For a long time I thought that the ‘fear of death’ was the fear of physical death. While it is partially that, I believe that the author of Hebrews was also talking about dying to self in order to live for God.
Hebrews 2:14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
Fear of death enslaves us to sin.
Almost two weeks ago I was talking with some friends when one of them said something incorrectly which made me start to laugh. I tried to stop because I didn’t want to be rude or make fun of her so I shifted my eyes to the other friend who I realized had noticed also and was now trying hard not to laugh. Well, now that we were looking at each other, we began laughing so hard that our friend realized what was happening and left the room. We both felt bad but didn’t think anything more of it and went about our days. Over the next few days we realized that our friend had ceased all communication with us that wasn’t absolutely necessary.
This got my brain going… it’s not like I was being someone phony when I laughed.. that was just who I am. I can’t help it if I think it’s funny and sometimes call people out for their miss-use of words. My heart sunk. I knew that I was in the wrong because I had openly made fun of what she had said. As I prayed about what to do I asked God how I was supposed to change something that He had created in me. Then He reminded me what a mistake it was to ask such a thing. This need to correct others was not something God had put there, this was part of the pride of my heart, wanting to be right and ‘help’ others to see their faults. I found myself gingerly arguing with God… but this is who I am.. I can’t change! And He reminded me that I was right – I WAS born this way.
This phrase kept repeating in my head… I am me, at your expense.
So, what was the real problem here? Really, I was afraid of death; which was enslaving me to the sin of pride. It’s not that I was afraid of dying in the physical sense, I was afraid to die to myself and let Christ become forefront. It was a WWJD moment. I thought that if I wasn’t my usual correcting and cynical self, then I wasn’t really me at all. Christ reminded me that indeed it wouldn’t be me if I changed.. I would be more like Him. I didn’t want to admit my sin to my friend. Over those few days I was being eaten alive inside by this feeling of wronging her. I didn’t even know if she was really mad at me.. I just thought she was. But because I have the Holy Spirit inside of me, this war was being waged between my new-life-self and my sin-nature-self.
I had to decide. Is my allegiance to me or to Christ? Was I willing to stay in my sin and let it take over and just BECOME that person or submit to my Savior who tells me to be self-controlled and gentle? Did I really want to take the world’s side and just claim birthrights to cynicism or do what the apostle Paul said In Romans 12 and “present my body as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, and not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of my mind”? Was it really worth it to wallow in the fact that I had hurt my friend, or was I prepared to accept Christ’s offer of forgiveness and healing at confession?
But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? – Galatians 4:9
Though I was born a sinner, I had been re-born of the Holy Spirit. I now had the ability to turn away from that sin of pride if I chose, and do the right thing. I stood at the edge of the precipice, looking out into the unknown that I was about to leap into. She might forgive me. She might not. She might get angry at me and say things that I don’t want to hear about myself. I swallowed my pride and jumped into the unknown. I approached my friend, explained my behavior and asked for forgiveness.
She forgave me. But more than that I was able to see the over-arching lesson of what it looks like to wage a war against sin through our relationship with Christ. Though this battle had been won it will surely not be the last time I have to deal with my pride.
Here are some things to take into consideration the next time you are standing at the edge of the unknown:
- The struggle against our flesh will not end until the day we are physically living with Christ.
- The struggle is an indicator of our need for Christ.
- The struggle is an indicator of God’s gracious presence in your life through the Holy Spirit by revealing sin.
- The desire to sin is to be resisted in and through Christ. If we try to do it alone we may win a time or two, but eventually we will fail.
- The struggle is an indicator of your awareness of sin, need, and the ability to change by His power.
- This struggle will be one of many in the war of trusting Christ completely. The bigger picture here is to put all faith in Him.
- The struggle is something that God will be glorified in.
- Take heart in knowing that the struggle will become less intense and more infrequent as it is resisted through Christ.