We will always get in trouble when we think too highly of ourselves and too lowly of our sin. We do this when we weigh our attitudes and actions on the scale of a fallen world. We think along these lines, A little frustration is normal….Who doesn’t feel lazy?…Sharing with a friend isn’t the same as gossip…Looking isn’t bad–as long as I’m not touching…I have “it” under control.
A major problem here is the basis for deciding what is good or bad. It is our perspective that matters. It ultimately depends on what we feel is “good” or “bad.” But, what if our perspective is off? What if part of the fall is a deceitful heart and warped reasoning? (Jer. 17:9-10)
Thankfully, God speaks into our lives and our circumstances. He does this with direct words, “For if you live by the flesh you will die..”(Rom 8.13) and by narratives that demonstrate the truth.
Consider the account of Joseph’s brothers. In Genesis 37 we learn that they were jealous of Joseph and that jealously grew to hatred (verses 1-8). But hatred is never dormant, it grows with exponential intensity. The hatred grew to a conspiracy to kill him (verses 18-20). The conspiracy acts, not with murder here, but with violence, abuse, and enslavement (verses 25ff).
Once they started governing the thermometer of their heart they were free to make any call they wanted. “Rough him up?” Sure. “Sell him?” Makes sense. “Lie to Dad and break his heart?” Whatever we need to do to be happy. Do you see how twisted this is?
John Owen famously wrote, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” This is exactly what we read in Romans, “for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but, if you by the Spirit put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Rom. 8.13) There is no neutrality here. We cannot just tolerate sin like some sort of pet. We cannot domesticate sin and make it our own. We must, says Paul, kill it. Too many Christians live in the passive realm. We do not fight against sin. We tolerate it. We make excuses for it. We label it. But the Bible says, “Kill it!”
Notice also that one consequence of living a Spirit filled life is that you will be living a sin-killing or sin-mortifying life. One cannot be led by the Spirit to a posture of ambivalence and apathy with regard to sin. The Spirit hates sin because he is the Holy Spirit!
Look at sin’s potential. It never intends to be small and cute, it always has plans to grow up and bring forth death (James 1:13-15).
Look at the Spirit’s priority. He always works to make his people holy (Rom. 8:29). He does this by leading us to slay sin and savor Christ.
One of the ways we know we are living a Spirit-led life is if we see evidence that it is a sin-killing life.