Wednesday, September 30 2020 - 5:49 AM
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Occupied

You’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase, “squatter’s rights.” Sometimes occupying a spot entitles you to the benefits of legitimate ownership. This was true for the American pioneers who traveled west. In some regions they were allowed to stake their claims for land that could eventually become theirs. But they had to live on it and develop it.

Human hearts bear a resemblance to frontier real estate in that they are spaces that require habitation. Hearts must inevitably be filled with something. Either they are occupied with positive loving sentiments, or they become campgrounds for wandering ideologies that are dark and foreboding.

Jesus spoke about the dangers of allowing our hearts to be occupied by sinister spirits.

“Let Me tell you what will happen to this wicked generation: When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it rattles around through deserts and other dry places looking for a place to rest–but it does not find anywhere to rest. So the spirit says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ And it returns to find that house unoccupied, tidy, swept, and sparkling clean. Well, then not only does one spirit set up shop in that sparkling house, but it brings seven even more wicked spirits along. And the poor man–the house–is worse off than he was before. This evil generation will suffer a similar fate” (Matthew 12:43-45, The Voice).

No wonder there’s so much craziness in the world! The devil’s minions are “trading spaces” in the hearts of multitudes as if it were a game of musical chairs. When the music stops, the pain and misery intensifies!

Who is occupying our hearts? Evil sentiments seldom approach us with decorum or courteous inquiries. They appear from nowhere, make braggadocios claims, and try to weasel their way into our lives. They’re looking for places to occupy.

Jesus operates from a different angle.

“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends” (Revelation 3:20, NLT).

Of course, when Jesus comes into the heart, evil has to go. Light and darkness cannot coexist. And with the light come sentiments of reason, compassion, forgiveness and mercy. Jesus is able to transform foul-mouthed bigots into gracious, patient souls who’s life goal is to spread God’s goodness everywhere they go.

This is what happens when God’s Spirit occupies the heart.

“All of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing. For the Scriptures say, ‘If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it’” (1 Peter 3:8-11, NLT).

Rich DuBose writes from Northern California.

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About Rich DuBose

Rich DuBose

is director of Church Support Services for the Pacific Union Conference.

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