Wednesday, August 16, 2017
 

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By : Lonnie Branam [ Sermon Emptiness in the Lives of Christians ]

THE DANGER OF EMPTINESS
Lonnie Branam
Luke 11:23-26

In the above passage Jesus said, “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters. When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, I will return to the house from which I came. And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that man is worse than the first.”

This is the story of a demoniac who suffered a relapse. The man was demon possessed, and by the power of God the demon was cast out of his body. A demon is a fallen angel. But after the demon was cast out of him, the man did not repent of his sins, improve his life or make any changes in his life. When the demon came back and found the man's heart and life empty of any goodness, he entered the man's body again and brought seven more demons with him more wicked than himself. Jesus said the last state of that man was worse than the first. The chief lesson in this passage is the danger of emptiness of good in a person's life after God has cast evil out of his life. The Lord has taught two profound truths in this passage. One is that unless our minds are possessed of good, they will be possessed of evil. The other valuable truth is that evil once removed from our lives can return to our lives, and as a result, we will be far worse than ever were before. This story is about far more than a demon possessed man, for Jesus said the same thing that happened to this man could happen to most of the nation of Israel. In Matthew's account of this story Jesus said, “So it will also be with this wicked generation”(Matthew 12: 45) And it is necessarily implied, so will it be with our generation and all generations. This story has a universal application. It is my sincere wish that this has not happened to you, dear reader or ever will happen to you..

My first comment on this passage is that we all suffer from Satanic influence, more or less. What a fearful picture the Lord drew of Satan's power. Demon possession was not an ancient superstitious falsehood and to make such a charge is to call Jesus Christ a liar, as well as the inspired writers of the Bible. .In this passage Jesus warns the Jews that the evil spirits which He had cast out of some of the Jewish people could return to them; and if they find the man impenitent they could take possession of his heart with greater ferociousness than ever and would hasten him on to ruin. The demon driven from the heart of the man by Divine power is pictured by Jesus as going about searching for a fit abode. The demon is restless because no human heart is found for residence.

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Sometimes a demon returned to the heart of a person from which he had been driven out. When he returns he finds the man's heart bad and empty of good. He is even better suited for his abode than before. . He had not repented of his sinful life, and therefore was a very fit dwelling place for a demon. In its universal application, some people today after God has forgiven them of all sin, refuse to correct their lives and fall into a worse condition than before they became Christians. Judas Iscariot is a perfect example of such a happening. Many attractions and allurements which are highly valued by people of the world are some of the things that cause Christians to have empty hearts and lives. Impenitent wills, mere physical beauty and learned talents are often attractions which have changed the destiny of a Christian's soul. They allow their lives to be overtaken by the powers of evil. . Jesus spoke of people whose last state became worse than their first state. As the demon possessed man had a relapse, many Christians have had relapses into sinful living.

Then Jesus made an application of this teaching to the entire Jewish nation by saying, “Even so shall it be also to this evil generation.”(Matthew 12:45). The last years of Jerusalem before the Romans destroyed Jerusalem were years of evil, madness and crime. Their condition was evil when Christ walked among them, but by 70 A.D. they were in worse condition than when Jesus walked their streets. What Jesus is saying here is that the nation would be worse off for having known Him and for rejecting His teachings. His teachings could have changed their lives and made them righteous and holy in God's sight. What all this amounts to is a serious warning about negative improvement only. To receive divine forgiveness for sins of the past life, but make no positive correction and improvement in our lives puts us in a most dangerous condition. This is quite common in Christian conversion. They get rid of their sins, but afterward make little or no improvement in their character. Jesus is saying here that a definite acceptance of His teachings and way of life is an absolute requirement. After baptism change is not optional, but mandatory. A failure to change and improve the life shows a refusal to repent, and that produces an emptiness of good in the life. At conversion the character of Christ is not transferred to us in some mysterious way as a gift. The only righteous people are those practice righteousness. We must correct the mistakes of the past; and we must develop a Christian character. Christ will not do that for us. We must do the repenting and the changing. We must overcome evil in our lives; and Christ will not do that for us. He cleanses our heart from evil at the new birth, but we can leave our hearts empty; if we choose. But if we do so evil will return to us. .. As a result we will be worse than were before we became Christians. Jesus framed these words so as to include the entire Jewish nation when Jesus ..
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lived. Those listeners to whom He was speaking were fitting representatives of most all people in Israel who rejected Jesus as their Messiah. The words of the Lord in Luke 11:26, “the last state of that man is worse than the first,” are quoted by Peter. The apostle Peter applied these words to Christians in 2 Peter 2:20, “For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the proverb: A dog returns to his own vomit and a sow having washed to her wallowing in the mire.”

Can you imagine such words spoken to Christians who were once cleansed of an evil life, and then returned to their old evil way of life and enjoyed it? Peter referred to many who became immoral and false teachers and caused pollution in the church. This is exactly what happened to some who had been healed of demon possession, and Jesus says this same condition can occur in people who have never been demon possessed. When God cleanses our lives by the truth, and we continue to live an impenitent and unrighteous life, we are worse off than we were before we became Christians. Jesus applied this teaching to the entire nation of Israel, and it equally applies to the Gentile world..

As a related thought the nation of Israel demanded even greater miracles than He had already performed, but Jesus said, “An evil generation seeks a sign.” He knew their hearts and said it was an evil and corrupt generation. They had proof enough that God had sent Him and that He had supernatural power. They had become unfaithful to Jehovah who made a covenant with them at Mount Sinai. They had more than ample proof of His most holy life, His divine teachings, and His supernatural works. Jesus knew that more miracles would not convince them, and He refused to work a miracle just to satisfy their curiosity. He would work miracles in abundance to relieve the sick and helpless, but not to amuse the curious or just to display His power. Yet there would be a sign given them, and a mighty one indeed. . That sign was the Lord Himself, His incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension to heaven. That was the only sign from heaven they would receive, and it was all-sufficient to convince all honest seekers after truth. As the prophet Jonah lay hidden in the fish's belly, so would He be buried in the grave. As Jonah was

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restored to the upper air by the power of God, so would Jesus rise again in the majesty of His glorious resurrection. Finally, there is still a sense in which we cast Satan out of people today. We do it by the gospel now, but in the first century it was done by miraculous power. During the earthly life of Jesus and the miraculous period of the church, Satan tormented people's bodies as well as their souls, and the demons did this openly and without disguise. Now they torment people's souls only and as secretly as possible. The difference is plain. We live in an intellectual and scientific age. In early times Satan's aim seemed intent on driving mankind to superstition. Therefore he worked as openly as possible by demon possession. Most of the world then considered these demons as gods. Paul said that the religious worship of the ancient Gentile world was really worship of demons(I Corinthians 10:20). . Demons ruled most all Gentile worship of ancient times. In this scientific age Satan could never convince the world that demons were really gods.

Hence, in this enlightened and scientific world the aim of Satan and his fallen angels is to drive the world to unbelief and infidelity. Therefore, he works as privately as he can, for the more secret he is the more he prevails. At the conversion of Paul Jesus said to him, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand on you feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness to both of the things which you have seen and of things I will yet reveal to you. I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me”(Acts 26:15-18). One thing God sent Paul to do was to turn the Gentiles from the power of Satan to God. Paul did that by the preaching of the gospel, and we still turn people today from the power of Satan by teaching them the gospel of Christ. We have learned a soul-saving truth in this lesson. It is that when we become Christians by faith, repentance and baptism, if we do not change our lives and fill our lives with good, evil will return to our lives, and the latter state of our life will be worse than the first. Only good can keep evil out of our lives. Consider what I say and the Lord give you understanding.

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