If you haven’t already read Part 1, I urge you to do so. I broke this essay into pieces just to keep it from being too daunting to tackle as one long post, but this one will make a lot more sense alongside what we said last time. Plus, I encourage you to read the passage we’re unpacking: Luke 11:14-28.
In some Christian circles demons and demonization are never discussed and in others, that’s about all they ever talk about. Whichever camp you’re in I hope to encourage you to move to a place somewhere in between the two where you recognize demons when you “see” them and know what to do about it.
Last time, based on Luke 11:14-28 we talked about how Satan and his imps move into people’s souls and vehemently protect their usurped legal right to stay there. When we let him Jesus overpowers the “strong man” and kicks him out. Problem is, demons don’t like to live in limbo and look for any opportunity to return to their former space and squat there until identified and evicted.
Let’s pick it back up at verse 25 in The Message version:
“[The formerly ejected spirit says] ‘I’ll go back to my old haunt.’ On return, it finds the person swept and dusted, but vacant. It then runs out and rounds up seven other spirits dirtier than itself and they all move in, whooping it up. That person ends up far worse than if he’d never gotten cleaned up in the first place.”
What makes the re-invaded soul such an easy target for the enemy is that he is “swept and dusted, but vacant.” Some would say this can’t describe a true Christian, and maybe they’re right. But I’ve seen too many “true Christians” who seem to be swept and dusted, yet empty. They have not submitted themselves to God’s deep cleaning and refurnishing that prevents the adversary from coming back with colleagues.
The most ominous part is when Jesus said, “The final condition of that person is worse than the first.” Talk about a terrifying prospect!
So, what’s the positive takeaway here? Jesus included a number of implied challenges his teaching here for those he delivers to maintain their freedom:
First… not to worry, Jesus is stronger than any “strong man.” He says it outright. He delivers––and when necessary, redelivers––by the mere flick of a divine “finger”!
Second… he says two things essential to maintaining a devil-free zone: The 1st is “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” The 2nd is “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” This is the way to live a life of freedom from a re-intrusion of hell. In other words, you won’t be such an easy target for the evil one if you stay near the One stronger than the strong man and you gather others to do the same!
Thirdly… the reason the foul spirit could find its way back into its former house was that it found it “swept clean, put in order, and vacant.” What’s so wrong with being cleaned up and looking good? I personally like lean, tidy spaces. Shouldn’t Christians have nice tidy lives, cleaned up from the past and everything put in its place?
The problem lies of course in the house being “unoccupied.” The soul might’ve been tidy but it was empty! This sounds to me like a person who comes to Jesus to get cleaned up and to have a nice orderly life. They want a fresh beginning, a new record, and a less chaotic existence. Nothing wrong with that so far as it goes, but there’s more if we’re going to live lives free from bondage and full of purpose.
Some people treat Jesus like a janitor they hired to come in and clean. They write him a paycheck and send him on his way. He doesn’t get to live there as the Head of the house. His job was to clean and leave, not move in and take over. That’s an arrangement for ultimate disaster.
Jesus said when he overcomes the strong man he “divides up the plunder” that he gets in the victory. I said earlier that this means he shares the riches of his kingdom with those he’s set free. He doesn’t just clean up the house; he fills it with “rare and beautiful treasures” (Proverbs 23:4). He’s a live-in Savior, not a spiritual janitor. He doesn’t come at our beck and call, when we need some spot cleaning and reorganizing.
Though Jesus distributes his treasures at the point of salvation, it still takes us a lifetime to discover, enjoy, and employ those riches. As we do, we become more and more impermeable to the adversary’s intrusions. The degree to which we let Jesus have run of the house and permeate every corner is the degree to which our former inhabitant has less and less opportunity to eek back in place.
Fourthly… going back up to the first thing Jesus said in response to their accusation that he was casting demons out of people by the power of Satan: “A house divided against itself will fall.” As I said, in his metaphor, the house is the person’s soul. Jesus cleans, organizes, and inhabits our soul, but the adversary is skilled at exploiting the vulnerable soul. He says a “house (a soul) divided against itself will fall.”
The repercussions of such a divided soul are grave. It’s an open invitation for problems worse than before. There is great danger for the divided soul, a soul devoted to the Deliverer only in spots, and that tries to maintain a salvation with half our heart working in opposition with the other half.
That said, an undivided heart, a house that is swept clean and full of new treasures brought in by the live-in Master of the house, is impenetrable. This heart is “strong in the Lord and in his mighty power, clothed with the full armor of God” (Ephesian 6:18)!