Killing Sin by the Spirit

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. (Romans 8:13 ESV)

The key phrase here is, “put to death the deeds of the body.” The Greek word for put to death is used 11 times in the New Testament, 9 for actually killing people.[1] One example is Stephen, the first martyr, who was put to death. Same word. This is not a nice word. This is a bloody word. A word of execution. It simply means, kill it. Legalism says, stop it. Romans says, kill it. This requires a posture toward sin that is much more like an assassin. Ruthless. Cold, hard hatred of sin.

Jesus said the same when he said, “if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off.” (Matthew 5:30) It is not physical dismemberment, but a spiritual dismemberment that sees sin as leading to death. It is an abuse of grace that makes us OK with sin thinking, I’m going to heaven anyway. That is an incredibly dangerous posture toward sin and calls into question if we truly understand Jesus shedding his blood for that sin.

We should think of sin like cancer patients think of their cancer. The fighter-types hate cancer. What if you talked with someone after a bout of cancer and they said,

I miss my cancer. Oh, I remember when I had lots of cancer. Such freedom I felt. Those were the days. Wow, the cancer parties were incredible! Many of my entertainment choices celebrate cancer. I remember driving for my chemo treatments—those were great days. If only I could have another chemo day. Cancer made me so happy.

When you talk with cancer patients, they’ll tell you the only way to beat cancer is to declare war on your cancer. When you see a bald woman wearing a wig, or a scarf on her head, respect her; she went to war. You must kill those cancer cells. How many of them? All of them. You hate it. You are willing to deal ruthlessly with it. Change your diet. Change your lifestyle. Stop your smoking. Whatever. You will shoot chemicals and radiation in your body to kill cancer. The courage in those cancer wards comes from people who don’t want to die, they want to live!

Romans 8:13 says, hate your sin. Hate it. See it as creating death in you. Don’t coddle it. Don’t ignore it. Go to war with your sin. You can’t defeat cancer by loving cancer and you can’t overcome sin and temptation by loving your sin. There is an old word that describes going to war and killing sin. Mortify it. When you see that word, it means, kill zone. DEFCON 1. Going nuclear. Annihilation. Is this the posture of your heart toward your sin?

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2019 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

[1] Jerry Bridges, Disciplines of Grace, p. 192.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

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