I was sitting one afternoon, several years ago, with a group of friends sharing lunch and cookies for dessert. As I was eating one of the cookies one of the friends leaned over, in all seriousness, and said, “Mortify the flesh.”
Mortify: to destroy the strength, vitality, or functioning of; to subdue or deaden (as the body or bodily appetites) especially by abstinence or self-inflicted pain or discomfort 1
The concept of mortification can be somewhat confusing and even disquieting. What exactly does it mean?
One author, Miles Stanford, relates “Man has many ways of seeking to escape the thralldom of self…some of these man-centered methods.”
Denying oneself certain things for a time, or even for all time, is not even close to the answer since the old nature will adjust and thrive under any conditions – anything short of death to self.”(Stanford-pg 43) … For it is not scriptural to believe that the old Adam nature can be conquered in that manner. It yields to nothing less than the death of the cross.
“It is altogether too tough to be killed by abusing the body or starving the affections” (A.W.Tozer).2
The first piece of the puzzle is that overcoming the flesh is not mind over matter. It is not simply willpower to subdue the lusts and desires of the flesh. It involves death, our death. Not physical death but death to the lusts and desires of our flesh. It’s personal. It hurts. Death does not come without pain.
Great truth. Wonderful truth. Is it enough? Death is not enough if it is not followed by the inflow of Life. Death will leave a void where our desires once held sway. Death is not enough if there is not something to fill that void.
Another author, Milton Vincent notes, “…the key to mortifying fleshly lust is to eliminate the emptiness within me and replace it with fullness; and I will accomplish this by feasting on the gospel…What happens then to my appetites for sin when I am filled with the fullness of God in Christ? Jesus provides this answer: ‘He who continually comes to Me will never hunger or thirst again.’ Indeed, as I perpetually feast on Christ and all of His blessings found in the gospel, I find that my hunger for sin diminishes and the lies of lust simply lose their appeal. Hence, to the degree that I am full, I am free.” 3
The second piece of the puzzle is to be fully satisfied in Him, filled by His presence and overflowing, by His grace, with the fullness of Christ, so that lust and personal desires are shown for what they are: foolish, shallow, cheap imitations that pale in comparison to the fullness and richness of God.
Ephesians 1:22-23 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Ephesians 3:14-19 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith-that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 5:18b …be filled with the Spirit
Hence, to the degree that I am full, I am free.4
1 http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mortify accessed 02 08 09
2 The Complete Green Letters by Miles Stanford.
3 A Gospel Primer for Christians by Milton Vincent
4 The Gospel Primer for Christains by Milton Vincent
Written By Diane Hunt: Diane Hunt serves on the board of America’s Keswick and provides ministry support from her home in North Carolina. She is also a biblical counselor and women’s event speaker. For more information about having Diane speak at your next event please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Think About This: “Serve God by doing common actions in a heavenly spirit, and then, if your daily calling only leaves you cracks and crevices of time, fill them up with holy service.” – Charles Spurgeon