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Encouraging and equipping Christians for doing their part to help fulfill the Great Commission. Note: This article is "printer-friendly," and every link will open up in a new browser window to give you more control as you browse around in this website.
An Introduction to Spiritual Warfare, Part One of Two
The Bible reveals that there is a spiritual realm which is unseen but which affects the physical world. The devil and his demons are waging a vicious and evil spiritual battle all around us, trying to thwart God's plans and trying to prevent people from becoming saved and entering God's kingdom. We as Christians need to know about this spiritual battle so that we are aware of the devil's schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11), so that we can take our stand against the devil's schemes (Ephesians 6:11), and so that we can protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our ministries (Ephesians 6:16). If we are blind to the battle and unaware of what is going on around us simply because we cannot directly see it, then it becomes easy for the devil to deceive us in clever, subtle ways and to prevent us from being effective at saving people and doing God's work here on earth. This two-part series is intended to be an introduction to the subject of spiritual warfare. The point of this study is not to focus on demons but rather to gain a deeper understanding of who we are in Christ and the authority that we have over the demonic realm. Our focus must always be on Jesus, but in order to be effective soldiers for Christ it is helpful for us to understand the nature of our enemy. Scripture tells us that Jesus has already defeated the devil and his demons, and it says that Christians are God's warrior kingdom here on earth. It is beyond the scope of this discussion to delve into the specifics of how one actually "does" spiritual warfare, but these issues are discussed in the books listed at the end of this article and in many other good books which can be found at your local Christian bookstore. For a self-deliverance procedure which might help you to rid yourself of demonic afflictions (physical or mental) that may be hindering your walk with Christ, please see my article called How to Cast Afflicting Spirits Out of Your Life. I and many others can personally attest that this type of self-deliverance procedure has allowed us to gain
victory over areas of sin or physical affliction in our lives which we could not otherwise get victory over.
Do Demons Really Exist?
The idea of evil spirits and demonization is difficult for many people to accept. The "demon-possessions" mentioned in the Gospels are often considered to be nothing more than unscientific first-century explanations for physical diseases or mental illnesses. However, the Bible is perfectly clear that demons exist. Consider the following passages: "He [Jesus] called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness." (Matthew 10:1) "[Jesus is speaking] Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give." (Matthew 10:6-8) "[Jesus is speaking] And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." (Matthew 12:27-28) "Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, "What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are--the Holy One of God!" "Be quiet!" said Jesus sternly. "Come out of him!" The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek." (Mark 1:23-26) "When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don't torture me!" For Jesus had commanded the evil spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places. Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" "Legion," he replied, because many demons had gone into him. And they begged him repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss. A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into them, and he gave them permission. When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned." (Luke 8:27-33) Notice that Jesus Himself confirms the existence of demons. The argument could be made that the people of the first century were not very scientific or sophisticated and did not have our modern medical understanding when diagnosing diseases, but that argument
cannot be used with Jesus, the Son of God! Either Jesus was lying or being deceptive (which is impossible for God - Hebrews 6:18), or else demons really do exist.
What Are Demons?
The following passages tell us that God is a spirit, that angels are spirits, and that the devil and his demons are angels: "God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." (John 4:24) "Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?" (Hebrews 1:14) "'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.'" (Matthew 25:41) "And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down--that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him." (Revelation 12:7-9) "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago" (1 Peter 3:18-20) "For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment" (2 Peter 2:4) "And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home--these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day." (Jude 1:6) So now we know that demons are actually angels (spirits) who made the decision to follow the devil in his rebellion against God. They are now dedicated to pure, vicious evil, which is why the Bible refers to them as "evil spirits."
Where Do the Devil and His Demons Live?
