Let’s look at Romans 8 again this morning, as we have been doing, Romans chapter 8. This incomparable revelation is so grand and so marvelous that it is almost impossible to capture its truths in words; and I make an endeavor to do that every week and fall far short of what you should be hearing, because this is such an incredibly rich chapter. I want to read for you the opening thirteen verses. You will be familiar with much of that because we’ve covered it in previous weeks, and then we’ll arrive at the final two verses, verses 12 and 13, which we’ll be looking at more directly this morning.
“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
“However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But 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, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh – for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
Now we’re coming down to verses 12 and 13 this morning, but I want to sort of get us to that point by looking back to the very beginning of the chapter. What is in this chapter, really all thirty-nine verses of it, is an outworking of the statement in verse 1: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, no condemnation.” This is a divine promise that those who are in Christ will never be condemned because Christ was already condemned in our place. The promise of no condemnation is the last pearl in the string of pearls that is made up of the benefits of salvation. Those pearls are blessings like faith, peace, grace, hope, life, love, holiness, freedom, joy, fruit, righteousness, service, and then the ultimate pearl, security, the final pearl in this incredibly beautiful string of salvation pearls: security.
That’s what chapter 8 is about, the fact that we are secure. We are so secure that there is no condemnation for us ever. We are so secure that the chapter ends by saying, “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We have the promise of no condemnation to start the chapter, and the promise of no separation to end the chapter. This is an incredibly wonderful chapter. This chapter guarantees our eternal glory if we belong to Christ.
Now it is the work, in particular, of the Holy Spirit to bring us to glory. So this chapter really features the Holy Spirit who’s only been mentioned one or two times in the previous seven chapters, but is mentioned in this chapter nineteen times, because this is His unique work, bringing those who are in Christ to eternal glory. He is the down payment on our final inheritance. He is the arrabōn, the engagement ring. He is the guarantee. He is the one who secures our eternal reward. And we’ve been looking at the special features of the ministry of the Spirit in the life of believers. The first thing we learned is that He gives us life, freeing us from sin and death. We saw that in verses 2 and 3. And then in verse 4, we saw that the Holy Spirit enables us to fulfill the law of God, something that prior to Christ and the Holy Spirit was impossible, as we read.
So first of all, the Spirit gives us life, freeing us from sin and death. Secondly, the Holy Spirit enables us to fulfill the law of God. He does this, thirdly, by changing our nature – and that is from verse 5 down to verse 11. That whole section talks about how we have been transformed at the most personal level. We are new creations by the Spirit, and as such, our nature has been changed. We are now, according to the Spirit, or of the Spirit, we mind the things of the Spirit and we walk by and in the Spirit; whereas once we were according to the flesh, we minded the things of the flesh, and we walked according to the flesh. In those cases we were walking the path of death. In the case now of walking in the Spirit, we are walking the path of life.
Now we come to the fourth wonderful work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer: He empowers us for victory over sin. He empowers us for victory over sin. That’s in verses 12 and 13. Let me read it again for you: “So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh – but if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
This is right down to where we live and move and have our being as believers. We are under obligation. This is the first time any duty has been assigned to us. Everything up to now has been what the Holy Spirit has done for us, giving us the incredible eternal blessing of a no condemnation status because we are in Christ, enabling us to fulfill the law and transforming us so that we are new creations who are now alive headed for eternal life in all its fullness according to the Spirit, minding the things of the Spirit and walking in the Spirit. All of that is what the Lord has done for us.
This is the first time we come to this notion of obligation. In fact, back in verse 4, it says we can fulfill the law of God, we can fulfill the law of God. In verse 5, it says we will fulfill the law of God. And now down in verses 12 and 13, it says we must fulfill the law of God. First, it is possible; secondly, it is inevitable; and thirdly, it is obligatory. We can be righteous; we will be righteous; we must be righteous.
