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*Frequently asked questions*
The Bible, the written word of God, is our final authority in answering all questions pertaining to our spiritual life. However, in reading the Bible, we must keep in mind that the Bible is not written like a book of science where each statement is exact and complete in itself, nor like a book of law where the goal is to elaborate matters in sections and sub-sections so as to avoid loopholes. The Bible is written for the heart, and can be understood in its proper sense only by those who are spiritually minded (1Co.2:14), and who desire to do the will of God once it is revealed (Jn.7:17). Those who want to argue against the word of God can always find arguments, and those who do not want to obey what God says can appear to find words of God themselves to support their stand.
What is spiritual warfare?
In a broad sense spiritual warfare refers to our battle with everything that hinders us in our spiritual life--from growing in grace, partaking of the nature of Christ and fulfilling the ministry that God has for us. We are constatnly tempted to do wrong because we have certain strong sinful desires in our 'flesh'. (This word flesh -- Greek sarx -- is not the same as body --Greek soma) -- but it is a word used especially in the New Testament to refer to the sinful nature we are born with) (Psa.51:5). The sinful desires or 'lusts' in our flesh draw us to sin (Jas.1:14). These, of course, become stronger with use. Even if there was no Satan or demons (evil spirits) to tempt us, these desires would have tempted us, and a lot of our battle is with these temptations. The things of the 'world' attract us through these desires, and Satan is able to connect with us because we have those desires. This flesh with its desires is not taken away from us when we are born again, but we are expectted to crucify it and not feed it by yielding to it (Gal.5:24). Spiritual warfare involves dealing with all these 'attacks' (from the flesh, the world and Satan) against a godly way of life which God wants for us. There is much writing available on the subject of dealing with our desires and the attractions of the world (for example see my articles on temptation and sin and dealing with temptation). But many Christians are not sufficiently aware of the way Satan and his demons attack Christians. Therefore the focus here will be on dealing with attacks from Satanic forces.
|Much of what Satan tries to do with us is dressed up in deception, making it look like he is doing us a favour! But ultimately his aim is to get a hook into us, draw us away from God and then torment us.|
Another way Satan works is by oppressing us. We read about the attacks on the life of Jesus before the Father's time came for Him to die, and we can safely assume that Satan would have tried to finish Him off so that He could not complete His mission. Satan and his demons can resort to a wide variety of forms such as accusing us day and night (Rev.12:10), getting us into bondage to sin or habits, pushing us into bad moods, frightening us through voices, dreams or forceful thoughts, pressurising us to do harmful things to others or to ourselves, sickness, physical harm, etc. This is a further phase following temptation when they find us vulnerable in any area. If we give them an inch they will try to take a foot. If people have dabbled with the occult they usually find themselves also experiencing 'supernatural' things such as hearing voices, seeing shapes or forms, things being moved about, etc.
A word of comfort. If we are children of God, God protects us from Satan's schemes by limiting his access to our lives, as we can see in the example of Job. So we don't have to live in fear of what Satan might do. We shall deal with in greater detail later.
A word of caution. Jesus and His disciples had a lot to do with demons in their ministry, among which only some of the prominent ones are mentioned in the gospels. The Bible mentions as a matter of fact that Jesus healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons (Mk.1:34). In the Acts of the Apostles we have mention of a few cases of dealing with demons, and the epistles mention about the Christian's warfare with Satan and the demons. But there is very little direct teaching about how to cast out demons, for example. (For that matter there is also very little practical teaching about how to evangelise in a cross cultural set up, how to live together as husband and wife, etc.) We should not infer from this that therefore there is no need to bother about dealing with demons.
We must remember that the epistles in the New Testament were originally written to Christians in the different churches of that time. We get a background about those churches from the historic narration in the Acts of the Apostles. Many of the Christians in the churches had come from pagan worship and were very familiar with demonic activities. Such things were also well known to the Jewish Christians. There was therefore no need for the writers to explain such background information in the epistles. When we read these epistles now we must read them with that background in mind, if we are to interpret many of the things in the epistles correctly. If we do not have the same exposure to demonic activities as those early churches we must not therefore conclude that the epistles do not tell us how to deal with demons. It is just that we need to learn many things like this through practice and experience, interpreting them based on broad principles we learn from the Bible. Actually there is a lot of demonic activity going on, even if many people do not recognise them, and some of the problems you are facing now may be because of them. Read through this entire article in order to get an overall picture of what all is involved in this subject before making a conclusion.
When it comes to how to deal with demons, we find three extreme positions among Christians. A large number of Christians seem to assume that demons were only part of the mythology that the people of Jesus' days were familiar with, and that in these modern days we don't have to believe in such unscientific ideas. They tend to associate all activities connected with demons as coming from fanatics or as due to psychiatric problems. A second group of Christians believe in the existence of demons, but assume that since Jesus has overcome them we don't have to be concerned about them! On the other end we have people who see demons everywhere, going around casting them out and finding many different ways of demons getting power over lives -- so much so that they practically live scared of demons. The truth is that demons exist and are active now, but they are to be kept under the authority of Christ and outside the life of a Christian. Many people are suffering from various degrees of demon activity and they need to be delivered through the authority of Christ.
|On one hand we need to base our teachings on the word of God, and on the other hand we also need to learn from practical experience provided they can be validated from the word of God.|
I have studied many books, teaching material and testimonies related to spiritual warfare, and it has been only rarely that I have found somebody trying to examine every teaching and experience from the basis of the Bible. Usually there is a wild mixture of truth and imagination. Many people seem to take their explanations of 'experiences' as truths and then try to find Bible verses to substantiate them. I have even come across people who make use of obscure verses in the Bible to illustrate their teachings which have come from experience, without going the other way of not accepting any explanation unless it is supported by the Bible. Experiences can be subjective and thus deceptive, and explanations can also be from the Deceiver and the only way to check is to compare with the Bible. It must be noted that many who are in the deliverance ministry are not gifted as Bible teachers, and so their explanations leave much to be desired. What I have done here is to examine things from a wider viewpoint. I have looked at experiences (my own and those of others) in the deliverance ministry and tried to see how they can be explained in agreement with the teachings of the Bible. I have examined the teachings on spiritual warfare from both sides with an open mind, from those who are in the ministry and derive teachings based on their experience, and others who only base their teachings on the Bible without looking at practical experience. Both these positions are extreme, and there is need for balance. I see that sometimes we are not in a position to explain some incident from a Biblical point of view; but we cannot afford to explain them in a way that is contrary to Biblical teachings.
