“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.”
Who’s in your house?
Dave Barr made the point several times this past Sunday that if a person is a Christian, then the Holy Spirit is “in the house.” But as Dave also pointed out, we can often leave the Spirit at the front door and not really invite him in. This is the equivalent of leaving Jesus at the door if he were to show up in person at our actual house. For some reason, it is more intimidating for most of us to let the Spirit in than it is to let Jesus in. Ironically, the one who should be most welcome in our souls is often not.
Why is that?
I have a few hunches. Some of us may have witnessed bizarre and even destructive examples of people who were claiming to be under the influence of the Holy Spirit, but were doing things that didn’t seem to line up with who Jesus is. Why would we want to open ourselves up to that? Being open to the Spirit seems like a risky move not worth making.
For others of us, it’s a control issue. When it comes to Jesus, he seems more external to us and doesn’t force his will on us. We can keep him at arm’s length if we want to. The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, works almost entirely in an internal way, and there’s a sense that if we let him in, we won’t be able to control what he does. The fear of losing control, of being totally under the Spirit’s influence, is threatening.
Closely related to this is a third reason many of us may be resistant to the Spirit: we don’t want him going through our junk. We know if we let the Spirit in, we will have to deal with the stuff we have tried to keep behind closed doors. We will have to open ourselves up to the pain and shame of things we try to keep hidden. It’s easier and safer to keep those doors closed.
A common thread through each of these barriers is that of fear: fear of what might happen, fear of losing control, fear of dealing with pain. And as the above passage from Matthew suggests, that fear is most likely coming from the enemy, who has a very vested interest in keeping the Holy Spirit out. As long as we keep the Spirit out, the enemy can keep us bound in fear.
We need to expose the lies that keep us bound in fear. Opening ourselves up to the Holy Spirit does not lead to damaging behavior. In fact, the fruit or result of being inhabited by the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). If someone claiming to be filled by the Spirit isn’t exhibiting these traits, then it is not the Holy Spirit they are filled with.
Losing “control” is actually one of the most freeing and life-giving decisions we can make. We are never the master of our souls anyways. We are always influenced by something or somebody. There is no neutral ground where we maintain total control over our lives. Refusing to surrender to the Spirit only leaves us more vulnerable to being influenced and controlled by the fear and lies of the enemy.
Being willing to allow the Spirit to open up the doors of our pain and shame can be the most difficult barrier to overcome, but the lie that we are better off not dealing with those rooms only keeps us enslaved to whatever is behind those doors. Only the healing balm and piercing light of the Spirit can actually free us and heal us from those dark and wounded places in our souls.
Over the past several weeks, I have been slowly letting go of “control” and inviting the Spirit to come into my house, specifically though times of healing prayer. For me, the physical posture of opening my hands has been an ongoing symbol of how I want my soul to be toward the Spirit. To me, the desire to cling and grasp onto other things has become the symbol of my sinful nature. To receive and open myself to the Spirit has become the path to overcoming fear and deepening my intimacy with God.
I invite you to join me and others on this journey to make room for the Spirit. As we do, I believe we will be freed up to love and serve God and our neighborhood with a renewed vigor and passion. As we experience the healing power of God, I know it will overflow to those around us. Instead of timidity and fear, we will be marked by power, love and self-discipline (2 Tim 1:7).