We are of the Spirit, we do mind the things of the Spirit, we do walk in the Spirit, but we are also under obligation to live by the Spirit. This is such an important truth. We have fact. The fact is we are of the Spirit because the Spirit dwells in us. We mind the things of the Spirit because we are taught by the Holy Spirit, the anointing from God who lives in us. We will do the Spirit’s bidding because the Spirit empowers us to that end, that is fact. Another way to say that is, if we have been justified, we have also been sanctified. But that doesn’t remove any obligation as if we just sit back and let the Holy Spirit do the work, we are still under obligation. What is possible, what is inevitable is also our responsibility.
To see a parallel to this so that maybe you’ll understand it a little better, Galatians chapter 5. In Galatians chapter 5, verse 24, “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” That’s a fact. That’s a fact about past event. If you belong to Christ you have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Verse 25 says, “You live by the Spirit,” which is essentially what we’ve been seeing in Romans 8. “But since we live by the Spirit,” – verse 25, here comes a command – “let us also walk by the Spirit.” Again, it is both a fact in Romans 8 that we walk by the Spirit, and a command in Galatians 5 that we walk by the Spirit.
If you go back into Galatians 5 to the sixteenth verse, Paul says, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh.” He just said in verse 24 that the flesh has been crucified and you now live by the Spirit. Here he says you need to walk by the Spirit so you do not carry out the desire of the flesh. The flesh has been crucified or it hasn’t. It has, but there are still vestiges of that flesh remaining.
Verse 17, “The flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, the Spirit against the flesh; and these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” This is the strange reality of being a Christian. You can fulfill the law of God, you will fulfill the law of God, but you are obligated to fulfill the law of God. You can walk in the Spirit, you will walk in the Spirit, but you must walk in the Spirit. It is to say that all that God is doing and has done in you is not apart from your obedience. And so that’s why he says down in verse 12, “So then, brethren,” – talking to believers – “we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh – for is you’re living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you’re putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” We are under obligation, we owe a debt.
He uses the same term in Romans 1 where he talks about the debt to preach the gospel. We have a debt. Our debt is not to the flesh. We don’t owe anything to the flesh, we owe nothing to the flesh. The flesh is weak. The flesh is sinful. The flesh leads to death, he says in verse 6. We do not live according to the flesh. We don’t live the way we once did. We have no obligation to live the way we used to live. Our obligation is now to live consistently with the Holy Spirit who has given life to us. To live that way you must be putting to death the deeds of the body. What he’s saying is here that even though this is true of us, that we are of the Spirit and we will walk in the Spirit, we have to be engaged in it. Our obligation is to live according to the Spirit killing sin – it’s that simple – killing sin, because sin does remain, it does remain. It is a fact, it is a truth that if you’re a true believer, you’re killing sin in your life, which is to say sin is still there to be killed.
Now let me spread it out a little bit so you understand what I’m saying. God alone saves, but not apart from our faith. God alone sanctifies, but not apart from our obedience. And God alone glorifies, but not apart from our perseverance. God the Holy Spirit empowers us to live consistently with who we are in that new creation.
Another glimpse at this same picture is found in Colossians chapter 3. Turn to Colossians 3 for a few moments. This is very familiar and will sound essentially the same as what we read in Romans 8 and in Galatians 5. “Therefore since you have been raised up with Christ,” – that’s a fact; so you have died with Christ, you have been buried with Christ, you have been raised with Christ, you are now in newness of life – “keep seeking the things above.” That’s a command, it’s not automatic. When you were saved, when you were sanctified, when the Spirit of God took up residence in you, you did not become perfect; you still have to engage what remains of the flesh. And the New Testament is filled with commands that must be obeyed.
“So since you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above.” Well you say, “We already mind the things of the Spirit.” Yes, you do mind the things of the Spirit, but you’re also obligated to continue to mind the things of the Spirit in an increasing way.
“You have died,” – yes, verse 3 – “your life is hidden with Christ in God.” That’s true. “He is your life, you will be revealed with Him in glory.” In the meantime, “Consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.”
You say, “Well, what do you mean, consider my body as dead to those things?” Consider the fact that you are a new creation; you no longer are bound to those sins. But you have to act responsibly toward those sins because they are still present in your remaining humanity.
If you go down to verse 9, he says – well, verse 8, “Put aside anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and put on the new self who is renewed to a rue knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.” Because you are new, because you are not who you used to be, because you are a new person, a new self, and the old self is dead, this is how you act. You set aside all the behaviors of the old self that are still hanging around in your unredeemed humanness. You have been renewed.
Down in verse 12, he says, “You have been chosen of God, you are now holy and beloved, so put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” Verse 16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” Verse 17, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” And then he goes on to other commands: “Wives, husbands, children, fathers, slaves, masters.” You have an obligation. Yes, God alone saves, but not apart from your faith. God alone sanctifies, but not apart from your obedience. And God alone secures us, but not apart from our perseverance. The Christian’s death to sin in Christ does not make us passive as if we are free from any responsibility to kill sin in our still remaining, unredeemed flesh.
In justification, God’s perfect righteousness is credited to us through Christ. And then we are identified, Peter says, as a chosen race – and we’ll see more about this in a moment – “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession.” We are the temple of the Spirit of God. We possess eternal life. We are seated with Christ in the heavenlies. We are hidden with Christ in God. We are forever children of God. We have a place in heaven and an inheritance waiting for us, and one day He’ll take us there to receive that inheritance. All of this is unassailable, unshakable, unalterable, irreversible reality. That can never change. It can never change. But there is, with all of this, responsibility.
Once again, go back to Romans and turn to chapter 6. To show you how consistently this pattern is laid out, verse 1, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?” In other words, if we’ve died to the old life, if we are now a new person, if the Spirit lives in us and we now mind the things of the Spirit and walk in the Spirit, live in the Spirit, can we just relax and let happen whatever happens and even continue in sin so grace may increase? “May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” The language is so strong. You have died to sin. That is to say, what you were is dead, you are something new.
“Do you not know that all of us who have been immersed into Christ Jesus spiritually have been immersed into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through that immersion into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” We died with Christ, we were buried with Christ, we have risen with Christ; we walk in newness of life.
Verse 5, “We have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, and we’ll also be in the likeness of His resurrection,” – why? – “because our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.” That is such strong language. It sounds like we’ve been freed from sin completely; but it doesn’t mean that, because you go down to verse 12 – or verse 11, he says, “Consider yourselves to be dead to sin, consider yourself to be alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” So, it is true, the old has died, the new has come; it is a fact. We live now in the Spirit. We can fulfill the law of God; we will fulfill the law of God; and then we must, we are obligated.
Yes, we are being sanctified. If we have been justified, we are being sanctified, but not apart from our obedience; hence, all the commands in the New Testament. This is a deathblow to any idea that sanctification is somehow optional, that justification is the important thing, and maybe somewhere down the road you decide to step into the world of sanctification. No, Paul is saying justification is always inseparably connected to sanctification. If you are a true believer, you possess the Holy Spirit. You have the life of God in you. You will keep the law of God, you will walk in the Holy Spirit, and you will also understand your obligation to kill sin.
The fact that you have died with Christ, been buried with Christ, and risen with Christ is not to put you in a condition where you are indifferent toward sin. As has been taught for a long time, this notion that salvation is really kind of a two-step process. First of all, there is that salvation work where you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ; and secondly, there’s that sanctification work and the two are not necessarily connected. In other words, down the road somewhere after your salvation, you’ll find the deeper life, or you’ll find the second blessing, or you’ll find the second work of grace.
The popular idea is that there’s two stages in the Christian life. There’s salvation and then there’s sanctification, or there’s salvation and then there’s surrender, or there’s conversion and then there’s a consecration. The first is essential, the second is optional. If you come to Step One, salvation, you’re going to be in the kingdom, but if you don’t get to Step Two, as one book put it, you won’t inherit the kingdom. It was that kind of teaching that prompted me to write a whole lot of books on the lordship of Christ and the true reality of salvation. The notion that salvation is just conversion and justification and has no connection necessarily to sanctification, that’s something that you pick up hopefully somewhere down the line so that you don’t just end up in the kingdom, but you actually inherit the kingdom is completely alien to Scripture.