Sad to say, the availability of a number of books and audio/video recordings from 'experienced' deliverance ministers and the authoritative way in which they deal with the matter have resulted in many people accepting such teachings without question. On the other side are those who deny virtually all demonic activities and dissuade people from looking at them. This word of caution is to warn you not to swallow everything that so-called experts tell you without checking with the Bible.
Aren't Satan and demons just medieval or mythological concepts?
The Bible tells us about Satan right from the first to the last book. Satan is identified as the one who tempted the first woman, Eve, from whom the entire mankind has come. Satan used the form of a serpent (Gen.3:1) and his identity has been shown to us later as Satan (Rev.12:9). We read about Satan oppressing Job in order to get him to turn against God (Job.1:9-11). We have many examples of Jesus and the apostles casting out demons and healing those who were oppressed by demons. And in the end we read about the judgment of God that will come on Satan and all the demons and how they will be cast into the lake of fire forever (Rev.20:10). If we start from the belief in the truth of the Bible we can find many different examples of demonic activities all through the Bible. Then we can also observe such things going on around us at present too.
The most common understanding Bible scholars have about Satan and the demons is that they are fallen angels. References to Satan in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 are very illuminating, and even though the passages seem to be talking about earthly persons it can be seen that there are attributes given there which cannot allude to earthly persons but only to angelic beings. Lucifer was the chief of the angels whom God created (much before He created man), and one day Lucifer became so proud in his thoughts that he wanted to be greater than God. He also influenced a third of the angels to join with him in this rebellion. God then threw them out of heaven, and now Lucifer is called Satan (or the Devil) and the fallen angels are called demons. We piece this information together from different parts of the Bible.
|Everything supernatural that we see must not be attributed to God!|
While these demons can do a lot of things we cannot, they are not all-powerful. They can appear to take forms which we can see, but they are not material beings. They cannot also create something out of nothing. Many people interpret the passage in Gen.6 where 'sons of God' are said to have had sexual relationship with 'daughters of men' as referring to fallen angels interacting with human women because the result was 'giants' (Hebrew nephilim). If they were fallen angels they would not have been called 'sons of God'! If they were the other, unfallen angels, they should have been thrown out of heaven just as the fallen angels were. But the Bible only mentions God's disgust with human beings in this passage (Gen.6:5). The passage only mentions that there were giants around at the time when this relationship was taking place, and does not say that the giants were the result of this relationship. There were such giants even much later in history, even after the flood destroyed all the people on earth except Noah and his family (Gen.6:4). A good point to remember is that even though angels can show themselves in any bodily form they really don't have any material part to their existence. If angels were to have sex with women and babies born as a result, it has to be that those angels had the power to 'create' physical sperm out of nothing. Only God can create something out of nothing. Jesus describes angels as sexless beings (when saying that in the resurrection life we will not have any marriage relationships - Matt.22:30). 'Sons of God' possibly refer to godly men who were falling in love with ungodly women because of their beauty. Just imagine the chaos that would result in the world even now if angels (demons) had the ability to 'create' or procreate! I understand from reports from the world of the occult and satanic worship that there is a lot of sexual activity going on between people and 'sexual spirits' called incubi and succubi. I understand that these are not physical relationships between demons and human beings which can produce babies (because demons do not have a physical body), but physical experiences which two human beings have who are demonised by the so-called sexual spirits.
It is true that while many have lived without ever knowingly coming into contact with demons, there are many others who have faced oppression from them in different ways. In societies where people take pride in a 'scientific' outlook on life people tend to brush aside demonic activities as belonging to psychological or psychiatric problems, whereas in other societies where idolatry, witchcraft and black magic are common there is also a greater awareness of demonic powers. But occult practices are becoming more common all over the world especially with the increasing attention being given to 'new age' philosophies, 'spirit guides', and supernatural experiences, and demonic powers are becoming more evident. Direct worship of Satan is also becoming common and more public in different places. The Bible also says that even though the gods people worship in the form of idols are just made of wood or stone, the power behind them comes from demons (1Co.10:20).
It is also true that it is when we become serious about following God and Satan realises that we are becoming a threat to his kingdom that he is more likely to pay special attention to us.
They say even if there are demons, surely Christians are safe from them!
Yes and no. Jesus Himself was tempted by Satan, and so we can't say that Satan cannot tempt us. Satan, or usually his demons, will keep tempting us, hoping that one day we would fall. In this way even the godliest Christian is not free from temptation. Sometimes the temptation can come in the form of a strong suggestion that pops up in our mind telling us to say or do something. Sometimes Satan can put wrong ideas into our mind which can become false doctrines if we accept them (1Tim.4:1). This is actually happening quite a lot! Satan can come to us looking like an 'angel of light' suggest some 'good' thing to us, and if we don't discern that we may think it was from God. This was what happened to the apostle Peter. One moment he got a revelation from God that Jesus was the Son of God (Mt.16:15,16). But soon after that, he was suggesting to Jesus that He should not go to the cross (Mt.16:22,23)! Jesus recognised that the idea was from Satan.
If any part of the armour of God which He has given us Christians is missing in our life we may also make ourselves vulnerable to demonic attacks (Ep.6:11-18). If a Christian indulges himself by giving in to any sinful temptation knowingly and without repentance he makes himself open to demonic control. On the other hand, if Christians open themselves to demonic activities such as involving themselves in the occult, it is only natural that demons get power in their lives.
|We are 'safe' if we stand and use the authority of Jesus. It is entirely up to us to choose whether to give place to demons in our life or not.|
Are you saying that Christians can also be demon possessed?
