On Killing Sin

I love my biological father. He was fun. He really tried to provide for his family. He taught my brothers and I to be strong and to have a good work ethic. He was also an abusive, angry drunk who repeatedly cheated on my mom. I recall my father making promises, “I promise I won’t do it again,” “I’ll get better.” He never did. To this day, he has gotten worse. He is in and out of jail on charges related to drug and alcohol abuse.

By God’s grace, I’ve never been drunk. I don’t even know what it’s like to be buzzed. I did inherit my dad’s anger and violent tendencies. The smallest word would cause me to punch holes in walls or throw whatever was in my hand across the room. I remember my wife telling me that it scared her when I got like that. “I’ll change,” I would promise before erupting again the next week. I noticed there was no possible way I could overcome my own sin. As I come to know Christ more, the less my self-righteous anger takes control. Let’s consider God’s amazing word and grace together concerning any sinful tendencies, whether addiction, sexual, self-interest, self-identity, or self-will.

1 Samuel 19:1-10

Now Saul told Jonathan his son and all his servants to put David to death. But Jonathan, Saul’s son, greatly delighted in David.

So Jonathan told David saying, “Saul my father is seeking to put you to death. Now therefore, please be on guard in the morning, and stay in a secret place and hide yourself. I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where you are, and I will speak with my father about you; if I find out anything, then I will tell you.”

Then Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, “Do not let the king sin against his servant David, since he has not sinned against you, and since his deeds have been very beneficial to you. For he took his life in his hand and struck the Philistine, and the Lord brought about a great deliverance for all Israel; you saw it and rejoiced. Why then will you sin against innocent blood by putting David to death without a cause?”

Saul listened to the voice of Jonathan, and Saul vowed, “As the Lord lives, he shall not be put to death.”

Then Jonathan called David, and Jonathan told him all these words. And Jonathan brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence as formerly. When there was war again, David went out and fought with the Philistines and defeated them with great slaughter, so that they fled before him.

Now there was an evil spirit from the Lord on Saul as he was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand, and David was playing the harp with his hand. Saul tried to pin David to the wall with the spear, but he slipped away out of Saul’s presence, so that he stuck the spear into the wall. And David fled and escaped that night.

Saul’s envy (v. 1-3)

Now Saul told Jonathan his son and all his servants to put David to death. But Jonathan, Saul’s son, greatly delighted in David.
So Jonathan told David saying, “Saul my father is seeking to put you to death. Now therefore, please be on guard in the morning, and stay in a secret place and hide yourself. I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where you are, and I will speak with my father about you; if I find out anything, then I will tell you.”

In the story so far, we have seen David become Saul’s new Goliath. Saul has become envious because the people, including his own daughter and son, love David. Saul is paranoid that David is trying to take his throne. Because of his envy, Saul plots to have David killed. Unlike we read previously, Saul is no longer keeping his intentions a secret. He gives the explicit and direct command to his servants.

Since Jonathan loves David, he plans to intercess on David’s behalf before his father, the king.

David’s innocence (v. 4-8)

Then Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, “Do not let the king sin against his servant David, since he has not sinned against you, and since his deeds have been very beneficial to you. For he took his life in his hand and struck the Philistine, and the Lord brought about a great deliverance for all Israel; you saw it and rejoiced. Why then will you sin against innocent blood by putting David to death without a cause?”

Jonathan reasons with his father. Saul’s envy is revealed as unreasonable and unfounded. David’s work has done nothing but benefit Saul and Israel. Jonathan reminds his father that David even defeated Goliath, and through David God delivered Israel from the Philistines. Even Saul rejoiced because of David’s work before making David his enemy. Previously, the story showed us that we cannot overcome our external circumstances. Now, the text is showing us we cannot overcome our own self-righteous nature. God is sovereign over it all. All things are provided by Him alone.

Saul listened to the voice of Jonathan, and Saul vowed, “As the Lord lives, he shall not be put to death.” 
Then Jonathan called David, and Jonathan told him all these words. And Jonathan brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence as formerly. When there was war again, David went out and fought with the Philistines and defeated them with great slaughter, so that they fled before him.

Saul is persuaded and David rejoins his court, continuing to serve Saul. Saul changed his mind and vowed not to put David to death. This sounds like the promises we tend to make often, “I promise I wont do it again.”

Saul’s backsliding (v. 9-10)

Now there was an evil spirit from the Lord on Saul as he was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand, and David was playing the harp with his hand. Saul tried to pin David to the wall with the spear, but he slipped away out of Saul’s presence, so that he stuck the spear into the wall. And David fled and escaped that night.

Once again, God sent an evil spirit upon Saul as David played the harp. Like before, Saul tried to pin David to the wall. This evil spirit is from God. This notion is conflicting for some. God is benevolent, yet the evil spirit is from Him. While there are arguments present that utilize linguistics to lessen the blow of this particular verse, the truth remains—God sent a spirit to Saul for the purpose of oppressing him. Some will also try to lessen the blow by claiming that Saul is troubled because he is simply old. It may very well be the case that Saul is suffering from ailments that naturally accompany old age, but the text is perspicuous in its reason for Saul’s ailment. We cannot rightly naturalize what we read because the text is so explicit. There is an evil spirit from the Lord oppressing Saul. Since this is the explicit claim in Scripture, we cannot explain it away. We cannot get God off the hook. If God is sovereign, in control of all things, and providential, working all things together, then even evil spirits are on His leash and cannot go without God’s commission. He has placed all the elements in the world that He desires for His own glory and the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. David dodges the spear and escapes once again.

Saul tries but is unable to overcome his own sin, paranoia, or anger. The Scripture’s reveal human nature, whether or not God sends evil spirits, to be so self-absorbed that no one can overcome his or her sin. Sin comes from self-righteousness nature. James 1:14-18 makes is perspicuous concerning this truth.

But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.

What hope is there for us if we cannot overcome our sin? On Wednesday, we talked about the dangers of merely trying to clean up our acts. Let me encourage you to go back and watch that Bible study. We can also look at Romans 8:1-17.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

Based on the Biblical doctrine of spiritual regeneration as described, Paul reveals the application in Romans 12:1-2.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

What hope is there? Our hope is not in cleaning up our own acts. The more we know God, the more we are guided by God’s Holy Spirit. God changes us, not we ourselves. Therefore, we present our bodies, or surrender to Christ, as worship and renew our minds, or know God more. That is the only way to discern God’s will and put off the old self. We can’t make ourselves better people, so we give ourselves over to God and take every opportunity to know God more. If you struggle against your anger like I did, the only real cure is to know God more. If your sin is sexual, addiction, self-identity, self-preference, self-will, or anything else; first know that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Second, know that the only way to be killing sin is simply to know God more. That is why Jesus asks us simply to come sit at His feet and learn, not to try making ourselves better (Matthew 11:25-30).

This is why we need every opportunity to know Christ more. Without knowing Him more, we do not have any hope of becoming better or practicing His righteousness. Like a piece of cloth cannot sew itself into a tunic or a canvas paint a masterpiece upon its surface, neither can we make ourselves new creations. So, we get to know our Lord. We sit at His feet. We go to as many healthy, sound Bible studies as possible. We become a thriving part of a healthy, sound local church. We go in seeking to know Christ and His work more deeply, neither to figure out what we must or can do nor have what we already believe confirmed. If we are not growing in Christ, we are, like Saul, degenerating. Root produces fruit. Fruit cannot change root.

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