First Corinthians 1:30 says, “If Christ has become to you justification, He’s also become to you sanctification.” So there is no such thing as a justified person who is not being sanctified. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “You cannot receive Christ as your justification only and then later decide or refuse to accept Him as your sanctification.” J. C. Ryle in his wonderful book called Holiness written in 1879 said, “Sudden instantaneous leaps from conversion to consecration I fail to see in the Bible. More consecrated he doubtless can be and will be as God’s grace increases. But if he was not consecrated to God in the very day that he was converted and born again, I do not know what conversion means.” That is to say, end quote, the Lord does not justify anyone He does not immediately begin to sanctify.
As we learned in our last study, conversion is the term that describes the initial actual spiritual transformation wrought by God in the life in the life of a believer in which he dies with Christ, buried with Christ, rises with Christ, walks in newness of life, old things are passed away, everything is new, and all that newness indicates the reality of ongoing sanctification. Sanctification begins with conversion. It is simultaneous to regeneration and justification. It is a monumental and really terrible error to separate those things and give any person the confidence that salvation apart from sanctification is the real thing; it is not, it is not. Sanctification is the continuous operation of the Holy Spirit in believers, making us holy by conforming our character, our affections, our behaviors to the holy law of God and to the holy image of Christ.
Justification is an event, but sanctification is a process that starts at the event of justification. You could say at justification we surrender to the principle of the lordship of Christ, and at the same time we therefore in sanctification submit to the practice of the lordship of Christ in our lives. This is simultaneous and necessarily connected. That is why the apostle Paul says to the Corinthians in chapter 1 as he opens the first letter, “Paul, called an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus,” – that’s how he describes their salvation – “they have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints, holy ones by effectual calling from God, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.” Everyone who’s ever called on the name of the Lord because the Lord has called them is sanctified, set apart from sin, “those who have been sanctified.”
Justification is a forensic reality, it is declared by God. Sanctification is a work that God does in our lives. It is a real separation from sin, not just declaring that we are made righteous, because the righteousness of God through Christ is imputed to us, but a real making righteous of the one who believes. It was Donald Grey Barnhouse who said simply, “Justification is intended to produce sanctification.” Inseparable. Inseparable.
“Holiness starts where justification finishes,” said Barnhouse. And if holiness doesn’t start, we have the right to suspect that justification didn’t start either. A justified life is a sanctified life. Practical holiness is the outworking of regeneration and new creation, which is concurrent with justification. He declares us righteous, and then He begins to make us righteous. What I’m saying is, when people are really Christians, it shows up in how they live because their new nature will manifest itself. B. B. Warfield said, “Justification and sanctification are an indissoluble bond.”
Now why am I saying this? Because it is so important for people to understand that they cannot find some kind of security regarding eternal life if they made some decision somewhere in the past where if they say they believe in Jesus some superficial way, unless you are walking in the Spirit because you mind the things of the Spirit, because you are of the Spirit, because the Spirit dwells in you and therefore you live by the Spirit, you’re not a Christian, and you’re on the road to death no matter what you might have believed in the past or present. It’s so important to understand this, and so little is ever said about it.
In the language – let’s go back to Romans 8 – in the language of Romans 8, if you are a true believer, you possess the Holy Spirit, “and by the Spirit” – verse 13 – “you are putting to death the deeds of the body,” and that gives evidence that you are on the path of life. You are killing sin in your life. You are killing sin in your life. How do you know a true Christian? They kill sin. They know the enemy is sin – the world, the flesh, the devil. They’re continually putting to death sin.
This is how we live our lives. How do you do that? Well, not by some external means. Not going to do you any good to try to kill it in some superficial way. You’re not going to be able to kill it by self-flagellation. You’re not going to be able to kill it by isolating yourself from all your surroundings and going to live in a cave like some monk. That’s not going to work. It’s not going to happen because you have somehow closed off your five senses to the world around you, because the problem with sin is not that it’s in the world around you, but that it’s in you, and there’s nowhere to hide.
Paul is describing a way of life where we seek by the Word of God, which instructs us what sin is and how to kill it, and by keeping a good conscience to endeavor all the time to crush sin, to sap it of its strength, deprive it of its influence, through the cultivation of godly habits, combined with the elimination of old sinful habits in a constant warfare.
