Mortify Your Sins

Romans 8:13 (ESV) 13 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.

In this sensual world we live in today, and with the deluge of social media that’s flooding our world, society, and the worldview of liberal self-satisfaction and actuation as the prime importance, it will be hard to find some saints around on earth that’s unmoved by the lures of the temptations all around. Even the theologians and scholars of the Bible are not exempted, and are as vulnerable, if they don’t follow the strict discipline of the body by the strength of the Holy Spirit in the scripture. Not only the deluge of material, movies, and the ease of getting them example pornography. The destruction of it is heart breaking, but we can take comfort to see that our God has already made providence and provisions for us to escape them. 1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

The tension is within our hearts. The word of God that’s been planted within us, and the lust and sin that’s still dwelling within us. Don’t be fooled, born again Christians have not been plugged out from the internal lust and flesh, it’s still there until we die, and meet Christ.

So how do we do it? John Owens wrote the famous book “The Mortification of Sin”, and I will draw some ideas from there. Mortify: to subjugate/overcome (the body, passions, etc.) by abstinence, ascetic discipline, or self-inflicted suffering.

  1. The Exhortation is directed towards believers [1]

The exhortation is for Christians. v1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. This is directed towards believers. And then in v9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.

The question is to be in the Spirit, and not in the flesh. The tension is we live in the physical body, which is the flesh, but we are to be in the Spirit.

2. The condition expresses the certainty of the relationship[2]

Romans 8:13 (ESV) 13 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.

An interesting take. There is a clear connection between the mortifying of the deeds of the body and living. [3] This is not a legalistic cause and effect saying , “If by the Spirit put to death…, you will live”, because our action won’t save us. That salvation part of it is already accomplished by Christ, and him alone, on the cross and his resurrection and conquered death! That’s settled, and this passage is Paul exhorting Christians to continue what has been accomplished by Christ himself. It’s a continuation series. John Owens calls it as “means and end.” He says, ‘There is a certain infallible connection and coherence between true mortification and eternal life”: if you use this means, you shall obtain that end; if you do mortify, you shall live”.[4] This then is our main motive for the enforcement of this duty in our lives. [5] Very well put by Owens. This should be indeed our main motivation to put to death the sins in our lives. We got to do something about it. You see, if we are not conscious of it, we will let it slip, and it will catch up with us. We think a little sinning, a little slipping is fine kind of thing. But it grows! Before we know it, it has grown to such size, magnitude, it will topple our character, destroy us. Also we will run out of peace and joy, if sin continues tom plague us. On the outside, we smile, and can be even polished, but inside we will run dry and lack of joy and peace. Galatians 5:9 (ESV) 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump.

3. Our strength in this duty comes through the Spirit [6]

All other ways of mortification will fail. Men may try, using will power, using discipline, using accountability of men’s group, and even reading the Bible, but they will come short. It is a work of the Holy Spirit, and it is by Him alone we are to experience victory.[7]

Owns writes, “Mortification from a self-strength, carried on by ways of self-invention, to the end of a self-righteousness, is the soul and substance of all false religion in the world”. [8]

That is so well said and it defines all religions in the world apart from Christianity. That sets Christianity apart. It’s not something you can self-carry out by your won strength, but it’s something that can only be accomplished by the 3rd person of the Trinity Godhead, the Holy Spirit. This is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

4. The duty itself [9]

Romans 8:13 (ESV) 13 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.

i. “The body” here is the same as the “flesh”, the indwelling sin, the corrupted flesh or lust, that is intended. [10]

They are inly deeds of sins because at some point we have yielded to an inward lust. Owen calls it as , “Deed is an expression of a yielding to an inward lust. Indwelling lust and sin is the fountain and principle of all sinful action.” [11] That’s a very important statement here. Our outward act of sin is a result of our yielding to the constant pressure and pushing inner urge and desire towards sin, lust. The key word here is ‘yield’. This doesn’t happen on an instance, this is like a tug and war, pulling and pulling in opposition, that’s why I call it as a tension between the sinful and the righteousness in me powered by the Spirit. Isn’t that’s what’s called so crisply by Paul in: Romans 7:14-17 [12]

ii. To ‘mortify’ means to put any living thing to death.[13]

To kill a man or any living thin is to take away the principle of all of its strength, vigor, and power, so that it cannot act, or exert, or put forth any proper acting’s of its own. [14]

Treat sin as an enemy that you want to kill. If the hidden lust is at work in you, you will have to be ruthless in take away its strength, vigor and power. This is a very clear target, and to understand we need to sap or take away its strength, vigor and power, our mindset changes straight away. We will stop entertaining it, for example. We will stop thinking over it and letting it grow in our minds. To mortify sins, it will take a determination and our crying to God to help you at that point. The Spirit will come and minster. Remember how Jesus struggled with the temptations of evading the death on the cross in the garden of Gethsemane to the point of sweating droplets of blood, and at that moment, the angels came and ministered to him. That’s why Jesus understands exactly and even more than what and how we suffered under temptations.

Indwelling sin is compared to a person, a living person, called the ‘old man’, with his faculties, and properties, his wisdom, craft, subtlety, and strength. The ‘old man’ is utterly mortified and slain by the cross of Christ. He is crucified with Christ (Rom 6:6), and we are ‘dead’ with him, v8. This takes place in regeneration (salvation). The Holy Spirit who lives in us, opposes the lusts of the flesh (Gal 5:17).  

This is a constant duty of believers to render a death blow to the deeds of the flesh, that they may not have life and strength to bring forth their destructive influence. [15]

5. The Promise is Life

The promise is eternal life. It is not only eternal life in the future, but also the spiritual life in Christ which we have here on earth, the joy and comfort and vigor of our life in this world. We will rejoice more, more peaceful, more joyful if we put to death the deeds of the flesh.

The second motive for the duty is: the vigor, power, and comfort of our spiritual life depend on the mortification of the deeds of the flesh!  Don’t think it’s only for heaven, its fort here now on earth! It will make a difference NOW on earth as we will have more vigor, power and comfort in our spiritual life!


[1] John Owen, The Mortification of Sin, p 2, The Banner of Truth Trust 2004

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid

[7] Ibid

[8] Ibid

[9] Ibid p 3


[11] Ibid

[12] Romans 7:14-17 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate….17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

[13] John Owen, The Mortification of Sin, p 3

[14] Ibid

[15] Ibid

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s