No. The term 'demon possessed' is a very misleading term. The Greek word used in the New Testament is daimonizomai which means 'to be exercised or vexed by a demon' but which some English Bibles have translated into 'demon possessed'. 'Demon possession' has an implication of being totally owned and controlled by a demon, and naturally the question comes up about how a Christian can be possessed by a demon at the same time when he is owned by Jesus and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The examples of demons that were cast off from non-Christians were mainly of the extreme variety that could actually be termed as demon possession, and therefore it would be easy for us to wrongly think that only such extreme forms imply demonic activity. But a better way to deal with the word daimonizomai would be to transliterate it to make a new English word such as 'demonised' (just as baptisma which means immersion or dipping has been transliterated into baptism). Demonisation can be at different grades from mild to strong (0-100%). For example, if a Christian indulges himself in pornography he can give a demon a place in his life to the extent that he is unable to control himself in that area (say, as a way of illustration, a 5% demonisation). He has been 'demonised' to that extent, even though in the rest of his life he is as 'normal' as anyone else. A person who has given himself to demonic activities to a large extent can appear to be demon possessed (as one normally understands the term) because he has lost control over a great part of his life (say 95%). Demonic manifestation can vary from bondage to a habit (such as a hot temper without control or pornography) to losing complete control at the other end of the spectrum. It is a matter of degree.
'Possession' denotes ownership, and Christians are those who have given themselves to Jesus Christ who has 'purchased' them by paying with His blood (1Pe.1:18,19;1Co.6:19,20). The question is not whether the Holy Spirit who is in a Christian can dwell in a Christian's body along with a demon. A Spirit-filled Christian may be still battling with certain sins in his life, and one cannot question how the Holy Spirit can dwell along with sin! But we can understand a Christian can be demonised to the extent that he has yielded himself to demonic influence or oppression. But demon possession to the extent that the person is entirely owned or controlled by a demon cannot happen for a Christian because his ownership is with Christ.
Many think of demonic manifestation only in its extreme form of screaming, violent behaviour, blasphemous words, foaming at the mouth, acting like animals, etc. While such behaviour indicates a very high level of demonisation, we must remember that lower levels of manifestation may also be there, such as an inability to avoid pornography, drugs or alcohol, or to control one's hot tempered words or behaviour. When we look at it this way it is easy to see that demonisation is possible for Christians who are 'well behaved' except in such limited aspects.
|We can see from 2Cor.2:10,11 and Eph.4:26,27 that it is possible for Christians to give a place in their lives to demons.|
If we don't recognise this possibility that we may have yielded parts of our life to demonic control we may never enter into a spiritual battle with the demons to reclaim that territory. If we don't accept the possibility of this dimension in our spiritual life, it is possible that we are living with bondages that limit our experience of Christ. We may refer to our 'weaknesses' which do not seem to go even after much prayer. What we need to do is to repent, confess our sins to God, renounce our connections with the devil and his demons and yield our life fully to Jesus. Some Christians are confused at this point about whether demons can only oppress them from the 'outside' or they can actually find a place 'inside' a Christian. In the final analysis what we need to be concerned about is the possible influence of demons in our life rather than 'where' and 'how'.
Some people teach that anyone found to be demonised cannot be a truly born again Christian. This may be true in some cases. But many who truly have faith in Jesus, acknowledge His salvation through grace and whose testimony is attested to by other Christians are still oppressed by demons. When we come across this in large numbers should we not re-examine our understanding of the Scriptures, rather than stubbornly classify all of them as unbelievers? Of course the Scriptures cannot be wrong, but our interpretation can be wrong, can't it?
How can demons and the Holy Spirit dwell together in a Christian's life?
Let us look at demonisation. It is a very simplistic approach to say that when the Holy Spirit is in a believer, an evil spirit cannot also be in a believer at the same time. The reason behind this argument is that the Spirit is so holy that He cannot live alongside evil. If we look at the warnings for believers in Eph.4:26,27 the Bible tells us "do not give the devil an opportunity" (NASB). The Greek word translated as 'opportunity' here is topos which means "a spot (generally in space, but limited by occupancy)." Some other translations of the Bible say, "nor give place for the devil" (KJV) and "do not give the devil a foothold" (NIV). So the Bible is talking about giving some place to the devil in a believer's life, even though we do not know where exactly this place is (in our body, soul or spirit). When we come across thousands of cases of believers who have had to be delivered from evil spirits, we need to wake up and see that our simple explanation ("no evil spirit along with the Holy Spirit") needs to be examined further. One easy way for someone who has not been exposed to Christians who have been oppressed by demons to some extent is to comment that if these people had evil spirits they were not believers to begin with. But that does not tally with general experience. An explanation to consider is that the Holy Spirit is in the world even though there are also many evil spirits in the world; the Holy Spirit is in a believer even though he has a flesh with all lusts and desires; so it is not that the Holy Spirit cannot have anything at all to do with contact with evil.
We come across many believers in whom a part of their life is not in their control. They may be addicted to alcohol, drugs, porn, violent temper, etc. If this was just from their flesh, they should have been able to crucify the flesh and become free. But we meet many believers who are fasting and praying, repenting with tears, etc., and still they are unable to break free. Some of them even say that something comes over them and they are unable to resist it.
Now this began as a desire in the flesh to which they gave in. Perhaps instead of repenting, asking for forgiveness from God and seeking His grace to overcome they gave in more and more to their desires, because they enjoyed the pleasure of their sins. Evil spirits begin to notice their weaknesses and begin to tempt them by fanning up their desires, giving them ideas, etc. Then at some point in time, the evil spirits have virtually gained control over that area of the believer's life. The believer himself may be very good as a Christian in other areas of life except in this.
Think of this as the believer giving access to Satan to tempt him, practically inviting Satan into that area of his life. Then that area of his life comes under the control of Satan and not the Holy Spirit. When Paul warns us about not letting the sun go down on our anger, it is a picture of a believer not repenting of his sins and setting them right immediately, but carrying on with a sin. Same with unforgiving attitude or any other temptation. Some experts refer to this as a believer who has given Satan a legitimate right in his life.
|If we don't warn believers that low-level demonisation is possible for believers and that they need to deal with sin and avoid getting into occult practices, we are not protecting them from the possibility of demonisation.|
How can demons get access to our life?
