Last week we talked about mortification. This week we are going to talk about vivification. “What is vivification?” To vivify is to give life to something or someone. The term vivification implies adding life, quality, or energy to something.


The word vivification is not frequently mentioned outside of theology. It was used by John Calvin in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, and his meaning is the one most commonly used today. This “vivification” is the strengthening and empowerment of the Holy Spirit to live a righteous and godly life. It is the God-led growth of a Christian’s spiritual and moral character.

Calvin referred to both a positive (additive) and negative (subtractive) side of sanctification. To be sanctified means to be “set apart” by God. One effect of sanctification is vivification. The other is what Calvin referred to as “mortification,” in which a person becomes aware of his sin and the judgment of God. This awareness produces a holy fear, sorrow, and anguish. It is these emotions that compel a person to hate sin and seek God’s forgiveness (2 Corinthians 7:10).


Let’s look at a passage that will help us understand more about the role and importance of vivification in our lives. As we read this, look for what we learn about the importance of vivification. (Read Colossians 2:8 – 3:4)


  1. What does this passage say about how we should think?
  2. What kind of thoughts should we avoid?
  3. What kind of thoughts should we train ourselves to think?
  4. Where should we root our thoughts?
  5. What kinds of things should we think about?
  6. What does this passage say about how we should walk (or live)?
  7. What kinds of behavior should we avoid?
  8. What kinds of behavior should we train ourselves to engage in?



The diagnostic questions below are designed to help you apply the principle of vivification. They will help you think through how you can work toward thinking differently and living differently in specific situations in your life. Remember the ground rules: 1) Be as specific as you can about your real life. 2) Listen to each other. 3) Don’t give advice unless asked.

  1. Describe a recent experience where you felt angry, sad, disappointed or depressed.
  2. What sinful, worldly or ungodly things were you tempted to think?
  3. What sinful, worldly or ungodly things were you tempted to do?
  4. How could you or how did you preach the gospel to yourself in this situation?
  5. Who do you know that could have or did preach the gospel to you in this situation?
  6. What has God spoken, promised or done in his Word that you could have or did meditate upon?
  7. What songs or hymns or spiritual songs could have or did redirect your emotions, thoughts and behaviors?
  8. In what ways could you have or did you act in love towards others during this experience?
  9. How could or how did the discipline of prayer affect you during this experience?



In terms of putting these commands into practice quickly, we recommend the following:

Pray! Immediately begin to set aside time for prayer every day, at least twice a day (though Daniel prayed three times a day!). If we have not already built this habit, it is now time to start. The way you build this habit is to be habitual about it—try not to miss even a single day. If we are not consistent in prayer, we cannot expect consistent spiritual growth. If you do not know what to pray for, ask for help praying, and try to adapt (not merely recite) one of the many examples provided in Scripture, particularly the Lord’s prayer.

Meditate on God and his glory. By this we mean you should set your mind on God’s goodness and glory and the better hope that awaits you. Practically, we recommend setting aside time each day to reflect on Christ and his work, the grace God has shown you, the promises of God and how they have been fulfilled in your life, and of course his glory (using passages from Scripture, if that helps).

Let the word of God dwell in you richly. The word of God is the means by which God will renew your mind. e simplest way is to make a point of attending Sunday worship and hearing the word of God preached from the pulpit. e next easiest is to block out a time to read the Bible every day, reflecting on what you read. Lastly, time permitting, you might get involved in a Bible study or similar meeting dedicated to understanding and applying God’s word in your life.

When it comes to Bible study, we recommend doing so habitually, intently, and obediently. By habitually, we mean to make a habit of studying the Bible, preferably daily. Spiritual disciplines that are not done habitually typically end up not being done at all. By intently, we mean to make a concerted e ort to understand the text, not merely glance over it. By obediently, we mean to seek to take what is read and apply it to life. A variety of useful methods exist for this, so we don’t wish to recommend any particular method here. e important thing is to start doing it and continue doing it.

Get into community. God acts through his people. Therefore, we should bring his people into our lives. Deliberately seek out some kind of Christian fellowship beyond simply Sunday worship. Make it a point to regularly attend that fellowship. If need be, ask a friend, sponsor, or pastor to help you find one.

Service commitment. If you wish to grow spiritually, you should seek out ways to “put on” Christ. Obviously, there will be opportunities to do so throughout the day, and you should seize these as gifts from God. But we have also found it helpful to deliberately seek out some kind of commitment to serve, and make ourselves available through that. Your sponsor or pastor may have some good suggestions on that front.

Reflect daily on Galatians 5:16 – 26