In the popular imagination, in cartoons and comic strips, in books and TV shows and movies, the devil is pictured as living in and ruling from a place of fire and brimstone called "hell." This is an incorrect notion, however, because he has never been there! The
place of "eternal fire" (Matthew 25:41, Jude 1:7), also called the "lake of fire" (Revelation 20:15), is a place of eternal punishment that has been "prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41). The devil and his demons are not in hell, and in fact they have never been there before (Revelation 20:10). This "lake of fire" is also where those who died without Christ will go after Judgment Day (Revelation 20:15), where "the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever" (Revelation 14:11). This is why it is so incredibly important not to let opportunities for evangelism slip through our fingers! "In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire." (Jude 1:7) "If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." (Revelation 20:15) "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.'" (Matthew 25:41) "[After Christ has physically reigned on earth for a thousand years] And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever." (Revelation 20:10) "And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name." (Revelation 14:11)
According to the Bible, the spiritual forces of evil include rulers, powers, and authorities which live in the heavenly realms: "In that day the LORD will punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below." (Isaiah 24:21) "His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 3:10) "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Ephesians 6:12) "For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him." (Colossians 1:16)
"And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." (Colossians 2:15) "And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home--these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day." (Jude 1:6)
The fact that the spiritual forces of evil include rulers, authorities, and powers indicates that there is a demonic hierarchy or chain of command. But what do these rulers rule over? The Bible tells us that certain demons have control over territories here on earth: "Then he [an angel] continued, "Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days."" (Daniel 10:12-13) "So he [the angel] said, "Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come" (Daniel 10:20)
How do we know that these "princes" are actually demons? Notice in the following passages that the term "prince" is often used to refer to angelic beings (both good and bad): "But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael [the archangel (chief angel) Michael], one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia." (Daniel 10:13) "but first I [an angel] will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince. And in the first year of Darius the Mede, I took my stand to support and protect him.)" (Daniel 10:21-11:1) "At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise." (Daniel 12:1) "But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, "It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons."" (Matthew 12:24) "Jesus said, "This voice [God's voice] was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out."" (John 12:3031)
"I [Jesus] will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me. Come now; let us leave." (John 14:30-31) "When he [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned." (John 16:8-11)
In the passages above, the terms "prince of this world" and "prince of demons" tell us that there is an evil kingdom and a hierarchy of command among demons, as the following passages also demonstrate: "If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?" (Matthew 12:26) "Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man's house [Satan's kingdom] and carry off his possessions [unsaved people] unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house." (Matthew 12:29) "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient." (Ephesians 2:1-2) "For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves" (Colossians 1:13) "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (2 Corinthians 4:4) "To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. I know where you live-- where Satan has his throne." (Revelation 2:12-13) "The great dragon was hurled down--that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him." (Revelation 12:9) "You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." (1 John 4:4) "When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives, it finds the
house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation." (Matthew 12:43-45) "We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one." (1 John 5:19) So there is a hierarchy or chain of command among demons, with some demons having control over kingdoms, territories, and (to some degree) people. The devil has control of the whole world, and Christians are aliens and strangers living in enemy-occupied territory: "If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you." (John 15:19) "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth." (John 17:15-17) "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us." (2 Corinthians 5:20) "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Philippians 3:20) "You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God." (James 4:4) "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia" (1 Peter 1:1) "Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear." (1 Peter 1:17) "Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul." (1 Peter 2:11) We are aliens and strangers living in an enemy-occupied world. Our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20) and we are here on earth as ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20).
We have now seen that there are spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms, and that these evil forces include demons who are assigned authority over territories and people here on earth. Have you noticed that there are pockets of sin in your city, areas where certain activities seem to be more prevalent? For example, where are the red-light districts? Where are the centers of pornography or strip joints or prostitution? In what part of town does gambling take place? Where are the high murder rates? Where are the deadliest traffic areas? Where do homosexuals tend to gather? If you think about it, you will probably realize that there are areas in various parts of your city which are known for their sinful activities. Why is that? Now that we have seen that certain spirits are assigned to rule over specific geographic regions, and that their intent is vile, malevolent, evil, and violent, we can begin to realize that the "unseen" spiritual battle for people's souls is not always unseen after all.
What Are the Devil and His Demons Able to Do?
The devil creates doubts and deceptions in people's minds, and he twists what God says in order to deceive us and tempt us into sinning: "Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'" "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."" (Genesis 3:15)
The devil can only do what God allows him to do and nothing more. In the following verses, the devil incited people (the Sabeans and the Chaldeans) to attack, plunder, and kill, and he created atmospheric disturbances (fire from the sky and a mighty wind from the desert). All of these actions had deadly consequences for humans. The devil is a powerful and vicious enemy: "The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he [Job] has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger." Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. One day when Job's sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother's house, a messenger came to Job and said, "The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, and the Sabeans attacked and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!" While he was still speaking, another messenger came
and said, "The fire of God fell from the sky and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!" While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, "The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!" While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, "Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother's house, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!"" (Job 1:12-19)
Again we see that the devil can only operate within God's parameters, and that he has the ability to afflict people with terrible diseases: "The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, he [Job] is in your hands; but you must spare his life." So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head." (Job 2:6-7) "On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all." (Luke 13:10-11)
