The Holy Spirit as Mortifier

“For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” (Rom. 8:13)

“Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Col. 3:5)

The question arises, “How does a person mortify the deeds of the body?”

The answer is found in Scripture. What God has commanded to be done, He provides the means of grace to accomplish His will. In particular, the apostle Paul sets forth the resources that God gives in order to perform that which He has commanded.

British preacher Sinclair Ferguson says that often Christians go to the Bible to find out what to do, and then go to the Christian bookstore to find out, how to do, what they are supposed to do. But, there is no need. God does tell Christians how to perform His will.

If I were to say, “So Paul, teach me how, through the Spirit, I am able to put to death the deeds of the body that war against the soul,” Paul would say, “I want you to focus on three grand truths.”

The first grand truth, is to understand that the Spirit of God begins to create in the heart of the Christian spiritual awareness, to help put to death sin in our lives.

We need to do it.
The first act of creation, by the Holy Spirit in the soul of a Christian is a dawning awareness that there is a need to mortify the flesh. It is inappropriate to live in the old way. We do need to get rid of sin, immediately.

We can do it.
The second act of creation, by the Holy Spirit in the soul of a Christian is a conviction that we can mortify the flesh. Not only should we put sin to death, we can do that. Though the flesh will violently resist being mortified, the victory belongs to the Lord. This is the teaching of Romans 6. The flesh is mortified by remembering our new position in Christ (v. 1-10), by counting our victory by faith as a fact (v. 11-12), and by not yielding to sin’s temptations (v. 13).

We are responsible to do it.
The third act of creation, by the Holy Spirit in the soul is a realization that we are responsible to do what God has commanded. While salvation and sanctification is ultimately of the Lord, there is a measure of human responsibility. There is self-sanctification. “Ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Rom. 8:13). Mortification of sin is not a passive work of grace, but an active wielding of the instruments of grace by faith. The ministry of the Holy Spirit does not reduce human responsibility to be obedient to the will of the Lord. Rather, the Holy Spirit energizes me to do what is right. “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:12)

We want to do it.
The fourth act of creation, by the Holy Spirit in the soul, is a sincere desire to do that which is pleasing to the Lord. We want to mortify the flesh. We want to stop making provisions for the flesh. We want to stop yielding our bodies to be instruments of unrighteousness. Grace changes the direction of the heart, and the desires of the heart. That is what the Spirit creates, a desire to be like Christ.

The second grand truth is to understand that it is the Spirit of God who begins to work in the heart “both to will and to do his good pleasure” (Rom. 8:13). Apart from this divine initiative, and undertaking, the flesh will reap what it sows, death. We sow a thought, we reap an action, and that action produces a character. We sow a character and that character reaps a life. We sow a life, and that life reaps a destiny. People sin and mess their lives up because they fix their eyes on the immediate rather than gaze upon their final destiny. The Holy Spirit comes to tell us to fix our attention on the eternal, not the temporal. There is a final destiny of the soul.

Sinclair Ferguson tells of a seminary professor who would begin his class on Practical Theology with an unusual assignment for the students. He would tell the students, on the first day of class, to take out a clean sheet of paper, and, for the next thirty minutes, write on it their obituary notice. The professor was not being clever. He was teaching the potential pastors to focus attention on their final destiny, and to live life in light of eternity.

The third grand truth is to understand it that it is the Spirit of God who focuses attention upon the death of Christ. Because Christ for our sins, how then, can we continue to live in sin? The Holy Spirit shines His attention on the Lord Jesus and on the fact that Christ came to die for our sins. To willfully continue to do evil negates the great work of redemption, and that is unthinkable for a Christian. The death of Christ becomes a grand reason to leave sin.

With three grands truths and four gospel motives embedded in the heart, Paul continues in Romans 8 to remind Christians that the Spirit of God is the Holy Spirit of God. Christians are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. They are no longer in the flesh, but in the Spirit.

“But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” “And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” (Rom. 8:9-11)

Not only are Christians indwelt by the Holy Spirit, they are members of the body of Christ. For this reason Christians are to be very careful of sexual sins less they drag Christ into the brothel of immorality when immorality is committed. When a Christian goes to an inappropriate website, or visits someone for immoral purposes, they cannot leave Christ on the outside while they commit sin for they are members of His body. So they drag, as it were Christ into the brothel, to their shame. Therefore, Christian, “fell fornication!”

“Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. 16 What? Know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? For two, saith he, shall be one flesh. 17 But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. 18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. 19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Cor. 6:15-20)

When this truth becomes a conscious reality, the Holy Spirit will use it to help conquer sin and flee temptation for the promise is given, that, “if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Rom. 8:13). May, by God’s grace we grow in the Spirit.

Living as Strangers


1 PETER 2:11-25

     11 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;

With a pastor’s heart, Peter speaks to the church as “dearly beloved”. Because every saved soul is still in need of sanctification, the apostle pleads for God’s people to abstain from fleshly lusts, because they war against the soul.

War Against the Soul

Fleshly desires war against the soul by multiplying, and growing like a mighty conquering army. Sensual desires unite with Pride, Covetousness, Greed, Willfulness, and Evil Communication, to grieve the Holy Spirit, subdue any expression of true spirituality, and eventually harden the heart to any form of divine rebuke, resulting in the sin unto death. “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep [are dead].” (1 Cor. 11:30)

Fleshly desires war against the soul by suggesting invisible spiritual treaties which prove to be deceitful, and eventually bind the will to enslave it with a sense of helplessness. The main provisions of these unholy alliances of the soul with the flesh, is a promise the will shall prevail against God, and shall be followed by pleasure. The pattern established in the Garden of Eden with Eve has not changed. Despite the known will of God “when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (Gen. 3:6). Because sin enslaves the soul, Christ must come to set the captives free (Luke 4:18).

Fleshly desires war against the soul by demanding to be served as lord and master. The attempt is to dethrone Christ. Those who have only a form of godliness but no vital spiritual power, will yield their bodies as instruments of unrighteousness with predictable results. Some will “creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts “2 Tim 3:6). Others will be “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7). Those who are losing the war against the soul will be marked with some, or all of the following characteristics.

    • Lovers of their own selves
    • Covetous
    • Boasters
    • Proud
    • Blasphemers
    • Disobedient to parents
    • Unthankful
    • Unholy
    • Without natural affection
    • Trucebreakers
    • False accusers
    • Incontinent
    • Fierce
    • Despisers of those that are good
    • Traitors
    • Heady
    • High-minded
    • Lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God

     12 Having your conversation [manner of life] honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.

Once more Peter contrasts evil with good in order to exhort the Church to good works, while providing two strong gospel motives for a life of holiness.

Gospel motive one. Those who speak evil, or in an injurious manner against the Christian, will have no legitimate basis for their accusation when a holy life is lived. “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.” (Isa. 54:17)

Gospel motive two. A good life can lead to the conversion of someone. It was the teaching of Christ to love all, and to pray for those who lashed out to hurt. A passive response to evil is not natural to the flesh, for the law of the spiritual jungle is “eye for eye” and “tooth for tooth.” Only by having the love of God shed abroad in the heart can there be any hope of a proper gospel response, and effective witnessing leading to the conversion of the sinner. “And of some have compassion, making a difference: 23 And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” (Jude 22)

     13 Submit [obey] yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;

     14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.

     15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:

The laws of a federal, state, or local government may be harsh, and unreasonable, but when civil authorities are submitted to with a sweet spirit in the name of Jesus, the soul is well pleasing to the Lord. The poet Cowper said, “Behind a frowning providence He hides a shining face.”

     16 As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness [badness], but as the servants of God.

The relationship between the believer, and the state, is basically one of submission. There is precedent in the scriptures for civil disobedience when the law of God has been violated. When forbidden to preach the name of Christ at the sake of being punished, Peter let it be known he planned to do what was right and suffer the consequences.

“And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, 28 Saying, Did not we straightly command you that ye should not teach in this name? And, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. 29 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:27-29)

In the name of conscience, and for the sake of Christ, the believer must never use political liberties, and Christ’s freedoms, for a cloke of maliciousness. It is possible for the gospel to be abused, which is why many restrictions and prohibitions are given to the church, not only for consideration, but for implementation as servants of God, and also to silence the voice of foolish individuals who oppose the gospel. Sometimes Christians are their own worse enemies, for they want to provoke needlessly, or remain willfully stubborn, or unwisely obstinate.

     17 Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.

The fear of God is something that must be taught.

“Then one of the priests whom they [the Assyrians] had carried away from Samaria came and dwelt in Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the LORD.” (2 Kings 17:28)

” Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD.” (Psalms 34:11)

Six Ways to Show God is Feared

God is feared, when it is remembered He is able to destroy both body and soul. Luke 12:5 But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.

