Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

 “And they overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb,
and by the word of their testimony;
and they loved not their lives unto the death.” – Revelation 12:11

      Last month I wrote about angels, focusing on the holy angels of God in particular. Since that time Rayola reminded me of another true account of an angel that is such a beautiful and encouraging story that I would like to share it with you in the beginning of this month’s article.

      When the Lord first brought Rayola and I together as a ministry team we spent a lot of time in Arizona where we met different Christians and ministries with which to fellowship. One of the most precious sisters in the Lord we came to know was a young lady by the name of Andrea who was 26 at the time. Andrea suffered from brittle bone disease. Her powerful singing voice belied the fact that she was severely handicapped and only 26” tall.

      Andrea worked full-time from her wheel chair in the Christian bookstore owned by her sister and brother-in-law with whom she lived. As we became better acquainted with this personable and committed soldier of the cross she shared with us about her childhood and subsequent challenges. For many years as a young child living in a care facility she was relegated to lying all day on a cart, and every day at the same time an angel “walked through the wall” and played with her. This faithful messenger from God came daily in this manner until Andrea turned sixteen. That is when she finally received a wheel chair to sit up in, which greatly changed her life, and after that day she never saw the angel again.

      Encounters with angels always spark our interest, even though the Bible is replete with accounts of angelic visitations, interventions, and angelic prophecies. The point is, they are very real, but so are the fallen angels and demons. As with most spiritual topics one has to be careful to maintain a balanced, biblical approach. In recent years there was a burst of “angel mania” among Christian circles that accelerated into an unhealthy preoccupation with them, almost to the point of “angel worship.” The same can be said concerning the subject of fallen angels and demons, or any other aspect of the Bible and the Christian faith. As we have noted before, any truth taken to extremes can become an untruth. That is why Jesus said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” Matthew 4:4. Acts 17:11 tells us about the Bereans, “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”

      To properly study the Bible, we must approach it to believe it, and to receive what it says even if we cannot immediately understand all of it according to our predetermined ideas and concepts. God’s Word will never neatly fit into our personal perception, or worldview which is based on our religious conditioning, rigid conclusions, carnal tendencies, or emotional leanings. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” Isaiah 55:8, 9. If we approach the Bible with the idea that all we need is a literal, surface reading with a little fact gathering here and there to add to our carefully guarded, dusty theology, we shall soon enough discover that the fathomless “ocean of eternal treasures” has deposited our “boat of discovery” high and dry on the sandy dunes of deadness. Have you ever tried to row or sail a boat in the sand? Without the water (the living Word) and the wind (the Holy Spirit) your boat isn’t going anywhere.

      While preparing to take a trip through the Bible, here are some “travel tips” that will help your journey to be adventurous, exciting, memorable, enriching, challenging, life-changing, and rewarding: 1) Look for Jesus Christ, His attributes, His works, His ways, His wisdom, His holiness, His power, His love, His plan, His responses, His provision, and His Word to you personally. 2) Look for and study types, shadows, and patterns. The Bible is full of types, shadows and patterns of Christ, such as revealed in the Tabernacle, etc. 3) Examples. Keep in mind that the historical events and God’s judgments in the Old Testament were written for our example. Make it personal by gleaning the eternal lessons God has given for your instruction. 4) Principles. While a literal reading is “milk,” the real “meat” of the Word is learning and understanding the principles and intent of Scripture. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal this to you as only He can. Ask God for divine revelation, then act on it and share it with others. 5) Doctrine. Doctrine is what we respond to: it is how we are to live the Christian life after we are saved. We are not saved to sit, but we are saved to adore and worship God, learn of, follow, and obey Jesus. Every born again believer, not just a select few, are called to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) and to be the “salt” and the “light” in this dark world. 6) Note the warnings, judgments, and conditions that accompany God’s promises. 7) Meditate upon God’s Word, memorize and obey it!

