Romans 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Five Aspects of Mortification


            What then is true mortification of sin? Let me suggest five key aspects that will help us understand what it means to put sin to death. First of all, we must have a seething hatred for sin as the destructive enemy it truly is. John Stott makes this assertion: “It (mortification) is rather a clear-sighted recognition of evil as evil, leading to such a decisive and radical repudiation of it that no imagery can do justice expect ‘putting to death’”.[1]  Romans 12:9 says “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” Thomas Brooks speaking of this word “abhor” says “it signifies to hate it (sin) as hell itself, to hate it with horror.”


            Secondly, we need to seriously think about the guilt and corruption of sin. We need to look sin in the face and see it for all its ugliness. Our flesh darkens our minds so that we do not see the true corrupting nature of sin and how it causes us to excuse our sin or justify our sin. We must see how truly condemning sin really is. Thomas Brooks has given great insight into alerting ourselves to the corruption of sin. He writes, “Sin is but a bitter sweet. That seeming sweet that is in sin will quickly vanish, and the lasting shame, sorrow, horror, and terror will come in the room thereof.”[2] The words of Job immediately come to mind when he mediates on the corruption of sin in Job 20:12-14: “Though evil is sweet in his mouth, though he hides it under his tongue, though he is loath to let it go and holds it in his mouth, yet his food is turned in his stomach; it is the venom of cobras within him.” Instead of focusing on the sweetness of sin, we must see it in all its corrupting guilt. Brooks also warns us with these words: “Alas! saith Satan, it is but a very little sin that you stick so at. You may commit it without any danger to your soul. It is but a little one; you may commit it, and yet your soul shall live.”[3] There is no such thing as an “innocent little sin”. All sin is offensive to God and little sins lead to more grievous sins. In 1 Corinthians 5:6 Paul rebukes them by saying, “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?”


            Thirdly, mortification involves examining the shock and utter danger of sin.  We need to remind ourselves of how sinful sin truly is. We need to remind ourselves of how we gave in to this tricky foe in past experiences of weakness. We need a healthy dose of the reality of how sin only brings danger and destruction. We need to think clearly about how we were damaged in the past when we did not kill sin and in turn think about the overwhelming consequences of what might happen if we plunge headlong into sin. Thomas Brooks again gives wise counsel with these warnings:


Ah, souls, often remember how frequently you have been overcome by sin, when you have boldly gone upon the occasion of sin; look back, souls, to the day of your vanity, wherein you have been easily conquered as tempted, vanquished as assaulted, when you have played with occasions of sin. As you would for the future be kept from the acting of sin, and be made victorious over sin, oh! flee from the occasion of sin”.[4]


In addition, Martyn Lloyd-Jones illumines this concept of exposing the guilt of sin by saying, “We have to pull it (sin) out,       look at it, denounce it, hate it for what it is; then you have really dealt with it.”[5]


            Fourthly, we must be intimate with our particular areas of weakness and subsequently avoid areas or situations where we would be vulnerable. We see this very clearly illustrated in Proverbs 5 in the description of the enticing prostitute.


For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it. And now, O sons, listen to me, and do not depart from the words of my mouth. Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house.” Proverbs 5:3-8


Notice how the young man is warned not to even go near the door of her house. He must take every precaution to keep the maximum distance from her in order not to be seduced. In the same way, mortification of sin involves actively avoiding areas and situations that will cause us to stumble.  For example, whenever I happen to go the mall (which is not often) I purposely walk on the opposite side of the hallway when passing the Victoria’s Secret store in order to shield my eyes and avoid temptation.  1 Thessalonians 5:22 tells us to “Abstain from every form of evil”.


            Fifthly, we also need to expose the lie behind the sin and by faith believe the truth of God’s Word.  As we saw in Chapter Two, we need to understand the exceeding deceitfulness of sin and not buy into the lie that sin brings pleasure. We must expose sin for what it is—only fleeting pleasure that leads to unfulfilled promises and destruction.


            Ultimately, mortification can be summarized with the word “repentance”. When we be begin to consistently hate sin with a holy passion, seriously contemplate its guilt and corruption, remain in a state of shock over its devastating effects, and constantly expose it in all its deception and destruction, we are in fact repenting. Through repentance we are then weakening sin in our lives. Slowly through this painful process of mortification, we begin to see the progress we are making in godliness as sin gets weaker and weaker. It never fully goes away, but through persistent mortification we can see a slow transformation.


            Let us consider a situation between two women who are prone to gossip. Carol salivates over finding out about all of the juicy stories concerning everyone in the office. She is the ultimate cubical detective who always tries to dig up skeletons in everyone else’s closet so that she can gleefully feel secure about her own shortcomings. She sends Mary an enticing e-mail with some incriminating information about their co-worker. The moment Mary sees the e-mail she is faced with a choice. Does she engage in the sin of gossip and indulge the flesh, or does she ruthlessly kill this sin on the spot.  Since she has saturated herself in the Word of God and understands her true identity as a regenerated, justified believer who is in dynamic union with Christ, she then exposes this sin for what it is. She brings “gossip” out into the open, clearly recognizes it, calls it sin, and then allows the Law of God to condemn it as a violation of His will. She remembers in Romans 1:29 that Paul identifies gossip as an ungodly sin deserving death. She hates gossip and thinks about all the devastating consequences that she has experienced in her own life because of this sin. She brings this sin under the just condemnation of God’s Word and recognizes it for the lie that it truly is. She clearly sees that gossip deceives her into thinking she will find fulfillment in making fun of others and slandering their character. By faith she rejects the lie as only a fleeting pleasure that cannot make good on its empty promise. In a moment of repentance, she violently deals with sin and immediately kills it. She deletes the e-mail and fills her mind with the devastating horrors of gossip and how this violates God’s law.  The more she begins to identify the sin, expose it for its sinfulness, and then subsequently, kill it, the more gossip will be weakened in her life. She may never be totally free of gossip, but it can be weakened through repeated and sustained mortification.


In the next post we will discover the crucial role of the Holy Spirit in this process…

[1] John R. Stott, The Message of Romans, (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, USA, 1994), 228

[2] Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Banner of Truth Trust, reprinted 2000) 32

[3] Ibid

[4] Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Banner of Truth Trust, reprinted 2000) ,68

[5] Quoted by John Stott on page 229  in “The Message of Romans” from Lloyd-Jones, vol. 7, p. 143





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