Several years ago a gentleman walked into my office in a state of great distress. He had just lost everything due to a continuing addiction in his life. As we talked, it became apparent that this man, with all his good intentions, was completely unable to be free from the destructive forces at work within him. One of the pictures I gave him to help illustrate his condition and his need was from the following passage in Luke 11.
14 Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled. 15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” 16 while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven. 17 But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. 18 And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. 19 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 20 But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; 22 but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. 23 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
24 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. 26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”
There are two ways to deal with sin. The first is to muster up the strength and will power to kick the thing out. But just as in the passage above, when the unclean spirit decides to return to the house from which it was evicted, sin has a way of showing back up. Notice that the unclean spirit still considers the person’s heart “my house.” Now the house has been swept and put in order. The man sitting across from me in my office that day had exhausted himself by constantly sweeping out his heart and putting the mess left by his addiction back in order. He could no longer keep up. That’s because the heart is a house that does not stay vacant. It is not enough to simply get rid of the unwanted occupant. It will simply call up a bunch of it’s friends and come back with a vengeance. This brings us to the second way to deal with sin.
Jesus says above, “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil.” Until the strong man is defeated and disarmed, a man’s fight against sin is simply a long line of trade offs. One sin is replaced with another sin. One addiction gives way to another form of enslavement. The faces change, but the slumlord remains in control. If one is ever to be truly free, the strong man must go. And for the strong man to go, one stronger than he must take up the fight. This is where Jesus comes in. He is the stronger one who overcomes sin, the world, and the devil. Until He has set up His rule in the heart, it will always be a frat house for sin. Once the Holy Spirit has set up residence in the heart, sin can be dealt with as an intruder in the night or an unwanted guest dropping by. They have no right to be there and our Lord will give us the grace and power to resist them.