Killing the Enemy Within You Part I

Killing the Enemy Within You Part I

 

I. Perfecting Holiness in the Fear of God
Last Sunday, Roy preached an excellent sermon on the fear of God, and he directed our attention to two critical New Testament texts to demonstrate that fearing God was not just to be a past experience for Old Testament saints, but rather a present reality for us in the New Testament age. The latter example he provided was 1 Peter 2:16-17, which I will not read for the sake of time. I will, however, read the first which was 2 Corinthians 7:1:
“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
What I will attempt to do today, as well as next week, is to begin to develop the concept of perfecting holiness in the fear of God. To put it more directly, I will seek to develop the doctrine of the mortification of sin in the life of the believer, because mortification is the means through which holiness is perfected in an individual.

II. Preliminary Statements
Before I go on, let me make at least two statements:
1. I identify with Paul. Paul said in Philippians 3:13-14:
“13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
It is truly by grace that I am what I am, and even that is leagues from what I ought to be, but I continue to workout my salvation with fear and trembling knowing that God is at work in me both to will and to work for His good pleasure, and I’m confident that since He began such a work in me, He will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
2. Holiness hasn’t the power to save you. Again, holiness of life does not generate eternal life with God. True holiness is rather the product of a life regenerated by the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of a person. No one expounds upon this truth better then J.C. Ryle:
“Can holiness save us? Can holiness put away sin – cover iniquities – make satisfaction for transgressions – pay our debt to God? No: not a whit. God forbid that I should ever say so. Holiness can do none of these things. The brightest saints are all ‘unprofitable servants’. Our purest works are no better than filthy rags, when tried by the light of God’s holy law. The white robe which Jesus offers, and faith puts on, must be our only righteousness – the name of Christ our only confidence – the Lamb’s book of life our only title in heaven. With all our holiness we are no better than sinners. Our best things are stained and tainted with imperfection. They are all more or less incomplete, wrong in motive or defective in the performance. By the deeds of the law shall no child of Adam ever be justified. ‘By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.’”1

III. Mortify, therefore, Your Members.
Let us read our text. Colossians 3:1-11:
“1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. 6 For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, 7 and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— 11 a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.”
There is obviously a lot in this text, but our primary concern today is going to be what Paul says in verse 5:
“Consider the members of your earthly body as dead.”
This is where we can begin to see the doctrine of the mortification of sin. There are two questions I hope to answer today:
1. What does it mean to mortify sin?
2. Why is the mortification of our sin necessary?
Lord willing, we will answer the how of mortification next Sunday.

IV. Mortification Defined
To be honest, I believe this translation does not quite grasp the fulness of what Paul is saying. The literal rendering of this text calls for those who have been raised up with Christ, who are exclusively believers, to “put to death the members which are upon the earth.” In other words, this is not merely a consideration that remains only in the mental realm. It certainly begins there, but it does not end there. This consideration has a practical end.
Let me just take a moment to point out that this is a prime example of orthopraxy pouring forth from orthodoxy. Sound living coming from sound doctrine. Sound doctrine (Orthodoxy) without sound living (Orthopraxy) is hypocrisy, and living without any consideration of sound doctrine is foolish arrogance, because at that point a person leans upon and lives according to their own understanding, which is sheer stupidity given our fallen nature and propensity toward evil, as well as a clear command by God not to do so. Proverbs 3:5-8:
“5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
8 It will be healing to your body
And refreshment to your bones.”
Again, sound doctrine is the foundation of a sound life. Any life without it is doomed. It is essential to sound living. It was Martin Lloyd-Jones who insisted that:
“To attempt to deal with Christian practice in isolation from Christian doctrine is to tread a dangerous path.”2
I fear that many today are on such a path. We as Christians are not to be on that path. We must immerse ourselves in understanding the Word of the Living God so that we might be sound in doctrine, because doctrine matters. Bad doctrine destroys people both quantitatively and qualitatively. Meaning bad doctrine not only leads people to a life of eternal damnation, but it also leads to a poor quality of life in the here and now. Sound doctrine on the other hand leads to abundant life, both quantitatively and qualitatively.
Now, I appreciate how the King James Version translates Colossians 3:5, “Mortify, therefore, your members.” To consider, to put to death, to mortify, all are translated from the Greek word Nekro­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ō.3 It is from the root of this word we get the word Necrosis, which is a medical term describing the death of all, or nearly all, cells within an organ or tissue. To biblically mortify is, by definition, to deprive a thing of its power. It is to destroy a things strength. It is to make dead. It is to put to death. It is to slay. It is to kill. Mortifying sin, therefore, is depriving your sin of life before it deprives you of yours.
This is not any enemy without, but an enemy within. When we consider the clear teaching of Scripture about the condition of the human heart we must understand that it is the powerhouse of sin! The thoughts and intentions of our hearts are persistently wicked from our youth.4 Jesus says in Mark 7:21-23:
“21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. 23 All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”
It is a formidable opponent. It was J.C. Ryle that said:
“So deeply planted are the roots of human corruption, that even after we are born again, renewed, “washed, sanctified, justified,” and made living members of Christ, these roots remain alive in the bottom of our hearts, and, like the leprosy in the walls of the house, we never get rid of them until the earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved.”5
What is the mortification of sin? It is dominating sin so that it does not dominate you. It is aiming to annihilate it so that it no longer moves within us beckoning us to do its bidding. This killing of sin is not merely the striving to cease from the outward action of it, but the seeking to suffocate the lust within which conceives and gives birth to it. In other words, it is not just a taming of the body, but a battle of the mind. A fight that endeavors to hold every thought captive in Christ, so that Christ, and Christ alone, might reign and not sin.6
We understand that it is not possible for us to achieve sinless perfection in this life, but that should not produce apathy and a lack of action, for that is not pleasing to God and it preys upon His grace. By the way, the Scripture emphatically declares that the grace of the Living God instructs us “to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.”7 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 says:
“14 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.”
1 John 3:2-3 says:
“2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”
When we consider the letter to the Colossians, Paul is saying this, “You who have been raised with Christ. Seek Him and set your mind on Him and kill your sin for the life you now live is Christ’s!” The Christian is called to a life of progressive sanctification striving to mortify sin in their members.

