Killing the Enemy Within You, Part I (Colossians 3:5) | Jared Betts

Killing The Enemy Within You, Part I (Colossians 3:1-11) – YouTube

We Must Mortify Our Sin

As we can see by our text, we will be briefly veering off from our study in the book of Acts. It seemed fitting to do this not merely as a follow up with all that Alec took the time to expound upon during his three weeks with us in 1 John 3, but primarily to expand upon how we can be living considering the truth we last left off with, which is that Christ is coming back for His people without reference to their sin.[1] How then should we live in light of this reality? 1 Thessalonians 5:23 says:

23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Titus 2:11-14:

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.”

1 Peter 1:13-16:

13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

1 John 2:28:

28 Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.”

1 John 3:2-3:

Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”

Are you being sanctified? Are you denying ungodliness and worldly desires and living sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age? Are you striving to be holy like the One who called you? Are you desiring to abide in Him so that you might have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming? Are you wanting to be pure just as He is pure? Then as Colossians 3:5 says in the New American Standard Bible:

“Consider the members of your earthly body as dead…”[2]

To be honest, I believe this translation does not quite grasp the fulness of what Paul is saying. The literal rendering of this text calls for those who have been raised up with Christ, which is exclusively believers, to “put to death the members which are upon the earth.” This is not merely a consideration that remains only in the mental realm. It certainly begins there, but it does not end there. This is a prime example of orthopraxy pouring forth from orthodoxy. Sound living coming from sound doctrine. Sound doctrine (Orthodoxy) without sound living (Orthopraxy) is hypocrisy, and living without any consideration of sound doctrine is foolish arrogance, because at that point a person leans upon and lives according to their own understanding, which is sheer stupidity given our fallen nature and propensity toward evil, as well as a clear command by God not to do so. Proverbs 3:5-8:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your body
And refreshment to your bones.”

Sound doctrine is the foundation of a sound life. Any life without it is doomed. It is essential to sound living. It was Martin Lloyd-Jones who insisted that:

“To attempt to deal with Christian practice in isolation from Christian doctrine is to tread a dangerous path.”[3]

Let us ask ourselves, “How do we lead sanctified, sensible, righteous, godly, holy and pure lives, so that we might prove what the will of God is, “which is good and acceptable and perfect”?[4] We refuse to be conformed to this world by being transformed by the renewing of our minds, by the washing of water with the word,[5] and put to death the deeds of the body. The King James Version translates Colossians 3:5 as, “Mortify, therefore, your members.” To consider, to put to death, to mortify, all are translated from the Greek word Nekro­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ō.[6] It is from the root of this word we get the word Necrosis, which is a medical term describing the death of all, or nearly all, cells within an organ or tissue. To biblically mortify, is to deprive a thing of its power, to destroy its strength, to make dead, to put to death, to slay. When we consider the letter to the Colossians, Paul is saying this, “You who have been raised with Christ. Seek Him and set your mind on Him and kill the enemy within you for the life you now live is Christ’s!” This should not surprise us given what Paul says in Romans after he answers the question, “Should we continue in sin, so that we might experience more of God’s grace?” The answer is an emphatic, “God forbid! May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?”[7] Paul goes on to say in verse 8-13 of the same chapter:

Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.”

He says in Romans 13:12-14:

12 The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”

It was Charles Spurgeon that said:

“If Christ has died for me – ungodly as I am, without strength as I am – then I can no longer live in sin, but must arouse myself to love and serve Him who has redeemed me. I cannot trifle with the evil that killed my best Friend. I must be holy for his sake. How can I live in sin when He has died to save me from it?”

The Christian is called to a life of progressive sanctification striving to mortify sin in their members. This sermon will primarily emphasize the why and what of the mortification of sin with a glimpse of the how, and next week will emphasize the how of it.


Why Must Our Sin Be Mortified?

The mortification of sin is not a popular topic among contemporary Christianity today. There is a “just as I am” mentality today which shuns progressing in holiness. Such a thought process runs dangerously close to antinomian thought; a way of thought that Jude warned about, which turns the grace of God into licentiousness.[8] This is a cheap grace, which prompts unregenerate men and women who are self-deceived to lay claim to salvation while relishing sin. Just a Paul said to Titus, “They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him.”[9] Tragically, many who merely profess Christ as Lord will experience a day when they are thrust from His presence, because they were workers of lawlessness and never did the Father’s will. Their failure to shun sin and seek holiness demonstrated that they never knew Jesus, and He never knew them.[10] A lack of mortifying their sin evidenced ingenuine conversion. Galatians 5:24 says:

24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

As John says when calling his audience to examine their manner of life to assess whether they have eternal life:[11]

1:This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth… 3:In Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him…No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”[12]

Christ makes new creatures with new affections set on Him. Many of us are familiar with 2 Corinthians 5:17 says:

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

These new creatures are being renewed day by day,[13] and as Paul says in Colossians 3:10-11, the new self:

“Is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— 11 a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.”