John Owen observed the Roman Catholic system and he said it consists of mistaken ways and means of killing sin. “Vows, orders, fastings, penance are all built on this ground; they are all for the mortifying of sin. Their preachings, sermons and books of devotion, they look all this way,” said Owen. But sin cannot be annihilated through legalism, through sacraments, through monasticism, through pietism, asceticism, Phariseeism, celibacy, self-flagellation, confession booths, rosary beads, hail Marys, or any other external means. The instrument of mortification is the power of the Holy Spirit, and the means of mortification – listen, very simple – is obedience to the simple commands of Scripture, obedience to the simple commands of Scripture. And if you’re a believer, you love the Scripture, you desire to obey the commands, and the pattern of your life is to do the obedient thing. It’s not perfect, but it’s the direction of your life.
So how does the Scripture tell us to kill sin? Not very complicated. Let me show you just a few examples. I have a lot of them, but I’ll give you a few; time’s short.
First Peter 2:11, 1 Peter 2:11. Well we could actually start in verse 9: “You are a chosen race, you are a royal priesthood, you are a holy nation, a people of God’s own possession. You are called to proclaim the excellencies of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. You once were not a people, now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, now you have received mercy.” As a result of that, in verse 11, “You’re aliens and strangers.” That’s all fact. That’s you: a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession. You are lights shining in the world with the marvelous light of Christ. You have received mercy, you are the people of God, you are aliens and strangers. And he says this, “Because this is who you are, I urge you, abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.”
Stop lusting, that’s what he says. Stop lusting. It’s like 1 Corinthians 6:18, “Flee immorality.” Do you want to put to death sin in your life? Then stop lusting. Paul didn’t describe some program of therapy. He doesn’t call this an addiction as if it’s some kind of clinical issue. He says, “Stop lusting. Stop doing it.” The very fact that he says that assumes that by the presence of the Holy Spirit you have the power to obey that command.
Stop it. Stop lusting. That is the most simple, straightforward say to kill sin: stop lusting. “What do you mean by that?” I mean that all sin starts inside with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. And that’s why James in chapter 1 says, “Sin conceives as lust in the heart, and ultimately shows up in the behavior and leads to death. Kill it on the inside.
Another way to see that simple command expressed is in Romans chapter 13. And there are so many commands, they’re all over the New Testament, and they assume that we can obey and will obey in the Spirit. But look at Romans 13:14, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” It’s another way of saying the same thing.
Refuse – backs up one step. Peter said, “Stop lusting.” Paul says, “Don’t make a provision to lust.” In other words, don’t put yourself in a position where lust can function. If you’re tempted with sexual desire or if you’re tempted with lusts for things and riches and power, whatever it is, don’t furnish your mind with the kind of things that elicit that lust. Make no preparations for your evil desire. Slay it before it breeds, kill it on the inside. Have a clear conscience. Pretty simple: stop lusting, stop providing something that’s going to fuel that desire. And then on a positive side, verse 14 also says, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, fix your eyes on Him.
It’s really an inexorable spiritual law that you become like the object of your worship. Listen to Psalm 135. “The idols of the nations are but silver and gold, the work of man’s hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak; they have eyes, but they do not see; they have ears, but they do not hear, nor is there any breath at all in their mouths.” And listen to this: “Those who make them will be like them, yes, everyone who trusts in them,” Psalm 135.
The heathen become like the lifeless gods they worship; how much more will we be like Christ if we worship Him. “So we all, with an unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit,” 2 Corinthians 3:18. We gaze at Christ. Make no provision for the flesh, rather put Christ before you. The psalmist said, “I’ve set the Lord always before me.”
Another simple principle is to meditate on the Word of God, Psalm 119:11, “Your word have I treasured in my heart, that I might not sin,” pretty simple. “My mind is filled with Your word. I don’t sin because my mind is occupied with Your word.” Philippians 4:8 puts it this way: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good report, if there is any excellence and anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.” Or Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.”
