Think of yourself as living in an apartment house. You live there under a landlord who has made your life miserable. He charges you exorbitant rent. When you can’t pay, he loans you money at a fearful rate of interest to get you even further into his debt. He barges into your apartment at all hours of the day and night, wrecks and dirties the place up, then charges you extra for not maintaining the premises. Your life is miserable.
Then comes Someone who says, “I’ve taken over this apartment house. I’ve purchased it. You can live here as long as you like, free. The rent is paid up. I am going to be living here with you, in the manager’s apartment.”
What a joy! You are saved! You are delivered out of the clutches of the old landlord!
But what happens? You hardly have time to rejoice in your new-found freedom, when a knock comes at the door. And there he is—the old landlord! Mean, glowering, and demanding as ever. He has come for the rent, he says.
What do you do? Do you pay him? Of course you don’t! Do you go out and pop him on the nose? No—he’s bigger than you are!
You confidently tell him, “You’ll have to take that up with the new Landlord.” He may bellow, threaten, wheedle, and cajole. You just quietly tell him, “Take it up with the new Landlord.” If he comes back a dozen times, with all sorts of threats and arguments, waving legal-looking documents in your race, you simply tell him yet once again, “Take it up with the new Landlord.” ln the end he has to. He knows it, too. He just hopes that he can bluff and threaten and deceive you into doubting that the new Landlord will really take care of things.
Now, this is the situation of a Christian. Once Christ has delivered you from the power of sin and the devil, you can depend on it: that old landlord will soon come back knocking at your door. And what is your defense? How do you keep him from getting the whip hand over you again? You send him to the new Landlord. You send him to Jesus.
A Personal Testimony
When this first broke in upon me, I was out mowing the lawn. Suddenly I realized the implication of this simple truth: If Christ has set me free, then I am free indeed! I don’t have to entertain all the negative impressions that come knocking at the door of my mind. I don’t have to let that old landlord come barging in, waving all his bills in my face. So I consciously claimed my deliverance in Christ, and then I waited.
Sure enough, the old landlord was right there, knocking at the door. The thought came into my mind: “When are you going to find time for any reading and studying when the fall program begins at church? You are going to be snowed under!” But now I realized that this wasn’t my thought. This was a thought which was trying to infiltrate my mind, get me to accept it, so it could hold a club over my head. This was the old landlord, trying to collect from me a bill marked “Worry.” “You’ll have to take that up with Jesus,” I told him.
He began to enumerate a few more details, telling me how impossible the fall schedule was going to be. But I told him again, “That may all be true, but will you take it up with Jesus, please?” He went reluctantly. He knew I was right. “Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7).
He didn’t stay away long. He was back a few moments later.
“Say, I want to come in and talk with you about those people that have been telling lies about you.” He had a nice friendly smile on his face. He oozed concern. But I saw what he had behind his back: A big fat bill marked “Self-pity.”
“Take it up with Jesus,” I told him.
“They may get you in real trouble!” His voice took on a little edge, and I saw that he had another bill lurking behind his back marked “Fear.”
The same answer: “Take it up with Jesus.” That’s the way I handle temptation now. Not willpower, not strength of character, not making a flock of resolutions. Just: “Take it to Jesus.”
The old landlord must have come back a couple of hundred times that first hour, while I was out mowing the lawn. I never realized before what a playground for Satan our minds can become. But here’s the point, and the power: we don’t have to let him in! Christ has delivered us, really delivered us. When these thoughts come knocking at the door of our mind, we can quietly send them on to Jesus.
Don’t argue with them. That’s letting them get one foot in the door. (That was Eve’s trouble—she got into a conversation with the Tempter.) Before the conversation even gets under way, quietly and confidently say, “Take that up with Jesus.”
Four Practical Tips
- Don’t let your feelings fool you.
Feelings are one of the old landlord’s strongest weapons. When he waves these things in your face, it will stir up all the old feelings you had before Christ delivered you—fear, doubt, guilt, lust, anxiety, despair. The old feelings will be right there, and strong. Don’t be afraid of them. Simply do not follow them. Rather, just quietly tell that thought, “Take the whole matter up with Jesus.” It may take some persistence on your part, but eventually he will leave. He has to. You have the Name of Power.
