your bitterness toward those who have hurt you.

Foster an Affection for Christ
It is never enough to simply put sin to death, to leave the old way behind.  Unless the old affinity to sin is replaced with a new affection for Christ, you will only resurrect those old sins, or find new ones to chase after.  I’m reminded of this every Lenten Season: Don’t just give up, put on the new life. 

Leave behind the sins that offer pleasure but leave you empty: cling to Christ who brings eternal delight.  Leave behind the sins that bring momentary happiness; cling to Christ who is the source of everlasting joy.  Leave behind the sugar coated nothings of sin, feast at the table of Christ’s Kingdom where your cup overflows.

SDG

My Personal Apocalypse

“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you…”
(Colossians 3:5)

I don’t usually put a lot of stock in my dreams – rarely do I even remember them.  Dreams are open to so much interpretation, and there are so many things that can influence them.  Who knows but that on those nights when my dreams are rather disturbing that maybe I didn’t have too much salsa before going to bed?  It’s like the line from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, when Scrooge tells the ghost of Jacob Marley, “There’s more gravy than grave about you!”  I trust the Word of God that says in Joel, “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and daughter shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions…” I just don’t often associate my dreams with the fulfillment of that prophesy.

Still, there are times when I think my dreams are helping to reveal what God is trying to say to me.  Take, for example, a dream I had not too long ago – I call it, My Personal Apocalypse.

My life had become its own dystopian future (think Blade Runner not Hunger Games).  I was spiraling out of control.  I don’t know what happened to my family – I’m guessing they had left me, or I had driven them away.  Who would want to stay with me.  I was unkempt, frazzled, disheveled; I had really let myself go.

I found myself surrounded by illicit and wanton behavior.  There was drug use, fighting, and scantily clad women in the cloudy periphery of my dream.  I knew it was there, but I did not partake.  And while I had kept myself clean from the drugs, the sex, and all the rest of the debauchery; I soon realized that the whole dream was set inside a McDonald’s, which was apparently my drug of choice.  My sin was gluttony, sloth – but not just physically, it cut even deeper to a spiritual apathy and lethargy that was doubly fatal.

Suddenly – because time is rather “wibbly-wobbly” in dreams – I met someone, one of my high school teachers with whom I had recently reconnected  on Facebook.  There he was, in my dream, pointing to the door, and telling me it was time to leave.  He said I had really let myself go, that I needed to get up and engage in the fight for my life.

That’s when my alarm went off.

Now, just as a side note, I use my iPad as my alarm clock and on its lock screen in the following picture:

IMG_0706

In case you can’t read this, it is a quote from the Puritan pastor, John Owen, which says, “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.”

This is the image I saw when I woke from that dream.  Make War!

Are you engaging in the war for your life, or are you listing to the false prophets who cry, “Peace, Peace!” when there is no peace.  There is, in the life of every believer, a necessary and unavoidable conflict with the old life – if you are to become more like Christ you cannot also remain like you were before knowing Christ.  The Westminster Confession teaches us that our growth in holiness is imperfect in this life, and “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.”

Each of us is in a battle for our lives.  We are fighting against sin, sin which is so entrenched in our lives, so natural and instinctual, that often we don’t even know what we’re doing.  No one needs to teach you to lie, to take what you want, to put yourself first.

For those who put their faith in Christ, we realize that only through His victory over death on the cross will we ever know victory over sin, and we trust in His grace, His righteousness to cover us.  But that does not mean that we are exempt from taking up arms in the battle.  Once He brings us to life in Christ, the Spirit then reveals the depth of our sin, and equips us with His grace to mortify more and more the old man, and to live in the new.

To sum up the Owens quote, make it your daily work to put kill your sin, or else your sin will be killing you.

Are you engaged in the battle?

SDG

            Next Week – How to Mortify Sin.