02 Nov Mortify Your Sin
Read: Romans 8:12-17
Last Sunday, Pastor Ken preached from Romans 8:5-11 on what it means to live according to the Spirit as children of God in Christ. This Sunday, he will preach from Romans 8:12-17 on how the indwelling Spirit leads us to kill sin and assures us that we are children of God. As you prepare your heart for our corporate gathering, let these words from Tim Keller help your understanding and effectiveness in killing your sin.
This process of “putting to death” is what earlier theologians used to call “mortification.” They got it from the old King James Version translation of the verse: “If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (v 13).
So what do verses 12-13 tell us about what mortification is, and how we do it? First, it means a ruthless, full-hearted resistance to sinful practice. The very word translated as “put to death” (Greek word thanatoute) is violent and total. It means to reject totally everything we know to be wrong; to declare war on attitudes and behaviors that are wrong— give them no quarter, take no prisoners, pull out all the stops.
This means a Christian doesn’t play games with sin. You don’t aim to wean yourself off it, or say: I can keep it under control. You get as far away from it as possible. You don’t just avoid things you know are sin; you avoid the things that lead to it, and even things that are doubtful. This is war!
Second, it means changing one’s motivation to sin by remembering to apply the gospel. This process of “mortification” goes deeper than merely resisting sinful behavior. It looks at the motives of the heart. Verse 12 says: “Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation— but it is not to the sinful nature.” This is a critical statement. “Therefore” refers to the statement before, in which Paul tells us we have been redeemed by Christ’s righteousness and will someday be totally delivered from all evil and pain in the bodily resurrection. Then Paul turns and says: “Therefore … we have an obligation…” Some translations express it differently: “We are debtors, not to the flesh” (NRSV). Paul means that if we remember what Christ has done and will do for us, we will feel the obligations of love and gratitude to serve and know him.
Paul is saying that sin can only be cut off at the root if we expose ourselves constantly to the unimaginable love of Christ for us. That exposure stimulates a wave of gratitude and a feeling of indebtedness. Sin can only grow in the soil of self-pity and a feeling of “owed-ness.” I’m not getting a fair shake! I’m not getting my needs met! I’ve had a hard life! God owes me; people owe me; I owe me! That’s the heart attitude of “owed-ness” or entitlement. But, Paul says, you must remind yourself that you are a debtor. If you bathe yourself in the remembrance of the grace of God, that will loosen, weaken and kill sin at the motivational level.
Therefore, “put to death” (v 13) is just a sub-set under “mind the things of the Spirit” (v 5). Mortification withers sin’s power over you by focusing on Christ’s redemption in a way that softens your heart with gratitude and love; which brings you to hate the sin for itself, so it loses its power of attraction over you.
In summary, then, we kill sin in the Spirit when we turn from sinful practices ruthlessly and turn our heart from sinful motivations with a sense of our debt to love and grace, by minding the things of the Spirit.
Excerpt from Romans 8-16 For You, by Tim Keller
For further thoughts on the mortification of sin, see this article by Greg Morse from Desiring God: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-to-train-your-dragons
Song List for Sunday
1. “Come Praise and Glorify,” by Sovereign Grace Music
2. “Scandal of Grace,” Arr. by Shane & Shane
3. “Praise the King,” Arr. by Shane & Shane
4. “Good Good Father,” Arr. by Shane & Shane
5. “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us,” Arr. by Shane & Shane