Sermon text here
This week’s song: In Him There Is No Darkness by the Loverlies
The danger in this modern age of preaching sermons on making war on sin, is that to so many who listen, it becomes interpreted as a call to a legalistic view of salvation. But I think listening to Spurgeon’s words it is clear: seeking after holiness is not what is required in order to be saved, it is a result of being saved. Jesus’ own words, after all, were “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.” The Gospel is our redemption from sin—and now that we are redeemed? We are free! To steal a Matt Chandler line: we do not have to say yes to our sin. Moreover, we must actively and constantly be seeking to say no to it, and to murder the desire to perform it as it sneaks up on us as we sit passively, unaware and off guard.
So the warning to Christians is one of constantly testing yourself against the holiness of Christ, and of running to the cross constantly, over and over again, to bring that dead old self, those wicked desires that governed us before, to the place where Jesus died to pay the price they bring on the heads of all mankind.
The great theologian John Owen famously wrote in his book The Mortification of Sin, “Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.” It is dangerous to take the words of a man as deeply written and thought-out as Owen and try to pry out one phrase apart from its context, but I believe there are two ways we might take such an idea. The first is in the sense that if a believer is not making active war on his own sin, then he will find that sin instead slowly poisons his spiritual life, until it is all gone but for a flicker that may serve as a nagging ache, a spark that God will hopefully, in His abundant mercy, one day blow into a raging fire in the heart of this wayward believer, and through which all things, even the believer’s backsliding, will indeed work for the good of this one who loves God and has been called according to His purpose, even though he ran.
The second way, may be taken as a marker between the life of a believer who is in Christ, and an unbeliever, maybe who even with his mouth claims to know Jesus, but in his heart pays Christ no service. If we see someone who claims to know Jesus and believe in Him, but who makes no effort whatsoever to kill the sin that fills his life, who rejects calls to seek holiness and instead believes that he’s had his ticket punched so he doesn’t have to worry about all that, we should be bringing the truth of the Gospel all the more to bear on this person because the truth is, they are showing signs that they do not know Jesus. If you love your sin, if you believe that you can both love Jesus and still serve that which His Word clearly calls wicked, then you are deceived. You could take Jesus’ words from Luke 16 and His declaration that a servant who tries to serve two masters will only end up seeing one as wicked and the other as lovely, and extend it from money to all forms of sinfulness.
Does this mean that a Christian white-knuckles his way through life, trying not to do anything wrong? Of course not—this is why we have the Gospel! The truth is that Jesus has paid for our sins and therefore, we can feel that urge to do whatever it is that leads us into selfish, fleshly actions, whatever those may be, and instead do exactly what we talked about in the last episode: Look! We can look to the cross, and know that on that cross the real work that sets us free has been done, and we can walk away from sin. We can endure all other consequences knowing that we are covered by the blood of Jesus. And we can make war on sin, even the most besetting ones, the ones that society believes are just normal and natural and you shouldn’t even try to get rid of them—those most of all, we can drag to the cross and let them be nailed there to die, and we can love Jesus with all of our beings. We can let that love grow, and rest fully in His goodness, grace and mercy.