Friday, December 21, 2012

The mortification of sin

I've been reminded of what I've known since childhood when I first became a Christ-follower. It's been easy to ignore the basics of Christian life in the busyness and the greedy pursuit of acquisition encouraged by our culture.

John Owen, a Puritan writer from the 1600s wrote a book called "The Mortification of Sin." It hardly seemed interesting when I picked it up, but it shook me.

This is what I remember from reading it this week:
  • We are fully redeemed and declared free from sin by Christ's accomplishments. 
  • However, we must struggle to put sin to death (mortify it) every day. Otherwise sins will slowly kill our spiritual life.
  • We placate ourselves with small victories while ignoring other sins. We are easily satisfied and appeased, declaring peace before we have genuinely repented and turned from all sin ... and before God has declared peace to us.
  • This happens because: 
1) We do not recognize that we know little about God. We see only a glimpse of his greatness and mystery. Thus we are satisfied to remake Him in our image - finite, willing to overlook sin, and pliable, easily manipulated by human demands rather than an enduring perfection of Being and Doing.
2) We are not disgusted with the nature of sin, how it separates us from God, destroys our desire for His companionship, and refuses to yield so He can remake us to our full human potential - body, soul/will/emotions, and spirit.
3) We become so calloused by sin and sinful culture that we are no longer appalled by our filthy helplessness. We do not throw ourselves on God's mercy each day but assume we are doing okay because it seems there are no immediate consequences beyond occasional inconveniences when we get "caught" in sin.
4) We enjoy our sins so much that we refuse to believe that lusts of any and every kind (food, drink, sex, pleasures, money, etc.) must be put to death.

Owen suggests the following:
  • We must resolve to put sin to death daily = with God's help, not by our selfish efforts or mere human resources. Our tools are spiritual - but they are only tools. Spiritual disciplines are only useful under the Spirit's guidance. We become more bound and discouraged when applying them through our own strength.
  • God's Spirit brings us to life, day by day. Only through Jesus' accomplishments and the Spirit's power can we hope to live in freedom from sin. Eagerly, God offers us these wonders to set us free from the law of sin and death.
  • God reveals enough of Himself to create our hunger for relationship and our quest for holiness (separation from anything that separates us from Him.) If we seek to please Him above everything else, willing to leave behind EVERY thing that holds us from full humanity in relationship to God, He will answer us with the wisdom and power to mortify (kill) the sin that lies in wait to destroy us.
The book greatly encouraged me. I want to please God. I long for any separation between us to be removed. How about you?

Read more:
*And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Joel 2:28 (NIV)

*Jesus said, “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” John 14:26

Moravian Prayer: O God of light, on this the darkest day may our hearts find lightness of being in the gift of your Son and the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who attends to our darkness and who offers a way. Amen.

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