Demons have access into our lives at all times to tempt us with suggestions. God controls the extent to which we can be tempted (1Cor.10:13). If any part of the armour of God is missing in our life, they can also attack us (Ep.6:11-18).But we must realise that demons cannot have access to our lives in such a way as to control without our permission. God has created us with an ability to choose, and He never takes away that ability from us. That is why we are accountable for all our actions. God will not force Himself into our lives; His way is to wait outside and knock, waiting for us to open the door to Him (Re.3:20). God will also not allow Satan or his demons to barge into our lives without our permission. If it were otherwise we could not imagine the damage they could have done! Many people who teach on demons wrongly imply that demons get into us even without our permission, creating much fear and uncertainty. God Himself keeps a watch over His people, and He will not allow Satan to touch us beyond what He considers to be appropriate to our strength to resist him. In the case of Satan's attacks on Job, he had to get special, limited permissions from God at each level (Job.1:12;2:6).
|There are basically only two ways by which demons get access to our lives.|
The other way we open ourselves to the devil is through engaging with his domains. Activities such as palmistry, numerology, astrology, horoscope, divination, soothsaying, consulting psychics, crystal ball, clairvoyance, telepathy, hypnotism, ouija board, tarot cards, table tapping, necromancy (talking to the dead), astral projection (out of body experiences), using of charms, black magic, witchcraft, freemasonry, idol worship (including 'Christian' idols), Satan worship, transcendental meditation, yoga meditation, fengshui, reiki, pranic healing, etc., operate with demons behind them. In some areas such as palmistry there are people who are just cheating others with tricks or pretence, but there are others who have 'power' that seems to work! Everything supernatural is not from God, and there are many deceiving spirits out there to fool people with a show of power. If we indulge in such activities even just for fun, or we have indulged in them in the past without consciously repenting of them and renouncing them, we may have opened ourselves to the influence of demons, and if we give in an inch, they usually take a foot! If we have taken serious part in idol worship before we came to the Lord and have not repented and renounced it, there may be some part of our lives with demonic influences. Some people may have made some sort of pact with demons for some gain, and then demons would have a hold on their lives. At the same time if we have had any casual, one-time exposure to any of these activities we shouldn't assume that we have given access to demons. But at the same time it is good to examine ourselves honestly to see if we have given way to demonic influence at any time.
What you refer to as demonisation may also be just 'fleshly' behaviour or psychiatric problems.
Sometimes it may be difficult to differentiate among these different kinds of causes for abnormal experiences. Secular psychologists would naturally refer to manifestations of demonisation (such as what we see in the gospels) as mental disorders. Some Christians who do not believe in demonisation may explain some type of behaviour (such as an addiction to pornography) as deeds of the sinful flesh. Certainly there are mental disorders which might need psychotherapy or psychiatric treatment, and there are also many ways in which we can go wrong just by giving in to the lusts of the flesh. But even though some of the causes of the manifestations can be difficult to pinpoint, it would not be right to ignore the possibility of a demonic activity in some cases.
Fleshly activity is one way we can give access to the devil in our lives, if we continue in it deliberately and in an increasingly excessive manner. The 'deeds of the flesh', if they are sporadic and not developed to the extent that they are controlling our lives, need to be overcome by self-denial through the power that we receive through prayer and the Holy Spirit (Ga.5:24). But if we have become demonised to some extent by deliberate indulgence of the flesh, it would show itself in a loss of control and an inability to change our fleshly behaviour. Even this cannot be a sure sign of demonisation, but something we should examine as a possible case of demonisation.
In the case of psychological disturbances, we could look for any history of continuing in sin or involvement in occult practices which can then give us a lead towards the possibility of demonisation. Behaviour that shows extremely hostile reactions to the name of Jesus, inability to pray to Jesus, etc., can point us towards looking for demonisation. Also, if the usual approaches of psychotherapy and psychiatry do not seem to bear fruit, we could look at demonisation as a possible cause.
On a practical note, it is my opinion that even if no demonisation is actually involved in a case, it would still not do any harm to try to cast out demons in the name of Jesus from the person (without his/her knowledge) when we suspect the possibility of demonisation. If there are demons involved there, they would go out, and if there was none, there is no harm done. I have seen sudden changes in several cases as a result of this type of prayer.
How can we recognise if there is any demonisation in our life?
God has given some people the gift of discernment of spirits (1Cor.12:10) with which they are able to understand when some evil spirit is at work. But this gift is also operated along with the knowledge that comes from experience. We can look for some signs that indicate to us that demons may be at work. God has created us with the ability to choose what we do. If we find that we have virtually lost this ability in any area of our life, or in other words we cannot control ourselves in that area, we should suspect some extent of demonisation (please remember this is not the same as demon possession). Examples could be a slavery to pornography, violent temper, unusual levels of fear, depression, etc. Even if we are not sure, there is no harm taking steps towards deliverance. If there are ideas that come into our mind that try to compel and force us to take some action without delay, it would be good to stop right there and examine what God says about those ideas. Demons pressurise us, but the Holy Spirit gives us freedom to decide without any pressure. If there are weird things happening in our life for which there are no natural explanations, such as hearing voices or sounds, seeing fearful forms or shapes, everything that we do going wrong, having sickness that defies treatment, etc., we could consider the possibility of demonic activity. Of course one extreme would be to attribute every unexplainable thing to demons, and the other extreme to ignore the possibility of demons altogether.
Sad to say, there is a lot of demonic activity taking place among so-called work of the Holy Spirit. Weird behaviour such as rolling on the ground, barking like dogs, violent shaking of head or body, slithering on the ground like snakes, blabbering uncontrollably, uncontrolled laughter, inability to control oneself etc., is not from God. The spirit of a Spirit filled believer is under subjection to the believer (1Cor.14:32), and God is a God of order and not confusion (1Cor.14:33). Many people are looking for thrills and experiences like speaking in tongues or coming under the anointing and fall into deception. Many preachers are also using demonic power to deceive people. We must learn to discern between works of the Holy Spirit and the unholy works of deceiving spirits. The key is to look for genuine fruit, in the preachers and in those who follow them.
