Tag: Mortification

What Your Flesh Doesn’t Want You to Know: The Role of Prayer in Mortification

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.

Conclusion

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.

What Your Flesh Doesn’t Want You to Know: The Vital Role of the Word in Mortification

1. Your flesh doesn’t want you to know how important reading and hearing the Word is to mortification.

If you’ve been led astray by the misconception that the Word contributes nothing to the war against your flesh, you’re exactly where it wants you. As long as you view the Word of God as an optional part of the Christian life, your flesh can rest easy knowing that you’ve neglected one of the primary weapons God has given you to fight against it. The Word is the “sword of the Spirit” (Eph. 6:17b); it is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16b); but your flesh can’t have you coming to grips with that.

2. Your flesh doesn’t want you to know how the Word reveals sin.

When we open the Scriptures, we are confronted with the perfect requirements of the law of God. We see the beautiful and holy character of our God, and it shines a spotlight into the wicked depths of our hearts. Our most well hidden sins are exposed by the Word. When we see God as he has revealed himself to us in his Word, the appropriate response is to cry out with Isaiah,

“Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isa. 6:5)

But half of your flesh’s battle revolves around making sure you don’t see how sinful you actually are. Its battle plan would fall apart if you recognize your hopeless condition. After all, one of the worst things that could happen to your flesh is for you to realize you need a Savior.

3. Your flesh doesn’t want you to know what the Word says about God’s attitude toward sin.

It’s impossible to seriously read the Word and come away thinking that sin is no big deal. From Genesis to Revelation we see that sin is an abomination that has thrown creation into chaos. Sin in its very nature is rebellion against God. As R. C. Sproul puts it, it’s cosmic treason against the King of the universe. And God doesn’t brush sin under a rug, hoping that it will disappear. No, our God hates sin and must pour out his wrath upon all unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18ff). But your flesh doesn’t want you meditating on the holiness and wrath of God. It wants you to think God takes sin lightly. It wants you to view God as an omnipotent Santa Claus who exists for your pleasure. Your flesh knows that if you understand how seriously God takes sin, you will begin to as well—and it can’t let that happen.

4. Your flesh doesn’t want you to know the message of the gospel that flows through the veins of the living Word.

Throughout the Word we are presented with the grand story of redemption. Before time began, God planned and promised within himself to save his rebellious people. Right after the Fall, he promised to crush the head of the Serpent through the seed of the woman (Gen. 3:15), and it is this promise that unfolds as we flip from page to page in the Scriptures, culminating in the work of Christ on the cross. Here is the beautiful news we find in the Word: We are totally depraved sinners, and God sent his Son to suffer his wrath in the place of totally depraved sinners. If you are in Christ, all of your sin has been dealt with on the cross, and your salvation is secure. You are a new creation, made alive to live for the glory of God!

But this news is like ipecac for your flesh. The gospel makes it nauseous, and worse, angry. It hates the good news, and will do anything to keep you from remembering it. Listen to who you are because of what Christ has done for you:

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. (Rom. 6:6-7)

Such good news is the worst news your flesh will ever hear. This is why your flesh delights in assaulting your thoughts. One of its chief goals is to make you forget who you are in Christ.

5. Your flesh doesn’t want you to know that the Word equips you to mortify it.

The Word reveals the schemes of your flesh, casting them into the light. It shows your flesh to be a foe conquered by the work of your Savior on the cross. God has not left you alone to mortify your flesh. He has given you his Spirit, and he has shown you how you are to walk as a new creation. The gospel crushes pride, arrogance, and selfishness, bringing you to see the grace and mercy of God. All of these things are weapons your flesh can’t tolerate. You have been given everything you need to kill the enemy within you.

In light of the great weapon you have, does that mean your flesh will give up? Well, no, it will never give up. And remember this: It doesn’t want you to read the Word. The last thing it wants you to do this year is to seek God in his Word, submitting to his rightful rule and reign over your life. If you want to make your flesh happy, put your Bible on a shelf and forget about it—let it collect an inch of dust. I, however, advise you to ignore its pleas for complacency. Don’t underestimate the importance of the Word in your battle against sin. Open it, read it, submit to it, and let your affections be stirred for our God and Savior who alone is worthy of worship.

What Your Flesh Doesn’t Want You to Know: Its Nature and Schemes

1. Your flesh doesn’t want you to know of its existence.

It will do anything to gain the element of surprise. Utterly perverse and depraved, it slithers about in secrecy. This gives it room to do all of its dastardly planning while leaving you in the dark, unprepared and unaware.

2. Your flesh doesn’t want you to know of its persistence.

It’s always at work, seeking to entice your desires, and bending your affections inward. But it wants you to ignore this and skip along on your merry way. Your resistance is a nuisance, and it well tempt you daily to relax and give it full reign over your heart. Drift into a lackadaisical state, and you’re right where your flesh wants you. “Sit back,” it whispers, “everything will be fine.”

