John Owen: “When Sin Lets Us Alone, We May Let Sin Alone”
The choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin. So the apostle says (Colossians 3:5) “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth.” Whom speaks he to? Such as were “risen with Christ” (v.1); such as were “dead” with him (v.3); such as whose life Christ was, and who should “appear with him in glory” (v.4). Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you. Your being dead with Christ virtually, your being quickened with him, will not excuse you from this work. And our Saviour tells us how his Father deals with every branch in him that beareth fruit, every true and living branch. “He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit” (John 15:2). He prunes it and that not for a day or two, but whilst it is a branch in this world. And the apostle tells you what was his practice (I Corinthians 9:27), “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection.” “I do it,” saith he, “daily; it is the work of my life: I omit it not; this is my business.” And if this were the work and business of Paul, who was so incomparably exalted in grace, revelations, enjoyments, privileges, consolations, above the ordinary measure of believers, where may we possibly bottom an exemption from this work and duty whilst we are in this world?
Sin doth not only still abide in us, but is still acting, still labouring to bring forth the deeds of the flesh. When sin lets us alone we may let sin alone; but as sin is never less quiet than when it seems to be most quiet, and its waters are for the most part deep when they are still, so ought our contrivances against it to be vigorous at all times and in all conditions, even where there is least suspicion.
It is our duty to be “perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (II Corinthians 7:1); to be “growing in grace” every day (I Peter 2:3, II Peter 3:18); to be “renewing our inward man day by day” (II Corinthians 4:16). Now, this cannot be done without the daily mortifying of sin. Sin sets its strength against every act of holiness, and against every degree we grow to. Let not that man think he makes any progress in holiness who walks not over the bellies of his lusts. He who doth not kill sin in his way takes no steps towards his journey’s end. He who finds not opposition from it, and who sets not himself in every particular to its mortification, is at peace with it, not dying to it.
~ From On the Mortification of Sin in Believers