“Sin always dies most where faith lives most. The most believing soul is the most mortified soul. Ah! sinner, remember this, there is no way on earth effectually to be rid of the guilt, filth, and power of sin, but by believing in a Saviour. It is not resolving, it is not complaining, it is not mourning, but believing, that will make thee divinely victorious over that body of sin that to this day is too strong for thee, and that will certainly be thy ruin, if it be not ruined by a hand of faith.” —Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices
“5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” —Colossians 3:5–11 (ESV)
Religiously, man doesn’t care much about the plumbing; he just wants a shiny faucet. Shame may be felt once the faucet is turned on and the water spits, sputters, and leaks, but that’s tolerable compared to the idea of having a plain old faucet. Man’s religion is a shiny body covering an engine ready to blow. It’s a stunning mansion built on a defective and doomed foundation.
Many scholars have likened Paul’s vice and virtue lists to those of the Greek Philosophers. It seems likely that the false teachers threatening the Colossians had the very same list, it’s just that their asceticism was of “no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh (Colossians 2:23).” Paul’s list is different not in what it consists in, but in what surrounds it and grounds it. Sin is to be killed because we have died with Christ.
This isn’t contradictory, but rather, it’s the only rational basis upon which to wage war against sin. It is only the free former slave who can really fight against his slave behavior. Those locked in the dungeon cannot fight in the battle. The Prince of the Puritans, John Owen, wrote, “Men must be gold and silver in the bottom, or else all refining will do them no good. Mortification is a refiner’s fire. Iron cannot be refined into gold. It must be miraculously transformed. Only then can the refining work be done.
Undoubtedly I derive from the Gospel a peace at bottom, which is worth more than a thousand worlds. But though I rest and live upon the truths of the Gospel—they seldom impress me with a warm and lively joy. In public, indeed, I sometimes seem in earnest and much affected—but even then it appears to me rather as a part of the gift entrusted to me for the edification of others, than as a sensation which is properly my own. For when I am in private, I am usually dull and stupid to a strange degree, or the prey to a wild and ungoverned imagination; so that I may truly say, when I would do good, evil, horrid evil, is present with me! Ah, how different is this from sensible comfort! and if I was to compare myself to others, to make their experience my standard, and was not helped to retreat to the sure Word of God as my refuge, how hard would I find it to maintain a hope that I had either part or lot in the matter! What I call my best times, are when I can find my attention in some little measure fixed to what I am about; which indeed is not always, nor frequently, my case in prayer, and still seldom in reading the Scripture. My judgment embraces these means as blessed privileges, and Satan has not prevailed to drive me from them. But in the performance of them, I too often find them tasks; feel a reluctance when the seasons return, and am glad when they are finished. O what a mystery is the heart of man! What a warfare is the life of faith! (at least in the path the Lord is pleased to lead me.) What reason have I to lie in the dust as the chief of sinners, and what cause for thankfulness that salvation is wholly of grace! Notwithstanding all my complaints, it is still true that Jesus died and rose again; that he ever lives to make intercession, and is able to save to the uttermost! But, on the other hand, to think of that joy of heart in which some of his people live, and to compare it with that apparent deadness and lack of spirituality which I feel—this makes me mourn. However, I think there is a Scriptural distinction between faith and feeling, grace and comfort—they are not inseparable, and perhaps, when together, the degree of the one is not often the just measure of the other. But though I pray that I may be ever longing and panting for the light of his countenance—yet I would be so far satisfied, as to believe the Lord has wise and merciful reasons for keeping me so short of the comforts which he has taught me to desire and value more than the light of the sun! —John Newton, Works
This post was originally published August 21, 2008
Alas, a generation has arisen that is ignorant of Mogwai and Gremlins. Mogwai are cute, furry, little, innocent creatures. There are only three rules concerning them:
- Don’t let them near bright light. It kills them.
- Don’t get them wet. They multiply; the more wet the more Mogwai. Upon multiplying their cute, innocent disposition is done away with.
- Don’t feed them after midnight. They then go into a cocoon stage and morph into Gremlins .
Sins are like Mogwai. Initially we think they are cute. We play with them, tickle them, laugh at them. They become our companions. But Mogwai always end up producing ugly Gremlins, the kind of sins that devastate us. We are walking along thinking we are doing so great spiritually because of all our “I do not’s”, and sudenly a Gremlin sin pops up and we’re stunned wondering “where did that come from?” John Owen advised, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” The law of sin is always at work in us, it never sleeps; we must be ever mortifying, always realizing its seriousness, never putting our spiritual gear in neutral. We must expose our sins to the light (note: sunlight kills both Mogwai and Gremlins) and extend them no mercy however cute they may seem.