“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.”
The above quote by John Owens in his book, Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers, is quite startling for those who know Jesus has already conquered sin and death. Why do we have to be the ones killing sin if Christ has already defeated it?
The truth and reality of Christ’s work on the cross to take away our sins are true. However, it is also true that God does not leave us here on earth to be complacent and allow the work of His Son to become cheapened by our lack of participation in walking in victory over sin in our lives.
Sometimes we need the reminder that we are in a battle. We are battling against the sin that still lives inside of us and that war between the flesh and the Spirit. While we don’t understand the full reasons behind why God would leave us in a state of flesh and Spirit, we are not left in the dark about how to combat it.
According to Webster’s dictionary, to mortify is to subdue; to abase; to humble; to reduce; to restrain. Throughout the old and New Testament, God’s zero tolerance for sin never changes. Nor does His command to kill it. God is not passive by any extent of the imagination. He is living and active and calls us to do the same.
“The Lord spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan [across from] Jericho, “Tell the Israelites: When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, you must drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you, destroy all their stone images and cast images, and demolish all their high places. You are to take possession of the land and settle in it because I have given you the land to possess. You are to receive the land as an inheritance by lot according to your clans. Increase the inheritance for a large clan and decrease it for a small one. Whatever place the lot indicates for someone will be his. You will receive an inheritance according to your ancestral tribes. But if you don’t drive out the inhabitants of the land before you, those you allow to remain will become thorns in your eyes and in your sides; they will harass you in the land where you will live. And what I had planned to do to them, I will do to you.” Numbers 33:50-56
Call To Action
The Israelites were God’s people, set apart to be holy people among nations. God could have just handed the inheritance over to them, but instead, He chose to let them participate in the conquering. In God’s wisdom, allowing the people to actively drive out, destroy, demolish, take and settle in the land they were receiving provided them first-hand experience and recognition of the evil that they too had been living in and were being saved from.
It is the same with us today. The active God of the Old Testament is the same active God of the New. God allows us to actively, daily, destroy the sin of our flesh to remind us of what we have been saved from. As Paul states in Colossians:
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Colossians 3:5-10
Do you see the parallels?
Destroy=Put to death
Drive out=Take off the old self
God’s ways have not changed. He still calls and commands us to take action in destroying the sin in our lives, and when we don’t, we reap the consequences.
Reward or Punishment
Consider again at what God said would happen if the Israelites chose not to take action.
“But if you don’t drive out the inhabitants of the land before you, those you allow to remain will become thorns in your eyes and in your sides; they will harass you in the land where you will live. And what I had planned to do to them, I will do to you.” Numbers 33:55-56
Harassment and thorns! Who wants to be harassed all the time and if you have ever had a splinter then you can only imagine how painful a thorn would be in your eye or side. The consequence for not driving out, destroying, and demolishing the evil in the land they were inheriting would result in the inability to see clearly, move without pain, and harassment of all kinds.
Here again, God’s remains the same. As believer’s, being complacent in the battle against the sin of our flesh will reap punishment for us as well. Paul urges believers to be used as weapons for righteousness and not unrighteousness in this battle. May Paul’s exhortation to be combat ready be our motto as well.
“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires. And do not offer any parts of it to sin as weapons for unrighteousness. But as those who are alive from the dead, offer yourselves to God, and all the parts of yourselves to God as weapons for righteousness.” Romans 6:12-13
Are you battle ready?