John Owen, 1616-1683, author of On the Mortification of Sin
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 8:9, 12-13. 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 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.