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Part I. The Reality

of the Warfare

by Kim Harrington

     Spiritual warfare is a popular subject in the church of Jesus Christ today. Dozens of books have been published in recent years about the subject of taking on the forces of darkness. Many have joined the ranks of those who not only talk about the devil and his hosts but have the faith and expertise to cast them out. People gather at the "high places" of their cities to take dominion over the powers and principalities that have kept them in bondage for centuries; curses, hexes, vexes, incantations, and spells have been explored and removed, reaching into the murky depths of past generations; whole nations and cultures have been researched and "mapped" to aid intercessors. Nevertheless, the bulk of the church remains ignorant, and the subject is still as controversial--and potentially divisive--as ever.

     Traditionally, Americans and western Christians as a whole have either completely disregarded the devil and his hosts, or condescendingly relegated their influence off to more "primitive" cultures which are without the advantages of modern civilization. It's inconceivable to them that the devil can co-exist with refrigeration, microwave ovens and computers. The mindset of our modern world doesn't allow for dread, inexplicable things like demon-possession; they belong to a different age, a pre-scientific time when men had no rational explanation for the phenomena around them.

     The Bible, however, (and much of the world today) considers an understanding of the demonic realm to be quite rational, and for that matter, absolutely necessary to living a successful life. Jesus dealt with demons on a daily basis, and I don't think the serious Christian wants to argue with His perspective. A great portion of His ministry time was spent in casting out demons. He preached the Gospel, healed the sick, and cast out demons -- and if modern time equivalents are any indication, He probably spent more time doing the latter than the other two.

     Our Lord encountered demons in church (Mk 1:23), in the city (Mk 1:32,33), and in the countryside (Mk 5:5,6). He cast them out of men, women, and children (Mk 16:9, 9:17-27). He cast them out of Jew and Gentile alike (Mt 15:22-28). And all of this in the relatively sequestered land of Israel, where the fear of the God was deeply imbedded in the culture, and even the law of the land. There was no idolatry in the Israel of Jesus; there was no pornography, no cults, and very little violent crime. Yet Jesus met thousands of demons and daily ministered to oppressed people--good, synagogue-attending, followers of the Law of Moses. How much more should we expect to meet demonized people in a land such as ours, which is quite given over to sensuality, idolatry and sin of almost any description?


The Original Cosmic Rebellion

     Ever since Lucifer staged the original cosmic rebellion when the earth was still young, he has targeted mankind as the particular recipients of his perverse attention. Created in the image and likeness of God, they are the special project of the Creator, and therefore of great interest to His arch-enemy. Satan has custom-designed sins to snare persons of every temperament and persuasion. He has overseen the establishment of false religions which take people's hearts away from the true God, turn them to the perverse worship of idols, and engage them in many a degrading practice along the way, ranging from human sacrifice and temple prostitution to religious caste systems and the veneration of everything from phallic symbols to madonna figures. His great aim is to rub fallen mankind in the face of God, as it were, to ruin the prize creation of the Master and humiliate Him in the doing of it.

     He's assisted in his labor by myriads of demons. If Satan was the anointed cherub that walked on the mountain of God (Ezek 28:14), then demons are likely the angels who sided with him in his rebellion and lost their original position as he did. In any case, they are seemingly innumerable and very active in the affairs of man. According to Scripture Satan and his aids: tempt, seduce, and snare people into sin; oppress and afflict people with illness, both physical and mental; deceive, mislead, and appear as angels of light; do lying miracles; steal, kill, and destroy those who yield to them; snatch the Gospel from human hearts and blind them from believing in Christ; infiltrate the church; slander and persecute the children of God; and create all-around havoc wherever they are.

     Demons are spirits with personality and intelligence. They are not mere personifications of evil--they are persons. They sometimes indwell humans and induce them to commit sinful acts, and drive them to desperation, depression, and suicide. They can and do speak and carry out their own perverse desires through people, manipulating their vocal cords or taking control of their personalities. They have no redeeming qualities. They are depicted in the Bible as irredeemably wicked, dishonest, murderous, cowardly, and wily. They and their master have come a long way since the pristine days of creation--they've been engaged in an immoral war against God Himself, complete with every sort of carnage, for thousands of years. They are sworn to the humiliation and destruction of men and women at any cost. They give no quarter and expect none. They know their end and have nothing to lose; they are fully committed to human misery.


