There are many ongoing theological debates amongst Christians, one of which I've been looking into lately is: can Christians be possessed by the devil, demons & evil spirits? Jim Osman, in his series, Spiritual Warfare: Truth or Territory (American Gospel); Justin Peters Ministries (Christ Alone: American Gospel), Matt Mcmillan Ministries & Doreen Virtue all say an emphatic "No!" & advise against deliverance ministries. Quoting scripture such as:
...having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise...(Eph. 1:13)
We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him. (1 John 5:18)
"...does not sin..." is the key phrase in the second verse (I'll briefly touch on the first verse later). Jesus is the only one born of God who does not sin! Therefore, Jesus is the only one not touched by the evil one. Living in this fallen, sinful world of duality, we can't avoid being influenced & impacted by the knowledge of both good & evil.
While I definitely also have major concerns about large, showy deliverance ministries, I also can't help but wonder & even doubt that those advising against 'deliverance ministries' in general, have contended with extremely painful/limiting & persistent circumstances or experiences not sorted out by other means, either secular (e.g. psychological & medical help) or 'ordinary' Christian practices (e.g. repentance, Bible study, prayer & obedience). The 'out there' intensity of massive healing gatherings at mega churches (e.g. Benny Hinn; Kenneth Copeland & Joel Osteen) demonstrate how greedy, power-hungry so called Christian leaders, take advantage of people who are desperate for health & freedom. We must understand that while it's true that Christians are FREE IN SPIRIT with eternal life in Christ ("...sealed with the Holy Spirit...) we are not yet fully free in body & soul. The Holy Spirit indwelling, works His way into all our dark parts (those damaged by evil & sin) to heal & resurrect us whole, amen!
I want to add a contrasting point to what I've said above that I haven't heard from those advising against deliverance ministries: the value of the concept of deliverance. It can be very empowering for people who are ill, injured, disabled or struggling with addiction, to have an external force to fight against to help them overcome their situation rather than let whatever hardship they are going through, kill them. To frame cancer as ‘an attack of the devil’ can help people rally & fight for their life instead of easily becoming too passive to survive in the face of extremely challenging symptoms & medications that makes them feel even worse.
These well-known deliverance leaders I've mentioned above are simply 'moving peoples' energy'. By that, I mean they are re-arranging a person's broken pieces, which looks fancy & dramatic. It's possible that a few people get lasting healing from the belief that it will help but what about those who pay large sums of money to bring their dying child but get nothing in return?
Backing up a bit, on the other hand, a constant, long term battle against ‘the enemy’ can can be exhausting & demoralizing. How does one reconcile dying in peace if they succumb to being 'defeated by the devil' as Beni Johnson died of cancer last year, for example? Furthermore, we are taught by Jesus to: “…love your enemies…” (Matthew 5:44). Yet it is true that Amos said: “Hate evil & love good…” (5:15). I conclude like Paul (Philippians 4:8) that we must look for, submit to, find, create & focus on God & all that is good, especially in our most challenging situations & by doing this, we resist (squash/minimize the effects of) evil (James 4:7).
The evil one, also called ‘the thief’ (John 10:10) & ‘father of lies’ (John 8:44) is not omnipresent (as God is) but he doesn’t have to be to do his work of stealing, killing & destroying. He doesn’t have to possess or even ‘infest’ people to oppress & destroy them. He works by stealing the TRUTH & convincing people of that which brings suffering & quickens death. Using physiological & psychological (somatic) means, he creates "strongholds" which confirm peoples’ worst nightmares. He uses common human experiences of accidents/injuries, illness, bullying/abuse, poverty, isolation, physical & emotional pain (e.g. fear, shame, guilt, loneliness, frustration, & anger) to get us to destroy ourselves by believing lies such as the following (these 'thoughts' come from somatic imprints):
1. This illness will continue because it’s impossible to completely stop sinning (& be untouchable by the wicked one).
Biblical Truth that opposes this lie:
And His disciples asked Him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?" Jesus answered, "It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him." (John 9:2-3)
2. I’ll never be ‘good enough’ to be well or well enough to do enough good.
Biblical truth that combats this lie:
Thankfully God has given us clear instructions on how to 'overcome ourselves' by inviting Him in rather than by trying to be 'good enough'. The sense of not being good enough runs deep, probably into our DNA, causing all kinds of problems such as working to exhaustion, addiction & other forms of idolatry.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, (Eph. 2:8)
Now may the God of peace ... equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 20-21)
3. Life isn’t worth living with such ongoing pain. I'm useless much of the time yet taking up God's valuable resources.
Biblical Truth against this lie:
But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring about as it is this day, to save many people alive. (Genesis 50:20)
while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Cor. 4:18
The evil one ‘reminds’ those like me who’ve been sick for a long time that we're 'good for nothing wastes of space' --more lies! Over the course of life, through our experiences, evil & sin plant ‘seeds of lies’ within our bodies & psyches & then can pretty much leave us to it except for checking in from time to time to make sure we stay on their 'program'. Unintentionally, we unfortunately often make some lies come 'true' to some degree.
But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. (Matthew 13:25)
These lies can fester & infect us, especially when we’re caught up in difficult circumstances. And, if we don’t have enough TRUTH already planted, rooted & well established within good soil, these ‘seeds of lies’ grow into massive, invasive weeds (e.g. parts of our personality & more difficult life circumstances such as poverty & addiction), that choke out truth, take over & eventually can take us down & out of life. The ultimate goal of satan's lies is our total destruction.