God is feared when there is a rational, and emotional response to natural elements and animals divinely directed.

“And Israel saw that great work which the LORD did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD, and his servant Moses.” (Exodus 14:31)

“So Samuel called unto the LORD; and the LORD sent thunder and rain that day: and all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel.” (1 Sam. 12:18)

“And so it was at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they feared not the LORD: therefore the LORD sent lions among them, which slew some of them.” (2 Kings 17:25)

God is feared, when the threats of men fade before knowledge of the divine will, and the heart knows it is better to obey God, than to violate His know will. 1 Kings 18:3 And [King] Ahab called Obadiah, which was the governor of his house. (Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly: 4 For it was so, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the LORD, that Obadiah took an hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water.) John Witherspoon wrote, “It is only the fear of God that can deliver us from the fear of man.”

God is feared when the absence of His presence is threatened to be withdrawn. Following his great sin with Bathsheba, king David pleaded with God saying, “take not thy holy spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11).

God is feared, when a particular temptation is fled knowing it will offend the Lord. When Joseph was tempted to sexual immorality he asked Potiphar’s wife, “how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Gen 39:9)

God is feared, when He is spoken of to others with reverence and awe. “Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.” (Mal. 3:16)

     18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward [warped].

The relationship between labor, and management, can be strained if laborers are exploited and just compensation is not given for work done. Realizing injustices will be generated the gospel instructs Christians to bear patiently these reproaches in order to receive the praise of God.

     19 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.

     20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.

The apostle clearly teaches that what is acceptable, and pleasing to God, is when a verbal or physical injustice has been borne by the Christian that endures grief, and wrongful suffering without seeking revenge, or an audience to vent to. While the Christian suffers wrongfully the believer must be careful not to inflict wrong on others.

“As I watched them tear a building down A gang of men in a busy town With a ho-heave-ho, and a lusty yell They swung a beam and the side wall fell

I asked the foreman,
“Are these men skilled,
And the men you’d hire
if you wanted to build?”

He gave a laugh and said, “No, indeed, Just common labor is all I need.”
“I can easily wreck in a day or two, What builders have taken years to do.”

And I thought to myself,
as I went my way Which of these roles have I tried to play?
Am I a builder who works with care, Measuring life by rule and square?
Am I shaping my work to a well-made plan Patiently doing the best I can?
Or am I a wrecker who walks to town Content with the labor of tearing down?

“O Lord let my life and my labors be That which will build for eternity!”

Author Unknown

     21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

The way Christ accepted suffering as part of the will of the Father is for our example. The Father has many lessons to teach the Christian, some of which can only be learned through the process of suffering. “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world” (C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain).

For those who do not think God wants Christians to suffer, this passage alone should silence that concept. There is a place for pain and suffering in the will of God over which He is sovereign, and directs it for His own good purposes.

  22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:

23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:

One of the most difficult courses of actions in the face of unjust criticism is to remain silent. The natural tendency is to defend, explain, and justify. The gospel command is to decline to return the rhetorical rhetoric in kind, and make no threats, but commit the matter to the Father who will judge righteously. If any type of retributive justice is in order, God has taken that responsibility upon Himself. “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Rom 12:19).

     24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

During the time of the Old Testament economy, on the Day of Atonement, a goat was brought to the high priest. The sins of the nation were confessed over the goat, and the animal was taken away by an escort into the desert. (Lev 16:10, 21). The person who released the goat was to wash his clothes and bathe afterwards (Lev 16:26). The “Scapegoat” (Azazel) was meant to represent the Messiah, who would come to bear the sins of His people.

” And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat…10 And the priest shall put on his linen garment, and his linen breeches shall he put upon his flesh, and take up the ashes which the fire hath consumed with the burnt offering on the altar, and he shall put them beside the altar…26 The priest that offereth it for sin shall eat it: in the holy place shall it be eaten, in the court of the tabernacle of the congregation.” (Lev. 16:8, 10, 26)

Another goat also present on the Day of Atonement was sacrificed as a part of the sin offering (Lev 16:9). Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for sinners, as He carried far far away the sins of the elect.

In the divine economy, the moment a person is given eternal life, and lives in the sight of God is the moment a death to sin takes place. While positionally, in the sight of God the believer has died in Christ, experientially the mortification of sins through the Spirit continues (Rom. 8:13; Col 3:5).

