Session #091 Unoccupied
Scripture Matthew 12:43-45
Summary Matthew 12:43-45 may read like teaching about deliverance but it is really more than that. Jesus was still addressing the Pharisees and His concern was more for the condition of that entire generation than just the deliverance of a man. The same concern extends to the people of the kingdom today. The same questions apply: What are we occupied with? Who are we occupied by?
“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, 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. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.” Matthew 12:43–45
The above verses may read like a teaching about deliverance but it is really more than that. Jesus was still addressing the Pharisees and His concern was more for the condition of that entire generation than just the deliverance of a man. The same concern extends to the people of the kingdom today. The same questions apply: What are we occupied with? Who are we occupied by?
Not about Deliverance but About the Holy Spirit
This is one of the most referred to passages by deliverance ministers. Some teach that we should not go around casting out demons if that person is not a believer yet, or not ready to believe because he can be possessed by seven other demons. As such, it is ‘for his good’ that deliverance is not conducted. However, there was no such biblical prerequisite.
The Jews knew about exorcism and they knew that spirits can leave a person, find no resting place and then return. Exorcism was concerned merely with the deliverance of demons. As and when spirits return, they would just exorcise again or leave that person to suffer the consequences if they were unable to exorcise the increasing number of spirits.
Jesus was not teaching them about deliverance but still addressing the Pharisees, responding to their opposition, and warning them of the consequences. We examine these verses in the larger context of verses 22 to 50. Jesus first healed a demon-possessed, blind and mute man by the power of the Holy Spirit, verses 22-30. The Pharisees accused Him of doing it by the power of Satan/Beelzebub and Jesus warned them against blasphemy against the Spirit, verses 31-32. Jesus warned them to watch their words for a bad tree yield bad fruit and a good tree yield good fruit and that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Therefore, they needed new hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit to produce good fruits by the Spirit and then good words would come forth, verses 33-37. Then they asked Jesus for a sign and Jesus refused to give any more sign except for the sign of Jonah which is about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. He also spoke about Solomon and one who is greater than Solomon as He will speak and minister by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12: 38-42). We see a common thread pertaining to the Holy Spirit and in verses 43-45, it is about being possessed by and filled with the Holy Spirit and moving on to the next teaching, in verses 46-50, about being adopted by the Spirit and being sent and doing the work of the Holy Spirit. The bigger context is not about casting out the demon. Jesus turned it around into a kingdom teaching about the Holy Spirit.
The Main Point: An Object Lesson/ Warning
Jesus is using the deliverance of the man as an object lesson to make an important point and warning to the Pharisees and to His people. This is apparent from verse 45b:” so shall it also be with this wicked generation.” The passage starts off with a spirit leaving a man but ends with Jesus applying it to an entire generation. It is not about the deliverance of a man, but the devastation of a generation. Warning pertaining to a ‘generation’ is also found in Matthew 11.16,12.39,12.41 and 12.42. Jesus was showing the people that if we miss this implication, an entire generation will suffer the consequences.
Why did Jesus consider ‘this generation’ wicked? What was He really referring to? Idolatry (Baal worship) and spiritual adultery resulted in Israel being exiled. After the exile, Israel was determined never to commit the same error and proceeded to clean up their act and to put the house in order. From the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, there were many reforms. The spirit of idolatry was ‘cast out’, worship of God was ‘cleaned up’ and put in order but inwardly Israel remained empty. The reformation was good, but there was no relationship with God. The outward practices looked good and noble, but inwardly, there was still an emptiness, a void. Over time, the spirit of idolatry returned, but this time, in the form of the spirit of religiosity. Along with that, other spirits returned and mutated – pride, complacency, entitlement, compromise, legalism, greed, hypocrisy, apathy, deception, etc. The latter state is worse than the former. With idolatry, it is obvious but with a religious spirit, it is harder to spot and it gets worse and spreads and we have a form of godliness with no power but we do not realize it and think it is alright.
For example, we have first-world nations that are organized, efficient, and technologically advanced but the spiritual condition can be empty, even for nations that are considered as ‘Christian’ nations. An organized or institutional church can also look clean and in order, full and alive on the surface, but maybe empty and asleep, even dead (Revelation 3:1-2). More than just Christian principles, it is about a relationship with and submission to the King. A cultural or nominal Christian (e.g., one who has grown up in a Christian setting) may be very religious, busy, and engaged with Christian activities yet still be empty, with a need to do more and finally be burnt out.
