The Weakening of Lust

“The first thing in mortification is the weakening of the habit of sin or lust, so that it shall not, with that violence, earnestness and frequency, rise up and conceive, provoke, entice, and disquiet as it naturally has a tendency to do (James 1:14-15). This is called ‘crucifying the flesh with its passions and desires’ (Galatians 5:24). We seek to take away that about it which gives it strength and power. We aim at the killing of the body of death ‘day by day’ (see 2 Corinthians 4:16).

When a man is nailed to a cross, he at first struggles, strives, and cries out with great strength and might; but as his blood and spirits waste, his strivings are faint and seldom, his cries hoarse, and scarce to be heard. So when a man first determines to conquer a lust or sin, and to deal with it in earnest, it struggles with great violence to break loose; it cries with earnestness  and impatience to be satisfied and relieved. By mortification, the blood and spirits of it are let out, it moves seldom and faintly, cries sparingly, and is scarce heard in the heart; it may sometimes have a dying pang that makes an appearance of great vigor and strength, but it is quickly over, especially if it kept from considerable success.

– John Owen, The Mortification of Sin, p.34-35

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Mortification Is Not to Root Sin Out and Destroy It

“To mortify a sin is not to utterly root it out and destroy it, that it should have no more hold at all nor residence in our hearts. It is true this is what we aim at, but we will not be able to accomplish it in this life. All who seek mortification seek the utter destruction, both of its fruit and its root in the heart and life. They seek to kill it, so that it will never move nor stir any more, nor cry,¬† call, seduce or tempt, to all eternity. We aim at the total destruction of the sin, so that it does not exist.”

– John Owen, The Mortification of Sin, p.26-27

The Work of the Spirit in Mortification

“‘But how does the Spirit give us victory?’ By our living in the Spirit and walking after the Spirit. As we abound in the graces of the Spirit and walk according to them, the fruits of the Spirit restrict the fruits of the flesh, because the works of the flesh are contrary to the works of the Spirit. This renewing of us by the Holy Spirit, as it is called (Titus 3:5), is one great way of mortification. He causes us to grow, thrive, flourish, and abound in the graces which are contrary, opposite, and destructive to all the works of the flesh, and contrary to the thriving of indwelling sin itself.

By the effective destruction of the root and habit of sin, to weaken, destroy, and take it away. He is called a ‘Spirit of judgment and of burning’ (Isa. 4:4), in really consuming and destroying our lusts. He takes away the stony heart by an almighty work. He begins this work, as to its kind, and then carries it on by degrees. He is the fire that burns up the very root of lust.

He brings the cross of Christ into the heart of a sinner by faith, and gives communion with Christ in His death, and fellowship in His sufferings.”

– John Owen, The Mortification of Sin, p.18