So again, stop lusting, stop providing things that feed your lust. Focus on Christ, make Him your preoccupation. Focus on the Word of God. And maybe one more, although there are many, be prayerful. Pray without ceasing. Pray without ceasing. Look at prayer as a preemptive strike against the flesh.
Hebrews 4:16 gives us, I think, a vivid picture. It says this: “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” You don’t have any greater time of need than when you’re facing temptation. The best place to be when temptation comes is at the foot of the throne of grace. Right? If you pray without ceasing, then you’ve taken up your place at the throne. You draw near with confidence to the throne of grace. And if you live with a prayerful attitude, if you pray without ceasing, if you are conscious of God and you are communing with Him all the time, He is your preoccupation. You’re praising Him, you’re honoring Him, you’re exalting Him, you’re thanking Him; it’s a way of life. You live in the conscious presence of the Lord. That’s what praying without ceasing means. You have literally settled down at the foot of the throne of grace, and at the foot of that throne you’re going to find plenty of mercy and grace to help in time of temptation. Stay close to the throne.
Develop self-control. Paul says, “I discipline my body to bring it into subjection” 1 Corinthians 9 – “so that I don’t become disqualified.” Paul says, “Be filled with the Spirit.” Peter says, “Clothe yourself with humility.” Paul says, “Have this mind in you which was in Christ Jesus. Think like He did.” Paul says in Ephesians 4, “Put away vengeful feelings toward others.” Ephesians 6, “Put on the armor of God.” Colossians 3, “Lay aside sinful attitudes.” Second Peter 1, “Develop spiritual graces.” This is how you kill sin.
One final word maybe just to sum up this simple directive that Scripture gives us, 2 Corinthians 7:1, “Therefore, having these promises,” – what promises? – “promises that you the temple of the living God,” back in verse 16 of chapter 6. “You are the temple of the living God.” God dwells in you. God is your God, you are His people. “I will be a father to you, you will be sons and daughters to Me,” says the Lord Almighty. “Because of these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” Out of sheer gratitude to God, that He is your God and you belong to Him, “Come out, separate yourself. Do not touch what is unclean,” chapter 6 says. “Cleanse yourself from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” John Owen wrote that, “Sin sets itself against every act of holiness. Sin sets itself against every degree that we grow into spiritually.” So he said, “Let not a man think that he makes progress in holiness unless he walks over the bellies of his lusts.”
Kill sin. Kill sin by removing the things it stimulated. Kill sin by being preoccupied with Christ. Kill sin by having the word of God in your mind, dominating your thoughts. This is how you kill sin. And if you are a true believer, that’s what your life is. It’s down the path of life, in the way of righteousness, killing sin. It’s not what it should be, but it is who we are. It’s not perfection, but it is direction. This is the simple reality. Yes, if you’re a Christian, you can fulfill the law of God, you have overcome sin. You will fulfill the law of God, you will overcome sin. And you must fulfill the law of God, you must kill sin. That’s how the people of God are made manifest.
Lord, we thank You for Your word, such simple and straightforward truth. We cannot mistake what You have said. We thank You for who we are in Christ. We thank You for new life. We thank You for eternal life. We thank You for the indwelling Holy Spirit. We thank You that we have died; the old self is dead and gone, the old man is dead and gone, we are new. All things are new. We now are, according to the Spirit, minding the things of the Spirit, walking in the Spirit, fulfilling the will of the Spirit in obedience by the power of the Spirit; and thus we are able to be lights, putting on display the glory of our Savior.
But Lord, we realize for us, even though this is the direction of our lives and this is true to our new creation, it is a battle because of the remaining sin in us. Strengthen us, lead us, guide us, so that we are more effective at killing sin that we see in our own lives the decrease of sin and the increase of righteousness, and the joy and usefulness and blessing and testimony that comes from that. We thank You, blessed Holy Spirit for Your work in us, and we offer You our praise and thanks and worship, not only in our songs and hymns, but perhaps more importantly, in our obedience. May our lives be acts of worship to the One who has freed us from sin and given us life. We thank You in our Savior’s name. Amen.
This article is also available and sold as a booklet.