Friday, May 3, 2013
DAMPING DOWN THE FIRE
damp – restrain, check or discourage; - lessen the intensity of; hold in restraint; hold or keep within limits;
damp something down curb, reduce, check, cool, moderate, dash, chill, dull, diminish, discourage, restrain, Inhibit, stifle, allay, deaden, pour cold water on
It is (or was) the practice of those who heat there homes with a fireplace or wood stove, to dampen the fire at night in such a way that there would be hot coals still available in the morning to get a new fire going. It was all about putting the last pieces of wood together in the back in a way that would discourage oxygen from reaching the hot coals so that they would not burn completely up during the night.
In Ephesians 4, verse 30, we are admonished to not grieve the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we wonder what that actually means as we walk our daily lives in Christ. Sometimes we kind of know. And sometimes we know it way too well.
As I walked away from the church and into a life a sin, I was definitely damping the Holy Spirit. Until today I did not know exactly how to explain my relationship with Christ during those 21 years. I was challenged on this whole idea that I had any relationship with Him at all in one of my Bible Studies. I carefully showed how the Holy Spirit has sealed us and keeps us for the sake of Christ our Lord and even admitted that I had damped down the Holy Spirit. The phrase came naturally because I had used it many times, but today I discovered Paul admonishing us to never do exactly that: Do not put out the Spirit’s fire! (I Thessalonians 5:19) I did exactly that. And now I can speak with sureness when I say that coming back to Him was like setting myself on fire. He was severely dampened down within me and suddenly He was able to push all the garbage out of the way and fill me again with the fire of His love. And my relationship with Him has been building into a bonfire everyday since.
As we look at the definitions I have included, perhaps we can see ways in which we are constantly damping down the power of the Holy Spirit within us. One of the things that brought me to even thinking about this is the book of Acts and the preaching of Stephen, where he condensed the history of Israel into a few choice paragraphs. It was and is an amazing, awe inspiring sermon. And it seems like the sum total of their history is that they could never quite commit themselves to their God.
As we discussed this in a small group we took a look at the whole trip from Egypt to the Promised Land and found that we doubted that these particular Israelites could never give up what they had known and never really gave their hearts to the God of their Fathers. They had grown up in and lived with the culture of Egypt for 400 years and they could not give up those lives even though they had been in bondage there.
Wow. Now that sounds interesting to me. Bondage. Even today we have defined a syndrome that explains why people held hostage come to depend on and even love and admire those who hold them hostage. Even as the Israelites did, they become comfortable with their situation and allow it to continue to be their hiding place. The Israelites were oblivious to their condition to the point that they simply could not hear what God was actually asking of them and only saw what they perceived to be uncomfortable situations on the road to the Promised Land. Then, they refused to enter out of personal, non-committed to God fears, and nearly stoned Joshua and Caleb when they kept praising the idea of going in. No wonder God punished them and forbid them to enter the Promised Land, ever. His Wrath truly is as Holy as His Love.
Perhaps all this can give us pause, and send our minds and hearts seeking God to search our hearts and see if there be any “love of bondage” as sinful behavior in us. (Psalm 139) (Hymn – Cleanse Me) Hmmmm…
Let’s take food, for example, since it is a common denominator for us all. We all eat. And we all love our “comfort” food. We have to eat to remain alive. But we can also become bound by food in many different ways.
The first thing we think of is overeating. But there are other food bondage possibilities out there as well: Roller Coaster dieting is one. Following (worshiping) Gurus of healthy eating (or exercising) can be another. Tracking every morsel of food we put in our mouths 24 hours a day can also be bondage for us. And let’s not forget the frugal shopper who spends most of each day hunting down coupon after coupon after coupon. Getting a good deal is fine: Being driven to beat the system to death is another thing altogether.
Let’s face it: What are we supposed to be thinking about 24 hours a day? Goods things, right? Philippians 4 says, “Think on these things.” And the list does not include what you are going to eat, or what you are going to wear, or what shelter you will have. (Remember Christ’s admonition to not worry about these things?)
Yes, we obviously need to be careful about what and how much food we put into our mouths. But, Jesus said that we must be more concerned about what comes out of our mouths. And Paul and others admonish us to fill our minds with the truth of God in order to replace the things which otherwise would be what we speak and live by. Are we listening? Being in bondage is a terrible way to live. Finding it a comfort is the saddest thing we can bring to our lives.
The only point I am trying to make here is that we must be careful to be fully committed to God and not dampen down what He has for us by being overly concerned about ourselves and our comfort place if it is other than Christ. Being in bondage is a terrible way to live. Whether our bondage is to germs, or frugality, or food, or immoral practices, or addictions, or even games or exercise or sports or…. If God the Holy Spirit is not aloud to be the fire that drives us, we are damping down the Holy Spirit. We are grieving Him and we are acting like idiots. I know. I’ve lived that way.
God, search us now and see if there be any sin in us, even a bondage that we have been ignoring. Let us see ourselves and our sins clearly and help us to submit to you in love and obedience today and every day. In Jesus name. Amen.