Kill & Heal
Good morning Lakeside. We’re continuing our series Psalms for Every Season. I want to begin by reminding us why it’s so important that we look at these seasons.
It’s so important to have a theology of seasons because our culture defies limitations. We are all about growth, pushing, more, more efficient, more effective, bigger, faster, stronger. We want endless springs and summers; we want the fruit, the life, the freedom that comes from abundance. We don’t want winter with it’s cold death, it’s harsh winds. It slows us down.
But seasons are out of our control, they force us to have limits. We cannot manage winter. We can’t stop the spring. We can’t tame the summer heat or keep the leaves from falling.
And yet God has a purpose for every season. There are things that can only form in us during the winter; characteristics, perspectives, maturity that can’t come from endless summer. To consider the seasons is to consider that we cannot manage or control our own Christian maturity. It is ultimately God who forms us, through the seasons he walks us through.
The seasons are an invitation to submit to God’s work in our lives. Because when we don’t submit to the sovereign control of God, we end up stuck and silly. We’re stuck, in that we can’t enjoy the life that God actually gives us. Many of us only worship a summertime God and have summertime expectations on Him. If I just believe hard enough, and stay positive, then God will bless me. But God never promises to keep you in summer and in fact, we’re told that can expect to experience joy in every season. James tells us to, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” When we fail to submit to what God is doing in difficult seasons, we get stuck and miss out on the joy of maturity.
And second, we look silly. I’m a student pastor, and so I work with a lot of middle school boys. And middle school boys are notorious for wearing shorts in winter. There could be 8 feet of snow and -10 wind chill and these boys will be showing off their pasty-white knees. And they look ridiculous! It’s silly, it’s immature! When we refuse to submit to the various seasons God leads us in, we end up looking silly and staying immature in the faith.
The seasons we’ll be exploring today come from Ecc. 3:3, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to kill, and a time to heal.” These are wintertime seasons. They are seasons filled with pain, difficult choices, and hard consequences; but they also cause us to grow in maturity and love for one another. Let’s explore them together
A Time to Kill
A Time to Kill
What does it mean that there’s a time to kill? Is there really a time for God’s people to use violence to advance God’s Kingdom? Are there seasons in the life of the believer where they are to practice violence?
I want to start by suggesting that the overarching story of the Bible brings humanity from violence into peace. This was true for ancient Israel. God specifically commanded them not to murder and to seek the good of their neighbors. And even some of the greatest acts of liberation in the OT were non-violent, like the Exodus from Egypt - while God did bring judgment on Egypt, the Israelites didn’t raise a sword or spear.
And while war was necessary for the establishment of the Israelite nation, it was never sufficient to fulfill God’s true purpose to bless all nations. In fact, the warrior King David, who was a man after God’s heart, was forbidden from constructing the temple. God tells David in 1 Chronicles 22:8, “You have shed much blood and have waged great wars. You shall not build a house to my name, because you have shed so much blood before me on the earth.” Even in the OT, God does not delight in violence - so much so that the place of his presence could not be built by the warrior David.
The prophet Isaiah foresaw a day when the Messiah would come, and we would all, “beat our swords into plows.” He said that the Messiah would be the Prince of Peace and that when he comes, “every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire.” This is a radical vision of peace.
It shouldn’t be a surprise to us then that when the Messiah came, he taught us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. That those who live by the sword will die by the sword. It shouldn’t surprise us that Jesus didn’t save the world by raising an army, but by submitting to unjust violence against himself. It shouldn’t surprise us when Paul reminds us that we don’t war with flesh and blood, but with spiritual enemies. We have a Savior who makes peace by the blood of the cross, not a bloody sword.
So if this isn’t telling us that there’s a season for violence, then what is it telling us? Hebrew poetry uses a device called parallelism. While English poetry rhymes sounds (Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are), Hebrew poetry rhymes ideas. Take Psalm 51:2 for example, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity // cleanse me from my sin.” It’s the same idea, but the lines taken together clarify or deepen the meaning.
The same thing is happening in Eccl. 3:3, “There’s a time to kill, and a time to heal // a time to break down and a time to build up.” The rhyme is on kill and break down, so taken together we find that this isn’t an act of violence on others, but about a season of pruning or purging parts of our lives. Let me put this as plainly as I can: there is a season for you to kill parts of your life that are holding you back spiritually or relationally.
