I want to teach you a new word today. Mortification. It’s an old, old word, rarely used anymore. If it sounds familiar, it’s because we use some words similar to it. We sometimes refer to a funeral director as a mortician, someone who works with the dead. If something embarrassing were to happen to you, you might say, “I was mortified.” In a way, you’re saying, “I was so humiliated, I wanted to die.” Mortification has to do with death, or more specifically, the process of something or someone dying. We get the term from the writings of Paul originally. In Romans 8:13 he wrote, For if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. Paul pictures our sin as a cancer. You can’t decide to peacefully coexist with cancer. You either deal with it aggressively--cut it out through surgery, poison it through chemotherapy--or it will consume and kill you. That’s the way it is with sin in our lives. We have to say, “It’s either you or me, sin, and I’m not going down without a fight.” In Colossians 3:5, he gets more specific: Therefore, put to death what belongs to your worldly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry. Paul was following the teaching of Jesus, that to follow Christ means to be born again, to become a new person. If we want to enjoy this new life, we have to do away with our old lives. That isn’t something that happens overnight; it’s a lifelong battle. In the old King James version, “put to death,” was translated, “mortify,” and theologians started using that term.
Why do I bring this up? Two reasons. First, because we’re talking here at the start of a New Year about Making Progress, becoming better people in real, lasting ways. The hard truth of Scripture is that you can’t make true progress without ruthlessly attacking areas of your life that are out of God’s will. Second, because in the letter of 1 Peter that we’re basing this sermon series on, Peter actually talks about mortification. He doesn’t use the same term as Paul, but that’s what 1 Peter 4:1-5 is about. And I want to warn you: Mortification is messy and painful. Think again about the idea of cancer treatment. If a doctor told you, “I think it would be a good idea if I put you to sleep and cut out some parts of your body, then have you ingest poison once a week for a few months,” you’d run screaming from his office. You would only allow him to put you through it all if you were sure you’d die otherwise. There will be pain involved in attacking your sin; it’s my job this Sunday to convince you that pain is worth it.