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?

Nim

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Killing It

“Be killing sin or it will be killing you” – John Owen

Toxic

What lies do you tell yourself about your habitual sins?

Here are some of mine:

It’s not that bad

I can’t help it

Everybody does it

I can control it

If God provided what I need (want) I wouldn’t have to resort to this

I’ll deal with it another day

What gospel truths do you use to excuse your sin?

Jesus died to forgive my sins

I’m saved by grace, not works

I mustn’t be legalistic about holiness

But when I look in the mirror of God’s word – alongside the challenging words of John Owen –  I can’t help but see the ugly realities of my heart:

Holiness and obedience aren’t my top priorities

I’m too lazy to deal with sin

I don’t want to fast and battle in prayer

I’m reluctant to take a hard look at my heart because I know the Holy Spirit will reveal things I’d rather ignore

I prize my own comfort/ entertainment/individual sins too much to seriously deal with them

I don’t believe my sin is dangerous to me

Wow. Told you it’s ugly. How greatly we need Jesus!

King David saw things clearly in Psalm 51 after a period of grievous sin. His words hint at the discipline he faced as he resisted repentance:

Let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation

Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed

He feels crushed, he has lost joy in salvation, and the vibrancy of God’s Spirit within.

“Be killing sin or it will be killing you”

As long as we leave our sin undealt with, it will grow, doing more and more damage to us, and to others. Our hearts will become hard and indifferent to it, and God’s Spirit will quieten.…do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Ephesians 40:30

Do we want to persist in grieving God’s Spirit? I know I can’t do without God’s presence and work in my life, and I want to please him. I don’t want to be defeated or kept bound by sin. But in letting my sins remain without some serious spiritual weeding, I threaten the growth of good spiritual fruit in my life.

More seriously, I insult Jesus my saviour, and cheapen his sacrifice at the cross, by continuing in the sins he died for. – he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5) – That’s the terrible reality of what we do when we ignore sin! As Christians we are called to war against our sin, not to live comfortably with it.

One of the things I’ve been challenged to see, is that saying sorry regularly about sins I give in to, is not the same thing as true repentance which sets out to kill sin. The diagnosis is serious, and so the cure must be.

David’s Repentance

David now knows what he must do, and he returns to his God in repentance, for help:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.

Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Coming to God for help with sin is vital. We must fight, but we need God’s spirit to be at work or our efforts will be futile! “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41

How does God respond when we stand to fight, to kill sin with his help?

 … a broken and contrite heart  you, God, will not despise. Psalm 51:17

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

The True Sin Killer

This is not a call for us to fight sin in our own strength, but an appeal to recognise the continual need to fight it with God’s enabling. Let’s be encouraged that it is God’s Spirit at work in us who empowers us to recognise, repent of, and kill sin. He causes us to know and love Christ, and empowers us with the knowledge of God. And there is much to be gained as we do so! But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Galatians 5:16

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. Romans 8:13

Owen says that the person preparing to kill sin should cultivate a deep longing for freedom from it. I long to know all I can of God’s love, fellowship, and faithful work in me, and my prayer is that God will increase this longing. Along with King David I pray “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me”

Let us kill sin that we may know life in all its fullness!

Nim

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6

P.S I recommend Overcoming Sin & Temptation – a modern edit of Owens’ classic works on this subject