Warfare Spirituality - Part 8
Man calls it an accident;
God calls it an abomination.
Man calls it a blunder;
God calls it blindness.
Man calls it a defect;
God calls it a disease.
Man calls it a chance;
God calls it a choice.
Man calls it an error;
God calls it an enmity.
Man calls it a fascination;
God calls it a fatality.
Man calls it an infirmity;
God calls it an iniquity.
Man calls it a luxury;
God calls it leprosy.
Man calls it a liberty;
God calls it lawlessness.
Man calls it a trifle;
God calls it tragedy.
Man calls it a mistake;
God calls it madness.
Man calls it a weakness;
God calls it willfulness.
THE PROMISES OF GOD
The Changing of the Mind 1 Samuel 15:29
A story appeared in the sports sections of all the major news services about a college basketball coach who couldn't decide which job offer to take. Over the course of three days, he switched four times between three schools, citing personal and family matters that were fueling the changes of his mind. He initially ended up accepting an offer he had originally rejected, thankful that the school would give him a second chance.
The net result of this story would have merited only a small column on the interior of the sports section: "Coach resigns position at school A and accepts position at school C." Nice to know, but not groundbreaking news. It was the way the coach got to school C (A to C to B to A to C) that put it on the front page. It was the changing of his mind that made the story newsworthy (and his new employer a bit nervous. Is this how he runs a basketball team?)
Why does it make us nervous when people change their minds for less than obvious or understandable reasons? Because their decisions then appear to be on the basis of a whim, an impulse, a feeling, or a mood. And we don't like people making decisions that way-especially when the decisions affect us. We like people who speak the way Christ said we should all speak: Just say "Yes" or "No" (Matthew 5:37); and then stick with what you say. No less a spiritual authority than the prophet-priest Samuel used "man" as an example of what God is not like when it comes to being dependable and trustworthy. When announcing to Saul that God was taking the kingship of Israel away from him, he warned him not to think that God would change his mind: ". . . he is not a man, that he should change his mind."
Why did Samuel position man as the opposite of God? Because in our natural state, we are. But by God's grace and with his help, we can become as trustworthy and as dependable as he is (if we don't change our mind).
God's Promise to You: "My mind has been the same forever; it never changes."
WARFARE SPIRITUALITY - PART 8
The spiritual warfare is not optional for believers in Christ. Scripture clearly teaches and illustrates the dynamics of this warfare on the three battle fronts of the world, the flesh, and the devil. The worldly and demonic systems are external to the believer, but they entice and provide opportunities for the flesh, which is the capacity for sin within the believer. This series outlines a biblical strategy for dealing with each of these barriers to spiritual growth.
The Nature and Work of Demons
Degrees of Demonic Activity
Last month we considered influence as the first degree of demonic activity. The next two are oppression and control.
Just as there are different degrees to which a Christian can be yielded to God and empowered by the Spirit, so there are varying degrees of bondage to demonic powers. Christians as well as non-Christians may be harassed, oppressed, depressed, and tormented by unclean spirits. When believers give in to demonic suggestions and temptations, this can lead to levels of attack that are more intense than influence.
Demonic oppression is characterized by obsessive thoughts and behavior. During times of intense attack, the whole personality may be distorted and enslaved to irrational impulses, black moods, uncontrollable anger, and compulsive lying.
Demonization moves from the external to the internal when the body and personality is invaded by one or more wicked spirits. The story of Ananias and Sapphira illustrates this internal influence by satanic forces: "But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?'" (Acts 5:3). Unrighteous anger and rage can be another entry point: "Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity" (Ephesians 4:26-27).
The most severe degree of demonic activity is the entire domination of the mind, speech, and behavior. In this condition, the victim is subject to episodes of control by the inhabiting demon(s) who change the personality and use the body as a vehicle. When they speak through someone, they refer to him or her in the third person.