What about manifestatons?
|We cannot think that only in cases of violent manifestations we should consider the possibility of demons.|
Some people wrongly insist that when a demon is cast out of a man he would vomit or cough. While it is not impossible that such things can happen, it is not that every time it should happen that way. Demons can leave with violent manifestations or even without any observable activity (we can see the subsequent change in the person's behaviour). When we know that the nature of demons is to deceive, we can assume that they will do whatever they can to deceive us. They can act violently in order to impress a crowd which is watching or to take away the boldness from the one is seeking to cast them out. Milder forms of demonisation can be seen in the way they 'control' people--one man is unable to stop watching porn, another man cannot hold back his anger. Even when a person is not demonised, demons can attack him with 'pressure thoughts' such as, "What's the use, go hang yourself," "Nobody cares for you, what's the use of living?" and "Give it back to him good!" We should not assume that all the thoughts in our mind are our thoughts. You remember the way Jesus was tempted in the wilderness? Through thoughts, just as we are tempted.
If we suspect demonisation should we seek for a deliverance ministry?
Yes. If there are people with that ministry around in whom we have confidence we can seek their help. But we also need to keep in mind that many false workers are out there who are seeking to make a name or money for themselves, and we may end up in a worse condition if we go to them than we were in to begin with. If we are truly born again children of God we ourselves have been given authority to deal with every kind of demon. If we have faith, we can deliver ourselves using the authority of Jesus.
"But some demons attacked the sons of Sceva who tried to cast them out (Acts.19:13-16). So I am scared to deal with demons."
If you are a true child of God you don't need to be scared. Jesus told the disciples that He had given authority over all the power of the enemy (Lk.10:19). When Jesus died on the cross and then rose again from the dead He demonstrated His total victory over Satan and all his demons (Col.2:15). Now we have authority over all of Satan's power in the name of Jesus. The least of God's children have this authority because it rests not on their godliness or maturity but on Jesus Himself. We also know that the Holy Spirit who dwells within us now is God Himself, and is greater that all created beings including Satan (1Jn.4:4). The sons of Sceva were not children of God and they did not have a relationship with Jesus of being His disciples. So they didn't have the right to use His name, which was what the demons recognised. It is to disciples that Jesus has given authority over demons in His name (Mt.10:1).
We also recognise that all of us do not have the same level of faith. Our faith gives us boldness, and if we don't have boldness in a certain situation it would appear that we don't have faith to deal with that situation, and then it would be good to seek the help of someone who has faith. It is possible that the disciples who were going around casting out demons (they had faith) lost their boldness (faith) when they saw the demonised boy showing violent manifestations (Mt.17:15,16). But if we do have faith, we realise that we have been given authority over all the power of the enemy.
One thing that gives us boldness is to realise that the power is not in us but in Jesus. It is not we who are going to cast out demons but Jesus acting through us. Think of a traffic cop who raises his hand and stops a large truck on the road. He has no physical power to stop that truck, but he has the authority of the State to command the truck driver to stop.
How can we get delivered from the hold of demons in our life?
If we see that demons have got a foothold in our life the first thing we must realise is that somehow or the other we have given them that access to our lives. We need to examine our lives to see when and how this has happened. In the case of sinful habits we can see how they have developed over time, how we have given in to temptation again and again, each time letting go of some more of our control. Then it is possible that demons have taken over that control to whatever extent we have unknowingly allowed them. On the other hand if we have been dabbling with idolatry or satanic or occult activities we must realise that we have been walking (perhaps unknowingly) in Satan's territory. Then it is only natural that demons have captured access to our lives. Once demons get access to our lives they begin to try and expand their hold over us into other areas too. Even though they promise us pleasure and gain at the initial stages of the temptation, their real goal is to rob us and finally ruin us (Jn.10:10). They will begin to ultimately squeeze the life out of us if we don't escape before that.
The second step is to confess our sins to God and repent. We need to be thoroughly honest about this and not try to impress God with justifications or excuses. If we truly repent and confess our sins to God He will forgive us and cleanse us (1Jn.1:9). We need to acknowledge to God that we are unable to deliver ourselves and we need His help. When we have confessed our sins, then we must believe that God has forgiven us and put away every remembrance of those sins from our record. This gives us boldness before Satan.
Repentance means to decide to break away completely from our sins which we have confessed. The third step is to perform actions that demonstrate our repentance (Lk.3:8). This could be to break away completely from all things and people that supported our wrong behaviour in the past. Destroying books, tapes, CDs, equipment, tools, etc., that were a part of this past is a common thing to do. Keeping away from situations and circumstances that would entice us back to that sinful life is a wise step.
The next step is to tell the demons that we will have nothing more to do with them, and then to ask them to leave us in Jesus' name. It is important to tell this orally to them, because they can't read our thoughts (even though they can guess in most cases because of the thousands of years of experience they have in dealing with people). We can tell them about our faith and relationship with Jesus, how we have repented from our sins, how Jesus has forgiven us and how we don't want to sin in those areas again. We can also remind them about the total victory Jesus has achieved over all of them and how Jesus has granted us the right to use His authority against them.
The final step is to change to a godly life by getting closer to Jesus and His people, reading and learning from His word, praying at all times asking for His protection and help and keeping away from the things that used to attract us in the past. This is very important because we don't want to keep our heart empty and we don't want the demons we have sent away to come back again.
"OK, we can't believe everything that demons tell us, but when God speaks to us in our heart can't we accept that?"
