It's not enough to get rid of evil

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No one lived in the old Durrance home place. The two-story house sat empty most of my childhood and teenage years. What had once been home to a family was home to rats and snakes. The house was a hazard.

The surviving grandson, Juddy, owned the place. He decided to burn it down (you could do such things in those days). Mildred, married to a Durrance descendant, asked me to go over with her to see if anything was left in the house worth saving.

The house had been emptied of all furniture years before. But strewn on the floor were old papers, bills and books. It was debris left from decades of a family living and farming and making this house a home.

In an upstairs bedroom, I found a Bible. It laid on top of a pile of papers. I picked it up and opened to the flyleaf. Written there was the name "Sam Durrance."

Sam was a country preacher legend where I come from. He died before I was born, but I heard the stories. Once, preaching at Fort Green, he got so excited he ran on the tops of the slat-backed pews from the front of the open-air tabernacle to the back and then ran up the center aisle, never missing a beat (church was more exciting back then). Not content with just preaching, Sam was a county commissioner and a friend of political powers. He had other colorful traits I won't mention.

Now, here was his Bible, in an empty house, about to be burned. If I left the Bible, it would burn up. I picked the Bible up, gave it to Mildred and told her if she didn't want it, I would be honored to have it. Just then, Juddy drove up. We showed him our find and asked him if he wanted it (hoping he would say no). But he said yes, and took the Bible with him. I never saw it again.

A few days later, Juddy burned the house. We saw the smoke four miles away at our place. When we passed by a few days later, we saw still-smoking ruins. The house was gone, everything good taken out of it.

Jesus told a story about a demon who left a man, trying to find a better place. After wandering around for a while, he failed to find a new soul that would welcome him. So, he went back to his old home. He found the soul clean, but empty. The demon went out and found seven other spirits eviler than itself, and the eight of them moved into the empty soul. Jesus finished the story by saying the man was worse off than he was before (Matthew 12:43-45).

Jesus is teaching us that it is not enough to get rid of evil in our lives. This is why most of us fail in our battle against evil. We falsely believe if we have enough willpower, we can stop doing wrong. We succeed for a little while, until evil comes back with a greater force and wrecks our souls again. We've got to fill up our souls with something else, something more powerful than evil. We must fill our souls with Jesus.

I think about the old Durrance place, empty all those years. But there was something eternal there, a Bible, God's word which endures forever. When the Bible was removed, the only thing really to do with that old wreck of a house was to burn it down.

If Jesus is not occupying your life, evil will move in. It will shove out everything eternal, until finally, your soul is like an empty house, only fit for snakes and rats and burning. That's not what God wants for you. He wants to give you eternal life and make your soul his home, his beautiful home.

Is your soul empty? Or full of Jesus?

Clay Smith is the lead pastor of Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter.