I remember reading a confusing and somewhat terrifying Bible passage as a young person and having no idea what it meant. In Matthew 12:43-45 these words of Jesus are recorded:
“Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.”
Luckily I had some good teachers who helped me gain some insights from Jesus’ frightening tale.
Notice specifically that when this unclean spirit returns, it finds the house unoccupied, and this influences the spirit’s decision to invite friends and take up residence. The implication is this: when seeking to eliminate impure thoughts or habits, it is not sufficient to focus merely on what we must not do. It is not sufficient to be mindful simply of what we do not want our lives to be like. We must fill our lives with the positive qualities and practices that we would want to replace the negative ones.
This concept is evident in the teaching of the well-know preacher John Piper on the topic of “The Supremacy of Christ.” I do not condone everything that he teaches or every doctrinal stance that he takes, but his insights are nonetheless valuable:
“Inside and outside the church, Western culture is drowning in a sea of triviality, pettiness, banality, silliness. Television is trivial, radio is trivial, conversation is trivial, education is trivial, Christian books are trivial, worship styles are increasingly trivial. It is inevitable that the human heart, which is made to be staggered with the supremacy of Christ, but instead is drowning in a sea of banal entertainment, will reach for the best natural buzz that it can get… Therefore, the deepest remedy and cure for our pitiful addictions is not any mental strategies… it is to be intellectually and emotionally staggered by the infinite everlasting unchanging supremacy of Christ in all things.”
There are so many things in life that will not satisfy us. But there is one thing that will: our God. When we begin to see even a glimpse of our God for who He is, our souls are filled with Him so that they have no unoccupied rooms left for “unclean spirits.”