In the busyness of the Christmas season, I'll be reposting some of my favorite posts and scaling back my original content. Leading up to New Year's I'll be posting a best-of 2012. This particular post was published in September and had the most page views of the year.
College football is officially underway, which is great news for me because this past baseball season has completely stunk. With the length of the baseball season, or even with basketball and hockey, you can't expect teams to win every game at home. But in football, winning every home game is what separates good teams from mediocre, and being able to win on the road separates the great from the good. So winning at home is a priority for teams. You are defending your turf, you are playing in front of your fans- there is just something inherently more at stake. So athletic apparel company Under Armour has the slogan, "Protect This House" which works great on t-shirts, posters and billboards when combined with mascots and school colors.
We, too, need to protect our house:
“When an evil spirit comes out of a man, 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 swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first.”
It is not enough to just clean up or rearrange the furniture, we need to actively protect our house. When you made the decision to follow Jesus, there were some things that were obvious that needed to be thrown out of the house. Things in your heart you knew you needed to rid yourself of. But did you replace those things with anything else?
I remember a friend of mine not buying into the addiction ministry I'm a part of. "Even if you quit drinking or smoking, you're just going to replace it with something else," he would say. Of course he's right. So what is the "something else"?
Switching gears slightly to your literal house, do you ever feel like an evil spirit has completely moved in? You know what I'm talking about, when everything seems to turn into a fight with your spouse, the kids are unusually wild and crazy, and bills are past due; when you can't seem to catch a break. So you pray and you step away and you hope that things will be better tomorrow. The problem is, if you kicked that evil spirit out of your home he is only going to come back later with some of his friends.
So what are we to fill our house with in the meantime?
Do we fill our house with things? Is that what we are teaching our kids, that they can have any toy they want, watch any movie they want whenever they want, ask for anything they see advertised on TV? More things, more movies, more toys, more games, more gadgets, more electronics. Bigger, faster, better, newer. Our children notice when we complain that our iPhone 3 is no longer good enough even though we just got it a year ago.
Do we fill our house with food? As a kid we knew which house we wanted to go play at after school because they had all the good snacks. Chips, cookies, junk food. Are we teaching our children that happiness comes from sweets? Do they see us snacking between meals when we tell them that they can't?
Do we fill our house with the World? Do we always get wrapped up in politics, news, celebrity gossip, or sports? I was convicted thinking that sports elicit a more emotional response from me than anything my family may accomplish. Do I get up and cheer their achievements as loudly as I cheer a touchdown? Are we filling our house with TV? Do you realize how much television and the Internet influence our values? Even shows that are described as "family friendly" like Dancing With the Stars, Survivor, or even American Idol teach us that modesty isn't important, that it's ok to back-stab if it helps us to get ahead, and that it's ok to mock those who are willing to step out and aspire to greatness (really the first few weeks of American Idol are appalling). Do we fill our house with pornography? Pornea in Greek means "stimulating" or "pleasure", so this is more than straight-up porn and includes things such as the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, Maxim Magazine and the Victoria's Secret catalogue, even much of what passes for celebrity gossip as who is dating who, who has the best beach body, et cetera. So what are you watching on TV late at night? Where are you surfing the Internet?
Do we fill our house with negativity, criticalness, or gossip? Are the conversations around the dinner table about what so-and-so did today at work, or how much you don't want to go to church tonight after dinner? Your attitudes rub off, especially on your children. Or instead are your conversations filled with encouragement or edification? Your attitudes rub off on your children. "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." (Ephesians 4:29)
When the evil spirit comes back, he will bring all his friends. So you will need to protect your house. So fill it with something!
Fill it with the Holy Spirit and with the Word of God. That doesn't mean you hang Bible verses around the house, or buy religious trinkets at your local Family Christian, or even literally to "write them on the doorframes of your house" (Deuteronomy 6:9). Deuteronomy 6 reads earlier, with respect to God's Laws, to "impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." (v 7) How much do you talk about God with your family? Do you share what you are studying in the Bible? (Are you studying the Bible?)
Fill your house with prayer. When someone enters your house do they know that they are entering a place of worship? I don't mean to change out all your windows for stained glass, but Jesus promises that when two or more come together in His Name, there he will be. (Matthew 18:20) Are you gathering together as a family in Jesus' name? Your home is a place of worship. Or it should be. Do you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to one another? (Ephesians 5:19) Do you pray together as a family?
The truth is, that evil spirit will come for an uninvited visit. He may overstay his welcome. You may be successful in driving him out. But he always comes back. Always. And sometimes he doesn't come back alone. You need to protect your house.