Q: I read where Jesus encountered much demonic activity when He was on earth. I get the impression that in America we do not have as much demonic activity. Would you agree that we live in a more civilized time that would not prove favorable for demonic activity?
A: I wish that was true, but it is not. The problem with what some consider being more civilized times is that regardless of whether paganism is wrapped in civilized garb or is made apparent by more decadent and demonic practices by those who are outright involved with the occult, it still remains the breeding ground for idolatry and demonic influences. Civilized paganism is more dangerous because its seduction is clever and its ways more covert.
First, let me explain what paganism is. Paganism has a couple of meanings. The first meaning of paganism points to religions that are based on fear and superstition. Those who operate in this arena are very fleshly (sensual) in their religious practices and often look to those who actually operate in witchcraft for wisdom and guidance. The second type of paganism points to those who have little or no religion, but they delight in sensual pleasures and material goods. Sensual pleasure often produces whoremongers (spiritual fornicators) and sexual fornicators (practice any type of illicit sex). These individuals actually come into an unholy agreement with the wicked unseen world of Satan (1 Corinthians 6:15-20; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18). And, for those who pursue material goods, they are often motivated by greed (lust, covetousness, or gluttony) which is considered idolatry (Colossians 3:5). Demonic influences can always be found at the core of any idolatry.
Even though demonic activity in civilized cultures is somewhat hidden, it will eventually manifest itself. As Jesus stated, you will know somebody by their fruits (Matthew 7:16-20). Fruits in a person’s life will reveal the spirit (source) behind them (which can be the Holy Spirit, natural spirit, or the spirit of the world-Satan, refer to 1 Corinthians 2:10-14). The fruits of Satan include extreme, obsessive, abnormal behavior. His greatest device is lies that will pervert reality. As people give way to his lies, he takes more and more territory, causing depression, inconsistent behavior, inward struggles, unrest, conflict, division, and isolation.
It is important to point out that Satan cannot take any ground (when it comes to man) until he gains access through sin and deception. There are unseen doors opened to him by such sins as pride, drugs (sorcery), and pornography, as well as unseen avenues such as claims, curses, fornication, and witchcraft in which he or his cohorts can cleverly seduce or entangle people into a false reality that will cause oppression or possession.
A Christian who is truly born again cannot be possessed (spirit, soul, & body), but he or she can find him or herself oppressed in the soul (will, mind, and emotions). This oppression will keep the believer from moving forward towards the overcoming life, usually causing personal condemnation. It is easy for people to be set free from the claims Satan may have on their lives, but they first have to recognize the device he is using to entangle them (2 Corinthians 2:11). Once Satan’s device is identified, a believer then must take up his or her sword (the Bible) and begin to stand against the enemy with the authority of truth (Jesus), in the power of the Spirit, and in confidence that the battle has already been won at Calvary (redemption). It is by believing that the Lord came to deliver each of us from the snares and entanglements of any unseen inroads created by past or present sins, and quickly humbling ourselves before God, truly repenting of what might be presently wrong and being completely cleansed from any past unresolved issues, and submitting to His truth, that we can be assured that the devil will have to flee (James 4:6-10). Once the devil has been made to vacate, then a person must fill those areas up with the things of God (Luke 11:24-26).
It is also important to know how to discern between the Holy Spirit, the natural spirit, and the spirit of the world. It is easy to discern if you know what you are looking for. If the natural spirit is present it will manifest itself in base ways such as through rebellious, selfish, prideful ways and demands. In rebellion the natural spirit will emotionally fluctuate, causing great frustration on the part of those who are contending with such an individual, while the spirit of the world serves as an immovable wall in front of a person, preventing him or her from hearing anything so that truth can set him or her free. When you encounter such a spirit, it sucks the life out of the environment.
The Holy Spirit will always lead you to all truths concerning Christ, the natural spirit will provide the means in which you justify the old man in all his fleshly, worldly pursuits, while the spirit of the world will always exalt the philosophies and ways of the world as a solution to the desires of the flesh, the sentiments of the soul, and the satisfaction of the spirit. The temptations of the natural spirit occur within as one toys with sins, stirring up the imagination, while the temptations of the spirit of the world come from the outside in the form of darts such as lies and perverted thoughts. You must always repent when giving way to the natural spirit, but one must refuse to accept Satan’s darts as truth, take authority over him and push him back with the Word of God.
The Holy Spirit will lead to true worship of God, while the natural spirit will encourage worship of the self-life in light of what it perceives it deserves and how it wants to feel in the end about self, and the spirit of the world causes one to actually worship the god of this world, Satan. It is important to point out the natural spirit may exalt the self-life, but its identity is tied into the world; therefore, a person is also basically bowing down to the god of this world, Satan.
Even though we would like to think that Satan does not have much power in civilized countries like America, the Bible tells us differently. It tells us that in the end days there will be seducing spirits, whether they are leading people astray in blatant error, cleverly neutralizing them in complacency and neglect towards the things of God as they succumb to a mediocre life that has no power or vision, or indoctrinating them into an insane world where there are no moral character or absolutes, it is clear that Satan is alive and well on planet earth (2 Timothy 4:1). In Revelation 12:7, we are told that in the final days, there will be a war in heaven and Satan and his hoards will be cast down to earth. We can debate as to whether it has already happened or whether it is in the future, but when we look at the world around us, everything wicked and evil seems to be escalating on a national and international level.
The problem today is that people operate in extremes when it comes to Satan. There are those who place Satan behind every problem, but on the other hand there are those who deny he is involved with anything. My philosophy is that we must not give Satan undue credit but if he is present in a matter, we cannot afford to ignore him like Adam apparently did back in the garden when he had dominion; rather we must put on our armor and take up our weapon of truth, and stand against him in the authority of Jesus and withstand him in the power of God’s Spirit.