What you don't know and don't believe in CAN hurt you.
There are very few people who are totally owned or possessed by demons, but there are plenty of people opening doors to evil spirits through sin. Many Bible translations talk about people being “possessed” by demons when in reality that is not the meaning of the Greek word translated "possessed" in the Bible. The Greek word in these cases is “daimonizomai” which would be better translated “demonized”. It means to be affected by demons, to be under the influence of demons or to have demons. No doubt a Christian cannot be “possessed” by a demon because Christians belong to God through the blood of Jesus Christ. Whether a real Christian can have a demon is a controversial question to some but for those of us who have been set free from demons after we gave our lives to Jesus it is not so hard to determine. Let us now consider this matter from a biblical point of view.
Without a doubt, demons are at work in the sons of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2). The truth is, people who are disobeying God are giving evil spirits a right to work not only around them but also in them. This applies also to church members. Peter declared that Satan had filled the heart of Ananias. All Ananias did was pretend that he was giving to God more than he really was. Therefore, anyone who is lying could have their heart filled by Satan.
Paul told the believers in Ephesus: “Neither give place to the devil” (Ephesians 4:27). This implies that it is possible for a Christian to give place to the devil. There is strong biblical evidence that a Christian doing this will later need deliverance from evil spirits, because they have by their own choices given ground to Satan.
Although the spirit of a born again Christian is regenerated, recreated and not possessable by evil spirits, the salvation of the soul is a process which is not automatic and requires firstly persistent faith in God, and secondly, knowledge of the truth. It is clear that evil spirits do have access to our minds to inject thoughts of all kinds from time to time. We must be watchful so that we do not accept these thoughts so as to let the evil one build strongholds in our mind that are not pleasing to God. There is a battle for the mind of every Christian. In order to keep demons out of our minds, we must fill our minds with something else. We must be full of the Holy Spirit and full of the Word.
“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to MY HOUSE from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it EMPTY, swept, and put in order. Then he goes out and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” (Matthew 12:43- 45)
Every unsaved man is a child of the devil and being a son of disobedience it is a fact that evil spirits are at work in him, If those spirits are forced to leave – either by the fact that the person receives Christ or the Word of God, or by a special operation of the Holy Spirit, they will do exactly what Jesus said they would do in the passage mentioned above. If indeed after the evil spirit goes out, the person’s life remains empty – that is, not full of God’s Word and God’s spirit, there will be a possibility for that evil spirit to enter into that man again – even if he has prayed to receive Christ. Why? Because although he may have confessed Christ, by ignorance or disobedience he denied Christ the first place in his life. He didn’t put the Word first, and he didn’t get really filled with the spirit. Therefore demons can be in Christians, as we know them.
Demons can’t stay in anyone who consistently submits to God and resists the devil. (James 4:7). The devil and all demons must flee from such a person. Such a Christian who is submitting to God in this way is not grieving the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). Therefore the Holy Spirit is making sure that no demon remains in the temple of God. Such a person is “keeping themselves, and the evil one touches him not” (1 John 5:18).
The Old Testament is full of examples given for our present day instruction (Romans 15:4), which contain principles of spiritual warfare and help us to see that even the temple of God can be defiled if God’s people are disobedient and break the covenant. In the book of Ezekiel we see how the priests of God were idolatrous and unclean things were in the temple of God (Ezekiel 8:6-17). This is the picture of the Christian who tolerates various forms of idolatry in his or her life. It was not until Ezekiel 10 that the glory of God, the Holy Spirit – left the temple. This shows us that the Holy Spirit can be in the temple at the same time as abominations – but that eventually if idolatry persists the Holy Spirit will leave and the judgment of God will come.
Another example which illustrates how Christians can need deliverance is in the history of Israel’s wars, especially in the period of the judges. Every time the people of God broke the covenant and worshipped foreign gods, the Lord God sent their enemies to invade the promised land and cause them trouble. In the same way, when Christians break their covenant with God through persistent sin, inevitably the demons will come to take what has been surrendered to them. It is vital therefore that we respect the conditions of the blood covenant we have with God and give no place to the devil through sin and disobedience.
