Articles

Articles

The Empty House

The Empty House

Matt 12:43-46

 

He is not a great sinner but still he fails. Why? He was empty. He was an idler. He was doing nothing positive and so he was open to doing wrong. He had been set free but for what purpose?  This is what sinners what- freedom. They are always complaining about the restrictiveness of the truth. And what do they do when they declare themselves free of the truth. They go from bad to worse, as Romans one indicates, because God has given them up. He has given them what they wanted but couldn’t handle. Nature abhors a vacuum and so more demons moved in.

 

The first question is:Why was he not busy? There was plenty to do. People are in need everywhere. There is religious oppression everywhere. False teaching that needs to be corrected. Lost who need to be recovered.

 

He was not a bad person. But he misunderstood what serving Christ is all about. Many today seem likewise afflicted. They think sainthood is about negatives- about what you don’t do rather than what you do. But there are three dangers here each worse than the next.

 

Three Dangers

 

I Emptiness of sin is the not the same as holiness.  What he didn’t do could fill a small book or even a large one. But that is not the essence of serving God.

 

A rose bush is not valued for the fewness of its thorns. The bee is not prized because it does not sting.  If doing nothing were the standard then we would all be better off asleep or anesthetized.

 

 

Millions have objected to what they see in the Bible as a religion of “thou shalt nots.” What they generally mean by this is as I mentioned above, they don’t want to be restricted in their pleasure seeking. Not I don’t want to be misunderstood. I don’t agree with their reasons or their goals but I too object to a religion of “thou shalt nots.” There is good reason to object to a religion of nothing but “thou shall nots.” Not because the law is not composed of “thou shalt nots” but because that is not all that the law is.  Far from it. We are given positive commands as well.  I had someone say to me once “I hope you’re not going to preach another one of those sermons that make us feel all guilty for the things we’re not doing.” Well I understand the feeling, all too well. And we ought not to feel guilty all of the time, not by not mentioning what we need to be doing but by doing it. On the other hand there is much to be said positively about having something to do. Just think how badly tose feel who are unemployed. Just think how useless we would feel if we had nothing to do. No one depending on us to do our part. If we just watched all day as others went about useful work. You might say th would suit me well. Work doesn’t bother me. I can lie down and sleep right next to t al day long.” But you know it wears thin after awhile. Just ask the invalid or the unemployed.

 

This is an old mistake. Matt 23.   Evidenced especially in the Sabbath laws. The rabbis didn’t even allow anyone to  catch a flea on the Sabbath. They had a busy time that day I suspect.  But Jesus showed that the law of doing good was more important than mere “Thou shalt nots.” (Mat 12:10 13 NKJV)  And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"; that they might accuse Him. {11} Then He said to them, "What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? {12} "Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath." {13} Then He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and it was restored as whole as the other.

 

And so He healed on the Sabbath. We are to do good as well.

 

It was also the mistake of monasticism.  During the Middle Ages this was how one was a saint. Celibacy and monasticism even by a vow of silence. Talk about putting on burdens that could not be borne.

 

This monasticism was a double loss. The world lost the salt and light of a good life. (Mat 5:14 16 NKJV)  "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. {15} "Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. {16} "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Maybe that’s why they called it the dark ages.

 

Two, the man himself lost the strength and power that comes from being an example and doing good.

 

(Judg 5:23 NKJV)  'Curse Meroz,' said the angel of the LORD, 'Curse its inhabitants bitterly, Because they did not come to the help of the LORD, To the help of the LORD against the mighty.'

 

(Mat 21:19 NKJV)  And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, "Let no fruit grow on you ever again." Immediately the fig tree withered away.

 

 

(Luke 13:6 9 NKJV)  He also spoke this parable: "A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. {7} "Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, 'Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?' {8} "But he answered and said to him, 'Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. {9} 'And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.'"

 

II Doing noting is as certain to result in condemnation.  This is a step in advance of the last, which merely says that emptiness is not holiness. This says that emptiness is itself  condemned even though it is not an active sin.  It is not necessary to be a curse to be cursed but merely to not be a blessing is enough to be cursed. In order to be lost it is not necessary that one do active wrong.

 

Not only is emptiness a mater of falling short of holiness, it is actively sin.

 

James states it straight up as he usually does.  (James 4:17 NKJV)  Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.

 

The same lesson is taught in the parable of the talents.

