4) “Mortification of sin is one main reason why the Spirit and the new nature are given unto us, that we may have a principle within whereby to oppose sin and lust.”
What is this new nature that Owen is talking about? If you’re a Christian, the Bible says that we have been regenerated and given a new nature. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come.” What this new nature entails is that God gives us a new heart that loves Him and hates sin. Now notice, I’m saying a new heart. I’m not even talking about new behaviors or new actions. God does something so much deeper than that. Christianity is NOT about behavior modification. Christianity is not about being forced to do what you hate to do and not doing what you love to do. Christianity is about a person being born again by the Holy Spirit so that you no longer love sin and no longer love this world, but now love God and love the things of God. And that’s the only way it will happen… no amount of willpower, or gritting of teeth will overcome sin. You have to be born again.
Jer. 31:33-34 – this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord.
Ezekiel 36:26-27 – 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
And so, God give us a new heart, and He gives us His Spirit, to help us fight our flesh. And this is the struggle between the Spirit and the flesh that we read about in Romans 6 and Galatians 5. If you are a Christian here today, there is a battle going on right now between the Spirit and the flesh in you. And so we must decide who we are going to ally with in this fight:
“Now this is, first, the most unjust and unreasonable thing in the world; when two combatants are engaged, to bind one and keep him from doing his utmost, and to leave the other at liberty to would him at his pleasure: and second, the foolishest thing in the world to bind him who fights for our eternal condition, and to let him alone who seeks and violently attempts our everlasting ruin. The contest is for our lives and souls.”
Brothers and sisters, if you are in Christ, then that means that God has given you graces and gifts to help you to destroy the sin in your life. And what a gift this is! He has given us the Holy Spirit! Knowing this, how hard should we make sure that we make use of Whom we have received. These gifts and graces were given to us to use and to exercise, not to bury in the ground. If we are not daily mortifying sin by the Spirit, then we are sinning against the goodness, kindness, wisdom, grace and love of God, who has given us all that we need to fight sin.
5) “Negligence in this duty will lead to the deterioration of our souls.”
The Bible teaches that when we sin, we harden our hearts against God. There is a real effect that sin has so that the more we sin, the more our soul becomes hardened towards God, and indifferent towards God, and the harder it becomes for us to love the things of God and enjoy His presence. We are not playing games here. There is a real effect of sin on our souls, if you are a human being, Christian or non-Christians. Christians are not immune to the effects of sin on our souls. This is a sobering truth.
The Bible teaches us that there is a point where a soul, through continuous, repeated sin, can become so atrophied and so hardened to God, that he will not be able to repent any longer from sin, and will no longer be able to love the things of God anymore. Oh, this is a dreadful state to be in! It’s not a one time thing, but it’s a process by which the soul and the heart, through a lifestyle of sinfulness, becomes so hardened that it no longer can turn to God and repent any longer and therefore is beyond forgiveness.
Hebrews 3:12-14 – 12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.
1 John 5:16-17 – 16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.
Hebrews 12:15-17 – 15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.
This is a terrifying reality. The Bible warns of this condition that all of us could potentially reach. Yes, Jesus says, if you repent you will be forgiven of your sins. That offer still stands and is absolutely true. But there is a condition of the heart that exists where a person can become so hardened in their sin, that repentance is no longer possible. And if you do reach this position, as much as you might desire repentance, as much as you might be terrified on your deathbed, you will no longer be able to genuinely repent and be saved.
Question: Does that mean that you can lose your salvation? No! The Bible assures us that for those whom God has saved, He will keep them because of His faithfulness. He will keep them from reaching that point of hardness.
So if you do reach that point of hardness, what that proves is that you were never saved to begin with.
1 John 2:19 – 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
If 10, 20, 30 years, from now, you see me, and I am no longer walking in my faith, that I’ve left my wife and kids, and I’m living lecherously and in drunkenness, with no regard for the things of God, and no desire for the His glory or His kingdom… then what that will mean is that all this presently is a charade. It will prove that I was never really a Christian. All the worship leading? It was a love for the spotlight. And all this teaching is a love for the praise of men. Oh how I need to be watchful that I don’t make a shipwreck of my faith and so prove that I was never in Christ to begin with!
Question: So is there no assurance of salvation? This is such a difficult question that I struggled with for the longest time. The reason is because for the longest time, I thought assurance of salvation was mechanical. I prayed a prayer when I was seven, I signed a card, I filled out a form, I got a church membership, I’m saved! I’m finished! But that’s not how assurance of salvation works. True assurance of salvation, a true inward, spiritual confidence of your election and adoption into God’s family, is a gift of the Holy Spirit. And this gift of assurance of salvation is only for those who by faith in God’s promises are persevering in their faith, by the Spirit. It’s not about mechanical mind games. It’s when you are persevering in obedience and love for God and you are sure that He is faithful and will keep you forever. It is possible for a true Christian to be struggling with sin and go through a season of doubt and insecurity. Yet for the true Christian, God will use the fear of hell and fear of falling away, to bring the Christian back to a life of perseverance and holiness. But there is nothing sweeter than the assurance you have of God’s keeping promises over your life, when you are, by grace, and by the Spirit, walking with God.
We need to be ever watchful against sin, because it really has a soul-destroying effect. Oh how vital it is that we daily be mortifying sin in our lives.
6) “Growing in grace and holiness and conformity to our Lord Jesus Christ is impossible without mortification of sin.”
I imagine all of us desire to be like Christ. We want to ultimately become loving people, holy people, and sacrificial, brave, merciful, compassionate people. No one wants at the end of his life to be known as selfish, or cowardly. Yet, no matter how much you spend your life giving money to the poor, teaching the Word of God in you small group or in a Sunday school class, or sharing the Gospel with the people around, or going overseas on mission trips, if you don’t daily mortify the sinful nature in you, then all those things will be in vain.
“Let not that man think he makes any progress in holiness, who walks not over the neck of his lusts. He, who doth not kill sin in his way, takes no steps towards his journey’s end.”