      Oswald Chambers said, “There is a difference between being saved and sanctified by the sheer sovereign grace of God and choosing to be the choice ones, not for heaven, but down here. The average view of Christianity, that we only need to have faith and we are saved, is a stumbling block. How many of us care anything about being witnesses to Jesus Christ? How many of us are willing to spend every ounce of energy we have, every bit of mental, moral and spiritual life for Jesus Christ? That is the meaning of a worker in God’s sense. God has left us on earth, what for? To be saved and sanctified? No, to be at it for Him. If we are ‘footing it’ bit by bit, and living in the otherworldly spirit while in the world, we are developing our personality, and are of far more worth to Jesus Christ than those who have entered into the experience of sanctification but have never gone on any farther.”

      So, what does this have to do with discerning demons? Everything if we believe all of God’s commandments and instructions. The Bible tells us to “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1) and to not be “ignorant of the wiles of the devil” (2 Corinthians 2:11) yet many Christians view the subject of demons as irrelevant in our modern day and age, and something to be ignored altogether. After all, they reason, we live in America! No demons here, like in those stone-age pagan tribes–right? Wrong! (Demons are not restricted by national boundaries, nor are they affected by time and space.) Some Christians react to the mere mention of discerning demons as if swallowing a dose of castor oil was more to be desired. On the other end of the spectrum are those who believe that demonology should be front and center of everything. However, if we are to believe what the Bible tells us, both reactions are out of balance, and we need to study and pay attention to those things that the Lord has revealed to us. We are living in perilous times, Satan knows that his time is short, and we need to be awake, and prepared, and declare with the Apostle Paul, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” 2 Timothy 4:7.

      Concerning discernment, Hebrews 5:14 says, “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Every Christian needs to pray and ask the Lord for wisdom and discernment, knowing that we are in a spiritual battle, we are living in the last days, and we need not shy away from gaining spiritual knowledge and experience, for God’s will is that we go on to maturity. Hosea 4:6a says “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Discerning of spirits is an ability given by the Holy Spirit that allows a person to determine if the source of a particular spiritual manifestation originates from God, the devil, the world, or man. In Ezekiel 44:23-24 the Lord is saying what ministers of the people are to teach, including, “And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.” How desperately the Church of Jesus Christ needs to learn how to discern what is of God and what is not in these end times!

      Many years ago there were three great “sister” teaching churches in the greater Seattle area—churches where the Holy Spirit was moving, and where people were being saved, set free from demonic bondages, spiritually (and sometimes physically) healed, and where solid biblical discipleship and teaching was continually available. I will always be thankful to the Lord for leading me to one of these churches at a time when I was hungering and thirsting for more of God—for more than a mere, mundane, casual, dead-end Christianity of weekly pew warming for the rest of my life. Thankfully, the Lord teamed me up with an on-fire, experienced evangelistic woman who took me “under her wing” in a ministry of follow-up visitation with people who had either visited the church or who indicated they had certain needs. What was especially “educational” for me during those years was the outward manifestations of demons, and how to deal with them.

      The years of training and experience that I received from her, as well as the late evangelist and author Betty Swinford is invaluable, and something that no amount of academia could ever equal, because there is no school like the school of the Holy Spirit. Both women “had the goods,” both were fearless, both had different approaches, but both knew how to discern and deal with demons and demonic strongholds in peoples’ lives. And, Jesus used them mightily. Why? He used them because they were available to be used.

      The question for many people is are demons really as active today as they were in Bible times? The answer is an unequivocal YES! The Bible also makes it clear that in the end days demonic and occult powers will escalate. Jesus warned, “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect” Matthew 24:24. He also said, “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven” Luke 10:19, 20. In Mark 16:17a Jesus said, “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils.” The other question people ask is if Christians can “have” a demon. The truth is, through the years we have encountered Christians who have been demonically oppressed in different areas of their life. At this point, let me state two things: A true believer cannot be possessed, but he or she can be oppressed. Secondly, demons are not something a Christian should go in search of, or be enthusiastically looking for. (Discerning, yes—chasing after, no!) If you are walking in the Spirit, you will know when you encounter a demon—they usually manifest. (See Galatians 5:16; Luke 4:33-35; Acts 8:7; Acts 19:12-17; 16:16-18.) Furthermore, there is no such thing as a “deliverance ministry.” Every born again, humble, Spirit-filled, obedient, discerning Christian who is well versed in Scripture, and who is “strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10) can be used of God to overcome demonic strongholds.

      Some demonic manifestations (and we have experienced all of these in people) can be such things as hissing, snapping, snarling, sneering, spitting, foaming, lewd cursing, threats, screaming, unnatural voices (guttural, whiny), lying, contortions (sometimes resembling reptiles), trembling, writhing, mocking, uncontrollable unnatural laughter, crashing to the floor, extreme self-pity, roaring, emitting a sulfuric odor and other bizarre exhibitions. Always watch people’s eyes! We have seen eyes in people with demons change from a natural color and shape to a swamp green, reptilian shape. At this point you probably want to beat the world’s record in sprinting, but God does not tell us to fear, faint or flee, but to fight. He tells us to stand, resist, and use our sword (the Word.) (See Ephesians 4:26, 27; 6:11; James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8, 9; Revelation 12:11.) What we are to flee from is youthful lusts. (2 Timothy 2:22.)

      God would not have us to be ignorant of our enemy, or how he takes advantage of open doors that undiscerning Christians give him. One of the first steps a Christian must take in order to safeguard against Satan, and to be an effective worker in the lives of others, is to examine his or her own heart for any unconfessed sin, including the sin of pride. Pride is of the essence of Satan and is a huge open door for the enemy. “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” 1 John 2:16. The battle with personal pride is a daily battle. Paul said, “I die daily” 1 Corinthians 15:31. Humble yourselves before going into any spiritual battle and “Submit yourselves…to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” James 4:7. Satan must be able to recognize the authority and power of Christ in you or the result can be devastating as evidenced in Acts 19:11-20. It is also futile, and dangerous, to get caught up in a conversation, or argument, with the devil as Eve did. Demons are very verbal, and love to get you caught up in arguments in order to gain attention. The Word of God, which is Truth, is your only sword. Quoting your favorite “Christian celebrity” or quoting from any source other than the Holy Bible will have no effect whatsoever and the end result can be disastrous.

      Never forget that Satan is the father of lies, and that lies and delusion are two of his main weapons. For example, believers must discern what the spirit is behind such things as occult and New Age books, New Age hypnotic music, (and hard rock, pagan music), movies with occult or supernatural overtones and anti-biblical themes, video games, social media, symbols, jewelry, and so forth, much of which can be found in Christian bookstores. If it cannot pass the Philippians 4:10 and 2 Peter 1:3-7 “test,” or line up with “Spirit and truth” (John 4:24) and sound doctrine, the spirit behind it is wrong. You could end up with “another Jesus, another spirit, and another gospel”—a counterfeit Jesus that is in reality a religious spirit. (See 2 Corinthians 11:4.)

      Beware of New Age practices that have in recent years swept through Christian churches in the guise of “new revelations” and “visualization” (mind-science practices and control which is witchcraft); altered states of consciousness through contemplative meditation and prayer, which entered the west from India in the form of Transcendental Meditation, and is a wide open door to demons; any form of Yoga which is Hinduism and therefore demonic; and any form of the occult such as automatic writing, mediumship, fortune telling; astrology; Ouija board, and reading occult books such as “A Course in Miracles” (which is the New Age bible) and so forth. The bottom line is Christians need to pray for discerning of spirits, and turn away from any involvement with those things that God condemns and that open a door to the demonic realm.