Jesus cast demons not only out of people with legions of evil spirits (Mark 5:8-9) but also out of people who were not affected by demons to anything like that extent (Mark 1:32-34, 39). The people being delivered were orthodox religious Jews – not satan-worshipping idolatrous heathen – or their modern day equivalent – drug- abusing sexually-immoral heavy rockers into witchcraft and violence. In the same way, lots of ordinary religious people need deliverance from evil spirits – evil spirits which are producing conditions such as fear, doubt, condemnation and sickness in them.
From reading the gospels we can see that Jesus cast out of people spirits which were responsible for the causing of diseases. One time a man brought his son to the disciples of Jesus. He wanted them to cast the mute spirit out of him. The disciples were not able to do it because of their unbelief (Mark 9:19) and lack of prayer and fasting (Mark 9:29). But when Jesus came, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to him, “You deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him, and enter him no more!” (Mark 9:25). Here we see that deafness and dumbness can be caused by the presence of an evil spirit, which must come out. The spirit was in there and Jesus told it to get out. In His healing ministry, Jesus first cast out the evil spirit responsible for creating the disease in the person before He applied the power of the Holy Spirit to their bodies to restore the damage (Matthew 4:23; Matthew 8:16,17; Matthew 9:32-34; Matthew 12:22; Matthew 17:18; Mark 1:34; Luke 4:40,41; Luke 6:17-19; Luke 8:2; Luke 9:42; Luke 18:11-16). And Jesus, knowing that mankind would always need this kind of ministry until the full inauguration of the kingdom of God on earth gave the same power and authority to His disciples to cast out demons and heal the sick by the Spirit of God as He Himself did (Matthew 10:1-2; Mark 3:14,15). This power was given to the church in the name of Jesus, and like the baptism in the Holy Spirit, was never withdrawn by God (John 14:12; Mark 16:17,18). So we as disciples are called to drive out demons just as Jesus did.
The connection between casting out demons and healing the sick should come as no surprise to those familiar with Acts 10:38, which says, “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” This passage shows clearly that sickness is the work of the devil, not a work of God. That is why Jesus opposed sickness and cast out spirits of infirmity wherever He went. It is possible that many chronically sick Christians in fact need deliverance from spirits of infirmity just as that bent up woman did in Luke 13:11, named by Jesus, “a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound”. Jesus did not call every Jew a child of Abraham – see John 8:39,40. Even God’s children can be bound by Satan in various areas. Jesus came to set us free. Instead of making theological excuses – calling sickness God’s blessing or just closing our eyes and saying that God’s children cannot have demons, we should be as practical as Jesus and treat spirit-based infirmities as our enemies and cast them out – just as Jesus did.
Someone may object that God has given us promises of redemption in the new covenant so that we need not fear the possibility that there could be a demon in us as Christians. In any case we should not fear. The only fear we should have is a healthy fear of God. The reality is, though, God has promised lots of things which many born-again Christians are not experiencing. Why? Because of a lack of repentance, faith and appropriate confession! God has promised healing and the baptism in the Spirit to His children. But how many Christians have until now failed to appropriate God’s provision in this matter? In the same way, many Christians, through disobedience, ignorance, pride or unbelief have failed to appropriate God’s promises in regards to deliverance from evil spirits. Having a theology that says we are free from evil spirits just can’t compare in value to actually being free of their indwelling influence.
Jesus in Matthew 15:26 calls deliverance from evil spirits “the children’s bread”. So deliverance from evil spirits is for the children of God! It is not primarily for the unrepentant or unbelieving, since if they get delivered and don’t repent it is quite likely that they will end up worse than before! (Matthew 12:43- 45).
Jesus taught his disciples to pray in the Lord’s prayer, literally, “Deliver us from the evil one”. Who should pray for deliverance from evil spirits? Disciples! Whose deliverance should they pray for? For their own! Even the apostle Peter was used as a mouthpiece for Satan one time (Matthew 16:22,23). This is still happening today occasionally even through born again Christians who are ignorant of God’s total plan.
Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:32). It is time for all believers everywhere to know the truth and through the truth get free of the indwelling power of sin in their lives. It is not time for religious excuses such as the Jews of Jesus’ day made, such as: “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves to anyone. How can you say, ‘You will be made free.’ “ (John 8:33) We need to be made free indeed by Jesus, not theologically free or ‘free’ because we have a doctrine that tells us we are free, while our own lives lack the promised peace, love, joy and power of God.
