Kill... or be Killed (A Meditation on Psalm 119:29-30)
Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law!
I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me.
Death is hard. We should linger there for a moment.
Obviously we know that as believers we need not, and should not, grieve like those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14). We know that those who die in the Lord are blessed (Revelation 14:13). We know that Jesus is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25-26). We know that those who die in Christ will be raised (1 Corinthians 15:44). We know our light momentary afflictions cannot compare to the eternal glory to come (2 Corinthians 4:17-18). We know it is better to be home with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8), and we say amen to all of that. Nevertheless, there is a crucial lesson to be learned in lingering over the pain, grief, sorrow, and loss that occurs in death.
Revelation 21 shows us that in this world there will be mourning, crying, and pain because of death. In Matthew 2:18, after Herod slaughters the children in Bethlehem, we see the prophecy fulfilled that Rachel would weep and refuse to be comforted because of the death of her children. There was weeping at the graveside of Lazarus. There was weeping at the tomb of Jesus. The Bible does not speak of death as a casual, unemotional, painless reality. Death is hard, and there is pain, and there is crying, and there is great loss.
Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:10 that in our lives we are always carrying in our body the death of Jesus. In fact, in verse 11 he says that we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake; he hammers it home in verse 12 saying that death is at work in us. So, why do we need to linger here? What’s the crucial lesson to learn in lingering over the pain, grief, sorrow, and loss that occurs in death?
The lesson is that when we linger on the reality of death, and what it brings, we can be prepared to persevere in our fight against sin by pursuing a greater love given to us in Christ.
We live in a world that is full of deceit, and it plagues many churches. Falsehoods such as following Christ is easy; Christians don’t suffer or experience affliction; the way of faithfulness is simple and pain-free; following Christ doesn’t require sacrifice; I won’t have to struggle to fight against sin; God doesn’t want me to experience the pain of fighting against sin, etc. are some of the deceptions that infiltrate our world and too many churches.
These lies keep us from the freedom and new life found in the truth, or as this Psalm says, the way of faithfulness. There is the way of deceit, and there is the way of faithfulness. There is no other option. As the Psalmist acknowledges in verse 29, the way of falsehood, the way of deceit, is inside of us and not outside of us. Notice he prays “put false ways far from me,” or “Remove from me the way of lying” (KJV). He doesn’t ask to be removed from the false way, he acknowledges the false way is inside of him and therefore it needs to be removed from him. And this means death. People, this is a death. Make no mistake about it.
The Bible tells us that the way of falsehood (which, simply put, is all sin) needs to die. Our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing (Romans 6:6). We must consider ourselves dead to sin (Romans 6:11). We are to be crucified to the world, and the world to us (Galatians 6:14). Our old self must be crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20). If we would follow Jesus, we must take up our cross daily and die (Luke 9:23). The Bible doesn’t use fluffy feel good language about how we live daily in our war against sin. Rather, it uses words like death and crucifixion.
Every single day we must seek God and ask Him to remove this way of falsehood from us, which means every single day you will experience death. When we hear that we are to die to our sin, deny ourselves daily, and be crucified, we should think about the pain, loss, grief, and sorrow that comes with death because it reveals four things: I inherently love sin; this sin is inside of me; this sin, that is inside of me, that I love, needs to die; and this death is going to be a painful loss. Did you catch that? Something that you inherently love, something inside of you, is dying, and if it isn’t, it’s killing you.
There is something else to note about death. When a loved one dies, for example, we see the depths of our love for them in a new way. We miss them. We realize we can’t talk to them anymore, we miss their smell, their laugh, even just their presence. The death of someone reveals the depths of how much you loved them. The same is true of our sin: the depths of pain, loss, and sorrow we feel when we have to say goodbye to sin reveals the scary reality of how wicked we really are. We love sin! However, this sorrow should lead us to rejoicing. For although He commands us to kill what we love (sin), He tells us that He withholds no good thing from those who walk in his ways (Psalm 84:11). God is not against our love. He wants to show us an even greater love. In the sorrow of losing what we love in sin, we are graciously given a love that far surpasses anything we could have possibly imagined (1 Corinthians 2:9). This is why, as believers, we are sorrowful, yet always rejoicing (2 Corinthians 6:10).
Linger there. There is freedom if you linger long enough. When you wake up and you decide to die to yourself by taking up your cross to follow Christ, you realize this means you need to release the bitterness you have towards a coworker. It means you need to season your speech with salt rather than gossiping and slandering. It means you need to set no impure thing before your eyes rather than giving in to pornography or lusting after those around you. It means you need to crush your idols and pursuit of affluence, power, wealth and control so that you would build God’s kingdom and not your own. And you know what? That’s a daily death. You love all of those things, which is why when they die, you will experience pain, grief, sorrow, and loss. Something you love is being crucified, and you are watching it die before your eyes.
Following Christ means death. Daily. When we understand this for what it is, it helps us to be prepared for the pain rather than shocked by it. It helps us to think about what’s on the other side of that pain. It reminds us that there is something much more lovely, and something worthy of a much deeper pursuit. The removal of the way of deceit, graciously ushers in the way of faithfulness. Once we linger over death we can truly live out an abundant life. When you kill what you love in your flesh, and taste the goodness of God, you will be able to say that what you have gained is so much more lovely and satisfying than what you have killed.
As 2 Corinthians 4:8-12 says, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.” And as Romans 6:7 says, “For one who has died has been set free from sin.” Looking at Romans 6:22-23, we see “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Here is the reality: you will experience death one way or another. Either you will refuse to die daily to your sin, choosing to live in the slavery of temporary, never-satisfying, guilt-producing, self-condemning sin, leading ultimately to your death (after all the wages of sin is death), or you will wake up and say, “I will die to my lust, greed, anger, control, and every other deceiving idol so that I may graciously live in the way of faithfulness that leads to sanctification and eternal life.”
You are going to have to die. And all death is pain, loss, grief, and sorrow. May we choose to die daily to sin and live eternally in Christ rather than living for ourselves each day, gaining the whole world, but losing our soul. My dear friend, this is war. Kill or be killed.
Pray with me:
“Put false ways far from me, O Lord, and graciously teach me your law. Guide me, instruct me, and lead me to the joy-filled, eternally-satisfying obedience of your revealed will. Make my path straight. Use your word to be my schoolmaster leading me to Christ. Remind me that I am justified by faith because of your free gift of salvation. Your law alone is true, and every other way is sin and deceit. Help me to set your rules before me, to set my heart, and my affections on You and Your word. You have promised me that you will give me your joy. You have told me that your way is the path to true joy. Lord, make me die each day, so that I may live in Christ, and with Christ eternally. ‘The law of your mouth is better than thousands of gold and silver pieces’ (Psalm 119:72). Amen.”