3. Your flesh doesn’t want you to know that it hates you, God, and anything that stirs your affections for him.

In its very nature, your flesh is at enmity with God. It hates him, and desires above all to dishonor him and send you chasing after idols. But, it’s in your flesh’s best interest to keep this truth to itself. To inform you of its desires would be suicidal. As long as you see it as an unlikable roommate, its plans remain hidden. The last thing it wants is for you to see it as an enemy against the glory of God and your enjoyment of him.

4. Your flesh doesn’t want you to know the folly of trying to make peace with it.

As Paul writes,

For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (Gal. 5:17; see also Rom. 7:21-23)

One of the best presents you could give to your flesh is ignorance to this truth. It wants you to give up the war and write up a peace treaty, oblivious to the reality that you’re setting yourself up for a stab in the back. As a child of God, your flesh will never leave you alone until the day you die. But everyday it will work to keep you from remembering that.

5. Your flesh doesn’t want you to know that it will hit you in the valleys and on the mountain tops of your spiritual walk.

Your flesh has a knack for finding opportunities to attack you. When you’re down it will torture you, dragging you into the depths of despair. But it takes advantage of your “spiritual highs” as well. It will plant seeds of pride, arrogance, and legalism right when you think nothing could go wrong. If you thirst for God, it will do anything to get you to start looking down on others instead of walking alongside them. But, again, for you to know this would ruin your flesh’s fun.

6. Your flesh doesn’t want you to know that it can be mortified.

Your flesh is a formidable foe, but it has a not so hidden secret: it’s mortally wounded. Christ has conquered it on the cross and set you free from the chains it once bound you in. But that’s the last thing your flesh wants you to remember. It wants you to cower in its presence, drained of all hope. You have been given everything you need in Christ to mortify your flesh, and that only makes it angrier.

What Your Flesh Doesn’t Want You to Know: Who You Are in Christ

Our flesh is persistent. In its very nature it’s at enmity with God. This isn’t a mild dislike, it’s a vicious, seething hatred.

Writing of his personal struggle with sin, Paul says,

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. (Rom. 7:21-23)

Don’t miss the force of what Paul is saying here. The enemy within us never lets up from barraging us with temptations and working to entice our desires. It will do anything to squash our desire to glorify and enjoy God. And all too often we concede. We get frustrated and upset, allowing our flesh to walk all over us doing a victory dance.

But let’s be careful to not give our enemy too much credit. It’s a persistent, deadly, and cunning foe; but we haven’t been left to ourselves. We are the people of Jesus Christ, and he has sealed victory over our sin on the cross. Once we were slaves to sin, but Christ has set us free, destroying the chains we could never escape on our own. A little earlier in his letter to the Romans, Paul writes,

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. (Rom. 6:6-7)

And not only have we died to sin, we are “alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11b). This new life God has given us in Christ is life in the Spirit, by whom we mortify our flesh (Rom. 8:13).

So, what does all this mean?

1. The flesh is a conquered foe.

It hates God, and it hates you, but its end is oblivion. Don’t underestimate it; it will do anything to lead you to sin. But also don’t forget who your Savior is; he has valiantly triumphed, dealing the death blow to sin and shattering the chains of your flesh.

2. You are dead to sin and alive to God in Christ.

Your relationship to your flesh has been radically changed. It no longer can claim you as its slave, for you are a child of God. And because you’ve been made alive, you can now love God and others, doing his will joyfully and not out of compulsion.

3. By the Spirit you can mortify your flesh.

You aren’t defenseless anymore. God has given you everything you need to kill your enemy and triumph over its snares.

This is the glorious news of who you are because of what God has done for you, and your flesh doesn’t like it one bit. Though conquered, it continues its course, attempting to deceive us and lead us into sin. So, over the next few Tuesdays, we are going to look at several different ways our flesh worms about to protect itself from mortification. Knowing the trickery of our enemy better equips us to evade its attacks and put it to death by the Spirit.

“This Means War!”

Whether we acknowledge it or not, as Christians we are in a war against sin. Here are some key truths to remember as we seek to fight the good fight:

1. As God’s people we are to love him and seek him first above everything else. Do you really think our flesh and our spiritual enemy are going to sit back and let that happen willingly?

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. (1 Pet. 2:11ff)

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? (James 4:1ff)

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Rom. 7:21-24)

2. Though the battle wages onward, the final victory is secured through the finished work of Jesus Christ.

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. (1 John 5:4)

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Cor. 15:56-58)

They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful. (Rev. 17:14)

And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. (Rev. 20:7-10)

3. We are no longer bound to the enemy. We have died to sin and been made alive to live for the glory of God and good of others.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Rom. 6:1-4ff)

But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph. 4:20-24)

4. God gives us grace and power through his Spirit, providing everything we need to fight the good fight.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence. (2 Pet. 1:3ff)

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Eph. 6:10-13ff)

5. We do not fight the good fight alone. We fight alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ under the sovereign protection of our God and Savior.

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph. 4:1-3)

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal. 6:1-2)

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Rom. 12:3-5)

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Heb. 10:24-25)