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Luke Study #118 – When ‘Clean Up’ Isn’t Enough

The Gospel Of Luke

Luke 11:24-26 (CEV)

24 When an evil spirit leaves a person, it travels through the desert, looking for a place to rest. But when it doesn’t find a place, it says, “I will go back to the home I left.” 25 When it gets there and finds the place clean and fixed up, 26 it goes off and finds seven other evil spirits even worse than itself. They all come and make their home there, and that person ends up in worse shape than before.

When ‘Cleaned Up’ Isn’t Enough

When we first moved to Barrie the old Allandale Train station was in pretty bad shape. Run down, paint peeling, presumably holes in the roof, mice and rats (and other things) living inside. At risk of fires from squatters and wood rot from moisture and insects.

Then the city spent a lot of money cleaning it up – fixing it up – and making it shiny and new again.

The problem is, the city’s been caught in a legal battle for years now about their ability to use the property as they proposed, and the result is that the building sits empty.

And the longer that’s the case, the more likely it’s previous tenants – the mice, the rats, the insects, and even the people – are to move back in.

We want to think that it’s enough to get rid of our old habits and old ways of doing things. That it’s enough to somehow be freed of the addictions and patterns of living that used to be so destructive to our lives.

The problem is that simply cleaning and fixing up the place isn’t going to be enough to keep things in good shape long term.

The reason is simple – usually we get there by gritting our teeth and ‘trying harder’. We decide that we’re no longer going to yell at our kids. We commit to not gossiping anymore. We resolve to change something about an addiction to food or to substances or to work or to whatever your addiction of choice may be.

But here’s the problem. When we only tackle problems like this at a superficial level we’re always left fighting against the inner messages and ways of living that we’ve always had there.

The truth of the matter is that we don’t yell at our kids because we decided to yell at our kids – we yell at our kids because there is something we’re afraid of, or there’s some level of support that we need, or there’s something about their behavior that just doesn’t make sense, and usually feels personal!

The truth of the matter is that we don’t gossip because we committed to gossiping – we gossip because we feel insecure and uncertain in ourselves and in our relationships, which causes us to speak in ways that put others down so that we can feel a little better about ourselves.

The truth of the matter is that we don’t choose addictions because we’ve resolved that living a life of addiction is a good option – we find ourselves dealing with addictions because there is a pain and a loneliness and a brokenness inside of us that is so great that we have to find some way to try to assuage it if we just want to get through the moment, much less the day.

So what do we do, if we can’t decide or commit or resolve our way out of this mess?

Jesus says, “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free”, and what I have learned over the years is that when I ask Jesus to show me the truth about what is going on behind these behaviours, that truth gives me an insight into what would need to change for that behaviour to change. And when I take that truth back to Jesus and ask Him to begin to show me what steps to take – to breathe His love into all of the most fearful and broken parts of my story, both one-on-one with Him and through community – then I begin to realize that not only has the house been swept clean, but a new resident – LOVE – has moved in and taken up residence, and there is no longer any space for fear to dwell.Journal Questions:

  1. Have you ever decided, committed or resolved to change something in your life?
  2. How well has that worked?
  3. For how long?
  4. Have you ever taken the time to get to the bottom of the issue? Found the truth that was hiding behind the fear?
  5. What difference has that made?
  6. If there is something you’ve been gritting your teeth and trying harder on recently, would you be willing to give this a try instead? I’d be more than happy to sit down and talk to anyone who is interested in delving deeper into this process. One of the things I love most about love is that it grows best in community! 

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