Luke 11:24-26 (NIV) “When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. 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 man is worse than the first.”
The tragedy that Jesus is talking about here was experienced by many people in His day, and is still tragically experienced by many people today. Jesus cast out many demons during His earthly ministry, sometimes several from the same person. He did this not only to deliver those held captive, but to show forth the reality of the kingdom.
The tragedy came because some of these people simply returned to their old lives, their old ways of doing things that had opened them up to demonic influences in the first place. So they were easy targets to become “repossessed.” The same old demons that had been cast out returned to find the heart of their victim empty, and so simply moved back in, often with additional demons as well, making that person more wretched and miserable than they were before.
The same thing happens today in a subtly different manner. When someone decides to turn away from habits and activities that have them bound, to start going to church, maybe even to “accept Jesus,” but then go back to their old lives, their old ways of doing things that had opened them up to captivity in the first place, they become easy targets to be taken captive again. May quickly revert to their old habits, and often end up worse off than they were before.
The solution today is the same one that was necessary in Jesus’ day. That is, to realize that it is not enough to simply cast out the old evil spirits. The empty space then needs to be filled with the Holy Spirit, so that when the old spirits return, they do not find an empty space simply waiting to be refilled. They will find a holy occupant filling every space in that person’s life, leaving no room at all for them. And they will go away, and not return as long as the Holy Spirit is in residence.
Father, this is an all-too-familiar story. We see it happen all the time that a person “gets saved,” but then turns away soon after, often falling deeper into captivity to sin than they were before. We write them off as “shallow soil,” but the reality may simply be that we stopped too soon, and did not ensure their stability and the presence of the Holy Spirit in their hearts before we left them on their own. How many of those “relapses” could have been prevented with better, more intentional discipleship and mentoring? Help me, Lord, to walk more closely with those who are new to the faith, to ensure that they are well-discipled, well-rooted, well-established, before I move on. Amen.