Jesus said, “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ When it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first.”
—Luke 11:24-26 (NRSV)
The principles that Jesus discusses above can be applied to the breaking of any habit, besides the exorcism of unclean spirits, many of which may have inhabited us—whether by addiction, mental illness, or some other spiritual possession, etc.
The issue of unclean spirits is ever pertinent, and the fact that Jesus devotes teaching about it shows us that the spiritual life is critically urgent in every person’s life. We cannot experience true life without moving forward by progressing in growth. The moment that we get satisfied about where we are at—when pride enters us—is the moment we begin to backslide.
Wherever God does a work of sanctification in us—purging us of an addiction, for example—we must replace the voided negative energy with something positive, or that negative energy may ultimately return sevenfold stronger. (In practical worldly terms, think of times when we have attempted to give up smoking, drinking or tried to keep weight off, only to recommence the old bad habits when our resolve came undone.)
Our task is to fill the voided spiritual space with the Spirit of God.
No Neutral Ground in the Spiritual Life
True spirituality in the name of Jesus Christ is a black-and-white reality.
We either grow forward with zealous vigour and sustained pace or we slink backwards—usually ever so slightly—into an oblivion of compromise or worldliness. This might sound unreasonably harsh and polar dichotomous. Surely we can get away with a pleasant spiritual journey? But the more we read the Gospels, the more we experience the pick-up-your-cross-and-follow-me Jesus.
Jesus calls us to a full submission, with no neutrality in our hearts.
This is always a tough call. Whenever we underestimate such a call we delude ourselves. Picking up our crosses and walking in obedience is no harder thing. But the moment we truly live by faith, life is hence ours. With the negative life removed, and with our inner houses sorted, we then have the critical ‘obedience’ task of filling our houses with Spirit-anointed spiritual disciplines that will keep those unclean spirits out.
There is no neutral ground in the spiritual life. We either go forwards or backwards. We obey Jesus wholeheartedly or not at all.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.