A question that I’ve been asked a lot in recent weeks is this:

Why should Christians bother to resist sinning, if they are saved by God’s grace?

When Christians act as though Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross gives us a free pass to sin, we fail to recognise the cost of the sacrifice, the divine identity of the giver, and the depths of the love which motivated Him! Yet we also fail to understand the destructive nature of sin itself. So I love the vivid example that John Owen gives in answer to this question:

“Is it not a madness for a man willingly to suffer the ship wherein he is, to split itself on a rock – to the irrecoverable loss of his merchandise, because he supposes he shall in his own person swim safely to shore on a plank? Is this less in him who will hazard the shipwreck of all his comfort, peace, joy, and so much of the glory of God, and the honour of the gospel as he is entrusted with, merely on supposition that his soul shall yet escape?”

(Overcoming Sin & Temptation, John Owen, pg 184)

drowningIf Owen’s antiquated language is off putting – here is my humble paraphrase:

Continuing in deliberate sin once we are followers of Christ is as stupid as saying that we’d happily endure the pain, terror, and loss of being shipwrecked and losing every possession that we have, because we’re guaranteed not to die in the process!

Any sane person would take precautions not to be shipwrecked in the first place because, given the choice, who would willingly choose the loss of everything but life, when you could arrive safely ashore with great possessions, peace, and comfort, and to great glory and honour?

What a powerful picture to show us the bizarre and foolish risk we embrace when we use salvation as an excuse to sin without punishment, instead of resisting it with Christ’s help, avoiding destruction and enjoying all the blessings of his wisdom, help, and goodness towards us!



Killing It

“Be killing sin or it will be killing you” – John Owen


What lies do you tell yourself about your habitual sins?

Here are some of mine:

It’s not that bad

I can’t help it

Everybody does it

I can control it

If God provided what I need (want) I wouldn’t have to resort to this

I’ll deal with it another day

What gospel truths do you use to excuse your sin?

Jesus died to forgive my sins

I’m saved by grace, not works

I mustn’t be legalistic about holiness

But when I look in the mirror of God’s word – alongside the challenging words of John Owen –  I can’t help but see the ugly realities of my heart:

Holiness and obedience aren’t my top priorities

I’m too lazy to deal with sin

I don’t want to fast and battle in prayer

I’m reluctant to take a hard look at my heart because I know the Holy Spirit will reveal things I’d rather ignore

I prize my own comfort/ entertainment/individual sins too much to seriously deal with them

I don’t believe my sin is dangerous to me

Wow. Told you it’s ugly. How greatly we need Jesus!

King David saw things clearly in Psalm 51 after a period of grievous sin. His words hint at the discipline he faced as he resisted repentance:

Let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation

Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed

He feels crushed, he has lost joy in salvation, and the vibrancy of God’s Spirit within.

“Be killing sin or it will be killing you”

As long as we leave our sin undealt with, it will grow, doing more and more damage to us, and to others. Our hearts will become hard and indifferent to it, and God’s Spirit will quieten.…do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Ephesians 40:30

Do we want to persist in grieving God’s Spirit? I know I can’t do without God’s presence and work in my life, and I want to please him. I don’t want to be defeated or kept bound by sin. But in letting my sins remain without some serious spiritual weeding, I threaten the growth of good spiritual fruit in my life.

More seriously, I insult Jesus my saviour, and cheapen his sacrifice at the cross, by continuing in the sins he died for. – he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5) – That’s the terrible reality of what we do when we ignore sin! As Christians we are called to war against our sin, not to live comfortably with it.

One of the things I’ve been challenged to see, is that saying sorry regularly about sins I give in to, is not the same thing as true repentance which sets out to kill sin. The diagnosis is serious, and so the cure must be.

David’s Repentance

David now knows what he must do, and he returns to his God in repentance, for help:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.

Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Coming to God for help with sin is vital. We must fight, but we need God’s spirit to be at work or our efforts will be futile! “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41

How does God respond when we stand to fight, to kill sin with his help?

 … a broken and contrite heart  you, God, will not despise. Psalm 51:17

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

The True Sin Killer

This is not a call for us to fight sin in our own strength, but an appeal to recognise the continual need to fight it with God’s enabling. Let’s be encouraged that it is God’s Spirit at work in us who empowers us to recognise, repent of, and kill sin. He causes us to know and love Christ, and empowers us with the knowledge of God. And there is much to be gained as we do so! But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Galatians 5:16

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. Romans 8:13

Owen says that the person preparing to kill sin should cultivate a deep longing for freedom from it. I long to know all I can of God’s love, fellowship, and faithful work in me, and my prayer is that God will increase this longing. Along with King David I pray “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me”

Let us kill sin that we may know life in all its fullness!


And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6

P.S I recommend Overcoming Sin & Temptation – a modern edit of Owens’ classic works on this subject