 

 

In fact most of the parables teach the same kind of lesson. The man was thrown out of the wedding feast not for drunkenness but not wearing the wedding garment. The foolish virgins were exclude not for uncleanness but unpreparedness.  The condemnation of the last day is not that those on the left hand done ill but that they had not done good.  (Mat 25:41 46 NKJV)  "Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: {42} 'for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; {43} 'I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.' {44} "Then they also will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?' {45} "Then He will answer them, saying, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' {46} "And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

 

This should cause us to reconsider. We so often think of being a Christian as purity of life. It is; but it is also doing good. (James 1:27 NKJV)  Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. Anything else is unworthy of Christ Who “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38) and ultimately Whose life was about doing us the greatest good.

 

As an illustration of unworthiness, Chappel tells the story of the woman and her fiancé at the theater when the cry of fire went up. He left quickly and quietly instead of staying to help others. She broke ff the engagement.  Not because he had set the fire but he had not stopped to help those who were endangered by it.

 

III Emptiness is dangerous because it will eventually lead to active sin.

Emptiness invites occupation.  Nature abhors a vacuum.  The man who sets out only to avoid sin but never plans for any positive action is doomed to failure. Try not to think of green Volkswagens. You can’t avoid it when you only try not to. The only way not to think of something is to think of something else. The only way to really avoid committing sin is to fill the hours with positive actions. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.

 

This is the primary application of the parable. You can be certain that just as an empty house will attract every young adventurer and ever vagabond in the vicinity so too will and empty head or soul attract the interest of every passing demon.  When is it that yung people are taken in by the lusts of the flesh? When they are busy with their work? No, when they are idle.  The devil is a schemer. He tries to come into every house but the empty house has more room for him and his plans.

 

What is the cure of emptiness?

There is only one cure and that is occupation both in the housing sense and the activity sense.

 

This is one of the mistakes we make along this line. We try to drive out sin by bucking up and putting on a brave face and saying you need to just get over it. You can’t drive out darkness with a club only with a light.  You can’t cure malaise or depression by will power alone, by not thinking depressing thoughts. You can only cure it by getting busy and filling your minds with positive thought and you hours with positive actions.

 

Emptiness is of no value in controlling the lust of the flesh. “Fighting the air” Paul calls it.

 

 

His advice to the Colossians along this line tells us what doesn’t work.(Col 2:20 23 NKJV)  Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations; {21} "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle," {22} which all concern things which perish with the using; according to the commandments and doctrines of men? {23} These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. (Col 3:1 2 NKJV)  If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. {2} Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.

 

And to the Galatians he provides the positive way. (Gal 5:16 17 NKJV)  I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. {17} For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.

 

First, we must fill our minds with the positive and the valuable. (Col 3:1 2 NKJV)  If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. {2} Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.

 

Thus was Ulysses able to resist the singing of the sirens by having on board his ship abetter music that of Orpheus.

 

 

Therein lies the advice to mediate on God’s word. (Psa 119:27 38 NKJV)  Make me understand the way of Your precepts; So shall I meditate on Your wondrous works. {28} My soul melts from heaviness; Strengthen me according to Your word. {29} Remove from me the way of lying, And grant me Your law graciously. {30} I have chosen the way of truth; Your judgments I have laid before me. {31} I cling to Your testimonies; O LORD, do not put me to shame! {32} I will run the course of Your commandments, For You shall enlarge my heart. {33} Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes, And I shall keep it to the end. {34} Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart. {35} Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, For I delight in it. {36} Incline my heart to Your testimonies, And not to covetousness. {37} Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, And revive me in Your way. {38} Establish Your word to Your servant, Who is devoted to fearing You.

 

(Phil 4:8 NKJV)  Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy; meditate on these things.

 

We may say as an intellectual matter: I’ve studied all of that before. True enough in a limited sense but that is not meditating. (1 Tim 4:15 NKJV)  Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all.

 

 

Second, we must fill our lives with positive work least our lives be filled with wickedness or lesser things. Less we be trapped by the schemes of Satan.

 

When temptations come let us be able to say with Nehemiah. Neh 6:3 “I am doing a great wok and I cannot come down.” There is no better protection for temptation than this. To be about the Father’s business as was the young Jesus and the grown man too.

 

We try to counteract the false doctrines by fighting them directly when the best method is to practice the truth.  You can’t drive out darkness with a club only with a light. You can’t drive out darkness with a club only with a light. Perhaps applicable is the parable of the tares in Matt 13. The hired hands wanted to pull up the tares. But the master said let them grow. Fertilize the wheat and the tares will be taken care of in due course.