1. Your flesh doesn’t want you to know that prayer plays a crucial role in mortification.
Prayer is vital to mortification, but your flesh will work diligently to keep you from remembering that on a day to day basis. It wants you to think of prayer as an optional add-on to the Christian life for the super devout. And if that doesn’t work, it has a backup plan that countless Christians have fallen victim to: it wants you to divorce prayer from the rest of the Christian life. It doesn’t want you to wake up knowing that prayer is intimately bound up with loving God and others. As long as you have a small view of prayer, your flesh is a happy camper.
2. Your flesh doesn’t want you to know how prayer reveals sin.
Prayer has a special way of showing us the sinful desires of our hearts. As James writes, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (Jas. 4:3). Our prayers often drip with selfish intentions. “Lord, if only I had ___!” Unfortunately, we’re all born experts at concealing the sinful desires behind our prayers. Consider this prayer: “Lord, help me to be a better pastor.” Seems innocent enough. But our heart and flesh are so deceitful that a man could pray this prayer for all the wrong reasons. Friend, your flesh hates you, and it’s crafty. It doesn’t want you to see the sinful desires of your heart. In humility ask God to reveal the wicked intentions of your heart that you may mortify them.
3. Your flesh doesn’t want you to know that you can come before God in repentance.
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (1 John. 2:1)
This is the last thing your flesh wants you to know when you sin. Your flesh hates God, and it hates that you have an advocate with him. When you sin, it will beat you into the ground, sowing seeds of despair. It will do anything during these times to keep you from remembering the gospel. It doesn’t want you to know that there is forgiveness in Christ. It doesn’t want you to remember that your sins have been fully atoned for on the cross. It doesn’t want you to repent.
4. Your flesh doesn’t want you to know that you can come boldly to the throne of grace that you may receive mercy and help in time of need.
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:14-16)
The flesh is a formidable foe, but it’s a conquered foe. And not only has your Savior set you free from its bondage, he has given you everything you need to mortify it. When temptation comes, you can come before the throne of grace for help. When you are struggling with sin, you can find courage and strength in your Savior who will never leave you or forsake you.
The only hope for your flesh is to keep you from the means of growth God has given you. It doesn’t want you to pray—ever. So, pray. Pray in humility, knowing that you can come before God only because of what he has done for you in Christ. Pray boldly, knowing that your perfect Father hears you. Pray watchfully, rejoicing as God answers your prayers for his glory and your good. And pray in response to who God is and what he has done. Seek him first and the temptations and allurements of the flesh will grow uglier by the day. They can’t satisfy your heart, only God can. So, mortify them. You have not been left unarmed. God has given you everything you need to fight the good fight. Stand up, face your flesh, and put it to death.
I’ll let John Owen close out this series:
The choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin.
Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it while you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.