Though I’m not a big fan of archaic language, I love the old theological term “mortification.” I’ve mentioned this before and I think it is important to keep coming back to: putting to death the sin that is still in us (i.e. Rom 8.13b). Along these lines, John Owen’s discussions of mortification are always helpful. Here are a few gems from his work on mortification (from RHB).
“Be killing sin, or it will be killing you.”
“One of the choicest and most eminent parts of practical, spiritual wisdom consists in finding out the subtleties, policies, and depths of any indwelling sin.”
“There is no death of sin without the death of Christ.”
“Hatred of sin as sin…[and] a sense of the love of Christ in the cross lie at the bottom of all true spiritual mortification.”
In one part, Owen talks about fighting sin in light of the gospel and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Here he talks about the futility of trying to fight sin by the law instead of the gospel.
“This is the saddest warfare that any poor creature can be engaged in. A soul under the power of conviction from the law, is pressed to fight against sin, but hath no strength for the combat. They cannot but fight, and they can never conquer; they are like men thrust on the sword of enemies, in purpose to be slain. The law drives them on, and sin beats them back. Sometimes they think indeed that they have foiled sin, when they have only raised a dust so that they see it not; that is, they distemper their natural affections of fear, sorrow, and anguish, which makes them believe that sin is conquered when it is not touched.”
What does the gospel then have to do with mortification?
“Let faith look on Christ in the gospel as he is set forth dying and crucified for us; look on him under the weight of our sins, praying, bleeding, dying; bring him in that condition into thy heart by faith; apply his blood, so shed, to thy corruptions; do this daily.”
A “made easier to read” version of this treatise by Owen is available in the Puritan Paperback series – and there even is a study guide for it. Or, you can get them both for under $10.