Mortification of sin is not discussed openly in churches much these days. It sounds very Puritan. In a sense, it is. If anyone had a deep understanding of the reality of sin and it’s impacts it was the Puritan faith. What’s even more unfortunate is the dilution,  perversion, and even complete loss of the principle itself. Absence of the  mortification of sin in the modern church however has not removed the principle from scripture.

“Put to Death What is Earthly in You” Colossians 3:5-8

As we come into the second section of this text in Colossians, Paul deals with the dynamic of our new nature, versus the combative presence of the old.

The first four verses of chapter 3 talk about our new identity. It’s the substance of what life in Christ is. Paul frames his entire argument with “If you have been raised with Christ.” In other words, if we in fact have been made alive, these are his instructions with regard to remaining sin.

“Put to death what is earthly in you, put them all away.”

When Paul is laying these things out, he is not doing it in a way that is encouraging hypocrisy. He is not replacing the concept of “mortification” with “pacification”. He is not saying, “I want you to stop doing these things only so that you can appear moral and pious.” He’s saying I want you to put these sins to death, because as Jesus said, you are to be holy. The sin in your life needs to be rendered completely helpless with regard to influencing your living and your relationship to God.

Paul goes on to explain why.

  1. On account of these, the wrath of God is coming. v.6
  2. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. V.7
  3. Seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices, and have put on the new self which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of the creator. V.10
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“Be killing sin, or it will be killing you.” John Owen

Three Reasons Christians Work to Mortify Sin

 1. God’s Wrath Will Be Poured Out on All Unrighteousness.

  • When we mortify sin in our bodies and minds, we imitate the way our father has mortified the wages of our sin through Christ.
  • The reason Christians struggle so deeply with the presence of unconfessed, and unrepentant sin in their life is because they know God sees it, they know what God is capable of toward it, and because they are acting outside of their new identity.
  • Jesus did not die to cause God to shrug our sin off, no he died to justify who we are before the holiness of God. One author said this about sin: “Sin is cosmic treason. Sin is treason against a perfectly pure Sovereign. It is an act of supreme ingratitude toward the One to whom we owe everything, to the One who has given us life itself. Have you ever considered the deeper implications of the slightest sin, of the most minute peccadillo? What are we saying to our Creator when we disobey Him at the slightest point? We are saying no to the righteousness of God. We are saying, “God, Your law is not good. My judgement is better than Yours. Your authority does not apply to me. I am above and beyond Your jurisdiction. I have the right to do what I want to do, not what You command me to do.” -R. C. Sproul  
  • If God is the ruler of this universe, there is nothing about sin, even as our father, that he flagrantly dismisses. If that were true, there would be no need for sanctification. Rather, because sin is so grievous, particularly in the life of those who have new life in Jesus, God has set forth, by way of his spirit, His sanctifying work. Apart from God’s work, we would never grow away from sin’s pull.2. A Christian knows that these are the things that he was saved FROM.

“Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.”

 We need to remember what sin has done verses what Christ has done for us. Jesus’ sacrifice not only justifies us before God, but it sets us free FROM the shackling effect of sin now.  Romans 6:14 “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”

Often, we fail to kill sin, because we forget that Jesus’ sacrifice not only set us free from the wrath of God that is to come as a result of unrighteousness, but it has also set us free from the rulership that sin.

Why else would Paul direct his instruction to us? He’s saying, “Do whatever you need to do. Even if that means recruiting a brother in Christ to help demolish the sin you have in your life right now and what will come in the future! It has no dominion over you! It is not your king, and if you claim to follow Jesus and you continue to harbor your sin, then you are professing that you are serving two masters. God, and that particular sin.”

  • Matthew 18:7-9 Jesus goes even farther by telling his hearers to cut off their hand and pluck out their eye if it falls to the temptation of sin. Jesus is presenting a principle that we often overlook! He’s saying if the car you are driving is going to cause the wreck, trade it in! Stop driving it! Remove it from the scenario! Cut off your arm and pluck out your eye, because if it is the infirmity that is going to give way to temptation, then it’s better for you not to have it than it is to stand before God whole with sin on you.

2. We Mortify Sin Because: A Christian knows that these are the things that he was saved FROM.

“Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.”

Now we need to remember what sin has done verses what Christ has done for us. Jesus’ sacrifice not only justifies us before God, but it sets us free FROM the shackling effect of sin now.  Romans 6:14 “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”

Often, we fail to approach sin  by “Killing” it, because we forget that Jesus’ sacrifice not only set us free from the wrath of God that is to come as a result of unrighteousness, but it has also set us free from the rulership that sin has over the dead, lost man that we once were.

