“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man…seeking rests and finds none….he says, I will return to the house from which I came…he finds it swept and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits….and the last state is worse than the first.” Luke 11:24, 26
“Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods unless he first binds the strong man?” Matthew 12:29
I certainly am no scientist, no Dr. Albert Einstein nor even a Dr. Sheldon Cooper on the very popular TV show Big Bang Theory. However I’ve heard it said and have seen in action what was said by the ancient scientist and philosopher, Aristotle who was credited with the saying, “nature abhors a vacuum”. And by its very nature a vacuum is a space vacant of all else. Nature will do all that it can, like causing air or water to rush in, to fill a vacuum.
What does this have to do with Jesus? Jesus understood, because He created the realms of Nature, man and spirit and knows how they are interrelated. For Jesus knows that while there are natural vacuums there a spiritual vacuums as well and He knows how dangerous the spiritual vacuum can be. He knows the spiritual vacuum will not stay vacant.
I know I am constantly astounded at the level of patience of Jesus Christ. Being fully God as well as fully man, He had the power to immediately and permanently silence the cackling Pharisees and other Jewish leaders who tagged along after Him and constantly harassed Him. Yet Jesus Christ, ever humble to His Father’s plan for sacrifice and resurrection endured the endless, ignorant squabbling of His puny tormentors. Again they are berating Him when they should have been praising, being in awe of and even fearing Him. Jesus has been healing people by casting out demons. The Jewish leadership accused Jesus of being able to cast out demons, to be in charge of demons, because Jesus was the chief demon in charge.
As He has done so often in previous occurrences, Jesus answers them in a way that completely silences, refutes and confounds their logic; but He also gives them, those gathered around and us today, a great insight into the world of spiritual truth and its potentially devastating impact on us. Also as He is so known to do, Jesus uses and illustration to make His point.
Jesus compares a person to a house. At the time Jesus is telling the story, there is evil residing in the house, a demon. For some reason, some theologians say it was due to an exorcism though the scripture does not plainly tell us why the demon/evil departs, but it does. While the demon/evil is away, the person is not idle. The person, who is the allegorical house, improves himself; he sweeps the dirt away, picks up the clutter and puts things where they should be so that the house is now in order. Yet the house remains vacant to a certain extent or at the very least unoccupied. The demon/evil likes where he has been and finds no other place better, no rest on the outside. So the demon/evil returns and low and behold he finds the person in the guise of the house swept clean, things in order but fortunately for the demon/evil and tragically for the house/person, the house is vacant. So the demon/evil comes right back in and takes up residence again in the person along with seven other evils and thus the person is so much worse off than he was before.
Now please understand this, Jesus was not extolling the virtues of keeping the first singular evil around hoping others won’t move in. No Jesus was making it clear that the spirit world is like the natural world in that a vacancy, no matter how neat and tidy will not stay vacant. A spiritual vacancy will be filled. The question is, filled with who or what.
In this same interaction, Jesus makes something else crystal clear; spiritual strength matters. Demons, the evil of this world are strong. It is not going to be bribed or cajoled or antagonized to leave. To force evil to leave, something stronger must enter in, overpower it, bind it, then and only then can it be conquered and driven out.
So what are we to make of this today? How does it apply to us? In a couple of ways. First and foremost, do not leave yourself spiritually vacant. This world may accept the concept of the agnostic, the person who says they don’t believe or disbelieve in God; they just don’t know. I’m not sure that term has any validity or impact in the spirit world. For you see we’re going to be spiritually occupied whether we choose to believe so or not. Attempting to be vacant from either is just an open invitation for the evil one to come in and take up residence. Plus sadly, without God on our side we will not be able to resist the occupancy of the evil one no matter how good our intentions or our belief in our strength is. Like the illustration in Luke, we may have a sense that our own power has freed us, we may be doing things like exercising, eating right, trying to do go works and kicking bad habits and that may seem to be helping for a while. However, rest assured, evil is lurking, evil is watching and with nothing to stop it, it will take up residence in spite of any or all earthly measures we attempt to use to stop it.
Should there be a sense that what occupies us is not God, then the only way to evict the evil is to call upon He who is stronger than that evil and that resides in no earthly person, process or thing. We must invite Jesus Christ in, to overpower the evil, bind it and drive it from us. We must then invite Jesus Christ to continue to reside, to take up residence in us, so that should the evil ever attempt to return, it will find no way to enter back in.
One final aspect I want to touch on; the vacant room. You may say, hey Doug; I’ve invited Christ in and He lives with me in all my rooms, except………. We have a great ability to compartmentalize. We might be saying to ourselves, Christ resides in all my places except the room where we go drinking, or surfing those places on the internet, or taking those certain pills, playing that certain card came for money or, or, or. Here’s the problem with a vacant room(s), it can damage the rest of the house. If you have a window in a “vacant” room that gets broken and rain or other vermin get in, their impact will not be limited to that room. The dampness of the rain leaking in will eventually lead to damage in other rooms as the water seeps through the wood or carpets into other areas. The vermin, that is rats or roaches will eventually scurry into other parts of the house trying to find food and shelter there. In the same way, the one spiritually vacant room won’t stay vacant. If we will not allow Jesus Christ into that room then evil will invade that room and attempt to damage other parts of our lives as well. All rooms need to be filled with the presence of Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ promises us, if we will reside in Him, He will in turn reside in us. There can be no better occupancy than that.
Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are so thankful for the guidance and lessons that You brought to us through the life and teachings of Your Son Jesus Christ. Thank You for warning us of the danger of living lives empty of You and Your protection. Forgive us Dear Father when we attempt to use earthly means to drive out evil and deceive ourselves into thinking that we can evict or keep evil out on our own. We pray that You would bring Your strength to overcome and evict all evil from us and continue to reside in us that evil might never find any invitation or opening to return. That in Your occupancy in us, we would then lead lives of praise, honor and glory to Your Most Holy Name. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen