Sermon notes based on Mathew 12:43-45.
Idea: It takes more than a prayer to keep the house cared for.
I don’t like to go on vacation much. It is stressful for me, and I find myself looking forward to being back home, in familiar surroundings…specifically my own bed.
I believe one of the common things to do before going away on vacation is to clean the house. Because who wants to come back to a dirty house right? When we return we’ve then already gotta unpack and put away all the dirty clothes, which just makes for more work for us.
And when we leave, we usually lock the doors, turn on the alarm, have the mail picked up or stopped, and many of us will leave a light on.
That light is left on so that someone thinks you are home right? Because a robber won’t typically break into an occupied home. And that gives us a little comfort.
When a home is occupied, no one else can move in either.Tweet
A Strong Man’s House
A few weeks back, when we first began looking at this interaction between Jesus and the Pharisees, Jesus said:
Matthew 12:29 ESV
Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.
Today He tells a story about a demon returning to an empty house.
Jesus is telling this parable to teach about the condition of the Pharisees and religious leaders, and those that did not follow His teaching.
This Scripture has caused concern and fear for many of us because it is difficult to discern the meaning of. So we’re going to try and give some insight to this and make an application of it in our own lives.
Matthew 12:43–45 ESV
“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it 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. So also will it be with this evil generation.”
Jesus tells this parable in light of the fact He had just banished a demon from a young man’s life. At that healing the Pharisees made the claim that He did so by the power of Satan. To which Jesus gives the response of entering the strong man’s house to plunder.
What He is saying there is that He, in God’s power, while here on earth, Satan, the strong man, was bound. And He had plundered, stolen from Satan this young man He’d healed, cast the demon out of.
But it wasn’t limited to just this one instance with this one man. Jesus was here, on the earth, rescuing many from Satan’s hold. And he is still doing so today.
So in essence, Satan was at that time, “cast out.” The Kingdom of God was at hand in Jesus’s presence, giving rest to the people that accepted Him as the Messiah.
When He was gone, those who remained in unbelief, would face a worse state. And this truly happened.
Between the ascension to Heaven after his resurrection and the fall of Jerusalem to Romans, the Jews had truly fallen into a worse state than prior to Jesus’s coming the first time. And for many, their rejection remains, hence their “unforgivable sin” of remaining opposed to Christ as their Lord and Savior as we discussed a few weeks back with that other fear producing Scripture.
So that’s a brief explanation of the text, as we broke it down even further Tuesday night, but what about now? What can we learn?
I want to give you three applications of this text today.
Many of us became Christians by saying what is known as the sinner’s prayer. Classically it goes like this: Confess I’m a sinner, I agree to repent from my life of sin, and I trust in Jesus’s death on the cross, and ask Jesus to live inside my heart.
If you pray this then we say you are saved.
The truth is, this prayer isn’t actually in the bible. There are some Scriptures that point to such a prayer such as…
Romans 10:9 ESV
because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
The idea being the same, confess, and believe. And you can find many other Scriptures about confessing our sins, believing the death and resurrection, and the Holy Spirit living within us afterward.
Yet, many of us know someone that has told us they prayed the prayer, and for a while they lived a better life, only to at some point fall away from belief altogether.
What about them? What happened?
I believe this is such a case as Jesus speaks of here in this parable.
The person lives for themselves, then at some point comes to Christ praying a prayer, they clean up their life, but then later on find themselves in a worse state of affairs.
What I believe often happens is similar to Jesus’s parable of the farmer planting seed. One part of the parable speaks of seed that fail on rocky ground, it sprang up quickly but the soil was shallow and had no root, and withered away.
Sometimes we pastors make it too easy on our listeners. We want you saved. And that is why this little rote prayer came about.Tweet
So we have convinced people to say a prayer and they walk away believing they are saved in that moment. But so much can go wrong with this.
Was the confessing and believing truly from the heart of the person? Was their heart true? Was their believing true and lasting?
We don’t know the heart of a person. We can only see and know the fruit. And for many, they say the prayer and then try and clean up their lives on their own and fail. Because their faith wasn’t truly real, they didn’t receive the Holy Spirit. So they try to become something they aren’t, a regenerated soul.