How Demons Operate

     Demons gain footholds in human lives and slowly turn them into strongholds. At the entry level they concentrate on temptation. They try to lure one into sin by painting a seductive picture of its pleasures and advantages, much as the serpent did with Eve in the Garden of Eden. Sometimes the temptation is even more subtle--they ignore blatant sinfulness and instead attempt to lead their unsuspecting victim down the path of self-pity, unforgiveness, resentment, and anger, all of which can be ultimately just as binding as the worst sin.

     From there they seek to turn the sin (or the unhealthy mental attitude) from a sporadic action into a binding habit. The more you yield to the demon's will, the more control it begins to exert, until actual demonic infestation occurs. You are no longer in complete command of yourself; at times you seem to lose control entirely as the demon simply has his way for a few minutes, as in a temper tantrum, or for a few days, plunging you into severe depression and suicidal thoughts. The demons have become firmly entrenched and need to be forcibly evicted before you can enjoy a normal life.

     The Bible describes the activities most likely to attract demons and the resultant bondage. Some of these are so pregnant with evil that even the most casual contact can result in demonic infestation. Many were punishable by death under the Old Testament Law, as God desired to keep his people free from demonic influence and infestation. It's very difficult, often impossible, to eliminate the destructive influence of certain sins once they've taken root in a nation. They get passed along cross-generationally, from the fathers to the children. That's why Sodom and Gomorrah needed to be destroyed, and why the Canaanites were dealt with so harshly in the days of Joshua. They had become irredeemable, perverse, satanic to the core. They were a cancer that needed to be removed from the world by corrective surgery.

     Chief of these activities are idolatry, false religions, and witchcraft.  Deuteronomy 18:10-12 states: "Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD..."(NIV). Engaging in these is a violation of the first commandments given to Moses, a turning away from the true God to call upon and worship His own fallen and twisted creatures. Baal and Ashtoreth, Shiva and Kali, Zeus and Apollo, are all actual personalities and, contrary to popular American opinion, they're not just alternate designations of the true God--the worship of them usually revolves around fertility symbols (like bowing down before a huge male organ or a woman with multiple breasts). In addition to being disgusting, this is actually taking a stand against God Almighty.

     Witchcraft, seances, magic, hypnotism, and other dark arts (and even some games, like Ouija boards, Dungeons and Dragons, and magic cards) fall more into the category of occult than false religions, but they're a violation of the same commandment--people who do them are calling upon other powers besides God's to help them gain understanding of the spirit world. They do gain a certain understanding--they get personal experience with the devil and his demons--but who needs it? All these pursuits open the doors to demonic oppression and infestation in your life.

     Drug abuse is another prime way to invite demonic activity into your life. Drugs were originally used, not simply to cure sickness, but to open one's mind and body up to the spirit world. The ancient Greeks used the same word, pharmakeia, to describe both drugs and witchcraft. They discovered, as many modern drug-users have, that they are a kind of door into the spirit world. They relax your conscious mind, leave it open to suggestions, and even produce visions of spirit creatures (sometimes called hallucinations). Drugs helped hypnosis, as well as seances, and meditations. Drugs were not allowed in the worship of the true god. They were considered one with idolatry and rebellion. Millions of Americans, young and old, have invited demons into their lives with drugs, both the over and under-the-counter varieties.

     Another common door opener is sexual immorality. By immorality, I mean the original Greek word, porneia--a word that covers everything from adultery to homosexuality, flirtatious behavior to pornography, child abuse, and bestiality. Sometimes people look at Christians as though we have a special hang-up with sex (presumably because it's fun, and God is wrongly thought to frown upon human fun)--but our caution in the matter is right from the Bible, not the Victorian Age. In some mystical spiritual way, you become one flesh with a sexual partner, which opens the door to all sorts of spiritual complications. Sexual sins were punishable by death under the law of Israel--that doesn't mean Moses was a prude, that means God takes these things seriously.