We should aim to hear & know God's Biblical word of TRUTH at least one hundred fold more often as a positive 'counterweight' to the lies of the wicked one. To live from a place of: "Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” we must not let our experiences dominate or dictate reality or tell us what is true. Instead, we must renew our mind by letting the TRUTH of scripture inform our experience. For instance, these two Bible verses surely tell us we can & ought to "move mountains" from getting in our way of living a gloriously Godly life.
For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. (Mark 1-:23-24)
Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it (the demon) out?” And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. (Matthew 17:20)
Many of satan's ‘seeds of lies’ get planted early in life & most of the time seem harmless or dormant while our lives are going well. They germinate & grow quickly when things don’t go as we hope & especially if we become disabled by pain & other symptoms. Regardless of whether these lies are inactive or wreaking havoc, whenever we get ourselves into harmonious union with God, we are blessed to be having a 'Garden of Eden' moment. As soon as we listen to the temptations (e.g. lies, 'God-doubts') of the evil one & choose to eat whichever 'forbidden fruit' he's selling us, we (once again) fall from the place of deep presence with the Lord. Fortunately, we do not fall out of God's hands or out of His mercy & grace! For we know the TRUTH:
...that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
And we hold fast to:
casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5)
The Psalms most certainly are 'a place of abundance' that the Lord brings me to during trials & refinement. To those going through times of insurmountable challenge, reading Thy Word literally releases THE POWER of GOD to deliver us from "the snare of the trapper" (Psalm 91:3) & for many other things. I will spend my eternal life savoring the marrow of The Psalms. Here are just a few of many gems:
"For the Lord God is a sun & shield; the Lord gives grace & glory; no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly." (Psalm 84:11)
"The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth." (Psalm 145:18)
"Bless the Lord, O my soul ... who heals all your diseases ... " (Psalm 103:2-3)
"This is my comfort in my affliction, that Thy word has revived me." (Psalm 119:50)
"On God my salvation & my glory rest; the rock of my strength, my refuge is in God." (Psalm 62:7)
"God is to us a God of deliverances & to God the Lord belong escapes from death." (Psalm 68:20)
"For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime ... " (Psalm 30:5)
"Lovingkindness & truth have met together; righteousness & peace have kissed each other. Truth springs from the earth ... & our land will yield its produce." (Psalm 85:10-12)
"Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips. Do not incline my heart to any evil thing ... " (Psalm 141:3-4)
"I will awaken the dawn!" (Psalm 57:8)
"The stream of God is full of water..." (Psalm 65:9)
"Light is sown like seed for the righteous & gladness for the upright in heart." (Psalm 97:11)
"And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water ..." (Psalm 1:3)
"How sweet are Thy words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" (Psalm 119:103)
Furthermore, I also greatly appreciate the refreshing 'holistic realness' of David's pleas throughout the Psalms, voicing not only praise but his concerns as well. He shows us the way of authentic, vulnerable worship in declaring his troubles & feeling abandoned by God. Even Jesus, God himself, while on the cross, expressed that He too went through this experience, quoting David (Psalm 22:1) He said: "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" - "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34).
"How long, O Lord? Wilt Thou forget me forever? How long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me?" (Psalm 13:1)
"Thou hast made Thy people experience hardship; Thou hast given us wine to drink that makes us stagger." (Psalm 60:3)
"O Lord, the God of my salvation, I have cried out by day & in the night before Thee. Let my prayer come before Thee; Incline Thine ear to my cry! For my soul has had enough troubles & my life has drawn near to Sheol." (Psalm 88:1-3)
Not until we are 'poor in spirit' ("The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken & a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise." Psalm 51:17) & humbly ask God: "Lead me to the rock that is higher than I" (Psalm 61:2) do we intimately understand "That power belongs to God ..." (Psalm 62:11)
I found this photo from the 80s showing the car that my Granny Joyce loaned to my Mom. With renewed fondness, I remember the bumper sticker on it: READ THE BOOK - love it! We don't know what Godly magic Thy Word will insert into our lives until we read it. Thank you God & Granny, amen.
Dear Lord, I pray for us sinners & for those who some might consider the last to ever come to Christ. Not only the naysayers but those whose hearts have completely hardened, crumbled into dust & blown away. Lost souls...but not forever. Only you can restore such deep chasms, re-form dust & soften stone into new flesh ("I will give you a new heart & put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone & give you a heart of flesh." --Ezekiel 36:26).
God, I pray also for all the good & caring people who think God is 'just religious make believe', not possibly true or relevant in "today's world". It takes just a tiny spark of hope (like the possibility of lighting a match) for your flame of warmth, truth & beauty to envelop & bring us evermore fully into your love & understanding. In your sovereignty & justice, I trust in your giving each of us the opportunities ('the matches') we need to step ever closer into your glory, amen.
To move forward, we must first remember Christ. Only in Christ, can we look at our own & others' sins from His purifying eyes & redeeming heart. Made new & holy, forgiven, we forgive & move forward, changed by grace in Christ, amen!
Balaam shows us that with his mind, he can not see the angel of the Lord but his donkey (which represents his body) not only sees the angel but becomes the voice of the Lord's message. People often stay overly focused on worldly pursuits and ultimately discontented because “The god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4). So why not read The Word as if you believe and see what happens?
As I consistently commit to God in tangible ways, my connection with His will strengthens. Fairly often this seems slow and invisible, like growing roots of a tree, nevertheless, I feel it. But do my actions & in-actions further God's Kingdom -- whether I'm supporting a loved one, making art or I'm held up by debilitating symptoms, or repenting my sins? Starting each day with prayer "Lord please fill & fuel me with your divine purpose" makes it all for something, sharing God's forgiveness, holiness and eternal life.
"... this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." (John 17:3) Amen.