When Christ sets you free, it’s like pulling a big weed out by the roots. There are little troughs left in the earth, where the roots used to be. These don’t cover over at once. So what does the Enemy do? He beams a thought into your mind. He lays it right in the trough where the old root used to be—right where the memories are still easily aroused, right where the feelings that used to accompany that thing still lie raw and exposed. The memories stir up, the feelings are inflamed. Your faith in Christ faces a practical test. Are you going to trust the Word and promise of God, even despite your thoughts and feelings?
Remember the simple rule: Feelings follow faith. The old landlord cannot stay around forever. When he leaves, your feelings will subside.
- Do not become discouraged by the frequency or the repetition of the same temptation.
Repetition is another of the old landlord’s favorite weapons. We might resist him two, three, four times, but then we become weary. He convinces us that we are, after all, still as undelivered as ever. So we open the door and let him in.
If the same thought comes back a hundred times in the same day, a hundred times quietly and confidently send it on to Jesus. And rejoice! Yes, rejoice! Because the old landlord cannot come knocking one more time than he gets permission from God to do so.
Read the book of Job and see: Before Satan ever moved against Job, he had to get permission from God to do so. God lets the old landlord come knocking. This is the way in which your faith is built up. Every time you send the old landlord on to Jesus, your faith in your Deliverer is strengthened. And if he knocks loud and bellows fiercely, and if he returns a hundred, yes. a thousand times, rejoice! For with every encounter—with every turning him away to Jesus—you are being knit in trust and faith to your Deliverer.
- Do not feel that this requires some kind of superhuman will power.
This whole way of victory in Jesus is not based on willpower at all: It is based on faith—faith in the reality and authority of Jesus.
Consider again our illustration: Suppose the old landlord comes knocking at the door when the father and mother of the family have gone to the store. The five-year-old daughter is home alone. He blusters out his usual threats and demands. In herself, the child has no “strength.” She is just a five-year-old. But she is prepared. She knows the way things really stand.
By no strength of her own, but purely because of the incontestable authority of the new Landlord, she says calmly and confidently, “You’ll have to take that up with the new Landlord.” No fear. No shouting. No struggle. No “willpower.” Just simple trust and confidence (the Bible calls it “faith”) in an incontestable authority. That is what you have in Jesus: An Incontestable Authority. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18).
- Cut your conversation with the old landlord short.
In effect, give him to understand that you have other important things to do! For instance, you can turn to Jesus in an act of worship, song, or praise. This guards against the danger of this whole thing becoming just a “new law”—a routine which you follow, more-or-less successfully, but one which does not really build up your personal relationship to Jesus.
Imagine the case of a man who has had a habit of lust. He cannot sit down at a lunch counter without casting a furtive, lusting glance at the waitress. He never goes by a newsstand without paging through some lurid book or magazine. Even in his relations with his wife, there is more of lust than real love.
Then he is saved. He receives the life of Jesus, and he knows that he cannot continue to do this sort of thing. But he does not understand this life of deliverance-through-Jesus. So he merely applies the law. He tries to “contain” this lust of the flesh by resolve and willpower. He has a measure of success, but also many a failure. And in none of this is he really bound to Jesus in love. In fact, he may even begin inwardly to resent the hard life Jesus calls him to, and excuse himself a little lusting.
But now he learns this life of deliverance. He sees a lewd magazine on a bus station rack . He does not “fight” against this temptation. He does not simply grit his teeth and suffer through the duration of this temptation, saying over and over to himself, “I will not lust, I will not lust, I will not lust.” Evil resisted grows stronger. “The power of sin is the law” (1 Corinthians 15: 56). The more he invokes the law against his lusting, the more powerful grows the sin within him. He has tried that method before, and failed.
