A tragic headline surfaces in the news every so often. It reads something like “Unsuspecting Owner Killed by Pet Anaconda.” The story goes on to describe how a naive owner purchased a pet snake. Everything is fine until the snake escapes, slithers into the owner’s or his children’s room, and consumes a sleeping victim.
Some of us treat sin the same way. We know it can be dangerous, but assume we can domesticate and control it. Maybe our sin plays along for a little while, appearing subdued, but it will always seek an opportunity to strike.
“Sin refuses to be caged or coddled; it must be killed. It will accept no peace treaty.”
Though we have been freed from sin’s slavery, our sinful flesh still seeks opportunities to indulge in evil. Slaying sin is the only safe way to deal with our abiding sin. God commands us, “Put to death what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). Sin refuses to be caged or coddled; it must be killed. It will accept no peace treaty. This is why John Owen rightly warned, “Be killing sin, or it will be killing you.”
The steps we take in the battle with sin are a matter of life and death — “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” (Romans 8:13). The stakes are high. Sin has no desire to cohabitate. It intends to dominate.
The apostle Peter pleads with us to “abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11). As long as we are in this world, sin will seek to sap our love for God and stoke our love for every other god. We must do whatever it takes to put it to death. Love for God and sin cannot coexist. Kill your love for sin, or sin will kill your love for God.
Why We Don’t Kill Our Sin
But some of us are hesitant to kill our sin. We do not slay the predator who prowls with sinister intent (1 Peter 5:8). We ignore the sin that crouches with desire for us (Genesis 4:7). We don’t install the accountability software or get rid of our smartphone that leads to repeated sinning. We don’t delete the contact of that former lover. We keep that secret bank account out of sight. We confess some of our sin, but leave the darkest parts hidden.
What keeps you from slaying your sin? Why are you hesitant to kill the prowling predator who seeks to destroy you? While each of our hearts are deceitful in their own way, I’m going to suggest that we don’t kill our sin for a combination of the following reasons.
1. Because We Love Sin
Augustine once prayed, “Lord, make me chaste, but not yet.” This shockingly honest prayer reveals a love for sin that haunts many of our hearts. We desire to love God and live for him — yet we still love sin. We hate that we love it, but we love it nonetheless.
Maybe the thrill of searching for pornography gives escape from your boredom. A lover’s embrace assures your worth, even if just for a night. Those extra couple drinks make facing your family easier. The mysterious wonder of the forbidden fruit is just too marvelous. Whatever you love about sin, know that it is killing you. In the dark, sin tastes sweet, but the light of the beauty of Jesus reveals it to be candy-coated feces. Plead with God to change what you love.
God, show me my sin. What am I seeking from it? Open my eyes so I can see it as you see it. Change my affections that I might love to kill what you hate.
2. Because Killing Sin Hurts
In C.S. Lewis’s classic novel The Great Divorce, we encounter a traveler plagued by a red lizard who represents lust. The lizard sat on his shoulder, whispering in his ear, hindering him from moving toward the light. An angel asked the traveler if he wants to be rid of the pesky beast, which he answers in the affirmative. As the angel grasps the lizard by the throat, it digs in his claws, and the traveler screamed, “You’re hurting me now.” To which the angel said, “I never said it wouldn’t hurt you. I said it wouldn’t kill you.”
“If you will know the freedom of seeing God, you must know the pain of killing sin.”
If you will slay sin, it will hurt. Confession carries terrifying prospects with it. Physical withdrawals may be overbearing at the outset. A lover’s heart may be broken. Shame may meet you every time you step out the door. Early in my walk as a Christian, I became ensnared in an immoral relationship and I remember thinking that I would rather die than break it off and confess my immorality.
If you will know the freedom of seeing God, you must also know the pain of killing sin.
God, give me willingness to face any pain that killing my sin might bring. Do whatever it takes to free me of my lust, and give me a heart that trusts you. Use the pain to help me see you more clearly.
3. Because We Forget the Cost
Though Israel’s bodies journeyed toward the Promised Land of Canaan, their hearts were pointed back to Egypt. They looked on their former slavery with rose-colored glasses. “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and garlic” (Numbers 11:5; Exodus 16:3). Sin tempts us to daydream about how wonderful our slavery to it was. It assures you that its pain was worth its pleasure. It lures you to linger on past perversion with fondness, even wishing you could relive it once again. Meditations like those mark the road of apostasy.
God, help me to see my former sin as you see it. Help me remember its bitterness instead of its sweetness. Guard me from looking back. Help me to see you and delight in what you have called me to, not what you have called me from.
If we will be freed from sin, we must be convinced that killing it will be worth it. This sort of sin-slaying faith is a gift from God. Plead with him to show you the beauty of his presence (Psalm 27:4). Ask him to make you hope in the eternal pleasures reserved at his right hand (Psalm 16:11). Ask him to help you have the heart of Christ who “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:2).
When our desires are transformed, our resolve will be strengthened to kill any sin that might hinder us from delighting in God. Nothing is more precious than God’s presence, so kill your sin before it robs you of him.