V. Why We Must Mortify
Now, why must we mortify our sin? Let me offer you several reasons:
1. It is an imperative.
In other words, this is not a suggestion. It is a command. It is also a biblical concept that is not isolated to this text. Remember 2 Corinthians 7:1:
“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
The Spirit of Christ explicitly tells us that sanctification is God’s will for His people in 1 Thessalonians 4:3,7:
“3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification… 7 For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. 8 So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.”
1 Peter 1:14-16:
“14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
Again, we must be holy because we are commanded to be so.
2. It is an imperative that logically flows from an indicative, and the indicative pertains to our being inextricably linked to the living and holy God in Jesus Christ.
Paul says that if you have been raised with Christ then your life is hidden with Christ in God. Christ is your life. Christ is holy, and consequently, hates sin. Christ clearly taught on the mortification of sin. Matthew 5:29-30:
“29 If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.”
Jesus tells us to radically deal with sin in our life not just for our own sake, but for the sake of others. In His hyperbolic teaching on mortifying sin, Jesus tells us that the best thing that could possibly happen to us if we cause another to fall into sin, is to be thrust into the sea with a 3,000-pound millstone hung around our neck.8 Just as Samuel hacked King Agag to pieces, so too must we drastically mortify sin in our lives.
Why the severity? God is light and in Him there is no darkness. He is holy. He is pure. He, therefore, hates sin for it is contrary to His character and nature, and He is inextricably linked with His people. Jesus said in John 14:20:
“In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.”
It was Jonathan Edwards that said:
“As God delights in His own beauty, He must necessarily delight in the creature’s holiness which is a conformity to and participation of it.”
Where should one go in the Scripture to gaze upon the greatest demonstration of God’s hot and holy hatred for sin? Should they go to the account of the flood when He destroys the wicked world with water?9 No. Should they go to the account of His decimating Sodom and Gomorrah?10 No. Should they go to the foot of Mount Sinai to see His justice poured out on those who worshipped something other then Him?11 No. Should they go to the conquest of Canaan when His wrath was being poured out on its inhabitants through His people?12 No. The greatest demonstration of God’s hatred of sin is not found in the Old Testament, but the New. It is seen at calvary. It is seen on the cross when the sinless Son of God, the Christ, became our sin to expiate the holy hatred of God toward it, so that all who turn from themselves and trust in Him might be freely saved. Christ bore our sin on His body on the cross to satisfy the wrath of God upon Himself in our stead. John Flavel stated that:
“If ever you wish to see how great and horrid and evil sin is, measure it in your thoughts, either by the infinite holiness and excellency of God, who is wronged by it; or by the infinite sufferings of Christ, who died to satisfy for it; and then you will have deeper apprehensions of its enormity.”
Since God hates sin, and we are united to Him, so should we.
I want us to consider a familiar portion of Scripture. Ephesians 4:26-27:
“26 Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity.”
There is a common interpretation of this passage which goes something like this, “It is okay to be angry, so long as you make sure to deal with that anger before you go to bed. If you go to sleep without dealing with your anger then you are sinning.”
I would like to offer you a different interpretation. This interpretation may be new to you, but it is not new to the church. It is a view that has been held by reputable men throughout the history of the church. What we are reading here in Ephesians is a command to be angry. In fact, it is a command to be angry continually. Never let the sun go down on this anger. In other words, “Always let the light shine on it!” The question is this, what are believers always to be angry with? Their sin! Why should we be angry at our sin? Christ’s greatest concern for you is that you be conformed to Him, which means that your greatest concern is to be the same. It is to be, as Paul says two verses prior:
“Renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”
Be angry, and do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger. Do not wink at sin and make light it. Proverbs 14:9 says that fools, and fools alone, mock at sin. Be angry with it, for it hinders your conforming to the image of Christ. What Paul saw fit to say to the Romans I see fit to say to you:
“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.”13
True love truly hates. God hates because God is love. His hatred flows our from His love for that which is true, good, and beautiful.
Again, your life is not your own. You have been bought with a price. You have been graciously united to the living God through the vicarious death of His Son and victorious resurrection from the grave, therefore, glorify God in your body.
3. It is the purpose for which Christ came.
Christ did not save His people merely so that they could escape the penalty of their sin. He saved them from its power over them as well. He came so that they might have life, and that they might have it abundantly.14 Jesus Christ devoted Himself not only to our justification, but also to our sanctification. Ephesians 5:25-26 says that Christ:
“Loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.”
Titus 2:14 declares that Christ:
“Gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.”
1 Peter 2:24 says that Christ:
“Bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness…”
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that:
“He made Him who knew no sin to became our sin so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Any mind set, therefore, that is against the mortification of sin is hostile to God, and contrary to Christ.15
4. Our Life and comfort depend upon it.
We must come to our senses and see that the desire of this enemy within us is for us. It is crouching at the door ready to dominate us.16 It does not want to play. It wants to destroy. In Genesis 4:7, God told Cain that sin was crouching at the door and its desire was for him. God uses the word tᵊšûqâ (Tesh-oo-kaw’), which depicts sin as a beast craving its prey ready to devour it.17 Sin wants to kill our communion with God. It longs to fracture our fellowship with others. It seeks to sap our souls of its life as it did with David, which drew him to say in the 38th Psalm, the song of a sin-sick soul:
