Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 3, 1949
NUMBER 26, PAGE 4,6b

The Perils Of Vacancy

L. L. Gieger, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

"But the unclean spirit, when he is gone out of the man, passeth through waterless places, seeking rest, and findeth it not. Then he saith, I will return into my house whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they enter in and dwell there, and the last state of that man becometh worse than the first". (Matt. 12:43-45)

These verses speak of a profound truth. The Lord likens evil in one's life to an unclean spirit living in a house. When sin (the unclean spirit) is driven out of one's life (through obedience to God's word), the house is left "empty, swept, and garnished". But when the unclean spirit goes and finds seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and all eight of them return to the house and dwell therein. Jesus said, "the last state of that man is worse than the first".

When evil is driven out of a man's heart there arise certain "perils of vacancy" which may destroy his life. Unless he fills his life with that which is good, these "perils" may possess him. Have you ever marveled at the rapidity with which a vacant house seems to go down? When a family moves off a farm and leaves the residence there vacant, does it not seem but a few days until the window screens are gone, the panes shattered, the doors hanging open and off the hinges? Or have you ever been impressed by passing along the streets and noting how easily the vacant lots become dumping grounds? The lot belongs to someone, as does the house, but vacancy only invites abuse, and soon the lot will be littered with tin cans, old boxes, rocks, and rubbish. The mind is much like that; it cannot stand vacancy without becoming a dumping ground.

Prevalent Temptations

Vacancy is dangerous because of the temptations which are always prevalent. Just as vacant houses and lots invite abuse, even so idle minds and empty hands become special targets for the darts of demons and the arrows of evil Temptations will come; and as surely as they come they will prevail over the lives that are not filled with that which is acceptable to God. Finding a vacancy, the devil will always seek to fill it. The unclean spirit, seeking an abode, will re-enter his former residence if he finds it empty. It will profit a man not at all to empty his life of evil if he does not fill it with good. His life cannot remain empty; it will either be filled with that which is right, or it will once again be overflowed with a surging flood of evil

Weakened Consciences

This emptiness is dangerous, too, because of the weakened consciences which it always develops. Neglect of duty will but develop drifters and drones of those who otherwise might be worth much to the cause of Christ. Think of that preacher, who, because of neglect, doesn't study his lessons and fails to make the proper preparation of his sermons. For a few weeks he gets by, and he permits the idea to grow in his mind that theological hash will satisfy the spiritual hunger of God's people forever. He tries to get by with less and less work—and often wants more and more pay for it. A vacant life has so weakened his conscience that he has no sense of guilt at all.

Or consider the elder who neglects to visit the members of the flock and look after their spiritual welfare, He is far more concerned with a good contribution on Sunday than he is with the restoration of an erring child or the baptism of an alien sinner into the family of God. Neglect and unconcern (vacancy of life) so weakens his conscience that he never is even conscious of the sin of which he is guilty. He sings loudest of all, "I am bound for the promised land"!

Look at the case of Felix (Acts 24:25-27). He had a wonderful opportunity of becoming a child of God; but, failing to respond, that opportunity became a judgment of God against him. Failing to move when Paul pleaded with him, each rejection became easier, each refusal less difficult, until finally he must have died without God and without hope. When consciences are weakened, then opportunities are neglected, and wasted opportunities become judgments of God against those who are guilty.

Difficulty Of Readjustment

Vacancy of life becomes extremely perilous because of the difficulty of readjustment which it always brings. After one has been obedient to the will of God, and by faith, confession, and baptism, has cast out the evil spirit, he has begun wisely and well. But if he then neglects his duty and fails to do what God requires of him, he allows vacancy to take possession of his life. He allows himself to drift away from God's will and work. In such a case it becomes extremely difficult for that man ever to turn around and come back to living the way God wants him to and to say, "I have sinned".

This is clearly implied in the story of the Prodigal Son as told by Jesus. The younger of the two boys took his journey into a far country, and wasted his substance in riotous living. He became so hungry when he had wasted all that he joined himself to one of the citizens of that land, and was sent into the fields to feed the swine. Finally, he came to himself (difficult as it is, thanks be to God, it can be done), and purposed to arise, return to his home, freely confess his sin, and beg for mercy. With what terrible struggle of soul must he have reached such a decision! When sin has been cast out of a man, and then re-enters to possess him, it is harder than ever for that one to turn again and seek God's favor; the "last state of that man" has indeed become wore than the first.

Certain Remorse

Finally, vacancy is dangerous in any life because of the certainty of the remorse which it is going to bring, Just as surely as we live and breathe, if we fail to fill our lives with that which is good, remorse will one day seize upon us. It may be while we are yet on this earth and through tears and agony we may try once again to cast out the evil spirits and rededicate our lives to God. Or, on the other hand, and more tragically, it may be that we will have all eternity to be filled with an overwhelming remorse. But, one way or the other, remorse is the certain reward of those whose lives are "empty, swept, and garnished".

Consider the remorse that must have filled the souls of those to whom Noah preached in vain; remember the remorse of Lot as he fled from wicked Sodom, his opportunities there wasted, his very life in danger. And let your mind dwell on King Saul, or Judas Iscariot. How bitter was their remorse—and how useless! But on the other hand remember Abraham who lied; Moses, who murdered; David, who committed adultery; Peter who cursed and denied the Lord; Paul, the blasphemer. Here were men in whom remorse worked repentance, and repentance brought obedience, and obedience wrought salvation.