An Empty House

Last week I wrote here about the importance of killing sin in our lives before it kills us. The feedback I received showed that it’s a subject that resonates with many of you. However, through the preaching of one of my Pastors on Sunday, I realised that there is a second chapter to write on this. Something Jesus himself said that is essential advice for the sin-killer!

The passage preached was Luke 11: 14-28. Jesus has just cast an evil spirit out of a man, and the people accuse him of doing so ‘by Beelzebub’ – the Prince of Demons!

Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them:  ‘Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. 18 If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebul….  20 But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.’

Jesus shows them their flawed logic, how can Satan oppose himself? But he continues with a powerful metaphor, that I think applies to us in the context of killing sin too:

The Strong Man

21 ‘When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. 22 But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armour in which the man trusted and divides up his plunder.

Jesus frees people from demons because he is stronger than Satan, and can easily overcome and plunder him!

Never Leave the House Empty

It’s great news! Jesus has victory over the strong man Satan. He defeats him and plunders his house, removing all who have been captive there! But Jesus has not finished teaching, he has a serious caution for them, and for us, and it’s easily overlooked in our joy:

24 ‘When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, “I will return to the house I left.” 25 When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. 26 Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.’

What is Jesus saying here? He is the stronger man, he triumphs over Satan. But the strong man’s house must not remain empty. The metaphor shifts a little here, because Jesus shows that he is really talking about the person who has been freed from bondage to Satan. They are like a house, swept clean, cleared of all its evil inhabitants, a house that no longer belongs to the strong man.

Yet if that house remains empty, if there is no new, better inhabitant, Jesus tells us that the situation of this person will end up much worse, because Satan will move in again, and fill that house to overflowing!

The Stronger Man

We are meant to fill in the blanks here. The strong man has been evicted, the stronger man Jesus Christ must move in permanently. Although the context is different, this is so important in our fight against sin, that I felt I had to share it, as I seek to take it on board myself.

We can be so focused on sins and situations that we need God’s rescue from, that though we succeed with God’s help in killing the sin, we neglect to complete the tenancy agreement! Jesus isn’t only our sin killer and saviour, he must go on to be our Lord – to fully inhabit us by his Spirit, so that we might continue to grow in our relationship with him, and move forward in sanctification.

And the principle remains true on a smaller everyday scale too. As we remove sinful habits from our lives, do we remember to fill the spaces they leave with things that will bless and strengthen us in Christ? Because otherwise the likelihood is that before long we will be struggling with something else similar.

We mustn’t treat Jesus like a problem solver for times of need, called out only when our sin or sorrow has brought us to the brink of desperation. He needs to be our constant house guest, so that our lives will never be taken over by the strong man again. For how can he re-enter the house while the stronger man remains?