Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Colossians 3:5-10
At The Village, we often speak about grace-driven effort—the idea that once our hearts are made new by the gospel, we see sin as something not just to be resisted or avoided, but as something to war against.
Grace-driven effort fights for holiness, but it does so for a reason that goes beyond having a clear conscience. It isn’t motivated by the fact that when I sin, I feel bad about myself. Grace-driven effort understands that when I sin, I make light of the God of the universe. I belittle and smear His name, and I grieve the Holy Spirit. So my motivation in mortifying sin, putting it to death and to living a godly life, is not built upon, “I feel bad when I do this.” It is built on a grief that I have dishonored the One who has extended grace to me.
Paul makes an important distinction between worldly sorrow and godly sorrow in 2 Corinthians 7. Worldly sorrow is about getting busted and regretting the consequences. On the outside it may look like godly sorrow, but it doesn’t lead to repentance and a hatred of sin. Paul is very clear to warn us, “Worldly sorrow in the end leads to death.” But godly sorrow results in repentance and putting sin to death, which leads to life.
The believer no longer serves sin; his new nature is contrary to sin. This should change how we view temptation. When Scripture tells us that we won’t be tempted beyond what we can bear, it isn’t saying, “God won’t put you in a situation you can’t get out of.” Because we’ve been given a new heart, the gift of the Spirit and the weapon of grace, such a situation doesn’t exist. We don’t have to say yes to our sin. We are not bound to it any longer. We can say no, we can walk away and we can walk in freedom. But it will take fierce, Spirit-empowered, grace-driven effort to do so.
Too often we tell ourselves that we can control sin. We want to manage it, train it. But we don’t necessarily want it to die. That’s not grace-driven effort; that’s legalism.
Grace-driven effort is violent. It is rage-filled and violent toward the residual sin inside of us. It’s not going to give it one inch of room. It doesn’t just want to starve and control sin: It wants it dead.
On the Discovery Channel, the show “When Animals Attack” tells stories of predators attacking humans, in many cases because the people thought the animals were domesticated. In one episode, a watch company hired a beautiful model to pose with a lion for an ad spread, and the lion attacked her. Everyone watching reacted in shock, as if it was a crazy situation. But it’s not crazy at all. When an apex predator gets hungry, its instinct is to hunt.
We must realize that, like that lion, sin is an apex predator, not a house pet. We wrongly treat our sin as a little pet under our control. Then it turns on us and destroys us, and we’re left thinking, “How did this happen?” But it’s completely predictable. We housed something that we couldn’t control. And for all our belief that—“I’ve taught it to sit, roll over and beg,” it only takes the right circumstance for sin to turn and do what it does best—deceive us and destroy us.
This is why grace-driven effort must be violent. It understands that the lion is out to destroy, that it’s seeking someone to devour. The person who understands this doesn’t just starve the lion; he starves it to death. He doesn’t strike at sin once; he strikes it, and strikes it, and strikes it and does not stop until it is dead.
If you believe you can control your sin, you have miscalculated its danger and haven’t learned to hate it as you should. Ask the Father to grieve you with a godly sorrow over your sin. Then take up the weapons of grace-driven effort and put your sin to death.