Not a word you hear very often, if at all, nowadays. In fact, the concept of mortification is not very popular today – even among some evangelicals. The word “mortify” means to put something to death. In theological terms it refers to the killing of sin, or the dying to sin in a believer’s life. Every believer, through the sanctifying power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, has the ability to crucify “the sinful nature with its passions and desires” (Gal.5:24), and every believer has been called to “put to death the misdeeds of the body” (Rom.8:13; see Col.3:5). Mortification is the act or process in which the Christian earnestly endeavors to eliminate sin from his or her life.
In his immortally classic book, The Mortification of Sin (written in the mid-1600’s), John Owen described mortification as the taking away all the strength, vigor, and power of sin so that it cannot act on its own or exert itself in the life of the believer (p.3). But Owen was quick to point out that to mortify sin does not mean that a believer can so “utterly root it out and destroy it, that it should have no more hold at all nor residence in our hearts. It is true that this is what we aim at, but we will not be able to accomplish it in this life” (p.26-27).
In other words, the goal of every Christian is to be holy (1Pet.1:15-16), pure (1Tim.5:22), blameless (1Thes.5:23), and perfect (Matt.5:48). However, we know that in this life we will never be totally away from the presence of temptation and sin. Therefore, we must be vigilantly committed to killing any sinful attitude or thought or word or act. We must fight against becoming weary, careless, or apathetic in our pursuit of personal holiness. We must continually “die” to sin and “crucify” our sin nature. These strong words are the exact language the Bible uses to describe the act of true repentance.
John Owen explained this in vivid imagery:
Christians are characterized as those who hate sin. We are to possess an intolerant attitude toward our own sinful passions and desires. After raising the rhetorical question, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” (Rom.6:1), the Apostle Paul answered with the strongest negative phrase in the Greek language: “By no means!” (Rom.6:2). He explained, “We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” This is not to suggest that once a person becomes a Christian they will be forever free from sin. But it does explicitly state that Christians are not tolerant of any sin in their lives. Therefore, when sin raises its ugly head, it is the Christian’s duty and delight to decapitate it – mortifying that sin quickly and completely. As a brilliant summary, Owen gave us this provocative exhortation:
Together in and for Christ,
Scripture Readings for the Week (Monday – Sunday ~ Week #49):
Deuteronomy 23-25; Nehemiah 5-9; Psalm 140-142; Song 1-2; Revelation 1-6; Acts 21-22; 1 John 4-5
“The Mortification of Sin” by John Owen
Loved your messages this year. Some hit me between the eyeballs of my heart... of course.
:) But, I do appreciate your honesty and not holding back whatsoever. God's Word is really
timeless and it is so interesting how things that the early church went through, still are relevant
struggles today as well. I can't wait until the Lord returns and cleans up the mess we made of
our world.... correction.......mess we made of GOD'S WORLD. Love in Christ, Maddy Gaoiran