I Peter 2:24 says: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” So how do we go about killing the sin that “clings so closely” (Hebrews 12:1)?
As long as we are affected by this flesh and living in this world and tempted by the devil, there is no silver bullet that will easily or quickly kill off the sin we struggle with. Therefore rather than searching for a once-for-all quick fix, we must develop daily habits of killing sin. Here’s the first one: Declare war!
In the intro to his sermon titled How to Kill Sin (Part 2), Pastor John Piper says this:
Until you believe that life is war — that the stakes are your soul — you will probably just play at Christianity with no bloodearnestness and no vigilance and no passion and no wartime mindset.
Thinking rightly about sin and its consequences is absolutely vital–we must see sin as a mortal enemy which we cannot merely ignore or make peace with but must destroy. Tim Challies, in his book Sexual Detox: A Guide for Guys Who Are Sick of Porn, says:
Every Christian guy who looks at porn wants to stop, but many of us want to stop just a little bit less than we want to keep going. The problem isn’t knowledge–it’s desire and ability. And so sin prevails. Here’s a promise. You will never stop until you begin to see the monstrous nature of the sin you are committing. You will never stop until the sin is more horrifying to you than the commission of the sin is enjoyable. You will need to hate that sin before you can find freedom from it.
And so the first sin-killing habit we must develop is a mindset of hatred for sin and an all-out determination to declare war on it. What does that look like? It means taking measures that others might ridicule as radical. It means being willing to live without some good things, in order to keep yourself away from the bad things. It means following Jesus’ crazy-sounding advice of cutting off or plucking out things of great value in order to keep from stumbling into sin (Matt. 18:8-9). Later in the same sermon quoted above, Piper exclaims:
There is a mean, violent streak in the true Christian life! But violence against whom, or what? Not other people. It’s a violence against all the impulses in us that would be violent to other people. It’s a violence against all the impulses in our own selves that would make peace with our own sin and settle in with a peacetime mentality. It’s a violence against all lust in ourselves, and enslaving desires for food or caffeine or sugar or chocolate or alcohol or pornography or money or the praise of men and the approval of others or power or fame. It’s violence against the impulses in our own soul toward racism and sluggish indifference to injustice and poverty and abortion. Christianity is not a settle-in-and-live-at-peace-with-this-world-the-way-it-is kind of religion. If by the Spirit you kill the deeds of your own body, you will live. Christianity is war. On our own sinful impulses.
Ed Welch, of the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF), in his book A Banquet in the Grave, sums it up well:
When we want to grow in [self-control], not only do we nurture an exuberance for Jesus Christ, we also demand of ourselves a hatred for sin. . . . The only possible attitude toward out-of-control desire is a declaration of all-out war. . . .
So today, declare war! Tomorrow, declare war! The next day, declare war! Your life is at stake. Others’ lives are at stake. Fight!