I love John Owen’s thesis in the Mortification of Sin:
“Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”
It is short, but powerful. In fact, it almost sounds like it could be the tagline for a movie. I can nearly imagine sin being cast as some great monster. Perhaps he could be like the Predator. An enemy that no one expects, who imperceptibly moves throughout the jungle picking off even our strongest warriors. And then, when all hope seems lost, one man defies the monster of sin, destroying it forever (or at least until the producers realize they could make money off a sequel).
But the problem is that the Predator makes a pretty poor analogy for sin. Certainly sin can be every bit as destructive and scary. The problem is that it can’t be killed nearly as easily.
John Owen describes the problem of sin stating, “every lust is a habit or disposition, continually inclining the heart for sin.” And the way you deal with habits is not as neat and easy, nor does it appear so glorious, as the way Arnold dealt with the Predator. The way you deal with sin is through a long hard fought process of “weakening this habit of sin or lust, that it shall not, with that violence, earnestness, frequency, rise up, conceive, tumultuate, provoke, entice, disquiet, as naturally as it is apt to do.”
Certainly there are times that this may appear to be a glorious battle. Owen explains,
As a man nailed to the cross he first struggles and strives and cries out with great strength and might, but, as his blood and spirits waste, his strivings are faint and seldom, his cries low and hoarse, scarce to be heard; when a man first sets his lust or distemper, to deal with it, it struggles with great violence to break loose; it cries with earnestness and impatience to be satisfied and relieved; but when by mortification the blood and spirits of it are let out, it moves seldom and faintly, cries sparingly, and is scarce heard in the heart; it may have sometimes a dying pang, that makes an appearance of great vigor and strength, but it is quickly over, especially if it be kept from considerable success.
While this may at first glance seem like the brilliant battle scene that movies are made of, it has one problem. The battle never actually ends, it just gets less exciting. Consider Owen’s last line, “especially if it be kept from considerable success.” That is, the monster will only be weakened, and look dead, but left unattended, the monster of sin will return, and your victory will be for naught.
Thus, the victory over the monster of sin can never make for a great movie because it doesn’t end with one great climactic scene. The battle continues, just in a much less exciting manner. Instead our battle with sin is one of constant vigilance, daily checking the weakened, nearly dead, body of sin, making sure that it is given no chance to revive itself and again attack us while we are unaware.
Owen reminds us,
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.
So what is the takeaway? Hopefully we will be wise enough to be ever vigilant in our fight against sin. And if we notice some degree of success, rather than letting down our guards we must keep fighting to be sure that our lives are never the scene for the movie’s sequel.