Seriously, as I’ve been thinking about confession and examination lately, I’ve realized that’s only part of the story. In fact, Jesus actually suggested that cleaning up your life can make you worse off.
This person got their house in order. It was clean and swept and empty of evil. But they forgot the next step–filling it with good things. They didn’t see that clean and empty equals danger.
To be empty, with no unclean spirits, isn’t enough. Without the Holy Spirit, it’s an awful condition. Jesus talks a lot about people who are like this. The Pharisees were prime examples of people who were morally upright but spiritually dead. And I know from personal experience how it’s possible to be more concerned about being morally pure, than being spiritually alive.
It’s just like weeding a plot of dirt. One time, I intended to plant some vegetables but only got as far as preparing the ground. The weeds soon returned, and not just one kind of weed, but an orgy of weeds. It would have been better if I had left the ground alone.
So cleansing my heart maybe the first step, but it’s not the last. It’s not enough just to confess, not enough just to clean up my life. I need to confess and then ask for the Holy Spirit. [And as Jesus said a few verses earlier: “How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”]
I want to be clean–and filled. I want my life to be brimming with God’s love and mercy and joy. I want a fruitful beautiful garden, not a weeded plot that soon becomes weed-infested again. I want to be “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” [Ephesians 3:19] so I can produce a crop yielding a hundred or sixty or thirty times what was sown [Matthew 13:23]