Spring is on our heels and with that comes open windows, fresh blooms in vases, and maybe a new front door embellishment. Perhaps you’ll even do a bit of decluttering and tidying, in true spring cleaning form.
I’ve been studying the book of Matthew and I stopped to wonder at a parable Jesus told about a neat and tidy house that was empty.
“When an unclean spirit comes out of a man, it roams through waterless places looking for rest but doesn’t find any. Then it says, ‘I’ll go back to my house that I came from.’ And returning, it finds the house vacant, swept, and put in order. Then off it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and settle down there. As a result, that man’s last condition is worse than the first. That’s how it will also be with this evil generation.”
In this case, Jesus is telling a parable. The “house” that is vacant is actually the spiritual condition of a person. R. T. France suggests that there is an implied “if”. If the unclean spirit finds the house vacant, it brings with it seven other spirits. Jesus was warning his audience. Crowds welcomed the benefits of being miraculously healed or “cleansed” by Jesus, but cared little for aligning their hearts with His and being spiritually cleansed. Jesus is warning them of the danger of half-hearted repentance.
The is a vulnerability inherent to spiritual neutrality. “Repentance which does not lead to a new allegiance leaves a void which the devil will exploit” (France).
France surmises that “he who is not positively with Jesus must inevitably end up against him.” God has similarly frank words for the church in Laodicea of which He says: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth…As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be committed and repent” (Revelation 3:15,16,19). God has no taste for spiritual ambivalence.
Allegiance to Jesus means not just removing the filth, but replacing it with behavior and attitudes that are markedly Christlike; a.k.a. producing fruit. It is a matter of eternal life or death.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven.” Matthew 7:21
“Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance. And don’t presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’…every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” Matthew 3:8-10
Since we still have our flesh to contend with as we wait for our sanctified, resurrected bodies, the Bible consistently talks of both putting off (the old) and putting on (the new). There is both a negative action and a positive action. To emphasize the point, I’ve put a strikethrough on everything we are commanded to be rid of, and underlined everything we are to add back.
be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless actions, but be filled by the Spirit.” Ephesians 5:17-18
“so let us discard
the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Romans 13:12
“Set your minds on things that are above, not on
things that are on earth.” Colossians 3:2
A clean heart is a great thing, but it will quickly be forfeited if we do not pursue a life consistent with that initial repentance. We must be transformed by the truth and power of Jesus. As unoccupied territory, our heart will be sullied in a hurry by anything and everything that seeks to take residence there, just like the spirit that returned with seven more.
There is great importance in the work of filling our clean and empty “house” with rigorously inspected and particularly selected furnishings.
Paul speaks of it as a collection that builds in us and grows into an abundant life. “Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, overflowing with gratitude” (Colossians 2:6-7).
There are quite a few foundational words in that verse that make me think of the firm construction of a house: rooted, built up, established. The materials for that sturdy framework all have the same source: “in Him”.
As we go about refreshing our homes for a new season, I pray our hearts are decked with a new anthem of devotion to Jesus. I pray our love for Him fills every corner of our lives, and that faithful obedience would dispel the lurking powers of darkness. That fruit would bud and blossom plentifully!
I created a little spring reminder of Jesus’s supreme worth and beauty, captured in the classic words of a favorite hymn. I hope you’ll print this and frame it, and tag me on Instagram!
I also recommend this article from John Piper: How to Be Filled with the Spirit