Dr. Henry Waiters: Part 2: Mortification
Last month: Part 1, Justification and sanctification
Sanctification begins with and continues as a consequent of Regeneration. Viewed from the experimental and practical side, sanctification is not a Divine act, but a work of God’s grace, wherein He sustains and develops, continues and perfects, that which He imparted at the new birth. Sanctification then is a growth under the supporting and fruit-bearing influences of the indwelling Holy Spirit: a growth from spiritual infancy to childhood, from childhood to youth, from youth to spiritual maturity. This growth follows a twofold process: the mortification of the old nature and the vivification (bringing to life; living unto God) of the new nature.
Spiritual growth follows the twofold process of mortification and vivification. Yet those two actings are not so distinct that the one can go on independently or at a distinct time from the other, for the one necessarily accompanies the other. The order in which they need to be understood is: We have to die to sin before we can life to God.
“Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affections” (Col. 3:5). This means put to death those fleshy lusts that are set upon earthy objects and and thus prevent their evil fruits of fornication and others. With this expression. “Your members which are upon the earth” compare “the body of sin” (Rom. 6:6), which does not mean our physical body, though sin acts through it. The term mortify is not used in Scripture absolutely to kill and destroy, so as that which is mortified no longer has any being, but rather that it should be rendered impotent and useless, unable to produce its wicked works.
The forced submission of indwelling sin so that it may not have power to bring forth the works of the flesh is the constant duty of the believer. The health and comfort of his spiritual life depends on it: he must be daily killing sin, or it will kill him. “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Rom. 8:13). “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Cor. 9:27). The solemn alternatives presented in these passages are too plain to be misunderstood. These passages are to be taken at their face value, for there is no conflict between them and any others: believers are preserved in the paths of righteousness, and God has no where promised to secure any soul that sports with sin.
This of mortification is a very difficult one, especially considering the prevalence of corruption and the multitude of temptations we are exposed to; the subtlety and watchfulness of Satan, the instability of our resolutions and the fickleness of our affections; the ceaseless efforts made by our corruptions to gain advantage over us. Now, it is this that renders it so essential that we make a right use of those methods that God has prescribed for the mortification of sin, the chief of which is the denyiny of self and the taking up of cross. And that is to be done daily (Luke 9:23).
It is because of the extreme difficulty of the work of mortification that Christ bids those desiring discipleship to “set down first and count the cost” (Luke 14:28). Nevertheless, we must settle it in our minds that either we must fight sin or be eternally lost.
If indwelling sin is to be subdued by the Christian, if temptations are to be successfully resisted, then, first, he must make a real effort daily to maintain in his mind a constant sense of the monstrous and outrageous wickedness of sin, as being that abominable thing which God hates. No believer will ever put forth his utmost endeavors against it while he regards sin lightly. We must strive to keep our conscience under the awe of God, for this is the great preventive against sin. Without this all other external rules and helps signify nothing, for “by the fear of the Lord men depart from evil” (Pro. 16:6). There must also be a diligent watching against the occasions of sin, against those things that excite our corruptions and tempt us to wrongdoing. We must see to it that we do not give sin an advantage by making provision for its lust. We must form the habit of nipping sin in the bud, resisting its first risings. That is more than half the battle, to heed promptly the convictions from the Spirit. Deep humility for past sins begets hatred of sin and caution against it (2 Cor. 7:11). Mediate often upon the vanity of the creature and the transitoriness of all earthly pleasures. The sweetest enjoyments this world has to offer are but fading flowers and withering grass. Cry mightily unto God for restraining grace (Psa. 19:13). Seek to get chastisements and afflictions sanctified unto your souls (Isa. 27:9; Heb. 12:11). And, finally, beg the Spirit to teach you and help you “Put on the whole armor of God” (Eph. 6:10-18). These points need to be carefully pondered if mortification is to become a reality.
Dr. Waiters can be reached at 704-636-3369.