Why else would Paul direct his instruction to us? He’s saying, “Do whatever you need to, even if that means recruiting a brother in Christ to help you demolish the sin you have in your life right now and what will come in the future! It has no dominion over you! It is not your king, and if you claim to follow Jesus and you continue to harbor your sin, then you are professing that you are serving two masters. God, and that particular sin.”

  • Matthew 18:7-9 Jesus is telling his hearers to cut off their hand and pluck out their eye if it falls to the temptation of sin. Jesus is presenting a principle that we often overlook! He’s saying if the car you are driving is going to cause the wreck, trade it in! Stop driving it! Remove it from the scenario! Cut off your arm and pluck out your eye, because if it is the infirmity that is going to give way to temptation, then it’s better for you not to have it than it is to stand before God whole with sin on you.

3. We Mortify Sin Because it does not exist in our Savior, and will not exist in us.

If you are in Jesus and you are harboring sin, you are preaching heresy every single day. Why? Because if you and I are being made more into the image of Jesus, and we are protecting sin in our life, rather than killing it, then we are saying, “this is part of who my Jesus is.” The very definition of heresy is misrepresenting the nature of God! Do you understand this today? Our very representation of God is what is at stake!

We are often so quick to point fingers at others and say, “wow, that ain’t a good witness” when all the while we just lied to your wife, and your kids are a complete spiritual disaster!! Brothers, the only reaction that we should have for this kind of behavior is swift and violent! John Owen said, “Be killing sin, or it will be killing you.”

There is nothing about your sin that wants to help you along this journey dear friend. It wants you to be as lame and crippled as you can possibly be as it sucks the very life out of you. It wants the world around you to see an unclear picture of Jesus. One that is insufficient. One that is weak, and unable to save men’s souls. That’s what your sin wants. 

How We Mortify Sin

So how do we mortify sin? These points are not my own, I have taken these from a great author and pastor that I respect dearly because he has said it more clearly than I ever could.

By Sinclair Ferguson

1. Learn to admit sin for what it really is.

Call a spade a spade — call it “sexual immorality,” not “I’m being tempted a little”; call it “impurity,” not “I’m struggling with my thought life”; call it “evil desire, which is idolatry,” not “I think I need to order my priorities a bit better.” This pattern runs right through this whole section. How powerfully this unmasks self-deceit — and helps us to unmask sin lurking in the hidden corners of our hearts!  

2. See sin for what your sin really is in God’s presence.

“On account of these the wrath of God is coming” (3:6). The masters of the spiritual life spoke of dragging our lusts (kicking and screaming, though they be) to the cross, to a wrath-bearing Christ. My sin leads to — not lasting pleasure — but holy divine displeasure. See the true nature of your sin in the light of its punishment. Too easily do we think that sin is less serious in Christians than it is in non-believers: “It’s forgiven, isn’t it?” Not if we continue in it (1 John 3:9)! Take a heaven’s-eye view of sin and feel the shame of that in which you once walked (Col. 3:7; see also Rom. 6:21).

3. Recognize the inconsistency of your sin.

You put off the “old man,” and have put on the “new man” (3:9–10). You are no longer the “old man.” The identity you had “in Adam” is gone. The old man was “crucified with him [Christ] in order that the body of sin [probably “life in the body dominated by sin”] might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin” (Rom. 6:6). New men live new lives. Anything less than this is a contradiction of who I am “in Christ.”

4. Put sin to death

(Col. 3:5). It is as “simple” as that. Refuse it, starve it, and reject it. You cannot “mortify” sin without the pain of the kill. There is no other way!

 

When you are tempted to keep doing what you are doing, and you know it is not godly, you are working to keep sin alive. You are proclaiming to the world around you that the gospel is inconsistent, and the God is just ok with it. That’s not the gospel! If you are truly a child of God, 1 John 9 makes clear that you “Cannot keep on sinning”. This is not because you have some sort of magical ability of your own to somehow deconstruct and dismantle sin, but it means that you have been justified before a supernatural and Holy God, whose design for you to enter into eternity is to do so blamelessly and without blemish.

What makes mortifying sin such a major part of Christian living, is that without this practice, it means we are still hopeless. Our attitude toward the fight against sin’s presence and influence in our life should be even more indignant than that of the Spartan’s toward the Persians. Why? Because, our flesh will fail. Our minds and hearts can completely allow us to fall on our face, but friend if you are in Christ, your true life, is hidden with him in the father.  

A sportsman knows the importance of regularly pursuing and removing predators from the places they hunt. It protects the more desirable species and lends to more balanced ecology. Sin is an apex predator. There is no greater challenge to us than the sin that attempts to rob us of our joy in Christ. But through Christ, it can be overcome.

 

 

 

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