Published November 21st, 2017 by Dirk Waren
A basic understanding of human nature is necessary to grasp how evil spirits negatively influence people and destroy their lives. This will help you to understand the simple measures we need to take in order to prevent them from doing this. I want to stress that these are simple actions and they’re easy as pie to master.
So let’s first establish the essentials of human nature and then observe some key passages that show how malicious spirits negatively sway people.
Human Nature and Spiritual Influence
Human beings are made up of three basic parts: spirit, mind and flesh. Your mind is the center of your being and it’s flanked by two opposing natures—spirit and flesh. Your spirit is your higher nature whereas your flesh is your lower nature. Put another way, your spirit is your godly nature while your flesh is the sinful nature. Your spirit is the part of you that inclines toward what is positive, productive and godly whereas your flesh is the part of you that veers toward what is negative, destructive and ungodly.
These two natures regularly transmit impulses, images and desires to your mind. The mind is the center of your being; it’s the part of you that thinks (intellect), feels (emotion) and decides (volition). Your mind is caught between these opposing natures (Galatians 5:17). In other words, you regularly experience the conflict of these two natures in your mind. This diagram helps picture all this:
While it’s not fun being caught in a conflict between two opposing natures, there’s good news: Because your mind possesses volition—will—you have the God-given power of decision and therefore the ability to DECIDE which nature you’re going to receive from and follow—your godly nature (spirit) or your sinful nature (flesh).
Assuming you’re a believer, the Holy Spirit gave birth to your new regenerated spirit (John 3:6), which was “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). On top of this, you are a temple of the Holy Spirit—a temple of God—because the Spirit of God resides in you. Exactly what part of your being does the Holy Spirit inhabit? Your spirit, of course, since your spirit was made holy through regeneration (Ephesians 3:16). In fact, it’s only because your spirit has been reborn holy that the Holy Spirit is able to indwell you! With this understanding, your spirit—your “new self”—is indwelt and led by the Holy Spirit. So when you follow the impulses of your regenerated human spirit you are simultaneously following the leading of the Holy Spirit.
By contrast, if you follow the impulses of the flesh—the sinful nature—you are automatically following the leading of the devil and filthy spirits because the flesh is the sinful nature, which is the satanic nature. In other words, all a person has to do in order to fulfill the devil’s will in his or her life is to live according to his/her fleshly impulses.
What I’m getting to is this: The Holy Spirit (God) works with you through your spirit—your godly nature—while demonic spirits work with through your flesh—the sinful nature.
In light of this, it’s imperative that you learn to distinguish spiritual thoughts from fleshly ones. Both types of thoughts will be transmitted to your mind on a regular basis. Once you can distinguish these two kinds of thoughts you simply need to learn to discard the negatives impulses and feed positive proclivities.
Doing so naturally keeps demonic spirits from being attracted to you and setting up house, so to speak. How so? Because, remember, demons are impure spirits and are therefore attracted to what is morally filthy. So keeping moral filth far from your “house”—your mind & body—naturally keeps filthy spirits away.
How to Distinguish Spiritual Thoughts from Fleshly Thoughts
To accomplish this you’ll have to learn to differentiate thoughts that originate from your godly nature from impulses that proceed from your sinful nature. The former are positive and productive whereas the latter are negative and destructive. Distinguishing the two is easy.
The Bible offers fairly detailed descriptions of what these conflicting natures produce:
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faith-fulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Every believer has to learn to recognize and throw off thoughts that stem from the flesh, like sexual immorality, hatred, discord, jealousy, rage, selfishness, envy and other obvious carnal traits, such as arrogance, deceit and slander (Proverbs 6:16-19). Don’t feed these types of thoughts. Instead feed thoughts that stem from your spirit, your higher nature, which is why Paul said:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
The more you “feed” positive, productive thoughts like these, the more you’ll live out of your higher nature. It’s simple. The Bible puts it like this:
Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh; but those who live according to the spirit * set their minds on the things of the spirit.
* Since there is no capitalization in the biblical Greek, translators must determine if “spirit” should be capitalized in reference to the Holy Spirit or not capitalized in reference to the human spirit. Many translations capitalize “spirit” in these passages and some do not (for example The New English Bible). I believe these passages (and other such passages) are plainly referring to the human spirit and therefore “spirit” should not be capitalized because the context is contrasting the conflicting parts of human nature (e.g. Matthew 26:41). In a way it makes no significant difference since our born-again human spirit is indwelt and led by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:16).
So learning to set your mind on things of the spirit rather than things of the flesh is key to walking free of the satanic nature and the influence of evil spirits.
Also, as verse 9 of the previous passage instructs, get in the habit of observing genuinely spiritual believers (not religious people) and put into practice the positive things you observe. When you practice these two things, notice what results: “and the God of peace will be with you.” Needless to say, filthy spirits will not be attracted to you when you do this (which is not to say that they won’t attack you for righteousness’ sake when permitted, as explained in Chapter 6 and 20).
Managing the Soil of Your Heart
It helps to understand the biblical concept of the heart and how it fits into the model of human nature.
“Heart” is kardia (kar-DEE-ah) in the Greek, which is where we get the English ‘cardiac.’ Like the English word ‘heart,’ kardia literally refers to the blood-pumping organ but figuratively to the core thoughts or feelings of a person’s being or mind (Strong 39). Greek scholar E.W. Bullinger describes the heart as “the seat and center of man’s personal life in which the distinctive character of the human manifests itself” (362). The heart could therefore be described as the core of the mind. It is part of the mind, but specifically refers to the deepest, most central part; that is, the core.
What dwells in your heart is determined by which nature you have decided to live by, whether spirit or flesh (Romans 8:5-6). Jesus said, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart” (Luke 6:45). What’s this mean? Simple: If you, in your mind, decide to dwell on carnal thoughts, then carnal, negative, destructive things will naturally store up in your heart over time. If, on the other hand, you choose to focus on spiritual thoughts, then good, positive, productive things will store up in your heart. Whatever’s in your heart then determines your actions and therefore the course of your very life. This is why the book of wisdom says: “Be careful what you think for your thoughts run your life” (Proverbs 4:23 NCV). Take heed—truer words have never been spoken!
Here’s our diagram of human nature with the heart added:
Notice that the heart is the core of your mind and is figuratively called “soil.” Why? Because the Bible likens the heart to soil (Luke 8:15). Soil in the natural is a neutral substance that grows whatever seed is planted in it. This is the way it is with the soil of your heart, except that it grows non-physical “seeds,” whether spiritual or unspiritual. By “seeds” I mean thoughts, impulses, desires, images or impressions. Dwelling on these “seeds” waters them, so to speak, and thus enables them to grow. In other words, your meditation feeds them; and that is how they grow. And whatever grows in your heart is what eventually fills your heart and produces the desires thereof. These desires of your heart then determine your actions, good or bad.
Has someone ever offended you and you dwelt on it so much that you made more of it than what it was? When the issue was finally resolved you realized you made a mountain out of a mole hill. How did this happen? Simple: You fed the offense with your thought life and thus it grew. As you kept thinking about it, the bigger it got. This principle goes into motion with any impulse you choose to focus on and give life to, whether of the spirit or the flesh.
In regards to fleshly impulses, the Bible details the scenario like so:
but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
People are tempted by evil desires that stem from their flesh, the sinful nature. Once they grab ahold of the bad impulse and feed it with their thought life, desire is conceived in the soil of their hearts, which eventually gives birth to the action, the sin itself.
Demons Work with People through their Flesh
The reason I’m going into detail about human nature is so you’ll grasp how the Holy Spirit (God) works with you through your spirit, your higher nature, whereas evil spirits work to destroy you (and those linked to you) through your flesh, the sinful nature.
Because the flesh is the satanic nature all a person has to do in order to be “of the devil” is to habitually live out of his/her sinful nature. For instance, envy, jealousy, rivalry, hatred and strife are works of the flesh. If a person regularly lives out of these fleshly impulses he or she will automatically carry out the Devil’s will in whatever environment s/he operates.
Take a woman at a church assembly who embraces thoughts of envy and jealousy. This naturally gives birth to rivalry and hostility toward the people with whom she’s envious and jealous. Hostility is hatred. There are degrees of hostility, of course, but—whatever the degree—hatred always eventually morphs into unjust attacks, starting with malevolent gossip, which is slander. This of course poisons people’s minds against their maligned brother or sister, which then produces discord in the assembly and robs the fellowship of peace and unity. Every Christian assembly on Earth has experienced this scenario and the root problem can always be traced to an individual who gave-in to the fleshly impulses of envy, jealousy & rivalry and then spread the resulting hostility to others.
Or consider the example of a married Christian man who meets an alluring woman on the job and it stirs up fleshly interest. The more he thinks about her the more desire grows in his heart until it manifests into adultery when the opportunity presents itself.
In both of these cases neither the woman who gossiped and created strife in her assembly nor the man who committed adultery were possessed by evil spirits. They simply ignored the leading of their higher nature (and the corresponding guidance of the Spirit) and surrendered to their fleshly desires by feeding them with their thought life, which made the corresponding desire grow in the soil of their hearts. And then they eventually acted on these desires.
Allow me to point out that the word ‘spirit’ does not always refer to a spiritual entity; it can simply refer to a person’s character, as in Joshua had “a different spirit” than other Hebrews and thus served the LORD wholeheartedly (Numbers 14:24). Neither the woman who engaged in hostile gossip and created strife in her fellowship nor the man who committed adultery was possessed by demons to do what they did. They simply gave their hearts over to the destructive impulses of their flesh, fed those desires, which then grew in their hearts, and ultimately acted on them. As such, the woman had a spirit of gossip and strife—a character of gossip and strife; and the man had a spirit of adultery—a character of adultery. But neither was possessed by a demon to do what they did. They have no one to blame but themselves for their foolish decisions. Remember, we all have the power of decision and therefore we decide which nature we’re going to live out of, whether flesh or spirit, sinful nature or godly nature. It’s our choice every day.
However, this is not to say that demonic spirits didn’t “whisper in their ears,” so to speak (which we’ll look at momentarily). Not to mention, once they started engaging in their particular sin it no doubt attracted evil spirits because filthy spirits are drawn to that which is morally impure, much like flies are attracted to dog excrement and rats to garbage.
An anointed minister testified to how he picked up a stench in the spirit when practicing homosexuals came up for prayer as he was ministering. I also shared how a boy, my nephew, smelled vomit when he was around a practicing witch who married into the family. People who take paths that are morally filthy like these—homosexuality and witchcraft—naturally attract filthy spirits. This results in demonic bondage to the sin, at best; and demonic possession, at worst. I’m not saying this with Pharisaical condescension or condemnation, but rather godly compassion and the desire to see people set free, whatever their transgression is, whether homosexuality, witchcraft, adultery, gossip/slander, religious legalism, drunkard-ness or what have you.
Needless to say, don’t entertain impulses of the flesh. Learn to put into motion the law of displacement by focusing on impulses of your higher nature (Ephesians 4:22-24). Concentrating on spiritual thoughts naturally displaces carnal desires. This keeps evils spirits at bay because they’re not attracted to that which is pure, godly and spiritual. And when they observe that a person is stubbornly single-minded they’ll give-up and seek easier prey. Remember: sloth is a trait of the satanic nature and so impure spirits are lazy by nature.
How Does Satan “fill a Person’s Heart”?
All of the above helps us to interpret a couple cases in the Bible where it says that Satan filled a person’s heart.
Let’s start with the case of Ananias from Acts 5:1-11. This was the era of the early church where believers were selling land and extra houses to provide money for the needy in the church (Acts 4:32-37). Ananias followed suit by selling a piece of property and giving the proceeds to the church, but he kept a good chunk for himself. There was nothing wrong with this and Peter even said so (Acts 5:4). It was Ananias’ property and his money; and he could do whatever he wanted with it, as led of the Spirit. The problem was that Ananias and his wife deceptively said they gave all the proceeds to the church, evidently to appear exceptionally generous and spiritual. Thus Peter asks: “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?” (verse 3).
How did Satan fill Ananias’ heart? Did he literally possess him? No, he filled his heart in the sense that Ananias gave his mind over to the fleshly impulses of the sinful nature, which is the satanic nature. Ananias wanted to impress others by appearing more generous than he actually was, so he lied about giving all the profit of his sale when he only gave part.
This is the typical way the devil fills a person’s heart, which we observed in the examples from the previous section: Satan filled the heart of the woman who succumbed to envy and hostility, which resulted in gossip and produced strife in the assembly. The married man surrendered to his carnal lust for a flirtatious woman at work and allowed desire to build in his heart until it manifested in adultery. The devil “filled their hearts” in the sense that they gave themselves over to the cravings of the satanic nature, but they weren’t possessed by Satan or demons.
How did Satan fill Judas’ Heart?
The case of Judas Iscariot shows that Satan or demons can fill people’s hearts more literally. Judas, of course, was the fake disciple who betrayed Christ for 30 pieces of silver. This reveals that his main problem was greed (that is, his main problem beyond not actually knowing the Lord). The Bible blatantly describes him as a thief who regularly pilfered from the treasury of Jesus’ ministry (John 12:6). The Lord knew what was going on, of course, because he functioned in the gifts of the Spirit, one being the word of knowledge (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). Thus Jesus indirectly referred to Judas as “a devil” well before this incident (John 6:70-71). Why? Not because Judas was literally possessed by an evil spirit at the time, but because he walked in the flesh without repentance and therefore wasn’t a genuine follower of Christ. Anyone who chooses to live out of their flesh will automatically perform the will of the devil because the flesh is the sinful nature, the satanic nature. This is why Jesus called Judas “a devil”—his allegiance was clearly with the devil, even though he wasn’t likely aware of it.
Yet a couple other passages reveal that Satan literally possessed Judas on two separate occasions over a year later:
Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve.
As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.
So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.”
The verse from Luke is talking about when Judas skulked away to the chief priests to agree to betray Jesus for a monetary reward. The verse from John takes place over a day later during the Last Supper, which is when Christ discharged Judas from the celebratory meal to betray him.
The texts do not contradict one another because John acknowledges the first occasion where Judas was possessed in verse 2 of the same chapter: “The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.” This refers to the events of the Luke passage.
We can glean a few important facts from both verses:
- Satan possessed Judas not once, but twice
- There was an interim period between the two possessions where Judas was not possessed. This indicates a partial possession, as detailed in this article (scroll down to the section Dealing with “Spirits of Infirmities”).
- Even though Judas’ will was not under the direct control of the devil during the interim he did not repent or seek to undo Christ’s unjust arrest which he had set in motion.
No doubt the Sovereign LORD insisted on the interim so that Iscariot had time to reflect on what he had done, graciously providing him the opportunity to repent.* Since Judas didn’t have a change of heart, however, he was without excuse. In other words, Judas couldn’t justify his actions on the grounds that “the devil made him do it.”
* God reigns supreme, which includes reigning over the devil who’s the temporary “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Thus even Satan has to have permission to carry out his wicked attacks, as shown in Job 1:6-12 and 2:1-7. That said, this is a general truth and it’s uncertain how far and detailed it extends concerning any given satanic strategy and the target(s) thereof.
A fourth point is that his kind of demonic possession does not come out of nowhere. A person isn’t just morally heading one way one day and is suddenly possessed by a demon and proceeds to go in a totally different direction. No, possession of this nature occurs when a person has already given in to the sinful nature and is therefore already habitually fulfilling the devil’s will, which naturally attracts wicked spirits. If the person is eventually possessed by a demon or demons he or she simply goes deeper down the same fleshly path s/he was going.
We see this with Judas: He was already habitually stealing from the treasury because of his greed. Jesus knew this early on due to the word of knowledge and thus thoroughly interceded for the thief. Christ even made it known that he was on to him outright (John 6:70-71). Unfortunately, Judas remained unrepentant. His eventual succumbing to the temptation of blood money for Christ’s arrest & murder was simply deeper down the same dark road. It wasn’t until then that Satan possessed him.
Of course, Judas’ possession was a special case that warranted the devil’s direct involvement. When Satan possesses the Antichrist during the future Tribulation it’s likewise a special occasion (2 Thessalonians 2:9 & Revelation 13:2). In the vast majority of cases, however, Satan prefers to kick back and allow his filthy underlings to perform hands-on work like this (i.e. possess people).
It’s important to distinguish between demonic possession that occurs due to increasing immoral activity (as was the case with Judas) and demonic possession by a spirit of infirmity, which results in some kind of mental/physical malady. The latter type of possession may have nothing to do with a person participating in immorality. For instance, the boy who had a mute, deaf spirit (Mark 9:17-29) and the woman with the crippling demon (Luke 13:10-16), both addressed at the end of the last chapter. There’s zero indication that either of them suffered possession and the corresponding maladies due to increasing, unrepentant immorality.
This shows that living a morally blameless life (which, of course, requires keeping in repentance as necessary*) is not enough to walk free of demonic possession as far as spirits of infirmities are concerned. Having a close relationship with God is not enough either. Why? Because these kinds of spirits prey upon the ignorant. The only antidote to ignorance is knowledge; and knowledge is power, assuming it is implemented (Proverbs 24:5). Any believer who knows and practices the Scriptural truths detailed in Chapter 19 and 20 will protect themselves from spirits of infirmities.
* Matthew & Luke 3:8. Keep in mind that blameless is not the same as sinless.
This illustrates the difference between:
- The Person of God.
- The wisdom principles of His kingdom.
It’s possible to genuinely know God, but be ignorant of the principles of His Kingdom, including spiritual warfare. Likewise, it’s possible to grasp principles of godly wisdom and yet not know the LORD whatsoever. For instance, an atheist doesn’t know God—and possibly hates God—but because he lives by the principle that “diligent hands will rule” (Proverbs 12:24) he prospers in his occupation.
The ideal, of course, is to walk in both: 1. Develop a relationship with the Person of God and 2. learn the wise principles of His kingdom.
Can Believers be Possessed?
This brings up the question of whether or not genuine Christians can be possessed. The answer is no and yes. Let me explain…
True believers can never be totally possessed because they’re already indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9). Of course, evil spirits are assigned to believers to try to oppress them and ruin their lives—the very opposite of what heavenly angels are commissioned to do (which is to serve people). This shows why learning and mastering spiritual warfare is vital as we grow in Christ.
Genuine believers cannot drink of the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons as well (1 Corinthians 10:21). To be fully possessed of a demon or demons, a believer would have to first fall away by denying Christ, whether literally or through incorrigibly wicked actions. For proof that a Christian can indeed fall away, see Hebrews 6:4-9, 2 Peter 2:20-21, 2 Timothy 2:11-13 and Titus 1:16. I want to emphasize that God’s Word supports the doctrine of eternal security 100% and this is verified by Christ Himself in John 10:28-29. However, the Bible clearly does NOT support the doctrine of unconditional eternal security, as verified by these crystal clear passages and numerous others. *
Although genuine believers cannot be fully possessed, they can fall prey to partial possession, which was touched on last chapter (in the final section). Here are two types of partial possession observed in the Scriptures:
- When a person suffers possession by a spirit of infirmity, which causes some type of ongoing physical disorder. In this scenario a spirit of infirmity induces a malady, but the person is otherwise uncontrolled by the spirit. The woman from Luke 13:10-16 whose crippling condition was caused by a demon and required exorcism is a good example. There’s no evidence that she wasn’t in control of her faculties. Thus the demon caused her crippling state, but it did not control her mind and will. It had power over her physically, but not mentally. It was thus a partial possession.
- Another kind of partial possession is when a spirit takes control of a person’s mental faculties one way or another, but the spirit comes and goes and thus it’s not a perpetual condition. This was the case with the woman I personally knew discussed in the previous chapter. She was decidedly a Christian, but an evil spirit would come on her now and then, with two different manifestations—a depressed, worried state or a mean, stubborn state. Both of these manifestations were thoroughly demonic and she occasionally committed self-harm in one form or another. Yet she was her normal, pure, loving self about 50% of the time. Since the evil spirit came and went it wasn’t a total possession, but rather a partial one. This is evidence that a true believer can suffer partial possession where a demon comes on him or her from time to time and wreaks havoc. It’s not a total possession, but such people need exorcized nevertheless, like the boy in Mark 9:18 and Luke 9:39.
In cases where believers suffer partial possession the demon attacks their body or mind, but it cannot afflict their spirit because they are indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:16).
Satanic Head Games
It was pointed out earlier that fallen angels are able to “whisper in a person’s ear,” that is, shoot thoughts into people’s minds, obviously corresponding to the desires and weaknesses of their flesh. Consider Christ’s temptation after the Spirit led him to fast in the wilderness for 40 days and nights:
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ ”
7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ ”
11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
This occasion warranted Satan’s direct involvement. He knew that the Mighty Christ came to destroy his work* so he personally tried to stop the Messiah by tempting him to succumb to the weaknesses of his flesh and therefore sin. This, of course, would’ve made Jesus unacceptable as a substitutionary curse for humanity since the sacrifice had to be innocent.
* See Hebrews 2:14, 1 John 3:8 and Acts 10:38.
Notice that verse 3 says “The tempter came to him and said…”. Did the devil actually appear to Jesus or did he come to him and ‘whisper in his ear,’ so to speak? In other words, did he come to him invisibly and simply transmit the tempting words to his mind? The Greek word for “came to” doesn’t necessarily mean appear visibly, but simply ‘to come to, come near to, approach.’ Since Satan is a spiritual being, not physical, it’s more likely that he came to the Messiah spiritually and therefore invisibly, although Christ no doubt discerned his presence through the gift of discerning of spirits (1 Corinthians 12:4-11).
I’m not saying that Satan didn’t appear to Jesus in some physical form, just that it’s very possible they he simply came to him spiritually—invisibly—and spoke to him by shooting flesh-based suggestions into his head. This is how evil spirits try to negatively influence you and me, why wouldn’t it be the same in this situation?
Someone might understandably argue that verses 5 & 8 show the devil taking Christ to the highest point of the Temple in Jerusalem and then to a high mountain, but Satan could’ve taken him there in a mental sense, relaying his temptation in thought form or perhaps a vision. After all, have you ever been tempted where an evil spirit physically appeared to you or physically transported you to the applicable environment or did you simply experience the temptation through thoughts, impulses and the imagery thereof? The latter, of course.
The Sword of the Spirit and the Law of Displacement
Christ counteracted these temptations by simply speaking the truth. On all three occasions Jesus responded with a quote from the Scriptures. This is what we need to do when we encounter temptation: When you experience an inner carnal impulse, perhaps combined with the corresponding imagery, recognize it for what it is—a negative, destructive, ungodly temptation rooted in the flesh. Then boldly speak the counteractive truth. Repeat as necessary until the temptation lifts. This is one of our God-given spiritual weapons; it’s called the sword of the spirit (Ephesians 6:17). It’s simply speaking the Word of God in bold faith as a defensive or offensive tool. Use it! This “sword” does you no good if you don’t take advantage of it. It guarantees victory over temptation.
You’ll notice in the second temptation that the devil quoted a Scripture verse. Please understand that Satan & evil spirits know the Scriptures and will sometimes use them to tempt people to take a wrong path, just as the devil did with Jesus here. The Messiah recognized that Satan’s usage of this verse conflicted with other truths, of course, and so he cited another passage that gave balance to the matter, which is in line with the hermeneutical rule “Scripture interprets Scripture.”
You can only do this if you’re familiar with the Scriptures, so I encourage you to acquaint yourself with God’s Word more and more by developing a daily reading program. Try different reading plans until you find one that fits your lifestyle and schedule. Change your plan every now and then so it doesn’t get predictable and boring. Also switch translations from time to time; and consider reading plans based on topical studies. Always pray for knowledge, understanding and wisdom before you read and the LORD will bless you (Proverbs 2:1-7).
It’s important as well to understand that the Enemy can tempt you through a person or group who cite Scripture (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). The Jehovah’s False Witnesses are a good example. Yet such a temptation can very well come through people functioning under the tag of whatever camp you favor (Baptist, Evangelical, Charismatic, Reformed, Mainline, Pentecostal, Emergent, etc.). Thankfully, it’s easy to recognize these fakes, if you know for what to look. Speaking of which…
Christ said that false prophets can be recognized by their fruit (Matthew 7:15-23). A false prophet is simply a minister who falsely speaks for God and you can identify them by the fruit they bear. Do they produce fruit of the spirit on a regular basis or works of the flesh? See Galatians 5:19-23. No one is perfect, of course, but what do they habitually produce? And are they willing to humbly ’fess up and apologize when they miss it (1 John 1:8-9). Do they have a spirit of love or a spirit of abuse? Do they build up or tear down? Genuine ministers are called to build up, not tear down (2 Corinthians 10:8 & 13:10). After giving appropriate correction, they build-up and encourage, not condemn. Needless to say, if you observe consistent bad fruit and an unwillingness to keep with repentance in a “minister” then head for the hills (Matthew 15:14).
One last thing on this matter: When you ‘swing’ your sword of the spirit by speaking the truth in bold faith, it doesn’t have to be a word-for-word verse or even a Scripture text at all. It simply has to be truth, which is the way it really is. Say, for example, a wicked spirit whispers in your ear that you’re a no-good piece of excrement who can’t do anything right. You don’t have to quote an exact Scripture to counteract this lie, just speak the truth: “I’m a child of God born of the seed of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit; I was born righteous and can do all things through Him who strengthens me!” Those of you who know the Bible know that this is a personalized paraphrase of several verses.
But, again, you don’t have to cite from Scripture at all to counteract a temptation—whether word-for-word or paraphrasing—as long as what you say is the truth. For instance, we earlier considered the example of a married man who was tempted by a coquettish “hottie” at work. All he has to say to thwart the temptation is the truth: “I am a married man of the Most High God! I love my wife and am faithful to her and God!”
When you do this you’re putting into motion the Law of Displacement, which means that two things cannot occupy the same space at the same time. In this particular case it applies to your thought life. When you experience a tempting thought you counteract it by simply speaking (and thinking) the counteractive truth, which displaces the negative thought. Repeat as necessary. When you do this you’re swinging your sword of the spirit and slicing down the lies of the Enemy.
Another thing you can do is sing praise & worship songs. Blast some music and have a praise & worship session; or, if you’re musically inclined, do it yourself, like David did in the Psalms (e.g. Psalm 8 and 65). Praise & worship is a powerful spiritual weapon because praise ushers in God’s manifest presence and there’s fullness of joy in the presence of the LORD (Psalm 100:4 & 16:11).
Examples of Demonic Head Games
The Bible repeatedly shows that the LORD knows our thoughts, which of course includes the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:11, Psalm 94:11 & Proverbs 20:27). But the devil and his loser minions have no such power. All they can do is determine your weaknesses by observing you and tempt you by shooting ideas into your mind corresponding to the weaknesses of the flesh, like lust, greed, pride, envy, jealousy, fear and doubt.
We know that angels are assigned to people to serve them. It’s the same thing in the kingdom of darkness, except that demons disservice people through misleading, hindering, oppression or possession. In short, they want to ruin people’s lives.
With this in mind, say a demon is assigned to a woman. This spirit cannot read her thoughts, but it can observe her actions and words day & night and so ascertain her fleshly weaknesses. The demon then transmits thoughts into her mind accordingly in the hope of ruining her one way or another. The spirit can also lure into her life the ‘right’ people to assist in the diabolic plot; that is, the wrong people. This is likely what happened with a teenage girl who embraced demonic thoughts and became convinced that she was going to be “taken” one day and her mother & sister would never see her again. She repeated shared this curious belief with her mother & sister. Once the (presumed) evil spirit got her to use the power of her mind in conjunction with the power of her tongue the next step was to inspire the right psychopath to meet her at the wrong time and place. Thus she was apprehended, raped and tragically wiped off the face of the planet.
Now consider the hypothetical woman we talked about last chapter who caused strife in her fellowship due to her envies and jealousies. The demon (or demons) assigned to her would observe that she had issues with envy/jealousy/rivalry and so it would draw into her life the right person or persons who would stir up these fleshly impulses. Meeting these people would produce hostility in her—that is, hatred—and so she would start gossiping and slandering, which would in turn produce discord in the assembly, the precise opposite of what the Lord wants (Psalm 133).
It’s the same thing with that hypothetical married man who was enticed by an alluring woman at work. The wicked spirit (or spirits) assigned to him would notice his penchant for a certain type of female and then lure into his environment the perfect candidate. The man would experience unwholesome impulses from his flesh, particularly when the woman flirts with him. The demon might assist in the temptation by transmitting thoughts into his mind. In other words, this spirit “whispers into his ear” corresponding to the evil desires of his flesh. Once he grabs ahold of the idea and feeds it with his thought life, desire is conceived in his heart and keeps growing as he feeds it. He eventually falls into adultery when the opportunity presents itself.
This is how evil spirits work behind-the-scenes in regards to any type of sin.
Two Real-Life Stories
Let me share a couple real-life examples that I’ve unfortunately witnessed.
I was a teacher at an assembly a decade ago where there was this fatherless preadolescence girl who started calling me her “spiritual father.” She was a wonderful girl—bright, witty and fun. Carol & I never had a daughter so we enjoyed the honor of having a “spiritual daughter.” I’ll call her ‘Melanie.’
Melanie had a somewhat sad situation, but she never let it bring her down in the least: Her father evidently molested her in the form of inappropriate touching a few years earlier and he was essentially no longer in the picture. But she thankfully had a loving, if overly looming, mother.
When Melanie was 13 a new family joined the assembly. The couple had three daughters and one of them was also 13. The two girls started a friendship that soon became problematic. They would gaze into each other’s eyes in an unhealthy manner and walk together curiously close. It became so bad that visitors asked if they were “a couple.” During this time Melanie morphed from a bright, joyful girl into a brooding, lifeless early teen. The dramatic change occurred in a matter of just a few months.
That summer my sister, Jen, visited from California. She knew Melanie from past visits where we enjoyed outings together. I didn’t inform Jen about Melanie’s new friend, their questionable relationship or Melanie’s dark turn, but after sitting by Melanie during a service Jen asked me, “Who was that evil girl?” She was referring to Melanie’s new friend who was hovering behind her the whole time with a grim visage (evidently jealous of Jen sitting by her).
It was eventually discovered why the new family left their former assembly: The daughter had developed the same type of questionable relationships with a couple of girls there and the family was eventually asked to leave when the parents failed to properly control their daughter.
The situation got so bad at our fellowship it was decided that Melanie and her friend were no longer allowed to spend the night at each other’s houses; or even spend time alone together at all.
It goes without saying that any sense of closeness with our former “spiritual daughter” ceased as she fell under the spell of this girl. Shortly later the LORD called us out of this fellowship and four years passed before we received an email from Melanie. She was 18 by this point, on the verge of graduating high school and planning to go to art school. We met for coffee where she sadly confessed to being an atheist and explained away anything having to do with God or Christianity.
What went on “behind the scenes” in this sad situation? In light of the scriptural data we’ve covered, it’s not hard to come up with a probable answer: Melanie was a threat to the Enemy’s kingdom because she was genuinely fruit-bearing and on fire for the Lord. She spread joy to all the people she knew. She was overflowing with great potential. As such, the demonic spirit(s) assigned to her preyed upon her weaknesses. Her biological father had abused her and abandoned the family, but the LORD faithfully supplied my wife & me to help make up for it as her “spiritual parents.” She was home-schooled and the church assembly was small, so she was hungry for a friend her age. Hence evil spirits inspired this family who were in need of a new fellowship to come into the fold where Melanie would meet this girl her age and start a relationship. The demon would ‘whisper in Melanie’s ear’ according to her fleshly weaknesses. The friendship began and quickly descended into sullenness, unhealthy dependency, lesbianism and, ultimately, full-tilt atheism.
It’s a sad story and we continue to intercede for Melanie to come back to the Lord one day. But it shows that everyone will be tested by the enemy, as permitted by the Sovereign LORD, even bright church girls full of fruit of the spirit.
Here’s another real-life story: When I was a young man, shortly out of high school, I hooked up with this singer who was still in school for the purpose of starting a band. I’ll call her Laura. We attended the same mega-church.
While the band thing didn’t work out, I was impressed by Laura’s devotion to God and her genuine evangelistic spirit. She told me several stories about being a witness for Christ at her school and so forth. After graduating high school she quickly went off to college and I fell out of touch with her. Unfortunately, her rock-solid Christian family experienced several serious blows within the course of a year, starting with her father, who was a respected deacon at the fellowship. He committed adultery and the marriage eventually fell apart. Around the same time Laura’s younger sister, who was 17, died in a car wreck. On top of all this her first year at university didn’t go well, to put it mildly. She was assaulted by the wave of ungodly humanism that secular colleges are known for and was date raped. She dropped out of college and came home, but she didn’t return to her former assembly.
A close friend ran into Laura a couple years after these events and said she was palpably bitter. He brought up the Lord, but she didn’t want anything to do with God or Christianity. That was three decades ago and I’m unaware of what happened to her from there.
Both of these sad tales show that no one is exempt from satanic attack. If you’re a threat to the devil’s kingdom you will be attacked. If you fail to take advantage of the armor & weaponry that God has faithfully provided and “fight the good fight of faith” the enemy will take you out, just like these two young women.
Forgive my frankness, but you can’t half-buttocks it with the Lord. I’ve known several guys who got saved and went to church gatherings for a long season, but they never came to a point of taking the things of God seriously enough. They continued to flirt with the flesh and the world to some degree. I’m talking about things like boozing, porn, drugs, smoking, fornication and the like. They ended up losing their marriages, their jobs and basically becoming down-and-out. Three ended up in prison.
But—and this is an important “but”—I’m confident that this will not be the case with you. If you’ve come this far in this book then you obviously have a thirst for knowing the LORD and what God’s Word says about angelic spirits, good and evil, and your responsibility in spiritual warfare as a New Covenant believer.
As insinuated, one of the keys to overcoming the enemy’s attacks is to utilize God’s armor & weaponry, which we’ll go over next chapter. In the meantime let’s address a couple of other demonic strategies. The Bible instructs us to be aware of the devil’s schemes so that we’re not outwitted (2 Corinthians 2:11).
How the Enemy Blinds People’s Minds
The Scriptures show that the Enemy has the power to blind people’s minds:
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
2 Corinthians 4:3-4
The devil & his loser minions don’t want people to comprehend the awesome message of Christ because “it is the power of God that brings salvation” and sets them free (Romans 1:16). Evil spirits therefore veil it “to those who are perishing.”
“Veil” means to hide, conceal or keep secret. How exactly do wicked spirits conceal the gospel to unbelievers? Do they unleash a spiritual fog around their minds? Not literally, but in a sense, yes. They blind people’s minds by implanting an erroneous ideology, which is the result of embracing “deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). More traditional English versions refer to this as “doctrines of demons” or “doctrines of devils” (NASB & KJV). “Doctrines” is another word for teachings or instructions; so “doctrines of demons” simply means teachings or instructions of unclean spirits.
While these false teachings originate from a demon whispering error in someone’s ear, so to speak, they are passed to others through a human agent—someone who’s already blinded by the false indoctrination. The Bible describes such people as “hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:2). Although the context refers to false teachers in the Church, how much more so in the world? Libertine college professors are Exhibit A. As people give ear to these erroneous teachings they naturally develop an ideology; and this indoctrination—this perspective or mindset—blinds them to the good news of the gospel and the truths of the Word of God in general.
To understand how this works, let’s look at…
Notice what the Bible exhorts us to do:
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:5
Christ is the living Word of God who is the truth (John 1:1 & 14:6). So we are to “take captive” thoughts and make sure that they comply with the truth. ‘Truth’ is alétheia (ah-LAY-thee-ah) in the Greek, which means “reality” or “the way it really is.” So we are to take “thoughts” and make sure that they conform to reality. If they don’t comply with the truth then they are ‘weeds’ of unreality and should be purged from the soil of our hearts.
The word ‘thought’ in this passage is noéma in the Greek (NOH-ay-mah). While noéma can refer to thoughts, good or bad, it can also refer to a person’s perspective—mindset, attitude or ideology—which is the result of indoctrination, good or bad. Indoctrination is naturally determined by the doctrine—the teaching or instruction—to which you are regularly exposed. For instance, if you sit under a secular humanist professor long enough and don’t counteract what s/he teaches with the truth of the rightly-divided Word of God (or the truth period) you’ll naturally develop a secular humanist ideology. You’ll then start to live out of this mindset, to one degree or another. The doctrine or teaching you’re exposed to on a regular basis determines your indoctrination, which is your mindset, good or bad. Such a mindset is a noéma.
The Greek word for “doctrine” is didaskalia (did-as-kal-EE-ah). It means teaching or instruction and can be good or bad depending on how true it is or is not. The Bible speaks of sound doctrine (1 Timothy 4:6) and bad doctrine:
Now the Spirit expressly states that in later times some will abandon the faith to follow deceitful spirits and the teachings (didaskalia) of demons,
1 Timothy 4:1 (ESV)
Obviously the teachings of demons aren’t good because demons are evil spirits.
The point is that a person’s mindset or ideology—noéma—is determined by the teachings to which he or she is regularly exposed. Noémas formulate over the course of time as a person is fed information. The longer it takes for a noéma to develop the more imbedded it is in the individual’s psyche.
It is through negative noémas that the enemy “blinds the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light” (2 Corinthians 4:4). The devil has control of their minds—through demonic noémas—and the truth cannot penetrate the indoctrination. To help you visualize this, I went to the Facebook page of a Christian friend I hadn’t seen for 25 years and was surprised by his cover pic. It was a skull with a red dragon wrapped around its head. No doubt he chose this pic because he thought it looked ‘cool’ or whatever, but it’s actually an excellent illustration of how the enemy blinds people’s minds: The red dragon represents the devil and he has control of the person’s mind, which is depicted as a skull and symbolizing death, the natural result of Satan’s misleading.
Notice how 2 Corinthians 10:5 (quoted above) says we are to “take captive” thoughts and mindsets. The Greek for ‘take captive’ literally means to “take captive as a prisoner and interrogate.” The Bible is saying that we should take any perspective we have and honestly & thoroughly examine it, making sure it conforms to reality (the way it really is) rather than unreality (the way it really isn’t). If we discover that the mindset does not comply with reality then we need to throw it out.
This can apply to any doctrine—teaching—you were taught during your formative years as a believer. Just because you were indoctrinated by a particular teaching in a relatively sound sect by a respected pastor doesn’t make the doctrine true. So you need to “interrogate” it in light of reality. Does it comply with the rightly-divided Word of truth and the Spirit of truth (John 17:17 & 16:13)? If not, it needs to be thrown out in favor of whatever the truth is, which is reality.
As noted above, this applies to secular indoctrination as well, such as the godless humanism that’s commonly taught at our secular colleges and universities. Generally speaking, the professors thereof teach that the idea of an intelligent Creator is absurd and thus life is meaningless and you’re just an accident. There’s nothing special about human beings, they say, and we’re basically just animals. And, when ya die, that’s it. The consequences of this kind of brainwashing are devastating—it produces moral rot and an attitude of no respect for life, including one’s own; it encourages living with a temporal perspective (noéma) rather than an eternal one (noéma). Such a hedonistic philosophy can be summed up as: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15:32).
One example of secular indoctrination is homosexuality. While homosexuality was still a crime in much of the USA as of the new millennium, that’s all changed. Now homosexuality is taught to be innate and healthy in our secular culture and people are encouraged to experiment with it and embrace it as a legitimate alternative lifestyle. Our secular mentors are increasingly active homosexuals, like Ellen DeGeneres, Rachel Maddow and Anderson Cooper. Take the first two, for instance: Parents allow their children to sit under them where they’re exposed to their smooth “gay” propaganda and then wonder why some of their offspring eventually embrace the homosexual lifestyle. Notable people who publicly “come out” are commended by celebrities and governing officials alike. Those who refuse to approve of homosexuality, by contrast, are considered evil bigots and punished severely, socially speaking. The truth about homosexuality, however, is that it’s a damning sin and those who unrepentantly practice it will not inherit the kingdom of God. “Do not be deceived,” the Bible warns (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
A believer struggling with this kind of worldly indoctrination or same-sex attraction can take these noémas (mindsets) captive and interrogate them in light of the truth of Scripture and the leading of the Spirit of truth. Since these noémas don’t comply with the truth they need to be purged out of one’s mindset in favor of reality.
As you do this with every thought/impulse/attitude/mindset you purge your heart of falsity and unreality. This is “being made new in the attitude of your mind” (Ephesians 4:22-24).
How to Prevent Demonic Oppression and Possession
There are three effective ways to deflect evil spirits and they’re all taught in this passage:
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
The three ways to keep evil spirits at bay are:
- Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
- Draw near to God.
- Purify your heart.
Let’s look at all three:
Resist the Devil and he will Flee from You
Resisting “the devil” doesn’t mean resisting Satan himself because the devil is, generally speaking, on his throne in the Underworld directing the activities of his dark kingdom. He only personally gets involved in matters that are of great magnitude to him, like tempting Christ to sin (Matthew 4:1-11) or moving Judas to betray Him (John 13:27). When James taught that we are to “resist the devil” he was speaking of the kingdom of darkness in terms of its leader much as historians speak of military aggression in relation to the aggressor nation’s leader, like “Hitler invaded France,” when, in fact, Hitler was nowhere near France. So resisting the devil means resisting the kingdom of darkness and, specifically, the evil spirits that are assigned to oppress you one way or another.
At the time that James wrote this passage he was addressing believers scattered across the nations, but his words apply to all believers scattered across the world throughout the Church Age. We’re called to “resist” evil spirits and their oppression. This means we are to conduct spiritual warfare—confront and overcome enemy attacks by utilizing the armor & arms that God has faithfully supplied us, which we’ll go over next chapter.
Draw Near to God
This simply means to constantly make an effort to come closer to the LORD and corresponds to the first and greatest command: “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).
More than anything else, to draw near to God refers to cultivating a close relationship. The gospel of Christ is called “the message of reconciliation” because it’s all about reconciling to the Creator. To ‘reconcile’ means to turn from enmity to friendship. You must understand that God wants to be your friend (John 15:13-15). Of course, you can’t have friendship without relationship; and relationship demands communion, which is genuine communication. So cultivating a close relationship with God requires developing a prayer life. Prayer is simply communion with God—talking with your Creator—and the foremost form of prayer is simple communion. This is observed in Jesus’ outline for prayer:
9 “This, then, is how you should pray:
‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’ ”
This is typically referred to as “the Lord’s prayer” and people sometimes pray it word-for-word, particularly when the occasion calls for a brief scriptural prayer, like ceremonies. This is fine, but it’s really not a prayer to be spoken by rote. It’s actually an outline of different types of prayer. In other words, it’s a prayer skeleton that needs to be filled in with the “flesh” of our spontaneous prayers according to our unique expressions, communion, needs or desires and the specific people or situations touching us.
The outline can be broken down as such:
- Our Father in heaven = Communion or fellowship with God.
- Hallowed be your name = Praise & worship.
- Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven = Binding & loosing or intercession, that is, releasing God’s will and kingdom into people’s lives and situations on Earth, including your own (as explained in Chapter 6).
- Give us today our daily bread = Petition, that is, praying for your needs and righteous desires.
- Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors = Repentance, venting, and forgiveness where applicable.
- And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one = Armoring up, protection, watchfulness, speaking in faith, and deliverance.
- For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen = Return to praise and close.
As you can see, each part of “the Lord’s Prayer” refers to a specific type of prayer.
Let’s consider the first two types, as they apply to our topic:
Our Father in Heaven refers to communion with God since the believer is addressing God as his or her “Father.” ‘Father’ indicates familial relation and relationship requires communication, hence fellowship. Christianity at its core is a relationship with the Creator of the Universe, which is why the gospel is referred to as the message of reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 5:18-20. I encourage all believers to cultivate an intimate relationship with their heavenly Father where you’re in constant communion throughout the day, even when you’re in bed (Psalm 63:6). Paul referred to this as “praying without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 KJV) and the “fellowship of the Holy Spirit” (2 Corinthians 13:14).
Please notice, by the way, that Jesus instructed us to pray to the Father, not to Him (Matthew 6:9). Praying to the Father in the name of Jesus is prayer protocol (John 16:23).
Hallowed be Your Name refers to praise & worship. To ‘hallow’ means to honor as holy and venerate, that is, treat with respect and reverence. God’s name—YaHWeH—represents the Creator Himself so we are to hallow the Great “I Am” (Exodus 3:13-14). The only way you can accomplish this in prayer is by telling him. Praise is celebration and includes thanksgiving, raving and boasting, whereas worship is adoration. Praise naturally attracts God’s presence and is in accordance with the law of respect: What you respect moves toward you while what you don’t respect moves away from you. Worship, on the other hand, is adoration or awe, and is the response to being in God’s presence. See Psalm 95:1-7 and Psalm 100 for verification.