Jesus said, the house was emptied and cleaned up. Maybe they had a reprieve from sin for a while, but they still had an empty house. It didn’t have the Holy Spirit’s presence in it to keep it filled.
This is why the truly saved, the truly born again, do not need to fear this verse. Your house, the temple, is full of the presence of God.
A Return to the Old
The other example is of that person that said the prayer, but when they went home they didn’t truly leave their old life.
It’s like being an alcoholic, and God giving you relief from that addiction, yet you’ve never cleaned out the cupboards of the house of all the alcohol you’ve stored up. So for a time, you thought the house was empty, but then you open that cabinet of temptation and fall right back into an even worse state than before.
Again, you wanted to be saved, but you just weren’t quite ready to give up all that you were…the old life. So you return to who you were before, and man is it harder to come back into the light after returning to the dark.
This is one way our prayer system fails.
Jesus never taught His followers to say a prayer. He told them, “follow me.” He told them to pick up their cross and follow Him. He told them to leave their riches behind, even when it came to mother and father, He is to be the most important to us.
But many of us say the prayer, but don’t give Him our lives. Our hearts are still far from Him.
When we truly want to be saved, and our hearts are truly ready, we will give Him all of us. We will leave all behind to follow Him. We will obey, glorify, live for Him daily. We will lose this life to gain His.Tweet
Filling the House
This third application goes along with the second. When you leave the old life, when you empty yourself of those old desires, what do you fill your house with? We already mentioned the Holy Spirit. But the Spirit needs to be fed. It too needs to be kept full. It needs to abide in the source of life, Jesus.
Jesus said, “I am the vine, and…”
John 15:4–6 ESV
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
To abide, we must keep building on that relationship with Christ, and God the Father. We do this by remaining in His Word. His Word helps us to get to know Him better. It keeps that connection up between the Holy Spirit in us and the Father. It feeds the soul, it fills the house.
When we aren’t in His Word, when we aren’t spending time soaking up the Father, we can grow cold. Our house may have the Holy Spirit in it, but we’ve cut it off from the source of life…the Vine. We become weaker, unable to resist the temptation to go back to the old ways of life. I’m not saying we lose our salvation, but I am saying we can find ourselves in a position we don’t want to be in for sure. We can still face dire consequences for our wrong actions in this life even if we gain eternity in Heaven afterward.
God’s Word builds up the soil and nourishment for the seed that is planted within us to grow and produce fruit.Tweet
Along with keeping in God’s word, our lives need to be filled with prayers between us and the Father. Communication is foundational to any relationship. The Father wants us to communicate with Him, and He will with us. This too is abiding in the Christ, because Christ Himself spent much time with the Father in prayer.
That fruit He mentions is a life filled with Godliness. It is the result of our abiding in Him. It is the fruit of a truly changed life, redeemed, regenerated, born again by the Holy Spirit.
We don’t act all holy because we fear hell once we’ve been truly saved, we obey God and his Law because we are saved. Because He says for us to obey His Word. If we love Him, we will do what He commands.
John 14:15 ESV
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
Protecting the Home
I want to leave you with one more idea…that is protecting the home.
Just like when you leave your house for vacation, you arm the alarm. For some us, we keep ourselves armed in the home just in case.
We have to treat our lives the same way. Scripture tells us here, the demon came back. In the story, he came back with a vengeance (7 is complete). Scripture tells us that Satan prowls like a lion seeking our ruin. So he will attack, he will try to find an open door or open window. so we must arm ourselves against him.
How do we arm ourselves?
Ephesians 6:10–18 ESV
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,
Trust in the Lord, place all your faith in Him and abide in Him the rest of the days of your life.
Look, if you’re going to confess Christ as your Savior, then you’d better mean it. You’d better take into account all that is required to do so. It is more than a prayer, it is your word, and it is your heart. Don’t come to him half hearted, Scripture says He’ll spit you out. He wants all of you. The question is, do you want all of Him and will you give Him all of you.
If you’re going to have an empty house, you’ll need to fill it with the right thing. Feel it with Jesus. Fill it with the Holy Spirit of God the Father. And then abide in Him every single day.
John 14:23 ESV
Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.