Yesterday, we began talking about killing sin (mortification) in our lives. If we are honest, this is topic rarely discussed in Christian circles and most never really experience any significant level of victory over recurrent, ongoing sins in their lives. There is no doubt that the scriptures call us to kill (mortify) sin in our lives – and to take radical steps in this pursuit. Matthew 5:29 reminds us of the seriousness with which Jesus views sin and the radical steps we should be willing to eradicate it from our lives. Yesterday, we summarized points 1-4 from Ralph Erskine’s article entitled The Difference Between Legal and Gospel Mortification. Today, we will look at points 5-8 in an attempt to replace “us driven effort” with “grace driven effort.”
5. The motives are different. Ultimately, the Christian empowered by “grace driven effort” will not serve sin, because sin has been put to death and he now lives to God (Romans 6:6). Conversely, “us driven effort” runs from sin not because he is alive to God, but so he can live. “Grace driven effort” kills sin because the love of God overwhelms him, “us driven effort” attempts to kill sin so that God will love him and find him acceptable. One knows that God accepts him, the other is trying with all of his effort to earn God’s acceptance. “Us driven effort” relies on us, our discipline and hard work as the foundation for killing sin, thus placing our hope in trust in us rather than in God.
6. The nature is different. “Grace driven effort” seeks to not just subdue and weaken sin, but to completely destroy and eradicate it from our being because sin is contrary to our nature. When we employ “us driven effort,” we are OK to live with sin as long as it is beaten into submission and rarely rears its ugly head on the surface of our lives. One violently attacks sin while the other makes pacts to let it have dominion in unseen areas of our lives. “Us driven effort” manages surface level sins and is shocked when the lion that has been keeping on a leash devours them.
7. The extent to which war is waged against sin is different. “Grace driven effort” sees and beholds God as supreme, holy and sovereign and every fiber of our being hates sin and never approves of it. “Grace driven effort” sustains us in the lifelong fight against sin and the goal to be holy as God is holy. In “us driven effort,” we may hate sin and its affects with part of our being, but there are levels of our heart that are OK to live with sin, as long as they are not “bad” sins like adultery, murder, alcoholism, abuse, etc. In “us driven effort,” we make a pact with our sin, allowing the “lesser” ones to remain so long as the “surface” level sins are not seen; there is no energy for the long lasting war with sin, victory is short and not sustained. “Grace driven effort” is never at peace with sin, it violently attacks sin.
8. Their success is different. Make no mistake, our battle with sin is one that we will fight until we die, or Jesus returns. Then we will be set from from sin and its affects. “Grace driven effort” recognizes that some battles will be lost, but there are gains being made in the over all war. “Grace driven effort” sees progress in the putting to death of the corrupt nature that dwells within, not just the surface manifestations of that corrupt nature. “Us driven effort,” on the other hand, never really progresses much in the war against sin because the goal is to manage sin and its consequences instead of ripping it out by its root. In “us driven effort,” one sin is often times replaced by another. The Pharisees employed “us driven effort” in their attempt to mortify sin. They looked good on the surface, successfully managing “external sin,” but their pride and self-righteousness had supplanted their “external sins.” The later sins were more dangerous than the former because it blinded them to their need for a savior because they had found “success” on their own. They really weren’t that bad.
In the end, “us driven effort,” reduces our reliance on God and dulls our sensitivity to sin. When this is our primary mode of operation in our Christian life, we think that we don’t really have that much sin in our lives. We aren’t really that bad or that depraved, just read the paper or watch the news if you want to see the really depraved people in the world! We have made such great strides in cleaning ourselves up on the outside and putting to death the sins that everybody sees along with their uncomfortable consequences. But, the reality is that we have most likely merely replaced these with more blinding and subtle sins like pride, self-discipline and self-righteousness. In “us driven effort,” we are the focus, we have to make it happen, we are the ones that have the power to overcome. That sounds a lot like what transpired many years ago in the Garden with Adam and Eve – they forsook the sovereign Creator’s command and provision for their own; they knew better. “Grace driven effort” places us in a position before God that recognizes our complete inability and begs God to work. The litmus test for which means you deploy is in answering the question, “who gets the glory?” In “us driven effort,” the glory is ours because we were disciplined and hardworking enough; in “grace driven effort,” the glory is God’s because He is the deliverer.