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A Divided House

If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. Mark 3:25 (NRSV)

Before this verse, Jesus is pursued by a large crowd who have witnessed his healing power. Wherever Jesus went, evil spirits, doing what the religious leaders would not, would cry out, "You are the Son of God." The leaders were so furious that Jesus would cast out demons, and seeking to find anything that would create trouble for him, they insisted he must be in league with Satan. 

I wonder if this point if Jesus was amused, bewildered, or disappointed–maybe all three–by their accusations. But we know his response, "If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come." (Mk. 3:25-26) In other words, how would it serve Satan to remove his minions from a place where he already has established himself–it wouldn't.

Jesus goes on to warn the leaders against the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit–attributing what is evil to God. God is compassion, truth, love, and purity, and thus cannot be the polar opposite. The leaders understood this; of course, they were committed followers of the God of Israel. However, they failed to grasp what the evil spirits did, that Jesus is the Son of God. The Father is God, Jesus is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; these three are one. 

Not in Mark, but in Matthew's telling of the same story, there is a secondary warning. "When an impure spirit comes out of a person, 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 unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation." (Mt. 12:43-45)

By this, we understand that there is no such thing as a half-house. There is either the undivided house where God resides or where Satan resides–there are no empty houses. There can't be an upstairs tenant with a different downstairs tenant or a side-by-side arrangement; it's one or the other. Once we dismiss the Holy Spirit from our lives, we deny what God has done for us; Satan is waiting on the doorstep with his minions, moving in before the door has a chance to close.

 We are imperfect people who are saved by God's grace. We are flawed and messed up, and we aren't always the people God would like us to be. That's different; God doesn't move out, leaving the house vacant every time we sin. If that were the case, a Mayflower movers truck would be parked constantly at our curb–or perhaps a storage unit parked in the drive. No, he loves and forgives us. What I'm saying is when we walk away from God, denying his power to save, we're on spiritually dangerous ground.

Father God, thank you for the gift of your Son and the Holy Spirit. We thank you for your grace, love, and compassion. Help us to recognize the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and to follow your will with humility and grace. May we always remember that your love is more significant than our sins and that you are always ready to forgive us when we turn to you with repentance. Amen.


Pastor Tim

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