The way of real deliverance lies in quite another direction. He sees the lewd magazine. He quietly recognizes within himself that this is a situation of temptation. At once he takes up his impregnable position IN CHRIST through an act of conscious worship. He averts his eyes from the immediate source of temptation and inwardly begins to praise Jesus. Perhaps he sings a hymn to himself. He praises his wonderful DELIVERER. Not in a fearful spirit, as though the lust at any moment might break through the door. (He has sent it on to Jesus, and it has to leave!) He praises Jesus in a joyful, confident spirit knowing that He, Jesus, has won the victory over lust. His authority cannot be challenged.
As he binds himself to Jesus in this conscious act of worship, the temptation will retreat. It is not the law which has saved him. He has simply yielded the whole thing to Jesus, through an act of worship.
Another thing you can do is enter into a preconceived plan of intercession. A man once found himself afflicted by blasphemous thoughts. He fought against them with all the resources of his conscious will, but to no avail. Then he struck on a different approach. He determined that whenever these blasphemous thoughts came knocking at the door of his mind, he would begin praying for his cousin Henry, a missionary in China. It was not long before the old landlord quit bringing that blasphemy bill around for collection, for he found that all it did was stir up a lot of prayer for China!
Turning to some routine job is another way to excuse yourself from a conversation with the old landlord. A good stint of garden work, or taking care of some long-needed repairs around the house, has frustrated the old landlord’s plans more than once.
It is important to realize that the old landlord may tell you the ” truth.” Some of those bills are due—worry, hate, lust, laziness, pride. But that is not the point. The point is that Jesus is now handling the matter. The bills must be taken to Him for collection. He has paid the debt and set you free!
The Principal Behind It
This encounter with the old landlord is based on sound biblical principles.
- “Sin will have no dominion over you since you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14).
Does this mean that our spiritual life becomes lawless and disorderly? “God forbid!” says St. Paul. To live under grace does not mean to live contrary to law. It means that you are now operating under a different regime in the battle against sin.
One of the prime responsibilities of a government is to protect its citizens from coming under the dominion of any foreign power. When you live under the regime of the law and sin mounts a siege of temptation against you, you start a counter-barrage of “Thou shalts” and “Thou shalt nots.” You hurl them with all your might, but after a time you become weary. Sin outlasts you and gains dominion over you.
When God transfers you to the regime of grace, you no longer depend upon the law to defend you against an onslaught of temptation. You are under a regime with much more sophisticated weapons. Not the weapons of law, which you must wield in your own strength and determination, but the weapons of grace, which Christ himself puts into operation. When you learn to call upon the power of Christ, sin will not gain dominion over you.
- “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2).
The mind that is conformed to this world pays endless tribute to the old landlord. The renewed mind sets its faith and hope and trust and love upon Jesus. It “leads every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). “Take it to Jesus” and “Praise be to Thee, O Lord” become the obligato of one’s life. And, in this life of trust, we are transformed into the image of our Deliverer.
So if the old landlord comes and calls you a terrible sinner, you simply tell him, “Take it to Jesus.” If he comes and stirs up feelings of hatred, resentment, or despair within you, you tell him once again, “Take it to Jesus.” If he whispers in your ear that you did a marvelous job, and begins to inflate your ego, you tell him the same thing, “Take it to Jesus.”
If he comes to you with the whip of the law and says, “You have to be more loving! You have to be more patient! You have to be more honest!”, remember, Christ is the end of the law, also. You tell him, “Take that to Jesus. Whatever good is to be worked in me will come through His Spirit, not through the law.” And, with each encounter, you turn to Jesus in praise and adoration.
- “As therefore you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so live in him” (Colossians 2:6).
The faith that brought Jesus into your life is the faith by which you live. He is all-sufficient. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. You wake up in the morning. The cares of the day begin to crowd in upon you. You send them on to Jesus. You go through the day facing the temptations and frustrations and problems of everyday life. One by one, you refer them to Jesus. The life of inner warfare is transformed into a life of restful abiding in Christ. He is your Deliverer. He is, moment by moment, your ever sure defense.
Do you wonder whether such a life of faith and victory is possible? Do you find a little corner of doubt in your mind that says, “Perhaps for some this might be true, but surely not for me?” Send that doubt on to Jesus, and you will see!
Copyright 1974, Bethany Fellowship. Used by permission. Larry Christenson Copyright 1970. First Published 1970. Revised 1976.