While the battle is long and fierce, “He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world.” Therefore we should expect to see frequent successes shown in significant and measurable victories over our sin. “Frequent success against any lust is another part and evidence of mortification. By success I understand not a mere disappointment of sin, that it be not brought forth nor accomplished, but a victory over it and pursuit of it to a complete conquest.”
To become a Christian is to accept the lifelong challenge of becoming who you are — of putting sin to death and growing in holiness. Today I want to channel a little John Owen and tell you three things you ought to expect when battling sin.
Expect that the Battle Will Be Long
Owen says that putting sin to death consists of “a habitual weakening of sin,” and I take this to mean that over time and through our habits we chip away at our sin bit-by-bit and day-by-day. Rather than expecting sin to be destroyed in a moment, we expect that it will take time and focused effort. In this way putting sin to death is relative to our maturity as Christians and to the amount of time we have dedicated to battling a particular sin. He says, “The first thing in mortification is the weakening of this habit of sin or lust, that it shall not, with that violence, earnestness, frequency, rise up, conceive, tumultuate, provoke, entice, disquiet as naturally as it is apt to do.”
He has this amazing quote that is quite an indictment of humanity: “The reason why a natural man is not always perpetually in the pursuit of some one lust, night and day, is because he has many to serve, every one crying to be satisfied; thence he is carried on with great variety, but still in general he lies toward the satisfaction of self.”
He also makes a very helpful comparison between putting sin to death and a man being executed on a cross:
As a man nailed to the cross he ﬁrst struggles and strives and cries out with great strength and might, but, as his blood and spirits waste, his strivings are faint and seldom, his cries low and hoarse, scarce to be heard; when a man ﬁrst sets on a lust or distemper, to deal with it, it struggles with great violence to break loose; it cries with earnestness and impatience to be satisﬁed and relieved; but when by mortiﬁcation the blood and spirits of it are let out, it moves seldom and faintly….