The Mortification of Sin: How to do it!

“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:11-13)

Mortification, or to mortify, means to degrade, humiliate, crush and confound. Within the context of our subject, what the believer in Christ is called by God to degrade, humiliate, crush and confound is sin. This sin in question is not anybody else’s sin but rather the believer’s own sin.

It has been noted that the Apostle Paul specifically refers to this action of mortification in Romans 8:11-13. In a cause and effect statement, Paul says that since the Holy Spirit indwells the believer in Christ, and since this is the same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus Christ from the dead, and since the same Holy Spirit will resurrect our dead bodies, we are then no longer debtors to live according to the flesh, or sinful desires, but rather to live according to, and by, the Holy Spirit. The way to do this is by putting to death the sinful deeds of the body.

Putting sin to death, from the Greek word θανατοῦτε (thanatoute), means to completely stop or cease. In other words, to execute. This is an action the believer in Christ is called upon to actively, presently and personally pursue daily. In other words, God calls the believer in Christ, because of their position in Christ, to commit pre-meditated murder against their personal sin. To do so gives evidence that the believer in Christ is obediently conducting themselves in a manner prescribed by Scripture (Ephesians 4:17-24; Colossians 3:1-11; 2 Timothy 3:12).

This is, respectfully, all well and good. But how does the believer in Christ go about this process of mortification? Remember, the mortification of sin is not about how to become a Christian but rather embracing one of the fundamental disciplines of life and living which defines and evidences that one is indeed a believer in Christ.

Let us go back to our original question from the previous paragraph. How do believers go about the lifelong process of mortifying, or killing, the sin in their lives? Here are some biblical suggestions.

First, see your sin as God sees it. Confess your sin to God and acknowledge it as the cosmic treason against God that it truly is. Do not make excuses for sin and do not try to justify your sin. Obliterate the idea that whatever sin you are committing is to be tolerated, or accepted, by the un-biblical perspective of, “well, that’s just the way I am.”

Secondly, set you heart/soul upon God and His Word. Do it daily! For example, meditate upon the following biblical texts which focus on personal righteousness. It would be good to memorize them.

  • Psalm 1:1-2 – “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.”
  • Psalm 19:7-11 – “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”
  • Psalm 57:7 – “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody!”
  • Psalm 119:11 – “I have stored up your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
  • Haggai 1:5-7 – “Now, therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes. “Thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways.”
  • Colossians 3:1-4 – “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
  • I Peter 2:11 – “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”
  • I Peter 4:7 – “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.”
  • I John 1:8-10 – “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

Third, commune regularly in prayer to God. Pour your heart out to God about the sin you are battling and which seems relentless. Remember, God’s grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:1-10).

Fourth, practice obedience to God in every area of your life. No exceptions! No excuses! As one pastor has observed, “Doing God’s will and His will alone in all the small issues of life can be training in habits that will hold up in the severe times of temptation.”

May the LORD’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!




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