Listening to God speaking to us is a very subjective experience. We can make mistakes in assuming that God has spoken to us when the thoughts were our own. These thoughts could be also from deceiving spirits who try to counterfeit God's voice. Sometimes 'prophetic' words coming from other people may also be from evil spirits who have placed such ideas into the minds of the 'prophets'. (Remember how Satan spoke to Jesus once through the apostle Peter!) We tend to accept such ideas easily because they are apparently coming from God, and therein lies the deception. The Bible warns us that Satan can come to us in the form of an 'angel of light' (2Co.11:14), and then we can easily get deceived.
The Bible warns us not to believe every spirit but to test it to see whether it is from God (1Jn.4:1,2). The way to test the spirits is not as simple as to see whether it confesses that "Jesus has come in the flesh" (v.2). That kind of test is ok when we are confronting spirits directly. But the deeper meaning is to test whether the 'spirit' (including in a broader sense the attitude, the direction, the tone, etc.) agrees with what Jesus has said when He came in the flesh. Jesus said we need to test false prophets and teachers by examining their fruit (Mt.7:15,16). This is the same test we need to apply when we think, "God told me" about something. We need to examine whether it is going to take us in the direction that the Bible instructs us to walk in, what kind of attitude it generates within us, whether it will glorify God or man, etc. So we should not simply believe everything that we think God is speaking to us.
Even godly people can be deceived in this area. If Satan could suggest to Jesus to commit suicide by jumping off from the pinnacle of the Temple, he or his demons can also tell us various things. We should avoid believing something just because some godly man has told us. Our only reliable source is the Bible, and that too if we understand it rightly.
"Some people teach that we can get demons from our ancestors."
That teaching is not correct. It would mean that we have no choice over it, and then we could hardly be sure we haven't got any! But we believe that God will not allow demons to override our freedom of choice, and we need not get into a fearful uncertainty. If it was possible for demons to pass down the bloodline as some people teach, why is it not possible that we can't also get the Holy Spirit automatically from godly parents? No, each of us has to believe in Jesus and be born again. And in the same way demons also need our 'invitation' to enter in.
People usually quote Ex.20:5 to teach that the iniquity of parents would be passed on to the children to the third of fourth generation. The NIV actually says that children would be 'punished' for the sins of the fathers. But a better translation would be to say, "visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children" as in NASB. Scholars are unable to understand clearly what it means to 'visit the iniquity'. However when we read Ezekiel 18 it becomes clear that it is not the same as punishing, because God says there emphatically that He will not punish children for the sins of fathers. So Ex.20:5 is possibly referring to the children suffering from the consequences of their father's sins, as we can see happening all around us. When the fathers have been demonised to some extent or another it is natural that the children would have suffered in many ways as a result. But unless the children have been parties to the demonic activities it is questionable how they can get demonised themselves. But if our parents or others have had contact with demons and we have joined or gone along with such activities then we should examine the possibility that we may have given demons some access into our life.
"Many people report instances of curses coming down the generations. So I don't think it is right to say there are no generational curses."
One principle we must know is that 'experiences' themselves are insufficient foundation for our doctrines because experiences may have some different explanations which we do not know. This is where a lot of so-called 'experts' make mistakes. One world famous Bible teaches reports in his book about a time when he cast out a 'spirit of suicide' from a woman. Immediately after that her dog jumped off from a truck and got killed. He assumed that this spirit had entered the dog and caused it to commit suicide. From this the author concluded that every time he cast out a demon from a person he would need to pray for the protection of the loved ones of that person. This is a wrong teaching, because it implies that demons can enter someone without that person's permission! Imagine the chaos if this were indeed possible! Another man writes that if we go to kiss goodbye to a loved one's dead body, the demons which used to be in that person could enter us! Nonsense! Someone told me how a group of three people wanted to clear off a portion of a forest to develop a business and were told by the local people how the existing deity (read demon) would have to be appeased first. These people were not Christians and they defiantly ignored that warning and went ahead with the clearing, and two of them got killed and the other became insane. The man who told me felt that this demonstrated the power of curses on people or things. Even if this was due to demonic activity, see how easily people can get mixed up to associate this with curses!
We must recognise that Satan and his demons can do a lot of supernatural things. But one of their leading goals is to deceive and mislead us. Can't we imagine that sometimes they do things to make people create or believe in wrong teachings, which can then mislead many others? If a black cat crosses the road in front of a man and then the man has an 'accident' will it not be a good source for generating a superstition that a black cat crossing the road is a bad omen? We must not attribute explanations to such incidents that 'disprove' Biblical teaching. If the experience goes against Biblical teaching we reject them even if we don't know the real explanation for it.
We must also remember that sin has natural consequences also, apart from the punishment that comes from God. If a father is a drunkard and beats up the mother and children, this will possibly damage the psychological development of the children. If he wastes his money and is not able to provide for the family the children will suffer. If they constantly see him using his anger to deal with situations, isn't that what the children will learn as an example? A whole lot of incidents of 'curses' coming down the generations can be explained as children acquiring the character of the parents by observation and imitation rather than attributing them to curses coming down the 'blood-line'. On the other hand if there are medical tendencies for hypertension, asthma, diabetes, cancer, etc., coming down from the parents, they have to be attributed to the effect of Adam and Eve's sin and the effect of the curse associated with that on the earth, rather than any curse of God coming down a particular family line. We must not forget that such diseases affect even godly people and their offspring, and they are not related to any individual sin in such cases. On the other hand if there are peculiar circumstances associated with a family we can consider examining the possibility of demonic activity, without associating it with generational curses.
Think of curses. We don't have any power in us to make things happen by speaking (there is a heretical teaching that says we do). Only God can make things happen if He blesses or curses people. In some rare cases, in order to fulfil His own purposes, He makes the curses of His people happen, as in the case of Noah, Elisha, etc. Demons can also cause things to happen according to someone's curses if God permits. But we, as children of God, are free from curses, witchcraft, black magic, etc., because our Father watches over us (Num.23:23). From another point of view, we all deserve to be cursed because we have broken God's commandments (Deut.28). But Jesus took this curse on Himself, and now God gives us blessing instead (Gal.3:13,14). God also promises that if anyone curses us for no fault of ours, it cannot harm us (Prov.26:2). Jesus only tells us to bless those who curse us (Lk.6:27,28)! This means we don't have to live in fear of curses, or run to some preacher to pray and break the curse, but we can have the boldness of faith to forgive the person who curses us and to pray for him! On the other hand, if our wrong behaviour has caused someone to lose his temper and curse us, what we need to do is to ask him for forgiveness.
