The life of dying to self and killing sin is difficult, incredibly difficult. When focusing on mortifying certain sins in one’s life, it is easy to lose focus on other sin areas and actions that may be less noticeable but are just as crippling as the perceived “major sins.”
John Piper has recently compiled a few sermons into a free ebook called Sanctification in the Everyday. In the book, Piper shares a personal breakthrough he experienced while on sabbatical from ministry. His focus had been set on a certain sin area while others sins were going unbattled or at the very least hardly fought.
Sin is never fought passively, even the sins we perceive as “minor.”
A Personal Breakthrough
Now here is what God showed me during the eight month leave of absence: I have applied the truth above valiantly to sexual temptation but hardly at all to the sins of anger, self-pity, blaming, and sullenness. I have engaged my will head-on concerning sexual lust. I have heard Jesus say, “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” (Matthew 5:29). Nobody spontaneously tears out his eye. That is an act of will overcoming all kinds of natural disinclination. That’s what I do when any illicit sexual thought tries to gain the ascendancy in my mind.
I go on the attack with A N T H E M.
• Say NO! within five seconds.
• TURN to something magnificent, like Christ crucified.
• HOLD the pure thing in the mind until the dirty thing is gone.
• ENJOY the greater pleasure of the blood-bought promises of God.
• MOVE on to meaningful Christ-exalting activity.
There is nothing passive in my will when the lion of lust comes out of the bushes. I don’t lie down and wait for a miracle. I act the miracle.
What I realized was that I was not applying any of this same gospel vigilance — what Peter O’Brien calls “continuous, sustained, strenuous effort” against my most besetting sins. I was strangely passive and victim-like. I had the unarticulated sense (mistakenly) that these sins (unlike sexual lust) should be defeated more spontaneously. It should all happen naturally from the inside out. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). And if I tried to attack them with my will the way I did sexual lust, it would produce external conformity, not internal change. But I never let that thought stop me from attacking lust.
Source: John Piper, Sanctification in the Everyday (Minneapolis: Desiring God, 2012), 9-10.