     Less dramatic but just as dangerous are sins of the heart. These include bitterness, unforgiveness, depression, resentment, anger, and such-like: things that even some Christians do habitually. Paul told the Ephesians "...do not give the devil a foothold... And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice," (Eph 4:27,30-31, NIV). A little pity-party, or a day or two of pouting, may not be as harmless as it seems. These open the door to bitterness, which can negate your prayers (Mt 6:15), and infect others around you (Heb 12:15).

     Sometimes these sins are birthed in childhood traumas--we've found that most demonized people had a very early start. Like any predator, the devil preys upon the weakest and most vulnerable members of society. Some frustrated adult locks them in a closet, or has his way sexually with them, and his demons are transferred to the innocent child. In time the child becomes angry, frustrated, full of rage because of her inability to defend herself. The sense of violation and injustice wells up inside until she gives place to hateful imaginations and nurses a grudge that goes deeper and deeper into her soul. By the time she's fifteen she's an angry teenager--chock full of demons. Soon the victim becomes the victimizer, venting her frustrations on her spouse or any other available authority figure (which she can't separate from the abusive father or uncle of her childhood).

     Today, America has opened wide its doors to all of the demon-attracting behavior above, and more besides. Freedom of religion guarantees everyone the right to worship whatever demon they choose, inviting him to our shores and giving him a warm welcome. Drugs are killing our young people and tearing our land apart. Sexual sins are paraded as rights, and pornography has introduced millions of people to a dark side of sex that never entered into the heart of God when he created male and female. Morality and faithfulness to your spouse, monogamy, are considered things of the past. Paul might have been describing the United States when he said, "Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more," (Eph 4:19). The demonic is rampant in every strata of our society.


Christians & Demons

     Spiritual warfare must therefore be regarded as a daily priority in the Christian life. Ignoring the devil will not make him go away. Every apostolic writer tells us to strenuously resist him and his ways; gospels and epistles alike emphasize the reality of the combat. You will not succeed in this life without recognizing and warring against Satan and his forces. Your status as a born-again child of God does not make you invulnerable--rather, it puts you on the "hit list." You are not impervious to his attacks because your sins are covered in the blood of Jesus Christ. He will all the more seek out any weaknesses or open doors in your life and exploit them to the fullest.

     To what degree can the enemy influence and afflict the born-again believer in Jesus Christ? Controversy rages around this subject, usually providing the genuine searcher with more heat than light. Much of it centers around terminology: Christians can be oppressed, but not possessed, some assert. Is this a valid observation? how do those terms differ in the original biblical languages? are they scriptural at all? Before we go into this all-important question we have to set the terminology straight.

     The concept of oppression is found only once in the Bible in connection with the devil or demons: "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," (Acts 10:38). It's a general political term in the Greek, meaning to rule mercilessly, and it sheds little light on the possession/oppression debate.

     Demon possession is found repeatedly in most English versions of the Bible, but it's an unfortunate translation. In the original Greek it's daimonizomai: "to act under the control of a demon... to express the mind or consciousness of a demon or demons" [Vine's Expository Dictionary]. There's no suggestion of ownership, or being "possessed" by the demon. Demons don't own people. They afflict them, and take as much control as they're given in certain areas, but they don't own them, except in the general sense that Satan is the ruler of all those outside of Christ (2 Cor 4:4, 1 Jn 5:19, etc). I choose to use the word "demonized" which seems to be more accurate.

     In fact, according to another term used in the Bible, the afflicted person more or less possesses the demon! When it says someone "has a demon," (see Mk 7:25, Luke 4:33, etc.), it could be just as accurately translated "he keeps a demon," in much the same way that someone keeps a dog or a cat--he cares for it, supports it, and willingly keeps it by him. Getting our terminology straight is the first step in understanding the controversial subject of demonization.

