There are many things connected with demons that we do not know because the Bible does not give detailed explanation about them. It would be wrong to assume that we should accept only what is clearly given in the Bible because the Bible is not even intended to have an exhaustive coverage about every subject. There are many things people discover when they are actually engaged in spiritual warfare. But, at the same time, we cannot accept everything that those people say without checking to see if what they are saying is in agreement with the Bible. Many people, who are involved in the deliverance ministry, come up with several teachings that are based on their own assumptions about their experiences or what they have learnt from demons themselves. Surely demons are known to be liars and deceivers and we cannot rely on what they seem to be revealing. We need to check them out with what the Bible teaches as principles and guidelines. In other words, we have to expect that we will come to know many practical details when we actually deal with demonisation, but our interpretation must be based on Biblical teachings. It would be wrong to take the extreme positions of assuming there are no demons or imagining that demons are responsible for everything that goes wrong. The truth is that there is a battle that we are engaged in with demons and their powers, even if we are not aware of them. We need to know how not to give place to the devil in our lives and how to resist him if we are attacked. If we are also involved in ministering to others, we must also seek to develop discernment and understanding about how to deal with different situations. Finally, it is not a matter of techniques, but the clarity of our heart, our faith and trust in the love, wisdom, power and authority of Jesus and a willingness to be led by the Holy Spirit.
What Is Spiritual Warfare?
In a broad sense, spiritual warfare refers to our battle with everything that hinders us in our spiritual life—from growing in grace, partaking of the nature of Christ and fulfilling the ministry that God has for us. We are tempted to do wrong because we have certain strong desires in our ‘flesh.’ This word flesh (Greek sarx) is not the same as body (Greek soma), but is a word used especially in the New Testament to refer to the sinful nature we are born with (Psa.51:5). We are born with many strong desires and passions in our flesh (Gal.5:24; Eph.2:3; 2Pet.2:10) which draw us to sin (Jas.1:14). These, of course, become stronger with use. The things of the ‘world’ attract us through these desires, and Satan also tries to connect with us through them. Spiritual warfare involves dealing with all these ‘attacks’ against a godly way of life which God wants for us. There is much writing available on the subject of dealing with our desires and the attractions of the world. But many Christians are not sufficiently aware of the way Satan and his demons attack Christians. Therefore, the focus here will be on dealing with attacks from satanic forces.
From the time Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit, all of us have been born in sin. Our nature is inclined towards sin right from conception, and we start fighting, telling lies, etc., without even having to learn sinful things from others around us. The Bible tells us that there are sinful lusts and desires in our ‘flesh’ (Rom.13:14; Gal.5:24). We are tempted when these desires entice us to do sinful things that are displeasing to God. We sin when we yield to these temptations (Jas.1:14,15). Even if there was no Satan or demons (evil spirits) to tempt us, these desires would have tempted us, and a lot of our battle is with these temptations.
Satan and his demons also tempt us. We know clearly about at least three temptations Jesus faced directly from Satan, and we also know that Jesus was in fact tempted in all points in the same way that we are tempted (Heb.4:15). We may not be important enough for Satan to come and tempt us personally, but for us temptations coming through any of the demons are just the same. They tempt us by suggesting something to us in our mind, knowing that there are sinful desires in our flesh that will respond to these suggestions. We have the option to reject or yield to these suggestions. Much of what Satan tries to do with us is dressed up in deception, making it look like he is doing us a favour! But ultimately, his aim is to get a hook into us, draw us away from God and then torment us.
Another way Satan works is by oppressing us. We read about the attacks on the life of Jesus before the Father’s time came for Him to die, and we can safely assume that Satan would have tried to finish Him off so that He could not complete His mission. Satan and his demons can resort to a wide variety of forms such as accusing us day and night (Rev.12:10), getting us into bondage to sin or habits, pushing us into bad moods, frightening us through voices, dreams or forceful thoughts, pressurising us to do harmful things to others or to ourselves, sickness, physical harm, etc. This is a further phase following temptation when they find us vulnerable in any area. If we give them an inch, they will try to take a foot. If people have dabbled with the occult, they usually find themselves also experiencing ‘supernatural’ things such as hearing voices, seeing shapes or forms, things being moved about, etc.
A Word Of Caution.
Jesus and His disciples had a lot to do with demons in their ministry, among which only some of the prominent ones are mentioned in the gospels. The Bible mentions, as a matter of fact, that Jesus healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons (Mk.1:34). In the Acts of the Apostles, we have mention of a few cases of dealing with demons, and the epistles mention about the Christian’s warfare with Satan and the demons. But there is very little direct teaching about how to cast out demons, for example. (For that matter, there is also very little practical teaching about how to evangelise in a cross- cultural set up, how to live together as husband and wife, etc.) This does not mean that therefore there is no place for dealing with demons. It is just that many things like this have to be learnt through practice, based on broad principles we learn from the Bible.
When it comes to how to deal with demons, we find two extremes among Christians. A large number of Christians seem to assume that demons were active only during the days of Jesus, and now that He has conquered them all on the cross, we don’t have to bother about them any more. They tend to ignore all activities connected with demons as being associated with fanatics. On the other end, we have people who see demons everywhere, going around casting them out and finding many different ways of demons getting power over lives so much so that they practically live scared of demons. The truth is that demons exist and are active now, but they are to be kept under the authority of Christ and outside the life of a Christian. Many people are suffering from various degrees of demon activity and they need to be delivered through the authority of Christ.
When we want to learn more about dealing with demons, we find that the Bible does not give too many details. We need to learn from people who have practical experience in the field. But then we are faced with a large number of people who claim to be authorities in this area, but whose understanding has come from their experience, rather than experience backed up with Scriptural values and teachings. A lot of such teachings include what demons have told them in the midst of encounters (can we trust them?) and also from experiences that have not been questioned in the light of the Scripture. This is very dangerous and highly misleading. The general result of this approach has been to place demonisation as being almost universal in experience and deliverance ministry as something that practically everyone needs, and to scare people into thinking that almost anything they do can invite demons! On the one hand, we need to base our teachings on the word of God, and on the other hand, we also need to learn from practical experience provided they can be validated from the word of God. Even when the Bible does not mention any particular ‘truth’ or practice specifically, we need to check them in comparison with what the Bible has revealed in terms of teaching, principles, values and practices. On the top of it, we need to live without fear on the side of the Victorious One and have boldness to exercise His authority which He has given to us. I have studied many books, teaching material and testimonies in this connection, and it has been only rarely that I have found something that is based on the Bible, or someone who has taken the trouble to check each teaching with the Bible. Usually there is a wild mixture of truth and imagination. Many people seem to take their ‘experiences’ as truths and then try to find Bible verses to substantiate them. I have even come across people who make use of obscure verses in the Bible to illustrate their teachings which have come from experience, without going the other way of not accepting any experience unless it is supported by the Bible. Experiences can be subjective and thus deceptive, and explanations can also be from the Deceiver and the only way to check is to compare with the Bible. It must be noted that many who are in the deliverance ministry are not gifted as Bible teachers, and so their explanations leave much to be desired. I don’t have a specialised ‘ministry of deliverance’ even though I have had encounters with demons on many occasions and have exercised the authority of Jesus over them. So, in order to examine things from a wider viewpoint, I have studied the reports of many in the deliverance ministry and tried to see how their experiences agree with the teachings of the Bible.
Unfortunately, the availability of a large number of books and the authoritative way in which the writers and speakers deal with the matter have resulted in many people accepting such teachings without question. This word of caution is to warn you not to swallow everything that so-called experts tell you without checking with the Bible.