Change is painful. Even the best changes include loss in some degree.
Growing to be more Christ-like involves the change of integration. Integration is the process of taking the principles you profess to believe and living them out with an increasing consistency. In order to do this well, you have to be intentional; you must make a plan.
In Romans 8:13 the Apostle Paul tells us that we have the obligation to “put to death the misdeeds of the body.” This sounds like a radical action. The King James translation says to “mortify the flesh.” Building off this word, theologians of the seventeenth century often spoke of the difficult work of killing sin as the work of mortification. This concept corresponds to Paul’s instructions from Ephesians 4 to “put off the old man.” Putting to death the sinful appetites of our flesh is hard work. It means doing away with detrimental pursuits of lust, pride, ambition, riches, thirst for power, fear, and anxiety as well as a host of others.
Mortifying our sin calls for an intentional work of self-examination and implementation of life changes. The use of this strong verb speaks of getting serious about growing to be like Christ. It is hard to imagine a sincere Christian playing around at something Paul speaks of as killing. Yet Christians often lack the intentionality necessary for effective growth. To this end, John Owen, a Puritan pastor of the 1600’s, is credited with having said, “You must be killing sin, or it will be killing you.” Sin should be an object of our derision not a source of our comfort or entertainment. Many times we fail to put sin to death because we love our sin. We run to food (gluttony), sex or work to comfort our souls in times of emotional crises when we ought to be running to Christ.
The best method for putting our flesh to death is treasuring Christ. More on this in my next post. Between now and then, whenever you are tempted to be comforted by your sinful appetites think on Jesus, his loving sacrifices for you, and desire him more than you desire to please your flesh.