What do we want Christ to do for us? Do we really want to grow in holiness? Or has our failure left us content with mediocre levels of sanctification? Or worse, are we still in the spiritual wasteland in which Augustine prayed ‘Give me chastity; but not yet’? Can we perhaps substitute for ‘chastity’ the antidote for some prevailing sin in our own lives?
So here is a critical issue in our progress: Do we really want to overcome sin? For there seems to be a principle in sanctification: in some measure we get what we desire. Or, to put it more bluntly, we get what we are prepared to pay for. For the language that both Paul and Jesus use about dealing with sin is tinged with personal cost, indeed with violence and pain:
“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut if off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell (Matthew 5:29-30).”
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above…Put to death therefore what is earthly in you… (Colossians 3:1, 5)”
There are no spiritual gains without pains. So we must be willing to act with spiritual violence against our sin. It is enmity against God and it distorts his purposes for our lives. It offends him and it destroys us. Only when we grans this will we begin to develop the mindset which the Holy Spirit seeks to produce in us. Spirit-led believers are willing to break the neck of sin, or to stab it in the heart, or to pull out the weeds it sows, in the knowledge that what we are doing may feel like a death.
– Sinclair Ferguson, Devoted to God: Blueprints for Sanctification, p. 146