“3 There is no soundness in my flesh because of Your indignation; There is no health in my bones because of my sin.4 For my iniquities are gone over my head; As a heavy burden they weigh too much for me.5 My wounds grow foul and fester because of my folly.6 I am bent over and greatly bowed down; I go mourning all day long.
7 For my loins are filled with burning, And there is no soundness in my flesh.8 I am benumbed (Feeble) and badly crushed; I groan because of the agitation of my heart. 9 Lord, all my desire is before You; And my sighing is not hidden from You.10 My heart throbs, my strength fails me;
And the light of my eyes, even that has gone from me.”
Sin strives to deprive a genuine believer of their comfort and peace. John Owen described it as this:
“Sin darkens the soul. It is a cloud, a thick cloud, that spreads itself over the face of the soul, and intercepts all the beams of God’s love and favour. It takes away all sense of the privilege of our adoption; and if the soul begins to gather up thoughts of consolation, sin quickly scatters them.”18
Owen rightly concluded that the believer’s life and comfort depends upon the mortification of sin.
Consider Jesus’ analogy of The Vine and The Branches in John 15. Jesus said:
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.”
Why does one prune a tree? The purpose of pruning the branches on trees is so that the tree might grow stronger and produce a greater abundance of fruit. Trees that are not pruned will not develop as they ought to because dead or damaged branches that are incapable of bearing fruit, yet still intact, will still be utilizing the tree’s energy. The tree may produce some fruit, but it certainly will not be as strong and healthy as it should be, and it will not be generating the amount of fruit it was designed to generate. It is the same with unmortified sin in the Christian. Christians that are not actively seeking to mortify their sin will be weakened, stunted, and inevitably showing little fruit of Christ in their life. They truly will be in a miserable state. Sadly, some will not even realize it, especially those who need to be killing pride, which has a perniciously blinding nature that keeps people thinking more highly of themselves then they ought to and preventing them from seeing that they are nothing but sin. It will keep them from understanding and acknowledging what Paul did of himself, that “nothing good dwells” in them, that “evil is present” in them and it needs to be mortified.19 Their life and comfort depends upon it.
Sin does just as Peter describes it, “It wages war against our soul.”20 It does not sleep. It does not take a break from attempting to achieve its desire. It is constantly looking for ways to express itself through us to our ruin. Sin is deceitful by nature.21 Lust acts as Novocain upon the conscience. It numbs us to what is right and what is wrong and convinces us it has our best interest in mind while encouraging us not to consider the consequences of whatever provision of the flesh it is attempting to persuade us to make, which is always hostile to God and unpleasing to Him.22 It is like a ravenous beast that is not satisfied until it is fed, and we are dead. Owen pointed out that anyone that harbors lust in their heart can expect with certainty:
“The hardening of your heart, the searing of your conscience, the blinding of your mind, the dulling of your affections, and the deceiving of your whole soul.”23
Needless to say, this is not an animal to trifle with. Truly, our life and comfort depend upon our setting out to kill our sin. It is as John Owen famously said:
“Always be killing sin, or it will be killing you.”24
5. Without holiness, no one will see God.
Let the Scripture shape your understanding of this. Romans 6:22 says:
“22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.”
Romans 8:13 says:
“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.”
Hebrews 12:14 says:
“14 Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.”
What these verses are saying is that without sanctification and the killing of the flesh, no one will live eternally. Without holiness of life, no one will see God.
Does this mean that mortification of sin earns salvation? No. It means that the mortification of sin is the evidence of it. The justified will be sanctified. If you are not being sanctified, you have absolutely no reason to believe that you have been justified. The sanctifying work of the Spirit in the life of the believer is the evidence of the Son’s justifying work on behalf of the believer. As Tom Ascol said:
“The grace that provides justification for us works sanctification in us.”25
To say it another way, those whom God freely makes right with Himself, He then wills and works in for His good pleasure.26 After all, the Scripture says of those who have been saved by grace through faith in Christ alone that:
“10 We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”27
Faith without works is therefore dead faith, because the grace that provides justification for us works sanctification in us.
God is a good Father, and as a good and loving Father He does not spare His children from the rod. The Scripture says, “For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines.”28 In fact, the author of Hebrews goes even further and says that:
“He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. 11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”29
God prunes His own of everything that does not resemble Him. If you are not sharing His holiness, “you are illegitimate children and not sons.”30
Those who have been made right with God will seek some degree of sanctification. They will desire to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and living sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age. They will strive to be holy like the One who called them. They will aim to abide in Him so that they might have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. They will pursue purity just as He is pure.
Why is this? Because Jesus Christ makes new creatures with new affections set on Him. Creatures that are being renewed day by day into the image of the One who created them. He is changing them into a new kind of life as opposed to the former corrupt state. He is transforming them and causing them by His Spirit to go beyond or across one form to another to the praise of His glorious grace.
Truly, without holiness, no one will see God.

