Be Killing Sin, or It Will Be Killing You

The only time the word “mortified” comes up in common language today is in this context: “What he did was so embarrassing; I was just mortified” - as in, I was so embarrassed, I felt like dying, or like I was dying. But the word literally means to bring about mortality - to be killing. No one was actually strangling this imaginary person; the word has become only a euphemism. 

That’s too bad, because the Bible speaks very clearly about a brand of killing that we are all supposed to be doing: “. . . if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death [old word: mortify] the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Rom. 8:13) As the old Puritan John Owen said, “Be killing sin, or it will be killing you.”

Owen, in his book, “Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers”, describes mortification this way (in chapter 6): 

1. A habitual weakening of sin.

a. Habitually aiming at the roots of sin, not just “restraining its eruptions”. 

b. Remembering Romans 6:6 - sin is crucified, dying, even if it still can tempt us. 

c. Remembering that different people are tempted in different ways. 

2. Constant contending and fighting against sin. 

a. Know you have a powerful enemy. 

b. Therefore know its ways. 

c. And “load it daily” with all that would be grievous and deadly to it. 

d. We are not saved to perfection; we will always be fighting sin, till we die or our Lord returns. We are saved into a life of warfare; we live on enemy ground until God makes earth his heaven. Therefore we are saved to a life of resistance. Peter does not say “beat the devil, and he will flee from you”; he says “resist him, firm in your faith” (1 Peter 5:9). Mortification is not a one-and-done operation. Sainthood is evidenced by resistance, not perfection. 

3. Frequent success

a. Not just in “disappointing” the actual act of sin, but in making gains at killing the root. 

b. For instance: at the root of pride, humility; at the love of the world, a growth in things of heaven. 

c. This is a work of the Spirit; those things mentioned in #b above come by the Spirit, making use of the means of the Spirit: Word, prayer and fellowship, as God sovereignly, providentially orders your life. The immediacy and vigor with which we fight the lusts within are in direct proportion to our use of these means.