For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. Romans 8:13
Keep in mind that Paul here is speaking to mainly Christians, or those who think themselves as Christians. We could paraphrase this verse like this: Those who don’t regularly fight and kill sin aren’t real Christians. They will experience spiritual death, now and in the next age. But real Christians consistently fight and kill sin by the Spirit’s power. They will experience eternal life, now and in the next age.
Reflecting on this verse the Puritan John Owen said “be killing sin, or it will be killing you.” Indeed, there are only two options with regards to sin.
As I examine my own heart, I’m tempted to opt for an imaginary third option. Sometimes I nurture the perspective that sin ought to be managed but not killed. It’s impossible to kill the sin of lust. It’s impossible to kill the sin of pride. It’s impossible to kill the sin of selfishness. So as long as I don’t let these get out of hand – as long as I make some progress, occasionally – I’m good-to-go. And if I don’t make progress, I’m ok because of the Cross. I’m under grace after all. Whew!
This a dangerous perspective. Believing that we ought to control our sins instead of killing them leads to countless problems, including spiritual inoculation and lethargy, ineffectiveness in the ministry etc. Most importantly it grieves our Heavenly Father. Yes, we may not be prodigal sons, throwing ourselves into all kinds of gratuitous sins. Still our Enemy relishes the fact that he has incapacitated us with complacency.
Besides this, hiding behind the Cross and managing sin doesn’t make sense of Paul’s teaching in Romans 6:1-23 and 8:13. We are commanded to kill sin because we are new creations in Christ. The power of sin has been broken. Christians are no longer slaves to sin (Romans 6:15-23). Will we choose to step away from our former chains and live in freedom? Or will we choose to live the shackled life, even though the manacles have been smashed by Christ?
Now of course I’m not saying that we can achieve perfection this side of heaven. But making real, lasting progress against particular sins is not only possible but necessary for Christians. Therefore, Christians need to nurture a new perspective regarding sin. Christians must think of the sins they are presently fighting with their death in view.
Some questions I am wrestling with that I commend to you…
- What specific sins am I presently fighting with their death in view?
- How will I draw strength from the Spirit to fight and kill these sins today and this week?
- How will I strategically kill these sins today and this week? Keep in mind the progression of temptation and sin in James 1:14-15.
- How can I lean on other Christians to help me fight and kill these sins today and this week?
A Responsive Prayer
Father, even though I know you and love you, there are heaps of sins I have not put to death. Forgive me. Give me eyes to see your magnificent holiness and my subsequent unholiness. Give me eyes to see my sin for what it is – a rupture in my relationship with you and a rupture in my relationship with others. Help me go to war today with my sins. Grant me the Spirit-wrought resources to fight sin today, so that I may enjoy my new life in Christ. Help me believe that true life is not found anywhere else except in unencumbered fellowship with You. Amen.