One of the most beautiful verses in the Bible is found in the opening words of Romans 8. The first verse reads, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Unfortunately, many people use this as a license to sin. Rather than killing sin, they keep sin as a household pet.
In June of 2010, Norman Buwalda, a 66 year old man from Ontario was killed by his Siberian tiger. Many people in his community feared that the animal was a danger to Buwalda and their community as a whole, but what everyone else saw as danger, Buwalda viewed as his pet. What was an ordinary practice of Buwalda interacting with the tiger turned deadly. For some unknown reason, the tiger that he loved turned on him and killed him.
For many of us, to even think of keeping a massive tiger as a pet is a fearful venture that we are unlikely to pursue. We are much more likely to have pet sins as opposed to pet tigers. While we would not conceive of having a deadly cat as a household pet, we often do something just as dangerous, we invite sin into our lives, homes, families, and expect a different result than what Norman Buwalda received. The Bible is not silent on this matter. In fact, just after Romans 8:1 appears Romans 8:13 – “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.” Once again, the apostle Paul says similar words to the church at Colossae in Colossians 3:5-11:
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.  On account of these the wrath of God is coming.  In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.  But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.  Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices  and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.  Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
The Greek word, “νεκρόω” is translated in the ESV as “put to death.” In older translations, such as the King James, νεκρόω is translated as mortify. The ongoing practice of mortification of the flesh and the evil deeds of the flesh is mandatory in the Christian life. John Owen, in his famous work titled, Of The Mortification Of Sin In Believers, writes, “Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.” The idea of keeping a man-eating cat in your home may seem ridiculous, but how many of us keep man-eating sins as pets? We must not use grace as a license to play with deadly sins.
What does this daily mortification of sin (killing sin) look like? According to Paul in Romans 8:5, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” In Romans 8:5-8, Paul explains that to “set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” He goes on to describe the inability of the unsaved man to submit to God’s law. However, in Romans 8, the very next paragraph begins, “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit.” Paul is pointing out that the children of God have the ability to please God, and we must choose to do so by the power of the Spirit and the mind that is focused on obedience to God (Romans 12:1-2).
Certainly if Norman Buwalda had treated the tiger like a wild animal he would not have died that day in 2010. They believe that he left one common door open in the enclosure allowing the tiger to seize the opportunity to kill Buwalda. How many people today will be overtaken by the sin of adultery, pride, materialism, or evil passions of the flesh because they will leave one door open to their pet sin? Rather than keeping the sin as a pet, it should be put to death. Your pet sin is not your friend. Kill it. Killing sin is hard work. Killing sin requires time in prayer. Killing sin requires time in God’s Word. Killing sin requires submission to the Holy Spirit. Killing sin is not an option to consider, it’s mandatory. Either we are to be killing sin or our sin will be killing us.
These words by Owen should serve as a warning and helpful reminder as we make decisions today that will impact the rest of our lives. We must choose today to stop feeding our pet sins. What seems small, harmless, and fun today will eventually gain size and strength and kill us.