Be Killing Your Sin, part 3

Note: To read the previous posts in this series, click these links for Part 1 or Part 2.

Last week, we saw that one of the reasons why it is impossible to kill sin without the Holy Spirit is that, in John Owen’s words, the Spirit causes us to “grow, thrive, flourish, and abound in those graces which are contrary, opposite, and destructive to all the fruits of the flesh.” One of the works of the Spirit in the lives of believers is to produce in us His fruit, which is contrary to the passions of the flesh.

While we considered the role of the Spirit in last week’s post, this week we want to consider our role in killing sin. Read again this passage from Galatians 5, paying close attention to the final two verses in this passage:

[19] Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, [20] idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, [21] envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. [22] But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, [23] gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. [24] And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. [25] If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.

Galatians 5:19–25

After contrasting the works of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit, Paul gives us two crucial pieces of information, followed by one absolutely essential command.

The crucial information that Paul gives us is this: If you’re a Christian, you “belong to Christ Jesus,” and you “have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Romans 6 makes clear that those two are connected. It is because you belong to Christ Jesus that you have crucified the flesh with its passions. (See Romans 6:5–6.) This is huge news in the battle against sin! The truth is, because you have been united to Christ, you belong to Him, and your old self, your flesh with its passions and desires, has been crucified.

Now, Paul says, since that is true, we must “keep in step with the Spirit.”

Here’s what that means: Knowing that our flesh has been crucified, we now live by the Spirit and belong to Christ Jesus, therefore, Paul exhorts us, we must not go back to living by the “works of the flesh.” Instead, we are to keep in step with the Spirit by cultivating the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. We’re to have our conduct “in step with the truth of the gospel” (Gal. 2:14).

This is something that we’re to do. It’s true that we can only do it “by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25; Romans 8:13), and we do it because the flesh with its passions and desires has been already crucified in us through our union with Christ (Galatians 5:24, Romans 6:6–7, 8:9–10), but we still must do it. We’re to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit and reject the works of the flesh; we’re to “consider (ourselves) dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus,” and therefore to not let sin reign in our lives (Romans 6:11–12); we’re to actively put off sin and put on righteousness. And it’s this last analogy that’s especially helpful in this discussion.

The analogy comes from Colossians 3 and Ephesians 4. In Colossians 3, after telling believers that they “have died” with Christ in verse 3, Paul writes this in verses 5–17:

[5] Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. [6] On account of these the wrath of God is coming. [7] In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. [8] But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. [9] Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices [10] and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. [11] Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

[12] Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, [13] bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. [14] And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. [15] And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. [16] Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. [17] And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:5–17

First, see that he instructs us that because we have died with Christ (verse 3), we must put sins to death. That is, because of who we are in Christ, we cannot continue living in sin. We’re called to be who we are, which means we’re to put to death any sin that we see rear its head in our lives.

Second, notice the analogy that he then uses: “put off” and “put on” in verses 9, 10, and 12. It’s like changing clothes. It’s what identifies you; what you’re covered by, what you’re clothed in.

In Christ, the truth about is that we have put off the old self and we have put on the new self, and that new self is being renewed after the image of its creator (Christ! See Colossians 1:15–16). Since that is true, he tells us in verse 12 how we’re to live: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience….”

Because of who we are, we’re to actively put on Christlike traits while we actively “put away” (verse 8) those things that are “earthly” (verse 5) We’re commanded to replace what is earthly with what is godly, precisely because this is what is true about us in Christ: we have died to sin and we have been raised with Christ (Colossians 3:1–3).

So, what sins do you need to put off? And what corresponding Christlike traits do you need to put on in their place? These lists in Colossians 3 and Galatians 5 give us excellent starting places.

Let me encourage you to do the hard work of identifying some areas in your life that you need to address. Prayerfully work through these lists to identify sin in your life, and then identify the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 or the traits that Paul mentions in Colossians 3 that you need to put on in your life. Once you’ve done that, ask God to give you strength by His Spirit in you to follow through on what you identified. Ask Him to produce His fruit in your life. And then get to work, putting off what you need to put off, putting on what you need to put on. And finally, give God the praise for what He’s doing in your life.

Bert Watts has served since December 2016 as the Senior Pastor at Mountain Creek Baptist Church, where he has been on staff since 2012.

Photo by Jonathan Kemper on Unsplash