Here are several more examples which demonstrate that God allows evil spirits to perform deeds which ultimately carry out God's plans: "Now the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him. Saul's attendants said to him, "See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the harp. He will play when the evil spirit from God comes upon you, and you will feel better." So Saul said to his attendants, "Find someone who plays well and bring him to me." ... David came to Saul and entered his service. Saul liked him very much, and David became one of his armor-bearers. Then Saul sent word to Jesse, saying, "Allow David to remain in my service, for I am pleased with him." Whenever the spirit from God came upon Saul, David would take his harp and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him. [Notice that this is how David entered King Saul's service and thus was on hand to fight Goliath.]." (1 Samuel 16:14) "After Abimelech had governed Israel three years, God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem, who acted treacherously against Abimelech. God did this in order that the crime against JerubBaal's seventy sons, the shedding of their blood, might be avenged on their
brother Abimelech and on the citizens of Shechem, who had helped him murder his brothers." (Judges 9:22-24) "Micaiah continued, "Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne with all the host of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left. And the LORD said, 'Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?' One suggested this, and another that. Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the LORD and said, 'I will entice him.' " 'By what means?' the LORD asked. " 'I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,' he said. " 'You will succeed in enticing him,' said the LORD. 'Go and do it.' So now the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The LORD has decreed disaster for you."" (1 Kings 22:19-23) "[Jesus is speaking to the apostle Peter] "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat [in other words, Satan wanted to put Peter through some trials and tests, but he had to ask permission]. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."" (Luke 22:31-32) "As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. "What you are about to do, do quickly," Jesus told him, but no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him." (John 13:27-28) "To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." (2 Corinthians 12:7-9) [Compare 1 Chronicles 21:1-3 with 2 Samuel 24:1-3 below] "Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. So David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, "Go and count the Israelites from Beersheba to Dan. Then report back to me so that I may know how many there are." But Joab replied, "May the LORD multiply his troops a hundred times over. My lord the king, are they not all my lord's subjects? Why does my lord want to do this? Why should he bring guilt on Israel?"" (1 Chronicles 21:1-3) "Again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, "Go and take a census of Israel and Judah." So the king said to Joab and the army commanders with him, "Go
throughout the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and enroll the fighting men, so that I may know how many there are." But Joab replied to the king, "May the LORD your God multiply the troops a hundred times over, and may the eyes of my lord the king see it. But why does my lord the king want to do such a thing?"" (2 Samuel 24:1-3)
Some translations of the Bible imply that demons can "possess" people's bodies. However, the English word "possessed" is not the best translation from the original Greek (demons do not "possess" anything, especially human beings, because possession means ownership and they do not own anything or anyone). For example, Thayer says that the Greek word daimonizomai means "to be under the power of a demon" (Thayer's Greek Definitions). A better English word is "demonized," which covers the range from mild afflictions to partial control of the person by evil spirits. "When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way." (Matthew 8:28) "While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke." (Matthew 9:32-33) "Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, "What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are--the Holy One of God!" "Be quiet!" said Jesus sternly. "Come out of him!" The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek." (Mark 1:23-26) "Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, "You are the Son of God!" But he [Jesus] rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Christ." (Luke 4:41) "For Jesus had commanded the evil spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places." (Luke 8:29) "A man in the crowd called out, "Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him. Even while the boy was coming, the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the evil spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father." (Luke 9:38-39, 42)
"With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed." (Acts 8:7) "Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, "In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out." Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, "Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?" Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding. When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor." (Acts 19:13-17)
The devil showed Jesus all of the kingdoms of the world in an instant. He said that all of their authority and splendor had been given to him (the devil), and Jesus did not dispute this statement! Notice that the devil first attempted to exploit Jesus' weakness at this point: His hunger. Then the devil tried to twist Scripture for his own ends. The devil is a master of lies and deceptions, with millennia of experience, and he will use every cunning trick to deceive us. He knows our weaknesses and he knows what buttons to push to tempt us into sinning. Also notice that Jesus used the Word of God as His only weapon to combat the devil in this encounter. This shows us how vitally important it is for us to be solidly grounded in God's Word: "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread." Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone.'" The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, "I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours." Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'" The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down from here. For it is written: "'He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'" Jesus answered, "It says: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time." (Luke 4:1-13)
Here is a spirit which is able to predict the future:
"Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling." (Acts 16:16)
The devil and his demons are able to masquerade as angels of light, apostles of Christ, and servants of righteousness: "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve." (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)
The devil can perform all kinds of counterfeit miracles, and he will use every sort of evil to accomplish his plans: "The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved." (2 Thessalonians 2:9) "For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect--if that were possible." (Matthew 24:24) "Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty." (Revelation 16:13-4)
The devil is said to hold the power of death, but this probably refers to keeping people bound by the fear of death. The devil can cause people to die, but only as God allows (as we saw earlier in Job 1:12-19): "Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death-that is, the devil-- and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death." (Hebrews 2:14-15) "The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, he [Job] is in your hands; but you must spare his life."" (Job 2:6)
The devil blinds the minds of non-Christians and snatches the Word from them:
"The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (2 Corinthians 4:4) "Then Jesus said to them, "Don't you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them." (Mark 4:13-15) "This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved." (Luke 8:11-12) "Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field." He answered, "The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age."" (Matthew 13:36-40)
The devil's purposes are to "steal and kill and destroy" and to spread lies and deceptions: "I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. ... I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:1, 9-10) "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." (John 8:44)
According to the Bible, non-believers are actually under the control of the devil and they are his captives for doing his will: "Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their
senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will." (2 Timothy 2:25-26) "We know that we [Christians] are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one." (1 John 5:19) "how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him." (Acts 10:38) "I [Jesus] will rescue you [the apostle Paul] from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me." (Acts 26:17-18) We must never forget that we are at war, and we must never underestimate the cruelty and hatred of our unseen enemy. To do so is to open ourselves up as targets for being deceived. It is up to us to help rescue as many non-believers from the devil's clutches as we possibly can!
