Be Killing Sin or It Will Be Killing You

“Be killing sin or it will be killing you”

“There are two great things that are suitable to humble to souls of men. The first is due consideration of God. And the second is a due consideration of yourself. Of God, look at His greatness, his glory, His holiness, His power, His majesty and His authority, and of ourselves, to understand our mean, lowly, insignificant abject sinful condition.”

-John Owen, Overcoming Sin and Temptation, ed. Kelly M. Kapic and Justin Taylor, 282

Fighting with God in Sanctification

by Tony Reinke

“Puritan writers like John Owen are well-known for teaching Christians to pursue holiness and kill sin. This is helpful, but Puritans like Owen also recognized that this can also lead to a serious misunderstanding on the part of Christians. In the pursuit of holiness, Christians are tempted to dwell too much on their own sins and forget the kindness of their Heavenly Father.

Think through the logic. We know that God hates sin. And although we fight sin in ourselves, no matter how hard we try, we will always find a lamentable degree of remaining sin on this side of glorification. Therefore, God must be perpetually angry with me, right?

You can see how this type of thinking can lead to legalism and to harsh thoughts about God.

So how can God be utterly for us and utterly against our sin at the same time? The answer is of course rooted in the gospel, the unmerited grace we are given in Christ’s perfect life, death, and resurrection. The answer is likewise rooted in the work of the Holy Spirit. Theologian B. B. Warfield made this connection in his study of Romans 7 (“the horror of indwelling sin”) and Romans 8 (“the glory of the indwelling Spirit”). Warfield said this in a sermon on these chapters:

The Christian life on earth is a conflict with sin. And therein is the dreadfulness of our situation on earth displayed. But we are not left to fight the battle alone. The Christian life is a conflict of God — not of us — with sin. And therein is the joy and glory of our situation on earth manifested. As sinners we are in terrible plight. As the servants of God, fighting His battle, we are in glorious case. [Faith and Life (London, 1916), 202].

Here’s the key. Fighting sin is not God-against-us. Fighting sin is ultimately God’s battle, a battle that we have been caught up into. We fight with God in sanctification because no one is more engaged in our holiness than God is. No one cares more about our personal holiness than God does, a point made obvious by the fact that the Holy Spirit dwells within us.

The point Warfield makes is an important one. Our pursuit of holiness can happen — wecan act the miracle — because God is for us and with us and in us. We fight sin in the employment of God and his purposes. The final victory is certain. In this way Warfield both wisely calls us to action (mortification) and gives us hope-filled motivation for the battle, which is ultimately the prerogative of our loving Heavenly Father.”

-Tony Reinke,  http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/fighting-with-god-in-sanctification

The Enemy Within

“When we realize a constant enemy of the soul abides within us, what diligence and watchfulness we should have! How woeful is the sloth and negligence then of so many who live blind and asleep to this reality of sin. There is an exceeding efficacy and power in the indwelling sin of believers, for it constantly inclines itself towards evil. We need to be awake, then, if our hearts would know the ways of God. Our enemy is not only upon us, as it was with Samson, but it is also in us.”

-John Owen, Sin and Temptation

Christ’s Glory Transforms

“A constant view of the glory of Christ will revive our souls and cause our spiritual lives to flourish and thrive. The more we behold the glory of Christ by aith now, the more spiritual and the more heavenly will be the state of our souls. The reason why spiritual life in our soul decays and withers is because we fill our minds with other things….But when the mind is filled with thoughts of Christ and his glory, these things will be expelled…. This is how our spiritual life will be revived.”

-John Owen, The Glory of Christ: Abridged and Made Easy to Read by R. J. K. Law, 167

Be Killing

“Be killing sin or it will be killing you”

“There are two great things that are suitable to humble to souls of men. The first is due consideration of God. And the second is a due consideration of yourself. Of God, look at His greatness, his glory, His holiness, His power, His majesty and His authority, and of ourselves, to understand our mean, lowly, insignificant abject sinful condition.”

-John Owen, Overcoming Sin and Temptation, ed. Kelly M. Kapic and Justin Taylor, 282

Self-knowledge

“Labor to know your own frame and temper; what spirit you are of; what associates in your heart Satan has; where corruption is strong, where grace is weak; what stronghold lust has in your natural constitution, and the like.”