Demonic control can be willing (e.g., seances, witchcraft), or unwilling (e.g., transference through bloodlines). Demonization may contribute to mental illness, but the two should be distinguished. Mental distress can be due to a variety of causes, including brain chemistry, emotional trauma, depressive illness, persistent guilt, obsession with evil, and conscious disobedience to the Word. This is why is it wise to practice discernment before engaging in ministry, particularly in the case of deliverance ministry.
Can a Christian be demonically controlled? This is a debated issue. Some argue that the personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit (John 14:17; Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20) prohibits the invasion of demons in a believer's body. But the indwelling Spirit does not exclude the presence of evil within the saint, because the flesh, or power of sin in our members, is very real (Romans 7:15-24; Galatians 5:16-17). The Bible does not teach that Christians are immune to demonic entry, and it is clear from the experience of many missionaries and counselors that believers can be internally oppressed. However, this is not the same as what is popularly called "possession" in which a person is totally controlled or owned by demonic forces.
The Holy Spirit indwells the Christian on a deeper level than any wicked spirit can reach. However, the practice of habitual sin could give demons ground for invading a believer's body and psyche (mind, emotions, and will). A demon may try to get others to move in to increase their dominion over aspects of the personality. As they influence one's thinking, feeling, and choosing, it may be difficult to distinguish one's own thoughts and impulses from theirs. But demons are temporary intruders whose domination can be overcome when their ground for staying is removed.
Symptoms of Demonic Activity
How can we discern whether a problem is caused by the flesh, the world, or the devil? A host of physical and psychological disorders can be organically caused (e.g., severe allergies and hypoglycemia), and it is wise to consider this possibility first. A physical examination may reveal a condition that can be treated by diet or medication.
Most problems are caused by walking in the flesh (recall the list of fleshly sins earlier in this chapter). It is foolish to suppose we are pawns in the warfare when we are responsible for the choice to sin or obey God. Many things we blame on the world and Satan are simply the results of fleshly indulgence. But by giving in to the power of sin in our members and to the temptations of the world, we can open the door to demonic bondage. If we gain no victory after actively seeking to appropriate our resources in Christ, confessing our sins, and renewing our minds, we should ask for spiritual discernment and consider the possibility of demonic influence.
Remember the importance of avoiding the first extreme of ignoring the biblical teaching about the reality of demonization, and the second extreme of attributing every problem and temptation to demons. The common symptoms in the following list are only indicators of possible demonic activity. Do not look at them in isolation since they could also be caused by physical, psychological, or spiritual problems. But the evidence of demonization may be more significant if several are present at once:
-Self-destructive, suicidal, or murderous thoughts
-Uncontrollable anger or fits of rage and violence
-Compulsive cursing and blasphemy
-Strong aversion to the name of Jesus, Bible reading, or prayer
-Profound depression, gloom, or despair
-Intense and irrational bitterness and hatred
-Obsessive temptations or excessive cravings
-Overwhelming feelings of guilt and self-reproach
-Inability to renounce a dominating sin
-Sudden and unaccountable physical symptoms (e.g., pressure,
choking, seizures, spells of unconsciousness)
-Uncontrollable fear or dread
-Supernatural knowledge; clairvoyant or mediumistic powers
-Rapid changes and distortions of facial expressions or voice
-Multiple personality disorders
-Unnatural physical strength
-Poltergeist phenomena and apparitions
This is not a complete list. By themselves, none of these symptoms indicate demonic activity. We must avoid the "when in doubt, cast it out" mentality of the self-appointed demon inspector.
THE GREAT USE OF LIFE
Time is significant because it is so rare. It is completely irretrievable. You can never repeat it or relive it. There is no such thing as a literal instant replay. That appears only on film. It travels alongside us every day, yet it has eternity wrapped up in it. Although this is true, time often seems relative, doesn't it? For example, two weeks on a vacation is not at all like two weeks on a diet. Also some people can stay longer in an hour than others can in a week! Ben Franklin said of time, ". . . that is the stuff life is made of." Time forms life's building blocks. The philosopher William James once said, "The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it."
--Lloyd Cory, Quote Unquote