I wish this was just a fiction story, but there is a Beast in each of our basements. IT seems undefeatable and indestructible. We try to hide IT from polite company, pretend its growls are only a furnace noise or someone searching for something in our basements. We hate to admit, even to ourselves that IT is there, ready to destroy us and everything we hold dear if we gave IT its freedom! IT remains locked up for most of us, but IT is still there, waiting for its opportunity, when in a moment of weakness, we may unlock the door, release IT from its chains, and let IT loose.
The specific character of your Beast may be different from mine or others, but they behave much the same, coming from the DNA of Adam which was polluted with that of the devil. Your Beast is a murdering, lying, adulterous, slothful, gluttonous, jealous, greedy, selfish creature that will eat away your very soul if you let IT. Paul described IT as the “nothing good” living inside of him (Romans 7:13-20). “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” Quite a frightening varmint, one wonders if there is any hope!
But there is Good News! “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2) We do not have to let this Beast dominate our lives, show itself to world, or even spend time with IT. There are ways to control the Beast, even if we cannot kill IT. Let me suggest three rules for controlling the Beast in your basement.
1. Do not feed IT! Every appetite of our hearts depends on what we feed ourselves. There are multiple avenues of “food” for your brain and heart. What you watch, what you listen to, activities in which you participate, even the smells and tastes in which you indulge, will feed your spirit. And there is a fifth source of spiritual food beyond our senses: our imaginations; what you imagine when that driver cuts you off, the images of your memories of when you walked without Christ in your life, how you imagine people should see you.
These are the “foods” that you can use to feed your Beast, or what you can use to starve IT. “You are what you eat” is an old saying that carries more truth than we admit in these days of self-indulgence. But moreso, “you are what you think!” Consider taking a census of your time, and examining what you putting into your brain and heart. How many hours a day do you imagine living with Jesus in eternity? How long does it take you to stop imagining crushing the car of the guy who cut you off? How does the music to which you listen feed or starve your Beast? How much time do you spend alone in worship?
I am not advocating a legalistic, “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” approach to life (Colossians 2:20-23) but rather that we “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Romans 13:14) This is the “holy freedom” to which Brother Lawrence invites us (see August 20, 2016). Simply put, Do NOT feed your Beast!
2. Do not play with it. If you are starving your Beast, it is reasonable to suggest that you do not spend a lot of time with it. It is certain that if you spend time with your Beast, you will feed it. The desires of the flesh, whether they are expressions of pride, selfishness, anger, lust, or greed, all war against the Spirit of God, which is in you, if you have trusted Jesus to be your savior.
Another old saying, “Do not play with fire or you’ll get burned,” still holds true as well. If you entertain thoughts in your mind of how you can “play with” your Beast, and still live for God, you are playing with fire to your soul. Yes, we are free in Jesus, but not to entertain in our hearts what is wrong. Paul explained this to the Galatians in his letter: “You were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh.” (Galatians 5:13) Rather his guidance is to walk according to God’s Spirit and allow the “fruit of the Spirit” to grow in you.
In Romans 7, Paul compared it to a relationship of marriage. If a spouse has died, what business would you have in still living with him/her? “For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit.” (Romans 7:5-6) If you continue playing with the Beast hiding in your basement, you risk being trapped by your Beast into a spiraling hole that eventually destroy you. Simply put, Do NOT play with your Beast!
3. NEVER let it out of the basement! The third rule for control of your Beast is that there are some things that are not for polite company. Everyone should have two or three close friends who know about the Beast in their basement, and occasionally, with their cooperation, you may need to visit IT if only to make sure IT is under control. This is valuable and such friends can assist with praying with you and controlling the Beast.
But the Beast in your basement should be kept from seeing the daylight of the world. “At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.” (Ephesians 5:8-12) This “exposure” of the works of darkness is to be done only with those who share with you in walking in the light. The Beast should be kept out of sight from the rest of the world, as they would be encouraged to participate with entertaining and feeding your Beast. Simply put, Do NOT let it out of the basement!
Starve it, leave it alone, and keep it in your basement, and when you hear its chains rattling below, turn to your savior who can give you power over the Beast in Your Basement. “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)
Next week, January 31, 2017, we’ll look at meditation, another Discipline of the Spirit-led Life.