We could further differentiate praise & worship as such: Praise celebrates God whereas worship humbly reveres Him; praise lifts God up while worship bows when He is lifted; praise dances before God whereas worship pulls off His shoes; praise extols God for what He’s done while worship adores Him for who He is; praise says “Praise the Lord” whereas worship demonstrates that He is Lord; praise is thanksgiving for being a co-heir in Christ while worship lays the crown at His feet.
Every believer is called to deeper praise & worship. It will literally revolutionize your life, as it has mine and continues to do so.
It’s no accident that communion with God and praise & worship are the first two kinds of prayer Jesus mentions in his outline (Matthew 6:9-13). They’re simply the most important. After all, what does the average father or mother want to hear from their children, particularly as the children grow and develop? Not, “Gimme, gimme,” but rather simple communion: “Hi Dad! How are you doing today? You’re awesome!” “Do you have time? I’d like to just hang out with you.” “Mother, I have something I’ve been thinking a lot about and I’d like to share it with you to see what you think.” “Mom, you’re so beautiful!” “Dad, tell me more about that project you’re working on; it’s lookin’ great so far.” Etcetera. If this is the kind of communion our earthly parents prefer, why would we think it’s any different with our heavenly Father?
You can have these types of conversations with God throughout the day, every day—when you wake up in bed, when you’re in the shower, when you’re driving, when you’re walking down the hall, in the evening, etc. As noted earlier, Paul referred to this as “praying without ceasing” and the “fellowship of the Holy Spirit.”
We have to get away from the idea that we only encounter God when we go to church gatherings once or twice a week. This is an Old Testament mentality in the sense that the Israelites had to go to the Temple in order to meet with the LORD, as far as His presence on Earth goes. And, even then, He was hidden in the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant was located (see this teaching for details).
Purify Your Heart
Demons are “unclean spirits” or “impure spirits,” which means filthy spirits. As such, they’re naturally attracted to that which is morally filthy. They are drawn to moral filth much as flies are attracted to excrement and rats to refuse. By contrast, the Holy Spirit and holy angels are attracted to that which is holy. “Holy” means absolutely purity, the natural result of being consecrated unto the absolutely pure Creator.*
* I was at a church Bible study once where the associate pastor insisted that ‘holy’ doesn’t refer to purity, but rather “consecrated unto God.” I understandably asked: So when God is worshipped by the seraphim and living creatures in Heaven as “Holy, holy holy is the LORD” (Isaiah 6:3 & Revelation 4:8) what these angels are really saying is “Consecrated unto God, Consecrated unto God, consecrated unto God is the LORD”? This of course is nonsensical and the pastor had no answer; moreover he was upset that his definition of ‘holy’ was shown to be dubious.
This shows why the Bible instructs us to “get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you” (James 1:21). Doing this repels evils spirits because they’re repelled by holiness and attracted to filthiness.
Yet notice that James didn’t just say to get rid of the moral filth and evil, he also said to “humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” He was talking about the Word of God planted in believers through the teaching & preaching of Holy Scripture, which includes James’ very epistle. Remember, in the 1st century they didn’t have Bibles in book form available to every believer and so they relied on the teaching & preaching of the apostles, pastors and teachers who ministered to them. This included any epistles that might pass through their assemblies.
Why does James say “humbly accept” the Word planted in you? Because it “can save you.” ‘Save’ is the Greek word sozo (SOHD-zoh), which in this context means to rescue from the power of sin. James was teaching the “put off/put on” principle: Put off the moral filth and displace it with the truth. This corresponds to the law of displacement. As you do this you’ll be transformed as you’re “made new in the attitude of your mind”:
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
To “put off your old self” means to put off the sinful nature. The works of the flesh are obvious (Galatians 5:19-23). When you miss it, be quick to humbly ’fess up and the LORD will forgive you and cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-9). John the Baptist called this “keeping with repentance” (Matthew & Luke 3:8). The repentance/ forgiveness dynamic is fundamental to your walk with the Lord because it enables you to 1. get back up when you fall, 2. receive God’s forgiveness, 3. have your slate wiped clean, and 4. continue to progress forward.
However, James’ admonition to “get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent” shows that putting off the old self is more than just repenting of sins committed, it’s also a matter of getting rid of anything that contributes to falling into sin, which includes anything that attracts filthy spirits.
For instance, I’ve thrown away entire secular album collections because I sensed some of their dubious lyrics and imagery were holding me back. I was being led by the Holy Spirit to consecrate myself to the LORD further than I already was at the time. I’ve likewise thrown away movies for this same reason. I encourage believers to regularly take inventory of their possessions—the items to which they expose their eyes and ears—and purge as directed.
When I was a young Christian I had several posters on the wall of my bedroom at my parents’ home that were ‘sword & sorcery’ in nature. I defended them on the grounds that the images were typically of warriors fighting demonic-type creatures. My brother-in-law, however, was visibly taken aback by them and argued that they could attract demonic spirits. While I didn’t necessarily believe this—since they depicted mighty warriors fighting evil beings—I decided to take the dubious art down in favor of more agreeable and Christian-oriented works. I didn’t regret the decision.
I know people who are essentially “stuck in a rut” of the past because they stubbornly refuse to move on from the art, music and accouterments with which they grew up. Please don’t misunderstand me here because God’s call on each person is different and the Lord often leads believers to stay within the culture or sub-culture with which they’re familiar (1 Corinthians 7:17-24). Why? Because the best way to reach people in a culture is through believers from that culture who are familiar with it. They speak the same language and therefore people can more readily relate to them and hence receive from them. Nevertheless, if there are certain things that you sense are bogging you down spiritually you need to either remove them from your life or, at least, limit your exposure to them. Of course, if something’s leading you into error or sin you need to get rid of it altogether.
In the early 2000s I read this book on ridding your home of spiritual darkness. The author argued that certain items can be cursed in the sense that impure spirits are attached to the articles and thus having such a cursed item in your house provides a door for that demon to oppress you one way or another. He didn’t give much scriptural support and so I was skeptical—and still am—but some of it made sense in light of what we’ve gone over in this article: Demons seek places that are dry of God and are attracted to that which is morally filthy, including occult-oriented objects or items that support the occult. They’re also attracted to objects of literal idolatry. In fact, the Bible says that demons are the entities behind the ‘gods’ that idols represent (1 Corinthians 10:19-22). Therefore those who worship idols are, in reality, worshipping demons! Needless to say, purge anything that has to do with idol worship from your household.
During the days of the early Church, articles that Paul touched, like handkerchiefs and aprons, “were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them” (Acts 19:11-12). It was the same thing with Peter’s shadow (Acts 5:15-16). These things had the anointing of God on them and thus physically or mentally ill people exposed to them were healed and demons fled! A good example from the Old Testament would be Elisha’s bones (2 Kings 13:20-21). These various items were blessed as conduits of God’s power. Could the inverse also be true? Could certain items be cursed with a demonic non-anointing? If the former is true with the kingdom of light, isn’t it possible—even likely—that the reverse is also true with the kingdom of darkness? So don’t take chances with dubious articles—purge yourself and your abode of anything questionable!
Let me share a couple of personal examples: In 2001 I purchased this wooden jungle mask while on vacation in Mexico and displayed it on our living room wall. Of course, I valued it as nothing more than an exotic piece of art, but I finally decided to discard it simply because I didn’t want anything in my house to attract evil spirits, not that there was any evidence of the mask doing this. I just felt that biblically-oriented art would be more appropriate for my dwelling.
It was the same thing with these little elephant figurines that my sister innocently sent me from one of her trips abroad. My stepson informed us that they were actually idols in India, so I promptly threw ’em out. I realize that things like this come down to a person’s heart and if the individual in question doesn’t perceive the object in an occultist or idolatrous manner there’s likely no problem. But, why even take the chance? As Paul said: “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons” (1 Corinthians 10:21).
Consider how Solomon decorating the Holy Temple in Jerusalem with godly art, like cherubim, (1 Kings 6:23-29). Fill your dwelling place with items that attract the Holy Spirit & holy angels and repel filthy spirits. Get rid of anything morally dubious. Amen?
Now relate this principle to the abode of your body & mind. YOU are a temple of God — a living, breathing house of God (1 Corinthians 3:16). What’s ‘decorating’ the walls of your mind & heart? This offers additional insight to James’ admonition to purify our hearts.
‘You Kids Stay Off Drugs!’
Drugs played a vital role in ancient cults with their lifeless prayers to their gods—that is, demons—at pagan shrines and the magic empowered by these lying spirits. Sorcerers and witches used drugs in their spells, which explains something about the words “witchcraft” or “sorcery” used in Paul’s list of the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21. The original Greek term is pharmakeia (far-mah-KIH-ah) and is where we get the words pharmacy and pharmaceutical. It literally means “drugs” or “medication” and only refers to magic by extension due to witches and magicians using drugs in their spells. As a work of the flesh, pharmakeia concerns any and all drug-related sins, which includes drug experimentation, drug abuse, drug trafficking, etc.
Needless to say, we should shun drugs if we want to avoid demonic influence, oppression and possession. This includes doctor-approved meds that you don’t really need, which doctors perpetually prescribe in order to keep the pharmaceutical biz thriving more than anything else.
The enemy uses witchcraft (including supposed “white” witchcraft), sorcery, séances, Ouija boards, and all occult-oriented activities to open a person up to demonic influence on a more personal basis, with partial or total possession being the goal.
Are there Spirits of Certain Sins, like Lust?
Christ said that some demons are more wicked than others (Matthew 12:45), but did he mean more wicked in general or more wicked in regard to a particular sin? I assume the former.
In any case, just as people are assigned heavenly angels (Matthew 18:10) so individuals are presumably assigned evils spirits on behalf of the kingdom of darkness. Just as angels are watchers, as detailed in this article, so demons are watchers. And it wouldn’t take long for an evil spirit assigned to a person to discern what his/her fleshly weaknesses are, whether envy, jealousy, hatred, arrogance, strife, greed, lust, perversion, alcohol, drugs, sloth, fear, doubt, depression, etc. Once a demon determines the carnal proclivity, it then “works with” the person to get him or her to live according to their carnal weakness, whatever that is.
It must be stressed, again, that devils never make a person sin except in cases where someone is wholly possessed, which—as covered last chapter—is something that takes place down the road, after a person has already significantly conceded to the corrupt desires of the flesh. The Bible makes it clear that sin is the result of one’s “own evil desire” and so no one can claim ‘The devil made me do it’ (James 1:14-15). Consider, for example, when Satan tempted Christ: The Enemy knew Jesus was weak & hungry from fasting so he slyly proposed that he turn the rocks into bread and partake, but the devil couldn’t make Him do anything (Matthew 4:1-4). All evil spirits can do is tempt. The decision to commit evil or not comes down to the will of the individual.
If a demon successfully tempts a person and gets him/her into the habitual practice of sin it would eventually attract other evil spirits because filthy spirits are naturally drawn to that which is morally filthy. While these spirits may be attracted to the specific sin in question, they may just as well be attracted to sin in general. Whatever the case, a satanic bondage to the sin thus develops.
Thankfully, there’s freedom in Christ (John 8:31-32), but it doesn’t come through rebuking a demon of a particular sin, like a “spirit of alcohol” or a “spirit of gossip” or a “spirit of homosexuality.” Although there’s nothing wrong with authoritatively saying “Away from me, foul spirit” if you discern you’re under severe temptation; after all, Jesus did this (Matthew 4:10). Freedom from sin comes through 1. being spiritually regenerated (if the person isn’t saved) and 2. knowing and applying the relevant truths of God’s Word, as detailed above—putting off the evil desires of the flesh and learning to live out of your new nature by the Holy Spirit, which includes renewing the mind (Ephesians 4:22-24).
Notice how the Lord said freedom is attained:
Then Jesus said to those who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
John 8:31-32 (NRSV)
So acquiring the truth and putting it into practice is what sets people free, not verbally rebuking a demon of such-and-such sin. As the individual who is struggling with a particular sin acquires truth and puts it into practice any evil spirit oppressing him or her will eventually flee and seek easier game (James 4:7).* But the person has to be diligent with the things of the spirit because demons are going to fight tooth & nail to keep an individual in bondage to the sin in question. Life’s a fight, fight it.
* This brings up a question: If a demon is assigned to an individual, where would it flee to if it leaves that particular person? We can only theorize based on the biblical data: Obviously demons aren’t assigned to one individual and that’s it. For instance, people eventually die and new people are born. Evil spirits are assigned to human candidates within a territory and they naturally go where their efforts are proving fruitful. The demoniac from the Gerasenes, for instance, had hundreds or thousands of demons in him. Also keep in mind that only a third of the angels fell with Satan, so there’s a limit to their numbers.
Of course, in cases where a person is partially or fully possessed he/she would have to first be exorcized of the demon(s), followed by the applicable 2-step process above.
In the previous chapter we saw that the word ‘spirit’ does not always mean a spiritual entity; it can simply refer to a person’s character, as in Joshua had “a different spirit” than the other Hebrews (Numbers 14:24). So whereas I think it’s unbiblical to say that a person has a spirit of a particular sin in reference to demonic spirits, you could say that s/he has a spirit of such-and such sin in regards to their developed character. For instance: “Mark has a spirit of lust,” “Carrie has a spirit of lying,” “Alex has a spirit of rage” or “Zach has a spirit of legalism.” This simply means that they’ve developed the character of the sin in question due to habitually giving-in to the flesh in that particular area. This is true in regards to noémas (mindsets/ideologies) as well. For instance, someone can have a spirit of liberalism.
It is biblical, however, to rebuke a “spirit of infirmity” if you genuinely discern that a person’s disability is induced by a demon or demons. Examples include a crippling problem (Luke 13:11,16), deafness and muteness (Mark 9:25) or mental illness (Mark 5:1-8). Of course, not all infirmities are directly caused by evil spirits, so you have to have spiritual discernment to effectively minister in these cases. And the only way you can do this is to have genuine spiritual sensitivity, which comes by drawing closer to the LORD, as well as eagerly desiring gifts of the Spirit rather than eagerly denying them (1 Corinthians 12:1,31 & 14:1,39). If you’re not sure if a spirit is behind the infirmity in question, simply rebuke the ailment itself, as Jesus did (Luke 4:39). As a believer and co-heir in Christ you have the authority to do the works the Messiah did (John 14:12). So get in the habit of boldly declaring your authority in Christ, take charge over any sickness and command it to leave. We’ll look at this further in the next two chapters.
For more details on dealing with spirits of infirmities see the final section of this article.
We’ve explored how to deflect evil spirits in this article, closing with the three simple yet effective ways to repel demons—1. resist their attacks, 2. draw near to God and 3. purify your heart. Actually, God has provided an easy, surefire means to achieve this. I’m talking about the Armor & Weaponry of God.
This article was edited from Dirk’s book ANGELS, which is available for just over $12 here (345 pages); or, if you prefer, you can get the eBook version here for only $2.99. Both links allow you to “Look inside” the book.
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