What happens when we do not obey God? As we read through Joshua this month, we will come across many instances of disobedience. When we think that we can continue to live as we wish, disregarding His command to flee temptation, to “put off the old”? Romans 8:13 says, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” We would do well to look to the example of the Israelites, who failed to drive out all the Canaanites, as God had commanded. They began to live side by side, marrying into each other’s families, and eventually forgot God altogether.
- Joshua 16:10 However, they did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites have lived in the midst of Ephraim to this day but have been made to do forced labor.
- Joshua 17:12-13 Yet the people of Manasseh could not take possession of those cities, but the Canaanites persisted in dwelling in that land. Now when the people of Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not utterly drive them out.
- Judges 3:5-7 So the people of Israel lived among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And their daughters they took to themselves for wives, and their own daughters they gave to their sons, and they served their gods. And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. They forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth.
Just as the Canaanites proved to be a snare, a deadly snare, to the Israelites, so, too, sin that we keep in our lives can eventually take over and kill us. John Piper explains,
The great teacher of the church on this doctrine is John Owen. Nobody has probed it more deeply, probably. He wrote a little 86-page book called Mortification of Sin in Believers. “Mortify” means “kill” in 17th century English. Today it just means “embarrass” or “shame.” But Owen was talking about this verse – in fact, his whole book is an exposition of this verse, Romans 8:13. He put it like this: “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”
My mother wrote in my Bible when I was 15 years old – I still have the Bible – “This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book.” Now Owen says, based on Romans 8:13, “Be killing sin or [sin] will be killing you.” We will see that these two mottos are very closely connected, because Romans 8:13 says that we are to put be putting sin to death by the Spirit – “If by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live” – and what is the instrument of death wielded by the Spirit? The answer is given in Ephesians 6:17 – “the sword of the Spirit, the word of God.” This book will keep you from sin – this book will kill sin.