Friday, May 27, 2016

Mortification of Sin

Mortification of Sin

Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you. (John Owen, The Works of John Owen, Banner of Truth, 2000, vol. VI. pg. 9)
   John Owen penned these penetrating words hundreds of years ago. Yet, they still ring true; they, perhaps, are now more relevant than ever before. Why? Because we live now. If we were alive in Owens' day, they would be truer than the generation before. In our day, as always, sin is not killed. Sin is not slain. Sin is not seen as the monster that it is. No, sin is celebrated and paraded around; all the world is a carnival and most, if not all, happily join in the fun and games.
   Sin is horrible. Sin marred the image of God in man. Sin separated mankind from his glorious God. Sin evicted man from God's paradise. Sin ushered in all manners of evil and treachery. Sin curses God, destroys lives, kills families, erodes the foundation of civilization, elevates man to heights he ought not contemplate, attempts to dethrone the Lord of the universe, calls evil good and good evil, and crucified the perfect Son of God. Sin is anti-God! Sin is cosmic treason!
   As believers, we ought to hate sin. Christians need to be killing sin. How? Good question. Let's look into this very important and often neglected discipline.
   To begin, mortification is the killing of indwelling sin that remains in the flesh of a believer. Romans 8:13 reads, “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.” Readers may also consult John 15:2, 1 Corinthians 9:27, and Colossians 3:5. Unfortunately, sin indwells believers as long as they are in the world (Rom. 7:24; 2 Cor. 4:16; Gal. 5:17; Phil. 3:12, 21; 2 Pet. 3:18; 1 Jn. 1:8). The flesh is where sin dwells and works (Rom. 7:23; Heb. 12:1; Jms. 1:14).
   So, what are we to do? First, do not take sin lightly. Do not grow hardened or calloused to sin and its effects. Beware of becoming desensitized or used to sin. Never say, “this is just the way it is.” Or, “It's always been this way.” Or, “I'm just a sinner saved by grace.” These are excuses and attempts to justify sin or sinful behavior.
   Second, realize that mortification is the work of the Spirit that indwells believers. Be sure, we cooperate with the Spirit, but it is primarily his work in us. The Spirit searches our spirits, convicts of sin, fills us with godly sorrow when we sin, drives us to repentance, gives us grace to repent, restores fellowship, conforms us more into the image of Christ, causes us to hate sin, and changes our affections. There is a war raging inside every believer. The Spirit indwells every Christian, yet every Christian is still in the flesh. Are you at war? Do you battle sin? Are you wrestling and growing in your hatred of this cosmic tyrant? If you are, that is good. That is the Spirit of God at work in you. Christian, keep fighting! Depend on the Spirit, he will finish the work that he began. Christian, take heart, God cannot fail!
   Mortification consists of the habitual weakening of sin. This is a process, which means that it does not take place overnight. Usually, it looks more like, one step forward and two steps back. Albeit, sin is weakened. Resistance to temptation and victory over sin are included in mortification. Mortification also is the consistent fight against sin. This fight will not end any time soon. As long as we are present in this life, we will be at war. Believers are to persevere in the fight against sin.
   Christian, do you even realize that you are at war? During the second World War, Americans knew they were at war. Everything was effected by the war. The men were away fighting overseas, women worked in the factories, people read the headlines in anticipation of peace, baseball ceased for a time, food was rationed, items could not be purchased because they were needed for the war effort, and telegrams were received making known the awful news that everyone dreaded. The people of that day knew all to well of the reality of war. Our country is presently at war. But we do not live as though we are. Our lives go on as usual. Nothing has changed for most us. We still work and play as if nothing is happening on the other side of the world. Christian, make no mistake about it, you are at war. Fight the good fight!
   What can be done about sin? How may we mortify our sinful flesh? First, be persistent. Do not give up or give in. Second, search and examine your heart looking for tendencies and weaknesses. Third, pray for conviction of sin and grace to resist temptations. Fourth, be honest about your sin. Do not tell yourself that, “It's not so bad.” Fifth, think on the dangers and consequences of sin. Sixth, think on the evil of sin. Meditate on how much God hates sin and the fact that Christ hung on a cursed cross bearing the wrath of God for sin.
   Seventh, meditate on the law of God and his perfections. This practice will reveal sin and convict. Eighth, be particular and not general; focus on specific sins that are revealed and that must be fought against. Ninth, depend on God and his power for deliverance from sin and lean not on your own strength. Tenth, Identify things that trigger sin and remove them. Avoid temptations and stay away from evil. Eleventh, be on guard and remain watchful. Sin never sleeps or slumbers; we must not drop our guard for a second. Twelfth, attempt to fight sin when it first appears. Do not wait or put it off; always engage sin at the onset. Thirteenth, do not silence your conscience; do not grow hardened or used to sin. Fourteenth, meditate on Christ, his atoning work, and his continual intercession. This will transform your mind and draw your affections to Christ's work causing you to hate sin and cease from it.
   Fifteenth, trust Christ and know that you have no hope without him. You must not wage war without Christ; he is the supreme leader whom we follow. Sixteenth, think on the promises that have been given to believers that they will persevere until the end (Rom. 8:31-39; Phil. 1:6). Seventeenth, put on the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:10-18). Eighteenth, and lastly, rely on the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit that convicts us of sin, convinces us of the truth, reveals Christ to our souls, strengthens us when weak and battered, relieves us of guilt and sin's grasp, fills us with peace and joy, applies the work of Christ to us, continues sanctifying us, hears our cries, forgives us when we repent and confess, and brings our requests to God.
   The mortification of our sinful flesh is not easy. Nothing worth its weight ever is. No, be prepared for a fight to the death. And know this, sin will not die easily or quickly. Sin will not give up and go home. This fight will last until we breathe our last or the Lord takes us home. But, Christian know this, we serve an awesome God. He will never leave us or forsake us. And not only that, but our great and glorious God uses our sin for his glory and our good! How can this be? We do not know all of the details but we trust that this is true. Have faith in our God. God cannot fail or be thwarted. What God begins he will accomplish. He will win. God has to win! So, Christian, keep on fighting in the strength of the Lord and await the good news of victory. V-Day will come, so hope in this and wait for Christ's return or the call home.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Hearing and Listening to the Word of God

