This past Wednesday I was completely struck when in the midst of good but nonetheless “generic” prayer requests, one young member said to pray that she would have more sensitivity to sin in her life. Didn’t she know this was a church in America where things like that are just not talked about? Though most of us would never admit to it – especially in public – that’s one request we all need to make! It was a humbling, yet encouraging experience for me. Perhaps God is at work raising a generation that will not be like their forefathers and will refuse to play at church and the Christian life?
Either way, her prayer request is part of the core of living the Christ life – identifying sin and putting it to death in our lives. In John Owen’s classic work On the Mortification of Sin he explains how even after our liberation from the power of sin through the cross of Christ, indwelling sin remains and the Christian must seek it’s death:
It is our duty to be “perfecting holiness in the fear of God,” (2 Cor 7:1); to be “growing in grace” every day, (1 Pet 2:2; 2 Pet 3:18); to be “renewing our inward man day by day,” (2 Cor 4:16). Now, this cannot be done without the daily mortifying of sin. Sin sets its strength against every act of holiness, and against every degree we grow to. Let not that man think he makes any progress in holiness who walks not over the bellies of his lusts. He who doth not kill sin in this way takes no steps towards his journey’s end. He who finds not opposition from it, and who sets not himself in every particular to its mortification, is at peace with it, not dying to it.
This, then, is the first general principle of our ensuing discourse: Notwithstanding the meritorious mortification, if I may so speak, of all and every sin in the cross of Christ; notwithstanding the real foundation of universal mortification laid in our first conversion, by conviction of sin, humiliation for sin, and the implantation of a new principle opposite to it and destructive of it; — yet sin doth so remain, so act and work in the best of believers, whilst they live in this world, that the constant daily mortification of it is all their days incumbent on them.
– Mortification of Sin: A Puritan’s View of How to Deal with Sin in Your Life, Christian Focus (reprint, 1996), 34-35.
Owen’s words are helpful and much needed in a culture that doesn’t speak of and deal with sin very well. Though Owen can be tough reading, his works are available for free online at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library. If you want the essence of Owen’s teaching on killing sin in an easy to read format, then I recommend Kris Lundgaard’s book, Enemy Within.
Still yet, if you love hip-hop and are serious about killing sin in your life, check out Timothy Brindle’s album, Killing Sin. From the clips on Amazon, the songs are amazingly clear on the need, process, and result of killing sin in our lives. The song titles alone show you the emphasis in these songs; check it out.
However, you get encouragement to go about doing it, remember that Owen is right. As Christians it’s part of our life’s work to be identifying sin and killing it by the power of the Word of God and the Spirit of God. Pray for that in your life. Work at it in your life by God’s grace.