“Put to death therefore what is earthly within you…” – Colossians 3:5
Our forefathers used to speak of mortifying sin. That may conjure up ideas of man of reclusive instincts flaying their bodies in the hope of avoiding sin. We know better from Scripture – the body may be the instrument of sin, but it is not its source, and therefore to deal harshly with it is no solution to the problem. ‘The flesh’ is not merely ‘flesh and blood’! But these mediaeval associations have tended to persuade Christians that the whole idea of putting sin to death is somehow or other related to legalism and the righteousness of the law.
We must affirm in this context that crucifying sin is a central practical issue in Christian experience. This neglected area of truth must be recovered, and in our present culture must be taught to younger and older Christians alike. Undoubtedly one of the reasons some younger Christians make shipwreck of their faith is because they have never learned how to deal with indwelling sin, or, what is worse, have been encouraged to see it as an irrelevance. It is one of the signs of our morally-confused church life today that there is so much hesitation here. We have lost confidence in the clear commands of Scripture….
What then is this killing of sin? It is the constant battle against sin which we fight daily – the refusal to allow the eye to wander, the mind to contemplate, the affections to run after anything which will draw us from Christ. It is the deliberate rejections of any sinful thought, suggestion, desire, aspiration, deed, circumstance or provocation at the moment we become conscious of its existence. It is the consistent endeavor to do all in our powers to weaken the grip which sin in general, and its manifestations in our lives in particular, has. It is not accomplished only by saying ‘no’ to what is wrong, but by a determined acceptance of all good and spiritually-nourishing disciplines of the gospel. It is by resolutely weeding the garden of the heart, and also by planting, watering and nurturing Christian graces there, that putting sin to death will take place. Not only must we slay the noxious weeds of sin, but we must see that the flowers of grace are sucking up the nourishment of the Spirit’s presence in our hearts. Only when those hearts are so full of grace will less room exist for sin to breathe and flourish.
Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Christian Life: A Doctrinal Introduction, 158-59, 162.
“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. ” – Matthew 5:29-30