It’s been a somber weekend, the sunshine notwithstanding. Sin in the world is real, and acknowledging the work of the enemy is sobering. We’re deeply saddened to see it claim lives in Norway and also the life of singer Amy Winehouse. Why can addiction in particular be so hard to beat? Because, says Pastor Mark in this sermon from last fall, Jesus says our lives are like a house, and the enemy is always waiting to move in—and if we kick him out and try to clean up, he’ll just come back with seven more friends. It's a battle we can't win on our own.
Return of an Unclean Spirit
"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.’ And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. 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."
You were made with a soul, so you have a spiritual, immaterial part of you called a soul and a physical, material part of you called a body. And your soul was meant to be Spirit-filled. Genesis 2:7 says that when God created the first man, our father Adam, he breathed his spirit into him and the man became a living being. But because of sin, we are not filled by the Spirit of God and that vacancy is sometimes filled with unclean spirits, demons.
For the non-Christian, this means that you can come to the point where you so yield yourself that your identity, your personality, your decision-making, your appetites, your longings, and your lifestyle are dominated by your enemy. In America, we call this freedom. It’s actually slavery.
For the Christian, you cannot be controlled, mastered, owned, filled by a demon, but you can be influenced through succumbing to temptation and believing lies and habitually practicing sinful unrepentance.
"You feel unsafe and you realize, I have to kick him out. I can’t live with this forever."
And Jesus here uses an analogy like a home. In the big analogy, there’s this epic, cosmic battle raging. And you and I are born into the war, but we’re born on the side of folly and rebellion and death. We need to be born again onto the side of victory and Jesus and forgiveness and life. And it is as if our home, where we live and dwell, this could be our physical home and also the body that we inhabit, it is right in the midst of the battle.
To use Jesus’ analogy, assume that you live in a home. See yourself, picture yourself, position yourself living in a home in the midst of a war. And you do not secure your home. You leave the windows open at night. You leave the door open. You’re very foolish and unguarded. One morning, you come down and sitting on the couch is a soldier. One of the soldiers in the midst of this battle has decided he’s going to live at your house, tired of sleeping on a cot, in a tent. So when he feels like it, he shows up at your house. He eats what’s in your fridge. He sleeps in your bed. He’s decided that he’s going to be your roommate.
At first, it’s not that bad. But after awhile, it gets very bad. He becomes abusive. He becomes harmful, becomes terrifying, becomes threatening. You feel unsafe and you realize, I have to kick him out. I can’t live with this forever. And somehow, some way, you kick him out and he leaves. But you’re foolish. You don’t shut the windows. You don’t lock the door. You don’t secure the house.
"For some of you, there is something dark in your life that you are living with, but it is destroying you."
Eventually, the soldier goes out looking for another place to stay and he says to himself, "Where I was was a pretty good place. Now, if I go back there, I could get kicked out again, so I need to go get seven buddies and we’re gonna take siege of that home and we’re gonna overwhelm that resident and then it’ll be our house and we can live there and do whatever we want and he can’t stop us."
For some of you, this parable illustrates your life. There is something dark in your life that you are living with, but it is destroying you. It could be a sin proclivity. It could be an unclean spirit. It is someone or something that works in alignment with Satan to destroy you. And you come to the conclusion, I can’t live with this any longer. I need to get rid of this. And so you get rid of it, but you don’t invite the Holy Spirit to take up residence in your life. To use the analogy, you don’t invite the Holy Spirit to move in.
Some of you have tried self-help or self-esteem, which are just pride.
You’ve tried morality.
You’ve tried religion.
You’ve tried spirituality.
You’ve tried doing better.
You’ve tried doing harder.
You’ve tried to be more disciplined and more productive and more serious and more devout.
And for awhile, you clean out your house. But you don’t know how to defend and protect it. For some of you, the story of your life is this, "It started pretty good and then it got bad. But then I made a change and it got better. And then it got worse."
Then it got worse. Why is that? Because you can acknowledge there’s a problem, you can clean out the proverbial house, but if the Holy Spirit, the strong one, does not move in to defend you, the guy comes back with seven friends.
How many of you, that’s your life? Your life was bad. It got better. And then it got really bad because your enemy has access and opportunity and you, friends, you cannot protect yourself from Satan and demons. They are more wise, powerful, shrewd, and capable than you.
"You need to pray offensively. You need to pray biblically."
So here’s a prayer. This is not a mantra. You don’t need to write the words down, but you need to get the big idea. Here’s a prayer out of Luke 11 that I pray all the time. My wife would tell you every night I hold her, and I literally pray for our home. And I start with repentance of sin. "Father God, I’m convicted. Whatever the sin may be in that moment, I’m convicted of this sin. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for telling me of this sin so that I could repent of it. Thank you, Jesus, for dying for it. And I pray, Father God, please close all the windows that I’ve opened. Lock the door that I have left unsecured. I command the enemy, his servants, and their works and effects to depart from me, to depart from my home, to depart from my life, to depart from our family, to depart from our church in the victorious name of Jesus. And Holy Spirit, I invite you to dwell in me. I invite you to dwell in us. I invite you to keep us clean and to make us like Jesus and to protect us from our enemies."
I pray that prayer all the time, that my sin would be forgiven, that my life would be cleaned up, and that the Holy Spirit would take up residence and that he would be my defender and protector. I’ve been praying this way offensively for twenty years. And God has repeatedly answered that prayer.
You need to pray offensively. You need to pray biblically. And you need to examine your own life and ask questions like, "What windows do I leave open? What doors do I not lock? What things have I tried to clean up, but have not invited the Holy Spirit to replace? And in so doing, how have I invited seven more demons?"
I’ve had many meetings with people where they say, "I just want you to get rid of this unclean thing in my life." And sometimes these are people who have night terrors, they hear voices, they see things, demonic manifestations, very obvious demonic presence in their life. I’ll say, "But do you want to live for Jesus? Do you want to be filled with the Holy Spirit? Do you want to obey God?" And their answer is often, "Not really. I just want to get rid of the bad thing." "Well, I can’t help you then because that would not be helpful. All we would do is clean up the house and invite seven more enemies to take up residence."
There are two battlefields. One is in your home. The other is in your life.
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