The greatest of English theologians, John Owen, famously said, ‘Be always killing sin or sin will be killing you.’ I am not stepping out on a limb when I say that, heading into the weekend, killing sin is not on the task list of most Christian men. This means one of two things: (1) Owen was wrong, even paranoid, and we are justified in ignoring him, or (2) he was right, even prophetic, and we are guilty of gross negligence. I don’t know anyone man that would carelessly disregard a death threat. Yet, if we take Owen at his word, that is precisely what we are doing. We are contentedly permitting a spiritual cancer to spread throughout our souls as if life were a resource without value. We are indifferently allowing a terrorist network to burrow into our hearts as if spiritual freedom were gift unworthy of protection.
Men, We Are Called to Put Sin to Death
Judging by the dutifulness of typical Christians, one would think that putting sin to death is like watching the six o’clock news, an optional activity. In fact, it is not. The apostolic witness throughout the New Testament is uniform in commanding Christians to aggressively mortify their sin. Paul tells us to put to death our earthly nature (Col. 3:5). Peter says to abstain from the fleshly passions that wage war against our souls (I Pet. 2:11). John informs us that God’s spiritual children cannot make a practice of sinning (I Jn. 3:9). There is no lack of clarity in the Scriptures on this point. The problem for modern Christians is not ignorance, but unwillingness. We refuse to take an exit that God has clearly marked as the road to sanctification.
Men, We Are Equipped to Put Sin to Death
I fear some men avoid the topic of putting sin to death because, deep down, they do not believe that they have the resources to fulfil the task. In WWI, millions of Russian soldiers were stationed on battlefields without rifles. The idea was to pick up a weapon from the ground once a comrade died in front of you. This is the mentality of some Christian men. Although they would never vocalize the complaint, they feel as if God has commissioned them for a battle without arming them to win. Thus, rather than move to the offensive, they bunker down in a foxhole and ignore the problem, in hopes that, if they wait long enough, the enemy might get bored and go away.
This attitude is foolishness. God has not only given us the blood of Christ to cleanse us from the guilt of sin, He has also given us the Holy Spirit to conquer sin. If the fight against sin was waged by means of human strength, the effort would be futile. We would be like a native tribe combatting a modern army with slings and stones. Yet, our source of strength is not flesh, but Spirit. Repeatedly, Paul makes the point that the very Strength that resurrected Jesus from the dead is the Strength that now indwells a believer (Eph. 1). Paul’s purpose in saying this is not therapy, but impetus. He wants believers who are on the verge of waving a white flag to strap on a sword and a shield and to charge the ranks of the enemy believing that, in Christ, the war cannot be lost.
Men, We Are in Desperate Need of Putting Our Sin to Death
Owen was not deceived. Neither was he exaggerating. In remarking that sin is lethal, Owen was simply doing what any loving doctor must do: he was telling the truth. Men need to realize that sin is not a winter cold that will go away after a little rest and hydration. The agenda of sin is conquest, mastery, enslavement. Therefore, as Christians our policy toward sin must be the same as the policy of the US government toward terrorism, no compromise. If democracy and terror are contradictory, even more so are sin and holiness. The greatest threat to everything we love and value is not sickness, death, poverty, or failure. It is sin. Illness and war breed death, but only sin breeds eternal death. Thus any man who cares about his eternal peace – not to mention temporary happiness – must heed the words of Owen. He must always be killing sin or else sin will be killing him.
For practical teaching on how to put sin to death visit the Cross Training YouTube channel.