Christ did not save His people merely so that they could escape the penalty of their sin. He saved them from its power over them as well. He came so that they might have life, and that they might live it abundantly.[14] Jesus Christ devoted Himself not only to our justification, but also to our sanctification. Ephesians 5:25-26 says that Christ:

“Loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.”

Any mind set, therefore, that is against the mortification of sin is hostile to God, and contrary to Christ.[15] Jesus clearly taught on the mortification of sin. Matthew 5:29-30:

29 If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.”

Jesus tells us to radically deal with sin in our life not just for our own sake, but for the sake of others. In His hyperbolic teaching on mortifying sin, Jesus tells us that the best thing that could possibly happen to us if we cause another to fall into sin, is to be thrust into the sea with a 3,000-pound millstone hung around our neck.[16] Jesus says to cut it off. Just as Samuel hacked King Agag to pieces, so too must we drastically mortify sin in our lives.

Why the severity? God is light and in Him there is no darkness. He is holy. He is pure. He, therefore, hates sin for it is contrary to His character and nature. If we recall a quote from Jonathan Edwards:

“As God delights in His own beauty, He must necessarily delight in the creature’s holiness which is a conformity to and participation of it.”

Where should one go in the Scripture to gaze upon the greatest demonstration of God’s hot and holy hatred for sin? Should they go to the account of the flood when He destroys the wicked world with water?[17] No. Should they go to the account of His desecrating Sodom and Gomorrah?[18] No. Should they go to the foot of Mount Sinai to see His justice poured out on those who worshipped something other then Him?[19] No. Should they go to the conquest of Canaan when His wrath was being poured out on its inhabitants through His people?[20] No. The greatest demonstration of God’s hatred of sin is not found in the Old Testament, but the New. It is seen at calvary. It is seen on the cross when the Son of God, the Christ, became our sin to expiate the holy hatred of God toward it, so that all who turn from themselves and trust in Him might be freely saved. Christ bore our sin on His body on the cross to satisfy the wrath of God upon Himself in our stead.

Edwards said:

“Never did God so manifest His hatred of sin as in the death and suffering of His only begotten Son. Hereby He showed Himself unappeasable to sin, and that it was impossible for Him to be at peace with it.”

John Flavel said:

“If ever you wish to see how great and horrid and evil sin is, measure it in your thoughts, either by the infinite holiness and excellency of God, who is wronged by it; or by the infinite sufferings of Christ, who died to satisfy for it; and then you will have deeper apprehensions of its enormity.”

Since God hates sin, so should we.

            I want us to consider another familiar portion of Scripture. Ephesians 4:26-27:

26 Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity.”

There is a common interpretation of this passage which goes something like this, “It is okay to be angry, so long as you make sure to deal with that anger before you go to bed. If you go to sleep without dealing with your anger ” I would like to offer you a different interpretation. This interpretation may be new to you, but it is not new to the church. It is a view that has been held by reputable men throughout the history of the church. What we are reading here in Ephesians is a command to be angry. In fact, it is a command to be angry continually. Never let the sun go down on this anger. In other words, “Always let the light shine on it!” The question is this, what are believers always to be angry with? Their sin! Why should we be angry at our sin? Christ’s greatest concern for you is that you be conformed to Him, which means that your greatest concern is to be the same. It is to be, as Paul says two verse prior:

“Renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”

Be angry, and do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger. Do not wink at sin and make light it. Proverbs 14:9 says that fools, and fools alone, mock at sin. Be angry with it, for it hinders your conforming to the image of Christ. Spurgeon said:

“Look to the cross, and hate your sin, for sin nailed your Well Beloved to the tree. Look up to the cross, and you will kill sin, for the strength of Jesus’ love will make you strong to put down your tendencies to sin.”

J.C. Ryle said:

“Surely that man must be in an unhealthy state of soul who can think of all that Jesus suffered, and yet cling to those sins for which that suffering was undergone. It was sin that wove the crown of thorns – it was sin that pierced our Lord’s hands, and feet, and side – it was sin that brought Him to Gethsemane and Calvary, to the cross and to the grave. Cold must our hearts be if we do not hate sin and labor to get rid of it.”


What is the Mortification of Sin?

