Don’t Feed the Beast
Last week we started to answer the question, “Why do we struggle with the same sin over and over again, and how do we break the cycle?”
Using Romans 7 as a guide, the two first steps are:
- Remember that you don’t live in peacetime
- Never argue for your own righteousness
If we let our guard down and deceive ourselves into thinking that our biggest problem exists outside of us, we set ourselves up to fall for the same temptation and replicate the same sins.
But there is even more we can do to take advantage of the daily rescuing grace of Christ, which promises to deliver us from evil and change us from the inside out.
3. Don’t feed the beast and then act surprised when you get bitten.
I’m sure you’ve seen or heard the shocking stories of animal trainers who show off with huge, caged, and supposedly “tame” creatures (like lions, tigers, or bears). And suddenly, in a horrifying instant, the mighty creature reverts to its wild nature and attacks.
You might have been to a performance where everything (hopefully) went according to plan, and you think these sensationalist news headlines are out of the ordinary. But don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. 1 Peter 5:8 presents the devil as a prowling lion: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
Have you allowed yourself to get into a cage with a beast? Are you feeding it with “small morsels” of your heart, playing with fire, and enticing temptation?
All of us tend to be much too naive regarding the presence, power, attractiveness, and danger of sin. As a result, we give ourselves a pass because we aren’t committing “big” or “obvious” evils, but we are sowing subtle and acceptable seeds of sin that will someday get us bitten.
4. Lastly, don’t bandage the wounds without healing the disease.
If you had oozing, infected sores on your body that continued to reappear, your doctor wouldn’t be satisfied with putting ointment and bandages on them. Instead, a medical expert would know that there must be some infection or disease internally in your system.
Christ pronounced woe to the Pharisees because they cleaned the outside of the cup without first addressing the inside (see Matthew 23:25–26). To break the cycle of sin, we must deal with the causal, core disease—our heart and its desires—and not just work to alleviate or mitigate the symptoms.
Take Jim, for example. He struggles with lashing out against his wife and children in anger. So, to reduce the consequences and damage of his behavior, he delegates disciplinary situations with his children to his wife. When he and his wife argue, he has learned to hold his tongue, walk away, cool down, and ignore the tough conversations so he doesn’t blow up.
(These approaches may be necessary and even helpful for a time, but they haven’t addressed his heart and what is causing the anger.)
Like Jim, we all have tried the Pharisees’ approach in one form or another. We’ll make temporary changes in relationships, situations, schedules, and locations. We attempt to substitute unhealthy behavior for more acceptable behavior.
Again, these might be helpful and necessary short-term resolutions, but they will never work long-term. The heart, its desires, and temptations must always be addressed and rescued by the grace of Christ.
If behavioral techniques or strategic changes could have solved our battle with sin, Jesus would not have had to come to earth and suffer and die. There is no other hope for fallen, sin-riddled humanity. Christ came not to bandage symptoms but to cure our diseases.
The golden promise of the new covenant work of Jesus Christ is a new heart! So take hope and be encouraged: God has covenantally committed himself to be faithful to you, unleashing his wisdom, power, and grace on your heart and life, right here, right now.
Paul David Tripp
1. What temptations are you downplaying, or what sins are you allowing a free pass, in your life right now? How are you justifying them?
2. How could these sins grow into something much more devastating if you don’t take them seriously now? Why should you flee from this type of disobedience?v
3. Are you sinning in darkness or enticing temptation in secret? How can you drag this sin into the light and deal with it publicly in front of brothers or sisters? How might accountability help you to stop feeding the beast? Take action today and tell someone of your struggle! (Remember, there is nothing that can be exposed about you that the blood of Jesus hasn’t already covered!)
4. What short-term strategies might you need to employ to reduce your sin’s horizontal, relational consequences with others (like Jim)? How are these not vertical, heart-focused, permanent solutions? Why will they not work for very long?
5. What practical steps can you take to receive the daily wisdom, power, and grace that the Spirit has unleashed on you through the new covenant? Be specific. What can you do differently today to fully embrace your new potential in Christ?