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

   by Jeannette Haley

Lest Satan should get an advantage of us:
For we are not ignorant of his devices.
– 2 Corinthians 2:11 

   Rayola and I found ourselves in an interesting conversation the other day with another Christian concerning the demonic realm after the latter quoted a well-known leader as having said that there “weren’t as many demons today as in Jesus’ day.” Even though this leader is supposedly well-versed in the Scriptures, my question is two-fold: If there aren’t as many demons these days, then where did they go? After all, demons and angels don’t die and become non-existent. My second question is where does it say that in the Bible?

   If we are to unquestioningly accept this man’s statement as absolute truth, then we need to be prepared to give an answer for the domino effect that it has on other passages of Scripture, especially concerning the calling, commission and criteria of the New Testament Church.

   For example, the Gospel of Mark, chapter 16, verse 17 reads in part: And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils. Some may argue that Jesus’ statement was meant for first century believers only, or perhaps His statement was limited to that part of the world alone. Some might claim that in His day people were more demonized than modern man because of ignorance, influences of paganism and superstition, or because people “back then” were inferior to us. Let’s face it, we do, either consciously or unconsciously, think highly of ourselves in our post modern world. The truth is, however, none of these arguments hold up under close scrutiny of the Scriptures.

   In the Book of Luke, immediately following His temptations by the devil in the wilderness, Jesus came to Nazareth and went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day. He stood up and read: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. (Luke 4:18, 19.) Jesus was announcing to the people that He was the Promised One, the Messiah, sent by God to bring the good news to the poor (in spirit), to heal broken hearts that had no hope, to preach deliverance to the captives (of sin and Satan), and to bring spiritual sight to those who were blind as a result of spiritual darkness, and to set free those wounded by sin.

    Is this not the same Jesus that professing Christians claim to believe, worship and follow today? If so, then has His ministry through His body of believers changed? If so, when did it change so that we are no longer obligated to believe and obey His commandments concerning ministry to the captives of sin and Satan? (Some theologians argue that all of this changed after the passing of the first century church, but such a belief opens a Pandora’s Box of speculation, conjecture and unbelief.) Another question is, if His followers today do not have to be concerned with discerning and casting out demons, then what other commandments of Christ can we dismiss as irrelevant? Doesn’t this put us in the position of judging Scripture, where we can pick and choose what we want to believe (and practice) and what we do not?

   Acts 10:38 tells us: How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. Jesus did not place a greater emphasis on healing than He did on deliverance from devils. Usually the two went hand in hand. The power He gave to his disciples was power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease, Matthew 10:1. He commanded them, Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. (Matthew 10:8.) [Emphasis mine.]

   After Jesus’ ascension, the Book of Acts records how the Holy Spirit, through the Apostles, carried on the work of preaching the gospel, making disciples, healing the sick and delivering people from demons. Therefore, we know that demons didn’t just up and disappear after Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, but they were, in fact, very active in opposing the spread of the Gospel.

   In Acts 16 we read about the young woman who was possessed with a spirit of divination which cried out: These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation, (verse 17). Now, how many Christians today, if they heard such a statement, would conclude that this utterance was from God? Let’s be honest here. It sounds right on, doesn’t it? In fact, technically it is. This familiar spirit was speaking the truth, but the whole point is, the spirit was wrong—it was not of God. Such spirits also spoke the truth about Jesus on more than one occasion, revealing who He was publicly. Needless to say, these spirits were not of God.

   People, when is the Church going to wake up and start obeying the Word of God by discerning the spirit behind things? We are also commanded to test the spirit, 1 John 4:1. (Spirits are tested by the Word.) Every believer needs to be able to both discern and test spirits. Discerning of spirits is a gift of the Holy Spirit. If a person is truly born again of the Spirit, then he or she will have that inner knowing, or ability to discern, which is developed as he or she walks in obedience; grows in the knowledge of Jesus Christ; becomes grounded in the whole counsel of the Word of God; and through meditation on the Word and prayer, becomes familiar with the Person of the Holy Spirit. Thus, when another spirit enters the scene, it is immediately discerned. Hebrews 6:14 tells us: 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. [Emphasis mine.]

