That title is a quote from the great spiritual leader, John Owen. When it comes to killing sin, for every believer, there’s something true about us that we either don’t know or fail to remember. Either way, we’re beat. And sin wins.
But when we know and remember the truths about our union with Christ and what Jesus has won for us and then live in light of those truths, by God’s grace and for His glory, we can win over sin. We can kill sin. We can become holy.
Here’s what we are supposed to know… and remember: “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin” (Romans 6:6-7).
I remember listening to a message from Romans 6 given by Dr. Timothy Keller, lead pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York. He said, “When Jesus died, we died. Our old self was crucified. That’s past tense. Therefore, you are not the same person now. Your body is now under the reign of your new spiritual master. Because of this new identity, you can break the reign of your old spiritual masters. You must learn to remind yourself of who you are. If you’re not changing, it’s not because you don’t lack any spiritual resources. It’s because you’re not deploying them. They don’t deploy automatically. If you’re still sinning in the same old ways, you’re not remembering who you really are.”
Then Dr. Keller told a story about the early church father, Augustine. AS I tried to verify the story, it appears that the English minister, F. B. Meyer, used to love to tell it also.
The story tells about how Augustine defeated sin and temptation. Before his conversion, Augustine felt pulled in two directions. He was pulled toward the Lord by his mother, Monica, a saintly woman. He was pulled toward sin by a mistress. The conflict was long and terrible and Augustine went back and forth.
But when the Lord shined into Augustine’s heart through the words in Romans 13:14 – “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ” – everything changed.
F. B. Meyer described what happened to Augustine: Instantly he arose. He had made his decision. He had counted the cost. He told his friend, Alypius, and they went and told Monica, and Monica was glad. The next day he went down the main street of Carthage. As he did so, he met the woman who had been the source of so much temptation for Augustine. She wanted to pull him away once again for a fling. And in those days, that might have meant several weeks of sensual pleasure. Augustine said, “No thank you.” She thought, “Maybe he didn’t really recognize me.” So she called out, “Augustine, It is I!” He said, “Yes, I know. But it is not I. I am not the former I.” He was applying the truths found in Romans 6.
“Thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18).
Of course, we don’t know what Augustine said to himself the day that former mistress tried to seduce him. Maybe he said something like this to himself: “I used to be a person who had to have female affection. I was a slave to sex. It wasn’t about love; it was about lust – about pleasure, about me. I was driven to sin with that mistress before. But now I have a new master. I don’t need this. I am free not to live according to lust, but according to love. I am not the former I.”
We must learn to talk to ourselves when we are faced with temptation. This is how change happens. This is how to obtain victory over sin. Know your new identity. Then live courageously, confidently, and conqueringly because of what Christ has done for you.