Should we confess the sins of our ancestors as Nehemiah and others did?
Will God forgive the sins of anyone we pray for? No. Everyone has to repent for himself and confess his own sins in order to receive forgiveness from God. When Nehemiah and others 'confessed' the sins of the fathers, it was a general acknowledgement of their sins, and not a request to forgive their sins. What these godly men did was to say that both they and their fathers had sinned and that they were entirely dependent on God's mercy. There are consequences to the sins of the ancestors that people may be suffering under, and then it is proper to acknowledge those sins and pray for deliverance from those consequences at the present time, and not for the forgiveness of the ancestors. (We must also remember that the Bible records in many places the historic record of what different people have done. We cannot interpret all such narratives as if they are all examples for us to follow.)
What about demons entering a house where certain objects are kept?
The Bible tells us that those who worship idols are actually getting into the clutches of demons who operate from behind those idols and give 'power' to the idols (1Cor.10:19,20). In another context where we read about food offered to idols we see that there is no need for us to fear because idols are 'nothing' (1Cor.8:4). No harm will come to us if we eat such food. (Paul goes on to say that we should not eat such food if someone with a weak faith--one who believes that the idol is 'something' and fears--gets offended when he sees us eating it vv.7-9.) The point here is that the material idol is nothing and not to be feared. Idolatry comes when people make idols made of wood, stone or metal and worship them or consider them as gods worthy of worship (Ex.20:4,5). So what can make any object powerful as a conduit for demons is the attitude or belief people have about them (Ro.14:23). The objects themselves have no power. But it is possible that we have brought such objects into our house because of our earlier use of them as 'powerful' objects.
When the Gospel was preached at Ephesus where there was a lot of magic and witchcraft and people turned to Christ in faith, those who had indulged themselves in such activities repented and burned all their books of magic (Acts.19:19). Since these books were the sources of their beliefs and the links to the demonic power that they had been exercising, it was right for them to burn them and make their break complete. People who have used ouija boards and such things connected with occult practices should also destroy things related to their old beliefs and practice. However this does not mean than material things have any magic power in themselves without people who have them attributing such power to them. If people relate certain objects to the occult of satanic activities of their past life, or if they don't have faith that there is no power in the things themselves, then it is necessary to remove them or destroy them. But those who have strong faith knowing that material objects are not to be feared and that they have the power of Christ with them do not have to live in fear of such objects. What many deliverance ministers do is to scare people into hunting for every object that they are afraid of and destroying them. This is wrong.
What if people are doing witchcraft or black magic against us?
God's promise is that there is no divination, omen or witchcraft against His people (Num.23:23). The context of this promise was when the king of Moab tried to use a mercenary 'prophet' to curse Israel. This prophet discovered that he was unable to curse those whom God had blessed (v.20). This means that whatever people may try to do against us in this way, we shall not get hurt. What happens many times is that the people of God have no confidence that God is powerful enough to protect them from such witchcraft and the resulting fear and unbelief open them up for demonic attacks. But if we believe in the might of our Lord, we can stand against any witchcraft without fear. God also promises to bless those who bless us and curse those who curse us (Gen.12:3).
What about curses on Christians?
We must start from the fact that we people have no power in us to make things happen. There is a wrong modern teaching that has become very prevalent which implies that our words have power to cause what we speak to happen. Prov.18:21 is often misquoted to support this, because it says that life and death are in the power of the tongue. This verse is only a proverb which is meant to warn us to be careful about what we speak, because our words can trigger bad responses in others and may finally cause great damage. We can also speak encouraging words that can bless others. It does not mean that our tongue has any creative power in itself. Only God has such power, and we are not gods even when we are adopted by God as His children.
|We people have no powers in us to make things happen to others.|
When people curse others they are actually only expressing their wish for evil to happen to them. Just because they express such curses evil cannot happen to others. In exceptional cases, e.g., in a prophetic context, God may act to enforce the curses. When Noah cursed Canaan his grandson (Gen.9:25), when Joshua placed a curse on anyone who would rebuild Jericho (Josh.6:26), when Jotham cursed the men of Shechem (Judg.9:57), when Elisha cursed the boys who mocked him (2Kin.2:24), etc., God was not only expressing His justice but also creating examples for all the rest of the people (including us in the days to come). God decides whether people deserve the curse or not. He says that if someone curses another and the second person does not deserve it, nothing will happen to him (Prov.26:2). When God blesses someone, like the children of Israel, no one will be able to make a curse stick on him (Num.23:20). We Christians are blessed of God, and curses cannot stick to us. The blessing of Abraham has been passed on to us, and whom God has blessed no one can curse. (But if we have done wrong things that have provoked others to curse us, certainly we need to repent.)
Under the new covenant made through the blood of Jesus, our response to someone who curses us is to bless them (Lk.6:28). The implication is that we don't have to get fearful, or try and 'break that curse' as some teach. From a position of majesty and security we can afford to bless them, pray for them, do good to them, etc. Under the old covenant which God made with Israel where God's blessing or curse depended on their keeping the laws (Deut.28). Under the new covenant through Jesus, we have been freed from these curses and instead been freely given blessings (Gal.3:13). All those curses given in Deut.28 are not applicable to us because we are not under the law but under grace.
The Christian's position and experience
|Even though many blessings are his by his position as a child of God, he has to appropriate things by faith and through his stance in order to be able to to experience these in an increasing measure in practical life.|
What happens if a demonised unbeliever comes to Christ? Will he automatically get delivered?
Not automatically. If there are parts in his life that used to be under the power of Satan he needs to repent from them and renounce all association with them. It may also be necessary for someone to pray for his deliverance before he can start on his Christian journey fearlessly. This is very important to remember in connection with new people we bring in to God's kingdom or who come into our church. If this is not addressed, some of the problems may remain undetected for a long time before they emerge.
