Introduction And Text: Matt. 12:38-45
There is perhaps no name as closely identified with Wall Street, and with the American economy as that of J.P Morgan. Considered the most powerful banker in the world at the turn of the century. J.P. Morgan reorganized the nation's railroad, and put together the world first billion dollar company
In his biography "Morgan American Financier" author Jean Strouse says that on two occasions in 1895, and again in 1907, he almost single handedly rescued the American economy from disaster. Morgan was not only into making money, but spent much time in collecting, arts, and ancient manuscripts.
J. P. Morgan financed Thomas Edison in the
invention of the light bulb, Morgan's luxurious
In 1913 J.P. Morgan died his once extravagant
home became a white elephant, that no one could afford
or keep up. For thirty and nine years it
remained empty. Dust began to gather, paint chipped away. Plaster fell from the walls, the roof began
to leak, the plumbing deteriorated, the once
magnificent yard became a wilderness of weeds. After more than 4 decades, the
This is the fate of any house, large or small left vacant, an empty house invites destruction. Jesus used this idea to tell this brief but penetrating parable.
43When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. 44Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. 45Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.
Jesus here is comparing an empty life to an empty house and declares that Satan enjoys working under such conditions. Hear the words of Satan from our text: I will return into my house from whence I came out;
Have we greatly under rated the devil. He entered the human drama as a deceiver: "more subtle than any beast of the field." Gen. 3:1.. Perhaps his greatest deceit has been his ability to influence human affairs all of these years without showing himself and being taken seriously. He knows that unlimited progress can be made if you do not care who gets the credit.
Satan has been perfectly willing to destroy lives while allowing us to assign credit to things as: CIRCUMSTANCE, HEREDITY— PSYCHOLOGICAL MALADJUSTMENT. or to HUMAN NATURE. He has successfully passed himself off as a harmless, mythical clown in a red suit whose most potent weapon is a pitchfork. The enormous degree to which we have believed him is both comment on how gullible we are, and attribute to his power.
The scriptures treat him with greater respect. He is presented there as: "the prince of the powers of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience" Ephesians 2:2. And the scriptures warn ""Be sober, be vigilant because your adversary, the Devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour: " 1 Peter 5:8-9
Defeat is certain unless we wake up to the fact that we are dealing with great enemy of God and humanity, the father of all lies, and chief of deceit. Ephesians 6:12-13
12For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
In this parable, Jesus is actually giving a terse commentary on the work habits of Satan. Let us take a close look at Satan's techniques . The lesson hangs on three vivid phrases from the parable: (1) I will return into my house; (2) He findeth it empty and (3) The last state of that man becometh worse than the first."
First, I will return into my house:
Not only is Satan real, he is tenacious, and does not vacate permanently at the first housecleaning. Most of us have at some time or another mustered enough strength and determination to win an early round. But Jesus warns us Matt. 12:43
43 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest,
The ancient world believed the deserts provided the favorite haunts of evil spirits, but Jesus discounted this superstition, warning the Devil prefers a familiar home to the lonely confines of waterless places. The superstition of our day is that the Devil hangs out in bad places and gets only bad people. That is not true either. Bars, dance halls, the such likes, provide a good atmosphere for a Devil's fling. But when it comes to a place of comfort and rest not merely a place to visit but a place to call home, nothing will do but an inviting heart. In selecting a permanent home,
Neither is the Devil is not frightened by church membership or pious profession. He rather enjoys the challenge. You remember God's description of Job — Job 2:3-6.
"perfect, upright, and feared God, one that turned away from evil, held fast his integrity" and "there was none like him in the earth," but Satan bragged to God: "Give him to me and I can make him renounce thee to thy face"
The evil spirit of the parable is able to indwell humans. and cannot be satisfied by just wandering about. The blackest deed every done was because: "Satan entered into Judas being one of the twelve" Luke 22:3. Whether apostle, saint, Christian, elder, teacher, Satan is no respecter of persons. He has the desire and power to enter and destroy a Christian life. But Satan loves a homecoming notice in verse 44 of our text that after wandering about for a while the outcast spirit resolved
44Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out Notice, Satan still confidently regards the house as his own. Satan's firm resolve is a testimony to the stubbornness with which evil yields. Looking in the window, the spirit is delighted to find his house empty, swept and garnished. No better tenant has replaced him. He quickly rounds up seven more devils, friends of his, and invites them in as grisly roommates. He intends that his occupancy will never again be disputed. Jesus had a word for the tragedy: " the last state of that man is worse than the first."
Do we consider the techniques Satan is using on us? We are never more vulnerable than when we forget about him. We obey the gospel, and suppose him to be permanently gone. The devil's departure is always seasonal, never permanent.