Reformation vs Relationship
Reforms are always good and needed but as we have seen, without a right relationship with the Lord, lives will still be empty and other spirits will come back in. Empty (scholazo in Greek) comes from the root word ‘schole’ meaning leisure; to be free from labour. It can also be translated to mean vacant, unoccupied, idle. The word ‘idle’ is also found in Matthew 12:36 and it means unproductive words or not contributing to kingdom purposes. In other words, a person can be cleaned up and with life put back in order but is unoccupied or idle i.e., not productive. For Christians, we are cleaned up and restored but are we rightly and purposefully occupied? If not, we remain unoccupied, empty and idle and emptiness will be filled by us or other spirits. An idle mind is the devil’s workshop for he is more than happy to fill it with his lies, deceptions and purposes. If you are not doing things for the kingdom, you may be doing things for the enemy. An example is Paul’s warning about being idle and busybodies in 2 Thessalonians 3:11 and 1 Timothy 5:13. Emptiness needs to be filled and if you occupy yourself with things, cares and spirit of this world and not with the purposes and assignments of the kingdom, you will be busy but still empty.
Warning: No Sitting on the Fence!
What are you occupied with? Who are you occupied by? Jesus’ main point is that it is good to get cleaned up and in order but do not stay empty and unoccupied. Get filled with the right stuff and the right Spirit – the Holy Spirit. Too many prefer to sit on the fence and just enjoy church and be secure about salvation and going to heaven. They avoid doing bad things but that does not mean they are doing the ‘God’ thing. The longer you stay unoccupied by the Spirit of God and the things of God, the sooner you will be refilled and distracted by the wrong stuff. You do not get to remain neutral and have to make a choice as there is no middle ground (Matthew 12:30). There is a spiritual battle and you need to know which side you are on. In Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Moses told the children of Israel before they enter to inherit the land to choose life. The implication of these verses is that just because you do not choose death, does not mean that you choose life. If you do not consciously choose life, you may unconsciously choose death. If you do not consciously choose to be occupied by and for the Holy Spirit, you will be pre-occupied and occupied by all the wrong stuff. There is no middle ground.
We should be owner-occupied i.e., be ‘possessed’ by the Right Spirit. We are already His possession (1 Peter 2:9, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20). We should be filled with the Spirit i.e., to be under the influence and control of the Spirit. It is not about how loud or long you speak in tongues or how often you cast out demons. When we are occupied by the Spirit, we will be occupied for the Spirit. If not, we will be occupied by so many other things that crowd out the Spirit and even be deceived that we are doing fine as Christians. We are able to discern spiritual perspectives and priorities vs worldly ones (1 Corinthians 2:12-13). We are also able to discern between Christian activities and kingdom assignments. We can do many things without the Holy Spirit but if you want to be on kingdom assignment, you definitely need the leading and empowerment of the Holy Spirit to be able to embrace and endure trials and challenges (Romans 8:27).
This is not a teaching about deliverance but about the Holy Spirit. We are to learn from the example of the Pharisees and Israel, God’s kingdom people. If we are not careful, we can make the same mistake. Do not remain empty, idle or unoccupied but be occupied by the Spirit and for the Spirit. Once again, miracles, signs and wonders all point to Jesus and deliverance and healing is not the end. If we miss this, we become ministry-focused, seeking deliverance after deliverance, prayer after prayer. We keep trying to cast out this or that spirit and forget that the key is to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to live rightly occupied for Jesus. The spirit of this world is alive and kicking. If we are not filled with the Holy Spirit, we will occupy ourselves with all sorts of activities, entertainment, and nonsense as emptiness needs to be filled. Then we may come to church and appear all clean and in order but we are deceiving ourselves. The enemy is happy to fill our emptiness with a religious spirit and deceive us into thinking we are really good Christians.
In conclusion, how is your house? What is the condition of your house? Spiritual decluttering is good and recommended but do not let it remain empty or unoccupied. Make room and space for the Holy Spirit as only the Holy Spirit can fill us adequately and satisfactorily from the inside out. Be owner-occupied i.e., be occupied by the Spirit and for the Spirit.