He spurns the world who conquers himself, who dies to his vices before he dies by nature, and is mortified in mind sooner than in body; for none can hate the world who spares himself; for it is in himself alone that he either loves or hates the world. He who is dead to carnal lusts has nothing of the world to love. Let us die by such a death, since it overtakes few, while that bodily death overtakes all.
- Columbanus, Sermon III, Irish, 7th century
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.
- Romans 6.12
If we want to know full and abundant life in Christ, the old, fleshly person in us must die.
More specifically, we have to finish him off, denying him the diet of sin and fleshly indulgences by which he thrives, and feeding our souls instead on the pure milk and solid food of the Word of God.
We have to refuse our eyes their lustful indulgences, our mouths their hurtful words, our bodies their wicked ways, our hearts their sinful dispositions, our minds their ugly thoughts, and everything else in us that would draw us aside from the pursuit of righteousness. Deny them. Starve them to death. One by one and day by day.
If we will not do this, we will not grow; and full and abundant life in Christ will forever elude us.
This is what Paul had in mind when he instructed us to “work out” our salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2.12). It is work, hard work to replace old, settled attitudes and behaviors, with new ones that express the righteousness of Jesus Christ. We must put to death and lay aside the one and be diligent to be clothed with the other (Eph. 4.17-24).
Paul does not merely suggest such a course; he commands it. If you are a Christian, he commands you. How, then, shall we carry out this charge? How can we conquer ourselves so that the new life we have in Jesus blossoms more brilliantly and consistently day by day?
First, we must hate the old sinful ways (Ps. 97.10). We can do this if we will remind ourselves, each time we are tempted, that these are the ways that nailed Jesus to the cross. The more we love Jesus, the less inclined we will be to sin against Him.
Next we must devote ourelves to learning the new paths marked out by the Word of God and the example of Christ (1 Jn. 2.1-6). This is a daily challenge, and requires that we develop and maintain the discipline of daily feeding on the Word of God.
Then, day by day, the battle can be engaged, the battle that finds us denying the old self any place on the field of our lives, and that raises the banner of Christ and His righteousness over all we are, think, say, and do.
It’s a struggle, to be sure. But we can make progress in it, and one day this struggle will be won. We must look to Jesus, rest in His Word, rely on His Spirit, and take every next small step of faith to live as He would have us live.
The challenge is to conquer our old selves and to be clothed with the righteousness of Jesus.
There is no middle ground: either we are waging all-out war against sin and the old self, or we are losing ground, and the full and abundant life that Jesus has prepared for us is slipping away.
How is it with you?
1. What do you consider the most important evidences of recent growth in your walk with the Lord?
2. How would you counsel a new believer to put to death the old self with its sinful lusts and ways?
Psalm 26.8-12 (Aberystwyth: Jesus, Lover of My Soul)
Lord, I love Your dwelling place, there where all Your glory shines.
Keep my soul before Your face, lest for sinful way it pine.
As for me in righteousness, I shall walk on level ground.
Save me, Lord! Renew and bless! Let me with Your Church be found.
Lord, help me to fight the good fight and gain the victory over my old self so that I…
Know Him, Love Him, Serve Him
Two books can help you in your desire to grow in your walk with and work for the Lord. To Know Him will help you to see Jesus and meditate on His beauty and love for you. Order your free copy by clicking here. Know, Love, Serve will help you set up a comprehensive plan for learning and growing in the highest thing. A free copy is available by clicking here.
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