Of Christ's first encounter with Satan, Luke reported "13And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season. " Luke 4:13 Christ's earthly temptations were not condensed to the 40 day trial in the wilderness. Satan tempted him every day, enticed him with every appeal to the flesh, to pride, and dogged the footsteps of the Master even to the cross. How do we know? Because we know how Satan works on us and Christ "hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" Hebrews 4:15.
The scriptures promise "resist the devil, and he will flee from you" James 4:7 ; but there is no assurance that he will forget you. As prince of the world he has tremendous powers to know your heart, your strengths and weaknesses. He knows the human family, our moments of vulnerability, your complexes and weaknesses. He is ever lurking to gain advantage and despoil a life. Satan has not forgotten you merely because you have renounced him in favor of Christ. How long since you prayerfully contemplated the technique which he is using on you now? He thinks about us all the day long. What a tremendous advantage we concede when we never seriously consider Satan!
I WILL RETURN INTO MY OWN HOUSE!
Our second expression "He findeth it empty:"
The tragedy of the parable hinges on the word "EMPTY". Renouncing sin must not become the end within itself. Negative goodness is not enough. A religion of thou shalt not will not produce the abundant of life. While it may be able to cleanse a man, negative goodness cannot keep him clean.
The prophet Jeremiah was called to service
The work of plucking, breaking, destroying, overthrowing has it's place. But it only clears ground for producing positive works of good. To put it another way, the only way to eliminate evil permanently is to become absorbed with good activity.
This principle holds in many fields. In medicine the emphasis is more and more on maintenance of health, preventive medicine rather than cure of disease. Alcoholics Anonymous has discovered the secret of victory for alcoholics, not merely in renunciation, but with positive commitment to the good and active assistance to fellow sufferers. Paul stated the scriptural formula: Romans 12:21. "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good"
There is absolutely no way to keep the devil at bay. Christianity thrives not by subtraction, but addition. The only way to drop a bad habit is to replace it with a good one. The only way to rid oneself of bad companionship is to replace them with wholesome friendships.
The apostle Paul admonished the
Colossians 3:5-9 This is subtraction, this is the cleaning process. But notice verses 12-13
12Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. This is adding, where the life has been cleaned, and cleared.
The works of the flesh are crowded out by adding daily the fruit of the Spirit. A man whose dominant pursuit has been sensual pleasure may genuinely resolve to stop, but until he gives himself to something to fill that void, that old habit comes lurking back. He must now find something noble to occupy his empty time, to attract his now available money to provide high friendships in lieu of the former, and to capture his mind with loftier thoughts.
And the final expression "the last state worse than the first:"
One Devil is bad enough, but when he moves back into a man's life he brings with him seven evil friends, Jesus says: "The last state of that man becometh worse than the first". Matt. 12:45
Emptiness is a dangerous situation. The most dangerous thing about it is that nothing will remain long in that state. "Nature abhors a vacuum". A vacant house is a magnet for all sorts of meanness. Bootleggers, bookies, and the such find it ideal for their purposes. Or if they do not move in, rats and spiders will quickly claim the forsaken rooms.
An empty heart, empty mind, or an empty life all react like an empty house. A man must be filled with something. Emptiness is the cause of the sickness in our own nation. Early in the century scientist and religious modernism set out to renovate Christianity. The Bible and prayer banned from our schools, from general assemblies. Many of our children no longer get any spiritual guidance, While our religious roots were being torn apart; technology was providing us shorter work-weeks providing more and more leisure time.
What have we done with the leisure time? The average American spends more time each week watching television, a desperate exercise in boredom. Our children have filled the void with mischief in many cases. and Christianity has become irrelevant. The demons of lawlessness, and immorality have filled the void
A congregation cannot keep the devil out by a program centered in "once-a-week" house cleansing. Negative goodness is not enough. "Satan still finds mischief for idle hands to do", Members must be challenged with positive programs of good works or else succumb to the seven demons of selfishness, suspicion, gossip fear, jealousy, backbiting and pride. Empty, idle churches, make for factious churches. Yet I fear many congregations are only keeping house for the Lord, and Satan is filling the void in the Christian's heart.
Christ is saying that a man is like a house. A regular, thorough cleaning is essential. But the house must not be left empty. For every vacuum will soon be filled with something. The only way to keep the Devil out is to fill our lives with Christ and good works.
Young children, fill your lives with good, fill your lives with good, clean companionship. If you want a good Christian girl to be your wife and the mother of your children. Marry a good Christian girl.
Christ stands at the door knocking, seeking to be master of every house. But if he is not welcomed the head chair must go to Satan. No man can serve two masters, Matt. 6:24 but here Christ is saying that every man must serve one master. The choice is not between Christ or emptiness. If you do not choose Christ, the Devil chooses you. Every vacant soul gets haunted.
Ron Cope Minister churches of Christ