-John Owen, Overcoming Sin and Temptation, ed. Kelly M. Kapic and Justin Taylor, 202

“In other words, know what you’re like. Where are your strengths? Where are your weaknesses? When are you inclined to sadness and melancholy? What gets you up? What gets you down? What kind of temperament has God given you?”

“Satan has been alive for a long time. His minions have been active and mobilized since the week the world was created. The Scriptures don’t give us any indication that they sleep. They’re watching you all the time. They recognize your habits and weaknesses, perhaps better than you do. The enemy knows what to put on the table to tempt you.”

“The truth is we must labor to understand our unique weaknesses, so that we can be prepared for Satan’s customized temptations.”

-Rick Holland, Uneclipsing the Son, 84-85

Hope Amidst Despair

“I am a poor, weak creature; unstable as water, I cannot excel. This corruption is too hard for me, and is at the very door of ruining my soul; and what to do I know not. My soul is become as parched ground, and an habitation of dragons. I have made promises and broken them; vows and engagements have been as a thing of naught. Many persuasions have I had that I got the victory and should be delivered, but I am lost, and shall be prevailed on to utter relinquishment of God. But yet, though this be my state and condition, let the hands that hang down be lifted up, and the feeble knees be strengthened. Behold, the Lord Christ, that has the fullness of grace in his heart [John 1:16], all fullness of power in his hand [Matt. 28:18], he is able to slay all these his enemies. There is sufficient provision in him for my relief and assistance. He can take my drooping, dying soul and make me more than a conqueror [Rom. 8:37].”

Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel,

“My way is hidden from the I-AM,

And the justice due me escapes the notice of my God”?

Do you not know? Have you not heard?

The Everlasting God, the I-AM, the Creator of the ends of the earth

Does not become weary or tired

His understanding is inscrutable.

He gives strength to the weary,

And to him who lacks might He increases power.

Though youths grow weary and tired,

And vigorous young men stumble badly,

Yet those who wait for the I-AM

Will gain new strength;

They will mount up with wings like eagles,

They will run and not get tired,

They will walk and not become weary.

Isaiah 40:27-31

“He can make the “dry, parched ground of my soul, to become a pool, and my thirsty, barren heart as springs of water”; yea, he can make this “habitation of dragons,” this heart, so full of abominable lusts and fiery temptations, to be a place for “grass” and fruit to himself (Is. 35:7)”

-John Owen (1616-1683), Chapter 14, The Mortification of Sin

Directions for Mortification (Part 1)

A. Load Your Conscience with the guilt of sin.

1. Dwell on the guilt which comes from the law. Every one of your sins merits hell. If there is unfortified sin in your heart you have no assurance you are free from the condemnation of sin. If the law does not convict you, woe on you! (Ps. 51:3; Gal. 3:24)

2. Bring your lust to the gospel. Look on him whom you have pierced (Zech. 12:10; Jn. 19:37). Do this daily.

3. Be Specific. Meditate upon the infinite patience and forbearance of God towards you and this sin. Load your mind with God’s gracious dealings toward you. Realize you deserve to be turned over to your sin and to be hardened. Don’t give your conscience any reason to excuse your sin

B. Passionately desire deliverance from the power of sin.

2 Cor. 7:11; Rom. 7:24; Ps. 38, 42. Be in constant prayer about deliverance (Luke 21:36).

C. Be aware your sin may be a fueled by your personality or upbringing.

This does not excuse your sin (Ps. 51:5). If you are not vigilant Satan will gain a foothold. The only way to conquer such a sin is through bodily discipline (1 Cor. 9:27). Bodily discipline in itself is not enough.

D. Discover the ways your sin seeks to gain a foothold and be on guard against them.

Watch [and pray] against any eruption of your corruptions (Luke 21:34).

E. Resist vehemently the first thoughts or acts of your sin.

Do not walk even a yard with your sin. James 1:14-15, stop it as it tries to start. Resist it with more vigor then it assails you.

-Synopsis of the 11th Chapter of The Mortification of Sin, John Owen, 1656