God asks us to obey in all areas of our lives (John Owen)
This article is taken from the book The Mortification of Sin é by John Owen
It is impossible to mortify a single sin if we do not desire to obey God in all areas of our life and with all of our heart!
Suppose a man discovers in himself a lust so strong that he cannot overcome it. He is captive of it, and it makes him lose all peace. Unable to bear it any longer, he decides to mortify this lust. He moans and prays, sighing for deliverance. However, his spiritual life may be poor in other areas. For example, he may be neglecting his fellowship with God, or his reading of the Word, or his life of prayer and meditation. Well ! The consequence of his negligence is that he will not be able to overcome this lust that preoccupies him. This is a problem that many Christians face on their earthly pilgrimage.
It is said of the children of Israel that they fasted and prayed, seeking the face of God: “ Every day they seek me, they want to know my ways; […] They ask me for judgments of justice, they desire the approach of God " (Isa 58.2). However, God rejected their approach, considering that their fasts and prayers were inadmissible. Why? The answer is in verse 3: " Behold, on the day of your fast, you indulge your inclinations, and you treat all your hirelings harshly" (Isa 58.3). In fact, they were only obedient on one point, and they lived in neglect and recklessness with regard to other areas of their lives.
If I have pimples and the pimples are due to a general infection in my body, I won't just treat them with ointment. It would be stupid! I need to see the doctor to cure the infection, not just the visible symptoms. It is the same with our spiritual nature. It is quite useless to seek to overcome any particular sin if we neglect to obey God in those activities which uplift and strengthen our spiritual life. Indeed:
1) The real basis for effective mortification is to hate all sins because they are sins, and not just those sins that negatively impact our lives.
We must have love for Christ, because he was crucified for us, and we must have hatred for our sin, because he sent Christ on the cross. This is the true spiritual foundation of mortification! To desire to conquer a sin because it has inconveniences for us is selfishness. Why are we desperate to eliminate some particular sins? Is it because they distress us, cause us to lose peace and rest, grief our hearts and fill them with fear? Yes, dear friends, of course! However, have we not also neglected prayer or reading the Word? Have we not been won over by the world in many areas of our lives? These sins are just as serious as the other sins that bother us. Jesus also shed his blood for these spiritual negligence which we consider less important.Why don't we wage war on them? If we hate sin as sin, we should be mindful of anything that grieves the Spirit of God, and not just what saddens us! Do we think that God will help us if we hypocritically seek that our well-being, that to eliminate the anguish in which our sin plunges us? Do we think the Holy Spirit will support our spirit in his hypocrisy and duplicity? Do we think that he will deliver us from this sin knowing that we are going to commit another one whereby he will be grieved again?
"No, said God, if I deliver you from this sin, I will not hear from you again, for you will be satisfied while you will be in check, spiritually" We must not fight only against what saddens us , but against all that saddens God in us. God's work is that we come to total obedience, not just victory over lust.
"Let us purify ourselves of all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit, completing our sanctification in the fear of God" (2 Cor 7.1).
In the spiritual realm, there is no point in being able to obey just one point; all points must be obeyed. That is why we must seek a disposition of heart which is humble, which turns away from evil, and which is fully submissive to the will of God.
2) It is possible that God allows this disturbing lust to subsist in us in order to draw our attention to other weak points in our spiritual life.
For example, our lukewarmness to serve it. God wants us to reconsider our ways. Perhaps by letting this thorn subsist in our flesh, he will complete his work in us, change the way we live our Christian life and get us to walk fully with him.
Indeed, suffering from a particular lust is generally the symptom of a little consecrated spiritual life, and this, for two reasons:
1) Lust is an integral part of our fallen nature, and even the holiest of believers are not immune to it for the duration of their lives.
Scripture also teaches that lust is cunning, subtle, seductive, bewitching, aggressive and rebellious. But as long as the believer diligently watches over his heart, the lust weakens and loses its vitality. On the other hand, if he slackens and becomes careless, lust springs up in one form or another. She then uses her thoughts and desires to turn into manifest sin. When lust finds a breach, it comes to harass, disturb and disturb the peace of a soul without respite, so much so that the believer finds it difficult to restrain it. Some even have to wage war on it for the rest of their lives. However, this harassment can be avoided if we take care of ourselves diligently.
2) God often allows a particular sin as a punishment for other sins or neglect.
This is what happens in Romans 1:26 where God delivers the wicked to one sin in order to exercise judgment against another sin. And, in this case, the sin given as punishment is stronger than the sin punished which could have been the object of deliverance. God can also use this method of punishment to educate his children  . Sometimes he delivers us from one evil by sending us another. So that Paul would not be proud of the excellent revelations he had received, God sent him an angel of Satan to humiliate him (2 Cor 12.7). God also allowed Peter to deny Jesus.But that was exactly the correct punishment to punish him for his vain self-confidence If God tolerates a sin to rule over us in order to take us back and humble us, and perhaps in order to chastise us, then, how can we hope to overcome it, if not by going back to its root cause, to its root? In fact, through this sin, God wants us to realize that it is our whole way of living that must be reformed.So it is clear that if we are to truly mortify the sin that bothers us, we must also obey God in all other aspects of our Christian life. We must understand that all sin and all lukewarmness in our obedience are a burden for God, and even a provocation (Isa 43:24). If we do not seek obedience in all areas of our life, our spiritual life will wither away. If we only seek to overcome the sin that plagues us, regardless of the stain and guilt associated with it, we are selfish, and our attitude becomes a continual provocation to God. However, if we decide to seek total obedience, our spiritual life will be successful, and we will be able to overcome the lust we are fighting against.