   You cannot learn how to test a spirit by saturating yourself in TBN, or by reading about the Bible, or even worse wiling away your time in so-called Christian novels. The result is an anemic Christian who has no power or authority. Satan is not impressed with quotes from people, or opinions, or religious formulas. He only respects the Word of God. You cannot learn how to test a spirit by flitting through any one of the watered-down “versions” of the Bible. You cannot learn how to test a spirit by doing your religious duty, or playing church games. Rather, you must get alone with God in your prayer closet and ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart, repent of pride and any other sin He reveals, and commit your life to Jesus as Lord. When you are right with God, then you can ask for the gift of discernment. The Holy Spirit will not impart discernment to those who will misuse and abuse His gift for the purpose of judging others, gossiping or self-exaltation. Know this: If you are trying to serve two masters—the world and God, you will not only lack discernment, but you will end up casting aside the truth for a lie because it better serves your purpose. If Jesus is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all.

   One of Satan’s most effective weapons is to deceive and divide. I need to just touch lightly on the great gulf between those who shy away from any mention of the Person and work of the Holy Spirit, especially in the area of the gifts of the Spirit, and those on the other end of the spectrum whose emphasis centers on anything and everything that has to do with Him, or anything perceived as “spiritual.” Satan is active in both camps, but in different ways, for the same end; that is to defeat the effectiveness of the Church.

   There is grave error in any extreme and these two extremes are no exception. To downplay, redefine or ignore the Person and work of the Holy Spirit is spiritual suicide that results in dead-letter theology that leaves people with heads stuffed full of facts, while their hearts (or spirits) remain lifeless. Such people may appear religious, but they are unresponsive to the gentle nudging of the Holy Spirit, insensitive to His presence, ignorant of His ways, and oblivious of true anointing. The spiritual understanding, knowledge and insight that the Spirit reveals is missing in the lives of such people, and is reflected in their weak testimonies, dull eyes, and lack of enthusiasm for soul winning. They lack power and authority because the Spirit is missing, and any teaching, preaching or writing they put forth lacks dimension.

   It goes without saying that there is very little, if any, true spiritual discernment among this group even though they pride themselves in their head knowledge of truth, which also serves as their platform to put down as false any who dare to disagree with them or who may present insight from God that doesn’t line up with their religious lines, concepts or ideas. Thus, they quench the Holy Spirit while maintaining their limited perception of God and His ways. Such people are, unless God steps on the scene and stirs up their lives, unteachable, and, as such, are no threat to the kingdom of darkness because of their unbelief—especially unbelief of demonic activity.

   The other extreme is made up of well-meaning folks who are tired of the dead, dull, lifeless “religious churches.” As a result, these people are basically open to anything that appears “spiritual” and closed to good, solid biblical teaching, preaching and study. They possess a healthy appetite for cotton candy “Christianity” and anything that appeals to the senses or that makes them feel good about themselves. This openness, coupled with the lack of the proper foundation, is a gullibility that poses a great danger to the Body of Christ because the door is flung wide open for anything that stirs the emotions, appeals to the pride, or fulfills the longing for some sort of “spiritual” experience. It goes without saying that the demonic realm gains great inroads into the thinking, beliefs, attitudes and behavior of such unbalanced people. This group is also ineffective against the demonic realm because, even though they are quick to acknowledge that it exists, they lack the scriptural basis, faith, authority, power and right Spirit that is necessary for proper discernment and action.

   This brings us to the subject of how to recognize or discern the wrong spirit. First, a believer must know the right Spirit so that when exposed to a wrong spirit it is easy to discern. Of course, that brings us back to the basics of Bible study, obedience and prayer. Hopefully, the following indicators of how a demonic presence can affect you when you come into contact with it will be helpful, although this list is by no means conclusive:

               1.   Extreme agitation

               2.   Sudden nervousness

               3.   Unreasoning fear or terror (and wanting to run)

               4.   Confusion

               5.   Revulsion

               6.   Beguiling or seducing you into agreement against your better judgment

               7.   A feeling of being pushed (mentally, emotionally)

               8.   Experiencing anger (that is not yours)

               9.   Uninvited perverted thoughts

               10. Feeling like the life has been sucked out of you.

               11. Inability to focus, or concentrate.

               12. Sudden, extreme sickness.

               13. Tightness (like a band) around your head (caused from psychic prayer.)

               14. Heaviness; depression

   The following is a list of some of the physical manifestations you may witness when encountering a person with demons:

               1.   Lip curls up

               2.   Eyes turn murky green and resemble a reptile

               3.   Sulfuric odor

               4.   Trembling

               5.   Hissing

               6.   Hand contorting unnaturally

               7.   Cursing

               8.   Growling, snarling, snapping

               9.   Foaming at the mouth

               10. High-pitched, whiney voice (often self-pity)

               11. Eyes roll up, or bulge out (watch the eyes)

               12.  Twitching, pacing, nervous

               13.  Slammed to the ground; screaming

               14.  Threats; knows things about you that the person themselves has no way of knowing.

    Even though the subject of evil spirits and demons is found from cover to cover in God’s Word, the majority of churched people in “civilized” nations skip over it as either a phenomenon of the past, or something that only occurs in extremely underdeveloped or pagan societies. Nothing could be further from the truth. While it is true that demons are openly manifested in the practices and ceremonies of pagan tribes the world over, yet demons are very clever at camouflaging themselves in our so-called “civilized” society, and one of their greatest ruses is psychology.

      It is ironic that psychology, which denies the existence of demons, was founded by spirit guides (demons) itself. Yet our entire culture, including most church denominations, has bought into the psychological lie. If we are to believe psychologists, then all demonic activity and manifestations can be attributed to some form of “mental illness” or the other, much of which is believed can be “cured” by taking drugs and anti-depressants, or through years of psychological “counseling.” Again, we need spiritual discernment when dealing with disturbed people because often mineral deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, poor diet, and other health-related issues can be a contributing factor in behavioral abnormalities.

   The subject of mentally ill people and demonic oppression or possession is another topic that could take volumes to write. But, in our years of ministry we have encountered many people who had been diagnosed with some form of mental illness or the other (such as manic depressive or MPD multiple personality disorder) which proved to be demonic to the core. 

   Another large segment of the population that is plagued with demons is the criminal element. Take, for example, the confessions of killers (such as the Son of Sam who is now a born-again Christian) who admitted that demons controlled his life and actions. More recently, in our home state of Idaho, sex offender Joseph Edward Duncan III confessed, after he murdered three adults and one 8-year-old boy after molesting him, and his sister (who was rescued) that “the demons took over.” Such confessions from the lips of rapists and killers is common and not to be taken lightly.

   Even though demonic activity can be recognized within these two groups, it could still be argued by some that demons aren’t as “prevalent today as in Jesus’ day”—especially if one stays within the comfortable bounds of his or her church circle. This is where most of us let down our guard. After all, we are among people who believe like we do, right? Well, sorry to say, such assumptions can be very wrong. Christians need to remember that the demonic realm is not only very real, but committed to steal, and to kill, and to destroy (1 John 10:10a).  And, what better place to do that than within the confines of religious institutions?

   Satan not only sends in his ministers who are transformed as the ministers of righteousness(2 Corinthians 11:15a) to deceive the saints, but he (and his demons) work tirelessly day and night to destroy the faith of the saints. Why else would the Apostle Paul tell us to put on the whole armor of God? (Ephesians 6.) Satan’s workers, within the church, appear to be very religious (religious spirit). Religious spirits (working through individuals) have a false light (2 Corinthians 11:14); promote rebellion and idolatry; mock the truth; cause division; exalt themselves and seek to gain a following. There are lying spirits that speak out of the mouths of false prophets, and familiar spirits that counterfeit the gift of discernment. God would not have us ignorant of Satan’s devices!

   It is also a fact that Satanists and witches infiltrate churches in order to bring them down from within through spirits of lust and perversion, and also by placing curses on unsuspecting Christians. Satanists number in the thousands. Their covens are more numerous than most people suspect (or even want to think about.) If this is shocking to you, do an Internet search on covens, Satanism and witchcraft.

   In conclusion, Jesus gave His disciples power over all unclean spirits. Discerning is one thing, but power is quite another. In Acts 19:11, 12 we read this about the Apostle Paul: And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them. Power and authority over unclean spirits is experienced by those who know their God (not just about Him) and who through faith in the Name of Jesus know all that that Name implies and who act (obey) accordingly. Authority is granted to those who are under authority (of Christ); that is, to the people that do know their God [who] shall be strong, and do exploits, (Daniel 11:32).

   Are you such a believer?