Today’s post is sponsored by BJU Seminary and written by Stuart Scott, professor of biblical counseling and ACBC Fellow. BJU Seminary equips Christian leaders through an educational and ministry experience that is biblically shaped, theologically rich, historically significant, and evangelistically robust.
Ever since Adam ate of the tree in the garden, every man and woman has inherited a nature of sin. Running its course, sin leads to hopeless slavery. However, if we are believers, sin no longer holds us hopelessly captive because God has justified us, has broken that slavery, and is progressively sanctifying us. But we can still become temporarily and routinely entangled in sin—a sign that something is very wrong or missing in our Christian walk.
Scripture is clear that sin habits are incongruous with a redeemed lifestyle: “we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die” (Rom. 8:12–13a). In other words, a person who continues a life of sin without any real desire or efforts to change has no legitimate claim of redemption.
Consequently, God calls us to mortify the sin in our lives: “but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Rom. 8:13b). As we pursue holiness and rest on Christ’s finished work on the cross, by grace we aggressively strive against sin in our lives. Pursuing holiness Christ’s way will weaken a sin habit, until its power and predominance is subdued and practically destroyed.
But mortifying our sin is not accomplished by our own efforts to break sinful habits. To mortify sin, we must aggressively strive toward a growing walk of faith with Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
So, the call to mortify our sin is really a call to vivify our faith in Christ and His gospel, first of all and ongoing. To vivify something, we endue it with life and effectuate it. Vivifying is not just about doing something; it is about possessing or personally embracing something from the inside out—for the glory it brings to God and the eternal life it expresses in us.
To vivify our faith in Christ, we must vivify true worship of Christ alone. Turning from competing pursuits and truly seeing Christ and His radical love for what it is will breed radical love, trust, and obedience (with delight) in us.
This vivifying of our faith in Christ includes vivifying faith in the gospel truths of Christ, daily. Turning to the power of Christ in us, His forgiveness, our hope of heaven, and all God’s promises will greatly impact our thinking and our actions. We must especially vivify or exercise our faith in the moments of trial and battle. Specifically in times of temptation, choosing to put faith in what we need to will empower us to resist sin and then grow our faith even more.
Vivifying faith effectually vivifies a walk in the Spirit. As we turn and submit to the truth of God and depend on the Spirit who dwells in us, through prayer, God and His Word can influence us. God’s Word, active faith, and the indwelling Spirit combined, in tandem with other saints, assures a walk in the Spirit.
With the vivification of our faith, we must then focus not on our habit of sin, but on Christ’s specific, righteous alternatives to our sin. Aggressively pursuing the Christlike characteristic corresponding to sin with real faith and dependence effectively works to mortify sin habits.
Replacing our sin habits with the help of the Holy Spirit is necessarily an intensive practice. It involves addressing personal hindrances such as laziness, apathy, and misplaced priorities. It involves personal, periodic examination with confession, and it involves any needed radical amputation of facilitators—all in response to Christ’s radical love.
This vivifying of our faith in the practical putting off sin and putting on righteousness is an ongoing Christian endeavor with Christ. Everything about our Christian walk and mortifying sin is inextricably linked to exercising our faith in a worthy and sacrificial Savior.
A fuller treatment of the cycle of sin habits, and of hope to mortify them, can be found in the book Killing Sin Habits: Conquering Sin with Radical Faith, written by Stuart Scott with Zondra Scott.