The Daily Work of Mortification

I’m reading through Owen’s classic work The Mortification of Sin with Tim Challies and Co., and we’re on chapter two this week, and Challies has a helpful summary for this week’s reading at his blog.

The main point of chapter 2 is that putting sin to death is a daily activity for the Christian. Owen essentially argues that Christians do not coast, and there is no such thing as “putting it in neutral” when it comes to your soul. As he famously puts it:

Be always at it while you live;
Cease not a day from this work;
Be killing sin or it will be killing you.

That’s extreme, isn’t it? Every day! Owen anticipates the objection I wanted to raise and continues in the next sentence, “Your being dead with Christ… will not excuse you from this work” (50).

So even having all my sin pardoned in Christ does not excuse me from putting sin to death every day. Does that make sense? Well, it does if you remember Owen’s foundation from Romans 8:13 (chapter 1) that I blogged about last week. Who is qualified to put to death sin? It is only those who are (Rom 8:1) in Christ and already have no condemnation proclaimed over them. Therefore, the logic holds: “being quickened with [Christ] will not excuse you” from daily mortification.

Owen says that sin is like “the grave that is never satisfied” and that even when it seems quiet, it is deep and dangerous. But for most of us, we have bought into the deception that our “little sins” that we commit each day aren’t that bad. Owen warns us that the root of great sins is “the digestion of sin without bitterness in the heart” (56).

So how do your “little sins” go down? We sin daily, but what kind of taste does it leave in your mouth?  I’m not talking about big sins that will get you in trouble. I’m asking about the little heart sins that no one else sees. Does that vengeful thought seem sweet? Does that lingering lust have a delicious aftertaste, or is it like leftover vomit?

When a man has confirmed his imagination… as to be able, without bitterness, to swallow and digest daily sins, that man is at the very brink of turning the grace of God into lasciviousness and being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Neither is there a greater evidence of a false and rotten heart in the world than to drive such a trade.

So how do we put to death daily sins by the Spirit? One answer is by repenting. Pastor Jason Meyer recently defined repentance like the gag-reflex of the soul. He says, “Repentance is a kind of painful purging that brings profound healing. It is like vomiting the sin that you swallowed that has made your spiritual stomach sick.”

May we put sin to death by vomiting out the poisonous sins we swallow every day, and kill sin before it kills us. Christ has already pardoned it, so spit it out.


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