So we see that disciples must pray for deliverance, must cast out demons (Mark 16:18), and as children of God, need the children’s bread of healing and deliverance. May the Lord “deliver us from the evil one.”
The Difference Between “the Flesh” and Demons
We cannot blame all our problems on the devil and demons however. Many times it is simply a lack of application of the cross of Christ to the adamic nature at work within us. As new men in Christ, we must take authority over the adamic nature as well as any demons in order to get the victory over sin and self.
The apostle Paul in many places in the New Testament speaks of “the flesh” as being something at work in Christians that is striving against the leading of the Spirit of God.
“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these things are contrary to one another, so that you may not do the things that you wish.” (Galatians 5:16,17)
Paul uses the Greek word “sarx” which means literally “flesh” or “meat”. Some Bible translations translate this as “the sinful nature”. When Paul speaks of the flesh he is usually not talking about our physical bodies, but something at work in our physical bodies which is working in opposition to the will of God. It is the old Adamic nature inherited through the fall. It has desires which run contrary to those of the Holy Spirit and indeed to our new regenerated spirits. It thinks and desires in accordance with the values of the world system that we knew and followed before we became disciples of Christ. Some of its works are listed in Galatians 5:19-21. The works of the flesh are not only unlawful physical indulgences but are also soulish and spiritual in nature. For example, hatred, contentions, heresies are listed as works of the flesh. A lot of the programming that governs our behaviour and responses comes into the category of “the flesh” also. There can be demons associated with these things but by the Spirit we can have the total victory.
God’s solution for the flesh is crucifixion. “Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:24). This Scripture teaches us that we are the ones who must crucify the flesh. This is done by the Spirit – “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit YOU put to death the deeds of the body you will live.” (Romans 8:13). Realise that it is we ourselves who, wanting to follow Jesus, must “deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow Him” (Luke 9:23). We must reckon ourselves dead indeed to sin (Romans 6:11), discipline ourselves, say no to ourselves and not avoid the pains that come to those who consistently seek to do the will of God in all things. Deliverance is no substitute for making these daily decisions to put down the flesh and follow the Spirit. You cannot cast out the flesh, you must crucify it.
On the other hand, self-discipline and reckoning oneself dead to sin and alive to God, for all its importance, may not be the total solution for our sanctification. There are demons that can be at work in Christians, fixing themselves as it were in “the flesh” and fortifying “the flesh”. These demons, unlike the flesh can’t be crucified. We can’t kill demons either. They must be cast out. A general rule is: if despite self-discipline and meditation on the Word a spiritual problem of some sort fails to be resolved, it is almost certainly a case requiring deliverance from evil spirits. Many times sincere Christians are using a lot of energy suppressing tendencies that are due to demons which could be cast out and should be cast out. We have seen in the previous section that it is possible for Christians to have one or more demons. Multitudes of sincere Christians baptised in the Holy Spirit can and do testify to this reality today. Therefore if despite all measures taken to deny self and crucify the flesh the victory is not received, certain steps should be taken to get free of evil spirits.
Marks of a Person Needing Deliverance
1. A person who consistently lacks the fruit of the Holy Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control almost certainly needs deliverance in one or more areas of their lives.
2. A person who is often feels condemned by what they perceive as their failures usually needs deliverance, as well as a thorough understanding of the gospel which sets us free from guilt and makes us “the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
3. A person who testifies of being constantly harassed by evil spirits almost certainly needs deliverance from evil spirits.
4. A person who despite wise counsel never seems to break free of sinful habits needs deliverance as well as the real baptism in the Holy Spirit and solid Bible teaching on the Christian life and the victory we have in Christ.
5. A person who compulsively talks too much needs deliverance. Compulsion is a mark of demonisation.
6. A person who is attracted to occultic phenomenon and somewhere has yielded to this attraction almost certainly needs deliverance.
7. A person who is chronically sick and whose case doctors cannot successfully diagnose almost certainly needs deliverance from a spirit of infirmity of some kind. There may be other curses at work which must be broken also.