In the classic Puritan Paperback The Mortification of Sin, author John Owen helpfully educates his reader about what the mortification of sin (that is, its killing, subduing, etc.) is not.
Have you ever been caught in a sin in a rather public setting where you were rather deeply embarrassed, guilty and ashamed over that sin? You’d probably know the feeling: you’re caught in a sin that you would indulge privately with little remorse, but as soon as it’s seen by others, you’re sorrowful. I know I’ve been there too many times to count. Well, many times the fallout from such an exposure of sin is remorse and brokenness. I call this hot-blooded contrition. We’re so bent out of shape that we’d rashly vow to never sin again. But in truth, we’re in distress over having been caught, and such vows tend to be short-lived. Pretty soon we find ourselves engaged in the same sin wondering what happened to our once-repentant hearts.
According to Owen, that’s an example of what mortification is not.
If we would truly kill sin in our lives, it has to be a cold-blooded, calculated decision replete with all of the elements of any successful execution: planning, the right instruments of death and a complete kill. In the life of a Christian, that means making decisions based on the truths of Scripture rather than human emotion alone. It also means having other people in our lives who will help prevent us from nursing such sins to health after we’ve dealt them lethal blows.
Owen suggests that while complete mortification will not happen until we are out of this world, we can – and must – be constantly about the killing of sin if we would lead blessed, obedient, happy, guilt-free lives. He said famously at the start of chapter 2, “Always be killing sin or it will be killing you.”
The mortification of sin ought to be a part of the Christian’s routine soul-maintenance. Calculated, cold-blooded killing of sin is necessary for excellent stewardship of our souls.
How can you coldly, deliberately root out sin in your life?