EDITORS’ NOTE: Today is the fourth day in a week-long series of columns on bilical doctrine by former LifeWay Christian Resources President Jimmy Draper. Today’s column accompanies another column on the same subject. The series coincides with “Baptist Doctrine Study” week within the Southern Baptist Convention.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–It’s easy for us to go to extremes when dealing with the demonic. Satan wants us not to believe in the demonic at all, or to become so obsessed with the subject that we see demons everywhere. The spiritually mature position is a balanced one that recognizes the power and presence of the demonic and our need for deliverance from demonic oppression. At the same time we should not overemphasize this subject to the point of forgetting our primary mission of being Great Commission Christians and leading people to faith in Christ.
Scripture strongly emphasizes the fact that mankind requires deliverance and protection from demonic forces. We are at war. But God has given us victory in this war by our salvation and in the armor that He provides to each of us (Ephesians 6:10-18). Paul gives the strong command “to take your stand.” The armor that God provides is defensive rather than offensive. According to verse 18, prayer is the actual conflict in which victory is realized.
We must continually celebrate our position in Christ. “So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11). That is our position. When we celebrate our position in Christ we become an instrument of victory wherever we go. “But thanks be to God, who always puts us on display in Christ, and spreads through us in every place the scent of knowing Him” (2 Corinthians 2:14). We do these things in the strength that the Lord gives us in the armor He has provided.
How can we be delivered from demonic attacks in our lives as Christians?
1. Confess every known sin as soon as God points them out to us.
2. Repudiate any Satanic or demonic stronghold in our lives. Any compromise with Satan must be consciously rejected (Acts 19:13-20).
3. We must consciously and specifically claim Jesus Christ as Lord and submit to His Lordship as we claim the armor He has provided.
4. In Christ we have authority over demonic forces. So we must claim James 4:7, “Therefore, submit to God. But resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.”
Of great concern to every sincere believer is how we can help others — the rebuking of demonic powers in believers, and in some instances expelling a demonic presence in unbelievers. Sometimes the entrenchment of demonic forces requires help from others. This is a very emotional and exhausting experience for the individual. It should be done in seclusion when possible and always with more than one person involved in order to assist the process. Every rebuke and expelling should be done in the Name and under the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. Only obedient and submissive servants of our Lord should assist.
This is not, of course, the same as a so-called Roman Catholic exorcism. Our only basis of victory over such evil powers is our union with the Lord Jesus Christ and our close fellowship with Him. The only hope for an unbeliever to be free from demonic oppression is the Gospel. We have authority over evil spirits because we are seated with Christ in the heavens, far above every “ruler and authority, power and dominion, and every title given” (Ephesians 1:21; 2:6). I have no intention of instructing you on how to deliver someone from demonic forces. No one becomes “expert” in deliverance ministry.
One crucial question must be considered. Can a Christian be demon-possessed? The answer is an emphatic “NO!” The Holy Spirit indwells the believer, and no demon can expel Him and possess the believer. The believer is a child of God and is held in the hand of the Son, and the Father, for they are One (John 10:28-30).
Believers, however, can give a foothold or a make a place for demonic forces in their lives (Ephesians 4:27). This gives liberty for the demons to work chaos and wreak havoc within a life, bringing devastating doubt and confusion into a believer’s heart. This explains how some believers can fall into tragic sin and how some could even commit suicide. We must not give Satan any place in our lives.
Once a person is freed from demonic powers through the power of the Gospel and fellowship with Christ, it is vital to develop a dynamic spiritual resistance to all forms of evil. Consistent Bible study is basic and fellowship in a dynamic church that stands upon the Word of God is necessary. We need each other and draw strength from each other.
Who we surround ourselves with is important. We may think we can strengthen others weaker than ourselves and surround ourselves with those who do not share our values. But we must have as our closest associates and friends those who love the Lord and walk with Him. Without that strength, we will invariably be the one who is weakened spiritually, rather than the spiritually rebellious ones being lifted up. Of course, we should share the Gospel and build relationships with lost and unspiritual individuals, but our closest relationships should be with those who share our faith in Christ and our submission to His Lordship in our lives.
Here are some conclusions we can draw about demons and deliverance:
1. Demons are real and active in our world today.
2. Demon possession is more obvious in some pagan cultures, but it is not uncommon even in our own culture.
3. Violent emotions and actions, compulsions of all kinds, and habitual evil habits are some of the characteristics that may indicate demonic oppression or possession.
4. A life of open sin and continuous rebellion against the Holy Spirit and in disobedience to the Word of God is an open invitation to demonic activity.
5. Any toying with or careless use of the occult is an open door to the demonic.
6. Some sickness and other physical problems are caused by demonic activity, but not all.
7. One supreme expression of demonic activity is false and heretical doctrine.
8. Doubt, depression and temptation can be a result of demonic activity.
9. The mind, body, heart, will and conscience are targets of demons.
10. When rebuke or expelling is necessary, it should be done in the name and power of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is always best to have several mature, caring and committed believers involved.
11. We need to maintain balance in dealing with the demonic. Some of the problems that demons can cause are also caused by rebellion and disobedience to God. We must be careful not to attribute to Satan what is discipline from the Lord. And our focus must always be on the worldwide mandate to “make disciples” rather then spending all our time focusing on our enemy, the Devil.
12. The Lord Jesus Christ is Himself our strength and power. He assures us victory over Satan and all the powers of evil.
Jimmy Draper is the former president of LifeWay Christian Resources.