      Demonic oppression can also occur through other means such as the wrong laying on of hands (1 Timothy 5:22) (this is how witches and pagans in the occult transfer spirits, or demons to others); unforgiveness (Matthew 18:23-35) and bitterness, (Hebrews 12:15); anger (Ephesians 4:26, 27); fear (2 Timothy 1:7); spiritual void (Luke 11:26); rebellion (1 Samuel 15:23); pornography and lust (1 Thessalonians 4:7; Hebrews 12:16, 17; James 1:14, 15; 1 Peter 2:11); a hindering spirit (Daniel 10:13; Acts 18:8); spirit of anti-Christ (1 John 4:3); unclean spirit (Matthew 12:43); seducing spirit (1 Timothy 4:1-16) and unresolved issues that are the result of unconfessed sin, drug or alcohol abuse, homosexuality, and abortion. Personal assaults from others such as physical or verbal abuse and molestation—the results of such are usually shame, guilt, and an unclean spirit.

      An oppressed Christian will find him or herself in a state of spiritual lethargy. This can translate into a lack of desire for Bible reading and study, difficulty in praying, and unbelief which can digress into skepticism, cynicism, and mockery. Some oppressed Christians struggle with overwhelming fear, condemnation, hopelessness, and depression while others wrestle with confusion and frustration. Jesus came to set the captives free, but for the most part the Body of Christ is not trained, prepared or equipped to help their struggling brothers and sisters find the deliverance they need so that they can go on to freedom and maturity in Christ.

      God tells us to maintain a “love for the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:10, 11) at all times in order to safeguard our spiritual lives from demonic counterfeits. An example of this is a young woman with whom I was acquainted many years ago. Every time we talked, her conversation centered on the Holy Spirit. It became clear that the Holy Spirit, not Jesus Christ, was her emphasis, and even though I loved her dearly as a friend, being around her for any length of time made me nervous and uneasy. For those of you who have not heard this story before, I’ll repeat it here: One morning in my personal prayer time, I asked the Lord to grant me a ministry just like that of a certain “great late female evangelist.” (Of course, that was when I was a skinny, zealous young thing, with a voice.) Thank God, He knows our hearts and knows what His will is for our lives. I can imagine Him smiling as He gently pats His enthusiastic children on the head as He passes by, telling us to “watch and wait” while He works out the best for us. However, I learned a lesson through this about familiar spirits because later that day this particular woman called me on the telephone. Much to my surprise she said, “If you want a ministry just like so-and- so (she named the person), then you have to….” I about fell out of the chair! Right then I knew that what made me hesitant and nervous around her was not her but a familiar spirit. As time went on it became more apparent what spirit she was operating under. A few years later a day came when I set up an appointment to meet with her in a restaurant to gently confront her about it, hoping she would confess it and pray to be set free. However, the familiar spirit had already warned her the night before (she told me that right up front) and her wall was up. Her demon was so agitated she kept jumping up and down in her seat. Tragically, she wasn’t willing to give up the power the familiar spirit gave to her, and I have not seen her since.

      A familiar spirit is a spirit that “familiarizes” itself with a person and then relays information about that person to someone else who (if they are a Christian) can think they are hearing from the Holy Spirit if they do not have discernment of spirits. Witches, mediums, and sorcerers rely on familiar spirits for information and power over the lives of others. From the Old Testament through the New Testament and continuing into the days in which we live God’s command to Israel (and the Church) in Deuteronomy 18:9-14, still stands: “When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee. Thou shalt be perfect with the LORD thy God. For these nations, which thou shalt possess, hearkened unto observers of times, and unto diviners: but as for thee, the LORD thy God hath not suffered thee so to do.”

      In the New Testament we read of the young woman, a soothsayer, who divined by a familiar spirit called Python (or python spirit) who followed after Paul, Silas, and the brethren, crying out, “These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation” Acts 16:17b. We read that she did this for many days until Paul’s spirit was so grieved that he “turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour” verse 18b. One of the lessons we learn from this event is that demons can and do reveal truth, (most often half-truths) but this cannot glorify God or benefit man in any way because the source, the spirit behind it is evil.

      Jesus commissioned the Apostle Paul “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me [Jesus]” Acts 26:18. May we, go on to maturity and as the Body of Christ, likewise keep ourselves “in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life, And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh” Jude 21-23.