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The Scriptorium

A Clean Sweep Is Not Enough

Repentance means more. Luke 11.24-26

Luke 11, Part 2 (2)

Pray Psalm 35.4-8.
Let those be put to shame and brought to dishonor
Who seek after my life;
Let those be turned back and brought to confusion
Who plot my hurt.
Let them be like chaff before the wind,
And let the angel of the LORD chase them.
Let their way be dark and slippery,
And let the angel of the LORD pursue them.
For without cause they have hidden their net for me in a pit,
Which they have dug without cause for my life.
Let destruction come upon him unexpectedly,
And let his net that he has hidden catch himself;
Into that very destruction let him fall.

Sing Psalm 35.5-8.
(Creation: Exalt the Lord, His Praise Proclaim)
Let all my foes be blown like chaff,  and let Your angel take my behalf.
No cause have they to hide their snare or for my fall a pit prepare.
Upon them let destruction fall; disperse, destroy them one and all!
And let the net which they have made be for their doom and judgment laid.

Read Luke 11.1-26; meditate on verses 24-26.

1. What do unclean spirits seek?

2. What must we do to guard against them?

These verses are an example of what Emily Dickinson described as “telling it slant”. Jesus wants us to follow His example and overcome evil with good works and true teaching (Rom. 12.21). He was not content merely to defeat the devil (Lk. 4.1-3) and humiliate and hogtie him (Lk. 11.22). The old regime had to be soundly defeated; at the same time, the new regime had to be heralded and brought near.

The issue here is repentance. All sin is, to some extent, inspired and empowered by the devil and his minions. Though they know they are defeated and doomed, they continue seeking to make life miserable on earth by goading people to sin, filling their heads with sinful notions, and clothing them in sinful practices.

We need to wage holy spiritual war against them, to break free of any sinful influences and to resist them when temptation arises (Eph. 6.10-20; Jms. 4.7; 1 Cor. 10.13). Whenever we do sin – and we will sin, make no mistake about it (1 Jn. 1.8-10) – we must confess whatever sin has intruded on our fellowship with God, banishing every evil spirit or influence and making a clean sweep of our soul before the Lord.

But if that’s all we do, it won’t be enough. We must overcome evil with good by renewing communion with the Lord and submitting to His Word and Spirit to guide us in such good works as will heal the wound of sin in our soul. Celtic Christians had a saying: “Contraries are by contraries cured.” If you find in your soul something contrary to God and His will, first, acknowledge and confess it. Then, reconnect with God and set a course of obedience contrary to that which you just confessed. A clean sweep and a new course. That’s the way to be cured of specific sins and to build up your soul’s defenses against future assaults.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Most assuredly a clean sweep is not enough. So, Jesus told us how to do a proper cleaning. Clean it out, yes; but then fill it with the Holy Spirit. And remember, your heavenly Father will give you the Holy Spirit when you ask Him! (Lk. 11.13).

It is never a good idea just to empty yourself of the bad, because if we don’t fill it up with Someone good, the evil ones will be right back, multiplied to slide into the vapid void.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matt. 5.6).
“And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5.18).

Our spiritual lives are similar to our physical lives.
If we are thirsty, we have a drink of quenching water.
If we are hungry, we satisfy our need with food.
If our spirits are empty, we fill them. First with the requested Holy Spirit, then with His Words.
And to fully satiate ourselves, we spend time in prayer and communion with the Triune God.
Then we are full. And if we are full, there is no room for evil ones to roam about and take up space in our cleaned out and repentant hearts.

We can almost hear Jesus saying to us, as Henry Higgins bemoaned in My Fair Lady, in A Hymn to Him,
“Why is thinking something [people] never do?
Why is logic never even tried?
Straightening up their hair is all they ever do
Why don’t they straighten up the mess that’s inside?”

And yes, of course, he was bemoaning women in general, but it could be said about all humanity. Why don’t we straighten up the mess that’s inside of us? We might lay aside some bad habits, or change the things we watch or listen to, or find some better books to read, or find a more wholesome way to speak. We might be practically perfect in every way, but if our hearts are not all in, to daily follow Jesus in His Kingdom, for His glory, by His Law, and for the betterment of others, we merely have an empty well-swept heart. We must do what Solomon commanded; “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life (Prov. 4.23). Empty it of sin, and then fill it quickly and continuously with His Spirit.

Filled with Jesus there is room for no other.

Fill my cup, Lord, I lift it up Lord!
Come and quench this thirsting of my soul;
Bread of Heaven fill me till I want no more—
Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole!
(Richard Blanchard, 1953)

For reflection
1. What is it like to be filled with the Holy Spirit? What would make you want to be filled with the Spirit?

2. In what ways are our spiritual lives like our physical lives? Why is it important to understand this?

3. What does “contraries are by contraries cured” mean to your daily walk with the Lord?

Therefore it is prayed here that the name of God might be hallowed by everyone together; that is, that it might be recognized by everyone everywhere that it is most just and perfect, and that by virtue of such it might be held and announced. Its excellence is so lofty, superior and more than wonderful that nothing may be united to it.
François Lambert (1487-1530), Commentary on Luke 11.5

Pray Psalm 35.9, 10.
Rejoice in the Lord and His salvation! Commit yourself and your day entirely to the Lord. Rest in His Word and prepare in prayer to serve Him obediently throughout this day.

Sing Psalm 35.9, 10.
(Creation: Exalt the Lord, His Praise Proclaim)
Thus shall our souls rejoice in You and hold Your salvation ever true.
Our bones as one aloud shall cry, “Lord, who is like You, enthroned on high,
Who cares for those too frail and meek to save themselves when they are weak?
Who rescues His afflicted ones when foes their warfare have begun?”

T. M. and Susie Moore

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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