“Take time to be holy,
speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide in Him always,
and feed on His Word.

Make friends of God’s children,
help those who are weak,
Forgetting in nothing
His blessing to seek.

Take time to be holy,
the world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret,
with Jesus alone.

By looking to Jesus,
like Him thou shalt be;
Thy friends in thy conduct
His likeness shall see.

Take time to be holy,
let Him be thy Guide;
And run not before Him,
whatever betides.

In joy or in sorrow,
still follow the Lord,
And, looking to Jesus,
still trust in His Word.

Take time to be holy,
be calm in thy soul,
Each thought and each motive
beneath His control.

Thus led by His Spirit
to fountains of love,
Thou soon shalt be fitted
for service above.”

William D. Longstaff, 1882

Ultimate death to sin, and its harmful expressions, will come in the glorification of the soul, either through a departure of this life to be in the presence of the Lord, or when Jesus comes the second time, and individuals are transformed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.

“and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” (Rom. 8:30)

” Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (1 Cor. 15:51-52)

The death of Christ is the ultimate foundation for all healing, spiritual, physical and material. Because of Christ, souls are healed of the plague of all plagues, sin. Because of Christ, the heart can hope for a resurrected body. Because of Christ, the universe will one day cease to groan, for there will be a new heaven and a new earth. Christ has come with “healing in His wings .“(Mal. 4:2)

     25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

A Repentance That Needs to Be Repented Of


“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).

On two occasions in public ministry I have had people come to me to apologize for saying something critical and unkind. While I appreciate the difficulty it is to tell someone you are sorry, I did notice that on both occasion, prior to the apology, the underlining cause of their remarks were restated as a form of justification. In other words, “I am sorry for what I said, but you made me say what I did.” To use an old expression, these individuals wanted to “have their cake and eat it too.” They wanted to apologize, due to a guilty conscience, but they also wanted to justify the unjustifiable.

When a person tries to apologize, and yet maintains that the underlining cause for their comments remains, nothing is resolved. I submit that such a repentance needs to be repented of, and for this reason. While their religious clothing might be that of the publican, the voice is still that of the Pharisee. The person is still right in their own eyes. All they are sorry for is being intemperate in their remarks, but they are not sorry they said what they did. They are sorry for the way something was said, but not for what was intended to be conveyed.

At this point one of two responses can be given by the person receiving the alleged repentance. The first response is to realize the apology is not wholly authentic, but still self-serving and mean spirited though softer in tone. The second response is to realize the apology is not complete, but be gracious, and accept what is said without much comment.

If the path of the first response is chosen, nothing will be resolved, self will move to defend itself, anger will flare up, and the person making the effort to apologize will go away even more Pharisaical because, in their mind, they tried to do the right thing but their repentance was not accepted.

I would suggest that the second response be chosen, and embraced. It must be chosen and embraced if there is to be divine forgiveness. Jesus said, “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:25-26).

Recognize that even though the repentance of a person still needs to be repented of, that is a separate issue. Some people try to say they are sorry in their own way.

The story is told of the great Prime Minister of England during World War II, Sir Winston Churchill.

At a dinner party one night, Lady Churchill was seated across the table from Sir Winston Churchill, who kept making his hand walk back and forth across the table, two fingers bent at the knuckles. The fingers appeared to be walking toward Lady Churchill. Finally, her dinner partner asked, “Why is Sir Winston looking at you so wistfully, and whatever is he doing with those knuckles on the table?”

That is simple she replied “We had a mild quarrel before we left home and he is indicating its his fault and he’s on his knees to me in abject apology.”

Accept the possibility that a person who is trying to say they are sorry is sincere, and tell them, “Thank you. I needed to hear your apology, and you needed to give one.”

Then, there are two other steps that must be taken. Once an apology is accepted, let there be a renewed restoration of the relationship. It is not right to receive someone’s apology, and then treat them with lingering bitterness. Second, let the repentance and the apology given of a person be made known as far and as wide as their transgression.

When a person is wounded, or offended, by the comments someone makes, there is a tendency to share that transgression with others. The wounded soul seeks comfort by sharing their pain with someone else. Others are told about the offending comments. That is simply human nature. People seek out allies. Therefore, when a person returns to repent, let their repentance also be shared with those who have heard about the initial remarks. This is only the right action to take in resolving a disrupted relationship, and making sure that others are as forgiving as you have been.