Hearing and Listening to the Word of God

Weekly, Christians gather to hear the word of God read, taught, and preached (well, at least they ought to desire to attend weekly worship!). But, do they hear? Do they listen? Have they been taught how to hear and listen? Or, more importantly, do they know how to prepare themselves to hear and listen to the very words of the Living God? What follows are some suggestions for believers in order to prepare themselves to listen to and hear the word of God.

Weekly Preparation
The importance of preparation before coming to church must not be overlooked. It would benefit believers to prepare throughout the week to hear from God and not merely on Sundays or when they walk into the church. Begin by praying for your pastor (and teachers) throughout the week (Rom. 15:30-32; 2 Thess. 3:1) Ask the Lord to bless him and illumine his heart and mind so that he may bring God's word to God's people. Pray for the growth and understanding of your pastor. Pray that your pastor remain faithful to the word of God and that God would strengthen him against attacks, discouragement, apathy, and depression.

Prepare Physically
You, the hearer, must also prepare yourself physically to hear from God. Be well rested so that you may be attentive to the preaching of the word. Pray for yourself that the Lord may grant you alertness and the ability to hear and understand the word of God. You may also prepare by lessening your routine on Sunday mornings by making preparations for the church the night before. You may prepare food and clothes ahead of time to avoid being rushed in the morning. This saved time then could be used to pray and focus upon the Lord.

Prepare Personally
Next, believers may prepare by being excited and expecting to hear from God through his word. Anticipate hearing from God. Pray that you will be challenged, convicted, and changed. Pray for clarity of thought, the removal of distractions, and peace of mind so that you can focus on the word of God and not the cares of this world. Be prepared to be confronted by the living God.

Prepare Spiritually
Listeners expecting to hear form God through the preaching and teaching of his word must repent and confess known sin. This restores fellowship between God and the believer. Believers may also pray for purity of heart and the illumination of the Spirit in order to not only hear, but to also understand and apply.

Pay Attention
To listen and hear effectively, do not look around. Focus intently on the preacher and his message. Do not engage in idle or worldly conversations before the service. This takes the focus off of the Lord and is terribly distracting and irreverent. Be a good steward of the short amount of time that you are blessed with to sit under the word. Take advantage of the gift that you have to hear the word proclaimed. Do not take this for granted. Another suggestion is to take notes. This will enhance your listening skills and study.

After the Service
The service may only last for an hour, but the time that you have afterward is much greater and could prove very profitable if used rightly. Reflect on what was said. Read and reread the passage of Scripture that was preached and read any notes that were taken. Discuss the sermon with family members or a friend. Pray that the Lord will apply his truth to your heart. Finally, make it a point to think about the sermon throughout the week. Do not hear it and forget it.

Search the Scriptures
After the service and sometime during the following week, read and study the text further. Read other passages that relate to the one that was preached. Compare the sermon with the word of God. Make sure that the pastor is handling the word accurately. This is not judgmental or even negative. No, listener, you are responsible before God. So, take notice of what is being spoken from the pulpit. Seek to apply the truth of God to your heart and life. Or, better yet, seek to apply your life to the truth of God.
Sadly, we are no longer good listeners. We are a visual people. That is to our detriment. We need, no we must become listeners again! We must train ourselves, prepare ourselves to hear and listen. Christians have got to ignore distractions and hang on every word that proceeds from the mouth of our great and glorious God. This is a discipline. Disciplines are not easy. They take hard work and effort. But, we serve a powerful God and by his grace and for his glory he can transform us and mold us into good listeners. Oh Lord, give your people ears to hear!