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How much emphasis should be given to demonic deliverance in the Christian life?

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There are two extremes in people’s thinking about demons. One says that what we call demons are nothing more than negative thoughts and behaviors that any human being is capable of. Those who hold this view believe that “deliverance” from a “demon” is brought about by the application of self-control; this view is usually accompanied by the discounting of anything supernatural. The other extreme says that any bad happening whatsoever is the work of demons. Those who hold this view often “rebuke” everything from the common cold to a drop in the stock market. The correct emphasis on demonic deliverance lies somewhere between these two extremes.

Scripture is clear that demons are real and that they interfere in human affairs (Matthew 12:43; Mark 1:26; Acts 8:7). Demons were very much at work in Bible times, and there is no reason to assume that demons are inactive now (1 Peter 5:8). However, among those who do believe demons are at work today, there are a variety of perspectives. Some tend to over-emphasize the work of Satan, giving him more attention than he deserves. Our focus should be on the glory of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33), since "the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world" (1 John 4:4). Satan and God are not “equal” or “balanced” opposites, in a yin-yang way. Satan is a created, finite being who possesses only the power God allows him to have (Job 1:9-10).

Jesus cast out many demons during His earthly ministry, and the early church continued to address spiritual warfare after Jesus had ascended back to heaven (Acts 5:3; 8:7; Ephesians 6:11-13; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5). There is no evidence to suggest that Satan and his fallen angels have ceased to torment human beings. However, James 1:13-15 makes it clear that much of our struggle against sin is due to our own fleshly desires, not a direct attack from Satan.

The Greek word daimonizomai, often translated "demon-possessed" in the Gospels, simply means "demonized." The word refers to more than just possession. Anyone under the influence of a demon could be considered "demonized." Even a Christian can be "demonized" or suffer demonic oppression if he allows his thoughts, actions, or attitudes to be influenced by demons. Even Peter, one of the Lord’s closest friends, allowed himself to be a mouthpiece for Satan when he tried to talk Jesus out of going to the cross (Matthew 16:21-23). Although a Christian has been purchased by the blood of Jesus (John 10:28-29; Romans 5:9), Satan can still wreak a great deal of havoc if allowed. He cannot steal the soul of a Christian or possess him, but he can render him fruitless and rob his life of joy and victory.

Ephesians 6:10-17 instructs us in combating the forces of darkness. We are told to continually put on the "full armor of God" and "stand firm." Although Satan and his forces are constantly at work to "steal, kill, and destroy" (John 10:10), God’s armor allows His children to be victorious against the attacks. Often, in situations when demonic oppression in a believer’s life is overwhelming, it is due to that believer’s sinful choices (2 Corinthians 2:11). We are told to resist the devil (James 4:7), be careful of him (1 Peter 5:8), and not give him room in our lives (Ephesians 4:27).

The most scriptural way of defeating demonic influence in a Christian’s life is to follow Jesus’ example when He was tempted by Satan. Luke 4:1-12 recounts the conversation between Jesus and Satan. Although Jesus is God in the flesh, He did not rely on His own wit or authority to rebuke His enemy. Every time Satan came against Him, He replied, "It is written..." The best defense against demonic attack is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17).

Christians are in a spiritual battle, and we need to be aware of the spiritual realities around us. But our focus should not be on the demons; our eyes are to be fixed “on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). That’s where the victory is.

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This page last updated: January 4, 2022