What if children were born as a result of an adulterous relationship?
Here it is clear that the parents have sinned, and let us consider the possibility that they were demonised to some extent. But how can we assume from there that the children are born demonised? They had no way to exercise any choice, and it is unthinkable that God allows them to be forced. God did allow the child born out of adultery between David and Bathsheba to die. But He also allowed the child born to Judah and Tamar in an adulterous relationship to be an ancestor of Jesus! In David's case it must have been a special case of discipline for an otherwise godly man, but as the case of the son of Judah and Tamar shows, it doesn't follow that a child born out of adultery has a demon.
What about children who have been sexually abused or subjected to satanic ritual abuse?
It is somewhat complicated because it is difficult to know the level of response from the children. We know that they suffer deeply from a psychological point of view. Many of them are scarred for the rest of their life unless there is an intervention. What we are unable to fathom is whether they have yielded in any way to demonic influences during their trauma.
We know that when Christian parents dedicate their children to God, God begins to act in the children's lives. However He does not forcefully make them His children. He begins to influence their lives and finally it is up to the children to yield to Him. Perhaps demons also work in a similar way, by beginning to influence the children till they themselves yield to the demons. What we can do is to seriously examine the possibility of some level of demonisation in children who have gone through such experiences.
Are there these so-called territorial spirits?
'Territorial spirits' is a new term which is being used by people, which is not in the Bible. However the Bible gives an example of a powerful demon referred to as 'the prince of Persia' who hindered the angel Gabriel from coming to Daniel with a message from God (Dan.10:13), and one of the archangels, Michael, had to go to help Gabriel. Gabriel also mentioned the 'prince of Greece' (v.20). When we look at the references to 'principalities' (Ro.8:38) and 'rulers and authorities in the heavenly places' (Eph.3:10), we can conclude that Satan has a hierarchical set up of demons with distribution of authority for different geographical areas.
However the Bible does not tell us to first identify the territorial spirit (the so-called process of spiritual mapping) in charge of a place, 'bind' it and then to start evangelism as some teach. At the same time I see no reason why this procedure cannot be worked out by the people of God, as long as they are following the leading of the Spirit. There are instances when this has resulted in a major breakthrough, but there are also other instances when people tried to imitate the method and failed miserably. The fact is that all evil spirits have been conquered by Jesus on the cross and what we need to do is to exercise His authority over them at different times. The important thing is to listen to the Holy Spirit as He leads us and act accordingly, instead of imitating methods or styles that have worked in some cases.
What about prayer walks?
This is an imitation of the children of Israel walking around Jericho and finally the walls of Jericho falling down. We must remember they did this at the specific instruction of God. There is no power in the method itself. We cannot just walk around and claim land or areas for God even though God gave such a promise to Israel in their time (only with respect to the land of His promise) (Deut.11:24).
What do you say about using holy water, blessed handkerchiefs, prayer shawls, etc.?
Two types of mistakes are involved here. The first mistake is to place trust in methods rather than listening to the Holy Spirit and hearing what He wants us to do in any particular situation. People are trying to identify the processes that took place in the Bible and repeat them. These methods have no power and they are not to be blindly followed. The second mistake is not understanding that the old covenant which God made with the people of Israel through Moses has been replaced with a 'new' covenant through Jesus (Heb.8:13). The old covenant was about external behaviour and external blessings, and the focus has now shifted to what goes on within us in our hearts. Now it is not a place or an object that is to be kept holy but we are to be holy. Now we are to be led by the Holy Spirit rather than follow the letter of the law (Rom.8:14). We cannot fight with demons by showing a cross or waving the Bible (which are mere objects) but by using the authority of Jesus. We cannot keep our house or church building free from access to demons by 'sprinkling the blood of Jesus' around them but only by resisting them in the name of Jesus (Jas.4:7). It is all a matter of our relationship with God through Jesus and our faith in exercising His authority and not to do with blessed objects or places.
What is this authority 'in the name of Jesus'?
'In the name of Jesus' is not a magic formula we or anyone can use to overcome demons. The words have no power in themselves even if they are repeatedly shouted out. Some people tried to use this formula to cast out some demons, and the demons only overpowered them (Ac.19:13-16). They had no relationship with Jesus as His disciples, and so they had no authority to use His name. This authority is given to those who have put their trust in Jesus and chosen to follow Him as His disciples. But then the least one who has trusted in Jesus and come under His grace has the privilege to use this authority. Satan and all his demons will have to submit to us when we stand against them with this authority.
You don't seem to be as emphatic as some of the other teachers?
Yes, there many things connected with demons that we do not know because the Bible does not give detailed explanation about them, and till the Bible makes things clear we can't afford to be dogmatic about them. It would be wrong to assume that we should accept only what is clearly given in the Bible because the Bible is not even intended to have an exhaustive coverage about every subject. There are many things people discover when they are actually engaged in spiritual warfare. But at the same time we cannot accept everything that those people say without checking to see if what they are saying is in agreement with the Bible. Many people who are involved in the deliverance ministry come up with several teachings that are based on their own assumptions about their experiences or what they have learnt from demons themselves. Surely demons are known to be liars and deceivers and we cannot rely on what they seem to be revealing. We need to check them out with what the Bible teaches as principles and guidelines. In other words we have to expect that we will come to know many practical details when we actually deal with demonisation, but our interpretation must be based on Biblical teachings. I wish to update this article on the web site as I get better understanding on the subject.
What should be our practical approach to this subject?
It would be wrong to take the extreme positions of assuming there are no demons or imagining that demons are responsible for everything that goes wrong. The truth is that there is a battle that we are engaged in with demons and their powers even if we are not aware of them. We need to know how not to give place to the devil in our lives and how to resist him if we are attacked. If we are also involved in ministering to others we must also seek to develop discernment and understanding about how to deal with different situations. Finally it is not a matter of techniques, but the clarity of our heart, our faith and trust in the love, wisdom, power and authority of Jesus and a willingness to be led by the Holy Spirit.
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