Let us answer this question, what exactly is the mortification of sin? Simply put, mortifying sin is depriving sin of life before it deprives you of yours. This is not any enemy without, but an enemy within. What is the clear teaching of Scripture about the condition of the human heart? It is the powerhouse of sin! Genesis 6:5 tells us that our hearts are persistently wicked:

Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

Jesus says in Mark 7:21-23:

21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. 23 All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”

Listen to how God describes this enemy within you during His dialogue with Cain in Genesis 4:7:

“Sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

It is a formidable opponent. It was J.C. Ryle that said:

“So deeply planted are the roots of human corruption, that even after we are born again, renewed, “washed, sanctified, justified,” and made living members of Christ, these roots remain alive in the bottom of our hearts, and, like the leprosy in the walls of the house, we never get rid of them until the earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved. Sin, no doubt, in the believer’s heart, has no longer dominion. It is checked, controlled, mortified, and crucified by the expulsive power of the new principle of grace. The life of a believer is a life of victory, and not of failure. But the very struggles which go on within his bosom, the fight that he finds it needful to fight daily, the watchful jealousy which he is obliged to exercise over his inner man, the contest between the flesh and the spirit, the inward “groanings” which no one knows but he who has experienced them – all, all testify to the same great truth, all show the enormous power and vitality of sin. Mighty indeed must that foe be who even when crucified is still alive!”[21]

What is the mortification of sin? It is dominating sin so that it does not dominate you. It is aiming to annihilate it so that no longer moves within us beckoning us to do its bidding. Sinclair Ferguson describes it as this:

“What then is the killing of sin? It is the constant battle against sin which we fight daily-the refusal to allow the eye to wander, the mind to contemplate, the affections to run after anything which will draw us away from Christ.  It is the deliberate rejection of any sinful thought, suggestion, desire, aspiration, deed, circumstance or provocation at the moment we become conscience of its existence.”

We understand that it is not possible for us to achieve sinless perfection in this life, but that should not produce apathy and a lack of action, for that is not pleasing to God and it preys upon His grace.

We need to consider this sobering truth about sanctification, which entails the seeking to mortify sin in our lives. Romans 6:22 says:

22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.”

Romans 8:13 says:

“If you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

Hebrews 12:14 says:

14 Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.”

What these verses are saying is that without sanctification and the killing of the flesh, no one will live eternally. Without holiness of life, no one will see God. Does this mean that mortification of sin earns salvation? No. It means that the mortification of sin is the evidence of it. Tom Ascol says it best:

“What it means is that the grace that brings salvation trains us “to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:12). The grace that provides justification for us works sanctification in us.”[22]

The justified will be sanctified. If you are not being sanctified, you have not been justified. Those who have been made right with God will seek sanctification. They will desire to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and living sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age. They will strive to be holy like the One who called them. They will aim to abide in Him so that they might have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. They will pursue purity just as He is pure.


Kill or Be Killed

It is no surprise that the renowned puritan theologian, John Owen, penned these words in his work, The Mortification of Sin:

“The choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, should also make it their business all of their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin…Do you mortify? Do you make it your daily work? You must always be at it while you live; do not take a day off from this work; always be killing sin or it will be killing you.”[23]

To sum up Owen’s words, kill or be killed! Are you killing sin, or is it killing you? How do we mortify sin? How can we be saved from these bodies of death? The answer is profoundly simple, by the work of Christ and the power of the Spirit in you and through you. Recall Romans 8:13:

“If you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

Galatians 5:16-17:

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.”

You say, “Yeah, but how does that look practically?” We will deal with that in the next segment. For now, you who have been raised with Christ seek Him and set your mind on Him and strive to kill sin within you.[24] Fix your eyes on Christ, who knew no sin, and lay aside the sin which so easily entangles you so that you may run with endurance the race that is set before you.[25] Work out your salvation with fear and trembling understanding that God is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.[26] 2 Corinthians 7:1 says:

“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

1 Peter 2:11:

11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.”

May our prayer today be like Anselm’s many years ago:

“O Lord our God, grant us grace to desire Thee with our whole heart; that, so desiring, we may seek, and seeking find Thee; and so finding Thee may love Thee; and in loving Thee, may hate those sins from which Thou hast redeemed us.”


[1] Hebrews 9:2

[2] Colossians 3:5a

[3] Christian Marriage: From Basic Principles to Transformed Relationships, D.M. Lloyd-Jones; Page vii

[4] Romans 12:2b

[5] Ephesians 5:26

[6] Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, NT Number: G3499

[7] Romans 6:1-2

[8] Jude 4

[9] Titus 1:16

[10] Matthew 7:21-23

[11] 1 John 5:13

[12] 1 John 1:5-6; 3:5-6,9

[13] 2 Corinthians 4:16

[14] John 10:10

[15] Romans 8:6-8

[16] Mark 9:42

[17] Genesis 6-7

[18] Genesis 19

[19] Exodus 32

[20] Joshua

[21] Holiness, J.C. Ryle; Page 7

[22] Kill Your Sin – Founders Ministries

[23] The Mortification of Sin: Abridged, John Own; Page 5

[24] Colossians 3:1-5

[25] Hebrews 12:1-2

[26] Philippians 2:12-13

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