Let’s go back to Psalm 51. The author David writes this poem while he is in a time to kill. He had just committed adultery with Bathsheba, murdered her husband, and was confronted by Nathan about his sin. He writes, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” David realizes that there is a lot stuff in his heart and life that need to be cleansed away, to be completely destroyed. He recognizes that his sin is a cancer that’s eating away at his soul and life. His greed and lust gave way to murder and adultery. A woman’s life was ruined. A kingdom was torn apart. Sin always leads to some kind of death… which is why there is a time to kill. The great theologian John Owen said, “Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.”
Killing sin isn’t masochism. It doesn’t mean that you beat yourself up over every mistake. And it’s not legalism - we don’t base our standing with God on our ability to fight sin. It’s about pruning. In John 15, Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that doesn’t bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” Killing sin is all about pruning away behaviors, attitudes, thoughts, and patterns of relating that stop you from really connecting to God and bearing fruit. So much of the dysfunction in our lives is because we refuse to deal with ourselves honestly. We walk through life with shallow friendships, strained marriages, and tense families because we refuse to examine ourselves before the Lord and repent of things we to kill.
That’s one of the reasons that God leads us through the winter seasons. There is a clarity that comes when everything is bear. Driving to Sioux Falls in the winter, you can see out in the distance for miles. At the end of summer there’s no chance, your view is blocked by the harvest. Right now, God might be stripping away your harvest so that you can see more clearly things in your life that it’s time to kill.
This is an opportunity for deep reflection, for silence before the Lord. There might be something He wants to teach you. Yes, this is a winter season. The leaves are dead. The fruit is gone. And it feels like God is cutting parts off of you. But even this is under his divine care. He is the vinedresser and he knows that this momentary affliction will birth a more and more fruitful spring.
What are some things that God might be trying to prune in your life?
A Time to Heal
A Time to Heal
Winter isn’t just a season for killing sin. It’s also a time to heal wounds. There is a time to kill and there’s a time to heal. And just like the process of pruning, healing can be painful and requires deep reflection before God. We’re not just sinners, we’re also sufferers. While we do inflict others with our sinful behavior, we are also wounded by the sinful behavior of others, and these wounds need time and attention to heal if we’re going to grow into mature, healthy disciples.
A friend of mine was a porn addict. He was a follower of Jesus, and deeply ashamed about his addiction. He would try over and over again, praying with tears in his eyes. One of his pastors warned him that if he didn’t stop, he’d go to hell. This only fueled his fear and shame. And big shocker, he used his addiction to mask that fear and shame. He experienced no lasting change until he began addressing the issues that drove him to porn in the first place - abuse he experienced as a child, very early exposure to porn, and an absent father who was no help at all. Finally he began meeting with a Christian therapist who gently helped him address and heal those deep wounds. And now it’s been over a year since he’s viewed pornography and he has a much richer relationship with God.
My friend had sin to kill, but he also had wounds to heal. Going back to Psalm 51, we see that David knew it was never enough to just address our behavior. He begs God to, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” We can’t just stop our sinful behavior, we need God to heal the deep wounds in our heart that drive us to self-destructive behavior.
All of us have wounds. Maybe you had critical parents who you could never satisfy, and now you are a perfectionist who constantly feels like a failure. Maybe you were sexually abused, and now you’re filled with shame and feel worthless. Maybe the death of a loved one has rocked your world, and now you feel emotionally empty and afraid to connect with anybody. Maybe you were abandoned, and now you just long to be accepted and will do anything for anyone. Maybe you were mistreated by a pastor or church leader, and now the thought of joining a community group or really getting involved at church makes you want to puke.
These are not sins to treat harshly and kill. They are wounds that your Savior Jesus wants to heal. I want to pause and look at a passage of Scripture that most of us are overly familiar with. It is Matthew 11:28-30. In it, Jesus opens up about how he feels towards us. He says…
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Jesus’ heart is gentle. When he looks at you and I, he feels compassion. And when he invites us to repent, to heal, he reassures us that he will be gentle with us. Dane Orland writes in his book Gentle and Lowly that Jesus’ gentleness means that he’s, “Meek. Humble. Gentle. Jesus is not trigger-happy. Not harsh, reactionary, easily exasperated. He is the most understanding person in the universe. The posture most natural to him is not a pointed finger, but open arms.”
This gives us an incredible amount of hope. Whether there is sin that needs killing, or wounds that need healing, we have a Savior who understands us and invites us to give our burdens to him.