VI. Christ, Our Hope in Life and Death
The question now is this, how do we perfect holiness in the fear of God? How do we mortify our members? We will deal with that next week.
If you are not in Christ, your greatest issue is not the power of sin over you, though that is certainly a grave issue, but the chief problem for you is that the penalty of your sin abides upon you. John 3:36 says:
“36 He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
God does not call you to mortification, He calls you to repentance and faith. He calls you to see how Holy He is, and how heinous your sin is before Him. He calls you to see how deserving you are of eternal death under His good wrath for your sin, and how incapable you are of ever making yourself right before Him. Once this reality strips you of all confidence in yourself, He wants you to see His Son. He wants you to see how capable He is to save you. He wants you to see how perfect, and righteous, and beautiful and innocent He was. He wants you to see how undeserving He was of the cross so you might see His great love, in that while we were yet helpless, ungodly, sinners at enmity with Him, while we were yet the objects of His holy hatred, Christ died for us.31 As John says:
“10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
He wants you to see that there truly is forgiveness in His name.32 He wants you to see that there truly is a hope of life eternal for all who call upon Him.33 He wants you to see that He is will and able to save forever those who draw near to God through, for He forever lives to do so.
Do not neglect so great a salvation. Turn from yourself and trust in Christ alone.34 Once you have done this, begin to kill the enemy that killed your Best Friend!
You who have been raised with Christ, turn from yourself in trust in Him alone. Seek Him and set your mind on Him and strive to kill sin within you.35 Fix your eyes on Him, who knew no sin, and lay aside the sin which so easily entangles you so that you may run with endurance the race that is set before you.36 Work out your salvation with fear and trembling understanding that God is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.37 Be confident in the fact that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. He will never leave you nor forsake you. You are His, and He is yours, and nothing can separate you from His love which He fixed on you from all eternity. Be controlled by such love!
May our prayer today be like Anselm’s many years ago:
“O Lord our God, grant us grace to desire Thee with our whole heart; that, so desiring, we may seek, and seeking find Thee; and so finding Thee may love Thee; and in loving Thee, may hate those sins from which Thou hast redeemed us.”