Barney Fife was wrong. No, I mean really wrong. Wronger than regular. Barney was the person Shakepeare thought of when penning the phrase, “Comedy of Errors.” But Barney was really wrong this time. You can’t just “nip it in the bud.” You know what I mean. Fife meant that whatever was going on had to immediately stop, but it is more fun to bug out the eyeballs, strain the neck and clip out, “nip it!”
But here is where the Deputy went wrong. If you want to stop something, you can’t “nip it.” You gotta dig out the roots. This is where that ancient axiom comes in, “If the big things don’t get you, the little ones will kill you.” I am putting in another flowerbed for my darling, beautiful, sweet, lovely bride and came across some bulbs left over from someone else’s garden. I could have just waited for them to come up and clip them off . . . but to get them out of the way, they have to be dug out and disposed of wholly.
What happens if you “nip it” and don’t get rid of it? A prime example is King Saul.
Saul had a problem. He nipped it. And it sprung back and killed him.
Remember back in 1 Samuel 15, Saul was to annihilate the Amalekites and he decided to spare some instead. Fast forward to 2 Samuel 1 and find David is standing there, minding his own business and here comes this guy running up the path and falling down to his feet says, “here is Saul’s armband and crown. He is dead.”
“How do you know he’s dead?” David asks.
“I killed him,” the guy says.
“Who are you?” David inquires.
“Oh, just an Amalekite. See, I was just standing there minding my own business, watching the battle, when I saw Saul leaning on his spear. I thought I would trot over to see wassup and he begged me to kill him,” says the messenger.
David asks him again, “Who are you again?”
I am sure David’s rolodex was flipping like crazy. After the guy leaves, David tells one of his men, “cut him down,” so they pursued the messenger and killed him.
Sin is like that. You can’t just “nip it.” Sin has to be removed entirely. Either kill or be killed. Sin is enmity with God.
The Amalekites have an interesting history. Amalek was a child of Saul (Genesis 36:12) and his descendents were the ones who came out against Moses and the Israelites to make war. This was the war that when Moses held his hands up, Israel prevailed and when they dropped, they were not doing well. Of course, Aaron and Hur were recruited to help prop him up . . . (Exodus 17:8-16. Later God tells Israel to remember what the Amalekites did when they came out of Egypt. Most importantly, they were not to forget that “he [Amalek] did not fear God” (Deuteronomy 25:17-19). The sinner is horrible like that. He does not fear God.
I went with a friend down to Finlay Park the other day and met Clay and Anthony. I got to talking with Clay (Anthony sat quiet most of the time) and asked him, “Do you think good people should go to heaven?”
“Yeah. But I ain’t goin’. I’m going straight to hell.”
I said, “Doesn’t that concern you? What made you come to that conclusion?”
He basically said that 1) he was just too bad to be cleaned up and 2) he didn’t want to go to heaven anyway. He started naming a list of sins he committed.
I asked him if thought that if there was any way possible that he could be saved from the penalty of his sins and an eternity in hell, would he take it?
“Probably. I guess. I just gotta clean myself up and will do it when the time is right.”
I was incredulous! “What guarantee do you have that your heart will keep beating 5 minutes from now? How are you going to clean up your act enough for salvation from the penalty of your sins? Will you have time?”
He just looked at me. I said, “Look. Let’s say you were to appear before a judge for all the crimes you’ve committed . . .”
“Yeah, I’m going to jail, man!” He smiled at me.
“But what if you said, ‘Hey judge, I stopped doing all that stuff a long time ago. I’m good now and promise I won’t do it again.’ What should the judge do?”
”I’m still going to jail.” He smiled.
I could not believe what I was hearing. I told him how Jesus had paid the penalty for his sin and he did not have to die in his sin, that he needed to repent and put on Christ Jesus. We talked some more and he still chose hell. He had no fear of God, no fear of judgment, no fear of hell, no fear of dying in his sins. That’s how horrible sin can be. If this is what the Amalekites were like, I shudder the thought.
Not too far away sat Aiken. I asked Aiken if he thought he was good enough to go to heaven. He sat up straight. “I sure do! I’m an ordained minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ! I’m going to heaven!”
Now, I probably would have walked away and thanked him for his time, but there was this big ol’ angel standing behind me keeping me rooted to that spot. I just looked at him and prayed, “what do I say?” Finally it came out. “What makes you think you are going to heaven?”
“The promises of God,” Aiken cheerfully announced.
“What promises?” I asked.
“That if I keep the Word of God in my life, he will hopefully send me to heaven or wherever!” Aiken preached.
For the second time in the same evening, I could not believe what I was hearing.
“What does it mean to be saved?” I asked.
“It means you go to heaven?” he answered.
I pressed. “What about your sin?”
“Well, if you backslide, you go to hell, so I try real hard not to do that.”
I prayed silently, “thank you Jesus for making me stay here.” Out loud I said, “would you like to know how to keep from backsliding?” And I asked him if he had broken any commandments, to which he admitted and he confessed his guilt before God. He realized he needed to truly repent and I encouraged him to do so. I pray he does because as I was getting ready to leave, he began to talk about how he was “out here” to live for Jesus, without house or food (he was homeless?) and is trusting God everyday.
Then we were interrupted by two guys in suits who stuffed tracts into our hands and asked if we were saved and received the second blessing and evidence of tongues . . . after all, God gives out $100 bills, why stick with $20’s? I was not going to argue with these guys and we parted ways.
Saul did not kill the Amalekites and it was that which he should have killed that killed him. In the same way, I think that backsliding is solvable with this one easy premise: true repentance is the key.
There was no mistake about which people Saul was to do away with. In the same way, we get a “table of contents” of specific sin we need to repent of in the Ten Commandments. Notice I said, “table of contents.” If we can identify even one, then the whole list must be turned from. In the same way, Saul was to leave not one Amalekite alive. No, he “nipped.” And he got nipped back.
Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin put out one his famous almost Monty Python movies in 1981 called “Time Bandits.” The story revolves around the adventures of a small (no pun intended) band of God’s helpers (Ralph Richardson played "The Supreme Being") who stole a map of Time holes when God wasn’t looking and go gallivanting through time and space.
Along their way they pick up a small boy who travels with them and (of course) are pursued by Gilliam’s rendition of Satan, known as "Evil Genius". At the end of the movie, not only does “The Supreme Being” finally catch up to his small (no pun intended) band, but also rescues the entourage from the clutches of "Evil Genius" by literally exploding him into tiny pieces. One of the last scenes of the movie include a very old, frail “Supreme Being” telling his crew they have another chance; but, they must first collect each and every piece of evil for disposal. Nothing can be left behind as it must all be collected down the tiniest grain. Of course, they miss one piece and it causes a disaster . . .
Don’t rush out and see the film (please?!) but that is exactly the point. That is the ultimate point. Not one piece of sin can remain.
This is the efficacy of the finished work of Christ. He intends that we be fully delivered from sin. We are not to hang on to even the smallest portion.