     So demons do not possess humans; to a great degree humans keep demons. By engaging in certain patterns of behavior or thinking, they welcome demons into their lives. They make the demons feel comfortable, they allow the demons to fulfill their desires through them. Sometimes the demons get ugly and uncontrollable, causing the person to be alarmed and perhaps even seek deliverance, but for the most part they become a normal part of life, almost inseparable from the human personality. Demonization is rarely, if ever, the dramatic overpowering of someone, as portrayed by Hollywood and fiction writers.

     Is a person automatically set free from such bondages upon conversion and faith in Christ? To answer that, let me ask another question... If someone has cancer, or asthma, or is confined to a wheelchair, are they automatically healed upon asking Jesus to be their Lord and Savior? Are they instantly set free from all their besetting sins? No, they're not. Yet the Bible states emphatically that "Jesus "Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses" (Mt 8:17), and by His stripes we "were healed" (1 Pet 2:24); that the "old man" of sin was crucified with Christ (Rom 6:6), and "whoever has been born of God does not sin, (1 Jn 3:9). These things are all ours in Christ Jesus, but they need to be appropriated by faith and outworked in our lives--they're not automatic. Even the forgiveness of sins is not automatic: Jesus' death on the cross avails us not at all until we understand it with the revelation of faith, accept it personally, and start living it out.

     And so it is with deliverance from demon spirits. We have authority over the powers of darkness, but we must exercise it. "If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed," (Jn 8:36) -- but you must appropriate that freedom! You must fight for what is yours in Christ, even as Joshua and the children of Israel had to fight for the Promised Land the Lord had given them.

     Are there scriptural examples of believers with demons? In one sense, everyone who came to Jesus was a believer, or they wouldn't have been there, and certainly wouldn't have received anything; it was according to their faith that He healed them! Even the Gadarene demoniac, bound as he was by a legion of the creatures, managed to muster enough control to run to Jesus for help and fall down and worship Him. He believed.

     But let's look at some specifics... King Saul was converted and filled with the Holy Spirit (see 1 Sam 10:9-10), yet an evil spirit came upon him when he indulged in rebellion and bitterness, and he manifested every symptom of a demoniac. Judas Iscariot was one of the twelve--he healed the sick and cast out demons himself, but when he decided to betray Jesus, Satan entered into him, and ultimately drove him to suicide (Lk 22:3). Note that Saul also killed himself--demonized people are often driven to this extreme.

     One of my favorites is the woman in Luke 13:11: "And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up." She wasn't just physically sick or diseased, she had a demon that was causing her affliction. (This is why sometimes the simple prayer of faith doesn't work, by the way--you have to dismiss the spirit of infirmity that afflicts some people.) Was she a believer? Yes, Jesus said in verse 16, "ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound-- think of it-- for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?" Jesus didn't idly throw around phrases like "daughter of Abraham." She was walking in the saving faith of Abraham (see Rom 4:11-12).

     The idea of having a demon seems so repulsive to some believers that they'd rather go through life with one than humble themselves and get freed. They'd rather seek the fleshly wisdom of psychological theory (which is unscriptural and often blatantly anti-scriptural) than pursue the biblical course of getting delivered from a demon. They'd rather take complete credit for their tortured thoughts and bondages than put some of the blame on the devil.

     The woman with the eighteen-year infirmity pushed past the doubters and scoffers, and past the Pharisees and other religious experts with their airtight arguments about what could and couldn't be done and what day of the week it couldn't be done on. She willingly courted persecution and expulsion from the synagogue by approaching Jesus on the Sabbath. She had great faith in Jesus and that faith was rewarded when He said, "Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity,"(vs 12). Whether you're ministering in the First Century or the Twenty-first, you can't loose demonized people without ministering biblical deliverance to them, regardless of who they are or where they go to church. May God raise up in these last days men and women of God who will risk all the misunderstandings and go out and set the captives free in the name of Jesus Christ!

For specifics on how to cast a demon out, see Part Two of this message.


Copyright 1998 Kim Harrington, Masterbuilder Ministries. All rights reserved.


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