“Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept and put in order. Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.” (Matthew 12:43-45)
This sobering scripture shows us why “self reform” or what people call “turning over a new leaf” is never enough to really save and change a person. In Jesus’ story, a person has tried to “clean up” their life and “put it in order” — but the demon returns and finds everything temporarily clean — but still empty and unocccupied! So he brings along more demons and the person ends up worse than they were before.
This is the picture of the person who tries to “get their life in order” apart from Christ. They try to “reform” themselves: to get everything “swept and put in order” and “cast the demons out” of their life. But those demons will return if there isn’t Someone there who has taken their place, and who will keep them out!
This why genuine salvation through Christ is vital. When a person is truly saved, they do repent of their sin — somewhat similar to the one who “sweeps and puts in order” his life — but there is one more vital step: instead of merely trying to “reform” their life on their own, they ask Christ to come take up residence in their heart, through the presence of His Holy Spirit. There is now a new occupant residing inside them! And as I John 4:4 says, “Greater is he who is in you, than he who who is in the world” so there is a new protection and power against those enemies and bad habits which would return.
“Turning over a new leaf” doesn’t work. It’s who so many people try, and try, and try again to reform their life — always failing. It is never enough to just try to stop certain bad habits in your life — you must REPLACE that spot in your heart with something — better, SomeONE! — the Lord Jesus, who comes into your life not only to forgive you, but also to give you a new power and protection against the enemy.