I’ve been fascinated with a teaching of Jesus about being spirit filled. Although millions of people (billions?) believe they are just flesh and blood human animals bumbling along until the end, Christians believe they are spiritual beings inhabiting flesh. There is a choice, however, as to what spirit fills us. Jesus shares an enigmatic parable / teaching in Matthew 12 that illustrates that we are going to be filled … with something.
“When an unclean spirit comes out of a man, it roams through waterless places looking for rest but doesn’t find any. Then it says, ‘I’ll go back to my house that I came from.’ And returning, it finds the house vacant, swept, and put in order. Then off it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and settle down there. As a result, that man’s last condition is worse than the first. That’s how it will also be with this evil generation.” ~Matthew 12:43-45
Have you thought of yourself as a house that is meant to be spirit filled? In Jesus’ story the man was already filled with an unclean spirit. He doesn’t seem to be an evil man, at least the description of his inward life is ‘vacant’. He was vacant enough that even when the unclean spirit left him, he remained empty. The unhappy ending of the story is that there was enough room in this organized but empty man that seven other spirits – who were considered to be more evil than the original unclean spirit – came to take up residence.
I don’t know how your understanding of Satan, Demons, and all things evil has developed. I think my generation learned about demons from watching The Exorcist or hearing Flip Wilson’s Geraldine declare, “The devil made me do it!“. Not great sources for truth there!
In contrast with Jesus’ story, Apostle Paul speaks of being filled with the Holy Spirit.
And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless actions, but be filled by the Spirit… ~Ephesians 5:18
For the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily in Christ, and you have been filled by Him…~Colossians 2:9
So if you are a ‘house’ and you desire to be filled with that which is Holy rather than that which is unclean (are there any truly empty houses?)…how do you do this? In the Ephesians passage quoted above there are some practical teachings that follow the statement about being filled with the Spirit:
…Speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music
from your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of Christ. ~Ephesians 5:19-21
Rather than use this passage to form some type of prescription (sing two songs and call me in the morning), I think these are passageways to being filled with the Spirit of God. These are not new practices, but ancient.
They remind us of the importance of community as we sing together, give thanks together, submit to one another.
They signal the essential attention to be given to our thoughts as we sing from our heart … give thanks always … and have a healthy fear of Christ.
They circulate around the anchor of our souls as the music we make is to the Lord, the thanks we offer is to God in the name of Jesus, and the submitting we do is because of Christ.
In the first Psalm, we are reminded of two paths through life. Perhaps they align with the two potential ways to be filled, good or evil. The person who is happy is filled with the will and word of God.
…His delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night. ~Psalm 1:2
I think the difference between the man Jesus tells about who is filled with unclean spirits and the man of God who is filled with the Holy Spirit is a voluntary choice. The man with the unclean spirits is filled with them by default – he does nothing to fill his life / heart / thoughts with godly things. The man filled with the Spirit is filling his heart with spiritual thoughts, gratitude, and love for brothers and sisters in the Lord.
When it comes to the empty who are filled with the unclean Spirits, Jesus ends his teaching with a chilling conclusion. Jesus says it will be that way with entire generations. This is not a small problem that happens now and again. It is the direction of an entire generation.
Will you be one in your generation to be filled with the Holy Spirit?
If you don’t know where to start, why not begin with prayer asking God to fill your ‘house’ with His Spirit? I believe all saved people are temples of the Holy Spirit already, so maybe you’re not asking God to do something new, but to help you remember that your house is claimed. And to help you in your understanding of what the Holy Spirit is teaching you.
I enjoyed listening to Bill Denton’s sermon on this text located HERE.
Thanks for reading, John.