An Introduction to Spiritual Warfare, Part Two of Two
Are Christians at Risk?
If the devil can control and influence people's minds and actions to some degree, then are Christians at risk? The answer is "yes," Christians can be influenced and attacked by the devil and his demons:
According to Acts 4:32-37, believers were selling their homes and possessions to share the proceeds with needy people. Ananias and his wife Sapphira sold their house to give the money to the apostles, which indicates that they were believers as well. However, the enemy filled Ananias' and his wife's hearts and minds with greed and deception, which means that he can attack and influence the thoughts, feelings, and actions of Christians as well as non-Christians: "Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?"" (Acts 5:3)
The apostle Paul was concerned that Christians will have their minds led astray by the devil: "But I [Paul] am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ." (2 Corinthians 11:3)
The Holy Spirit Himself says that Christians will be deceived by demons: "The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron." (1 Timothy 4:1-2)
The apostle Peter rebuked Jesus and denied that Christ would suffer and die. Peter did not fully understand the implications of Christ's death, but Jesus knew that it was actually the devil speaking through Peter who was denying the sacrificial death of Jesus: "Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This [speaking of Jesus' death] shall never happen to you!" Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."" (Matthew 16:22-23)
Christians are told to submit to God and to resist the devil. This would not be necessary if the devil were powerless to attack Christians: "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (James 4:7) "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings." (1 Peter 5:8)
Christians are told to put on the full armor of God in order to stand against the devil's schemes and to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. This would not be necessary if the devil were powerless to attack Christians: "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes." (Ephesians 6:10-11) "In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." (Ephesians 6:16)
The devil does not just attack Christians directly, he also accuses Christians before God day and night: "The great dragon was hurled down--that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Then I [the apostle John] heard a loud voice in heaven say: "Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down."" (Revelation 12:9-10) "Then he [an angel] showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The LORD said to Satan, "The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?"" (Zechariah 3:1-2)
Can Christians Be "Possessed" by Demons?
Becoming a Christian removes the penalty of your past sins, but it does not necessarily remove the effects of your past sins. For example, if your body was damaged in some way by drugs or alcohol before you became a Christian, you probably weren't instantly healed the moment you got saved. You might still have some of the effects of your past sins to deal with. In a similar way, if you have taken part in occult practices or other demonic activities then you may have opened yourself up to the possibility of being afflicted by demonic spirits. Christian counselors with decades of experience in dealing with demonic afflictions report that when the Holy Spirit enters a person's heart at the moment of salvation, this does not necessarily cause any demons to stop afflicting the person. By sinning we give demons "legal rights" over areas of our lives, and some of these demons may still be around even after the Holy Spirit comes to dwell inside us. Consider for example that the devil "accuses [us] before our God day and night" (Revelation 12:10), which means that God allows the presence of the devil in His Throneroom (see also Job 1:6 and 2:1 where the devil presented himself before the Lord). In other words, God allowed an evil spirit into His presence, and therefore we can't dogmatically say that the Holy Spirit will never allow any demons near Him in or around a Christian. Also, if we say that the Holy Spirit absolutely cannot or will not dwell in the presence of evil then we are forgetting that He dwells within the heart of our sinful, evil, corrupt, fallen flesh. This idea that Christians can be afflicted by demons may be difficult for many people to accept, so let me simply refer you to the spiritual warfare section of your local Christian bookstore for further study. An excellent resource is The Handbook for Spiritual Warfare by Dr. Ed Murphy (see chapters 53 to 56, for example). Those who are afflicted by demons are usually not aware that their problems are spiritual in nature. This means that you or I might be suffering from demonic affliction or oppression without even knowing it. We might be suffering from physical infirmities, emotional problems, problems with recurring sin in our life, problems dealing with things such as anger, lust, pornography, homosexuality, and so on, all of which can have a demonic origin. For example, there was a woman in Luke 13:10-16 who was bent over for 18 years and could not straighten up (which we might diagnose as a form of scoliosis today), and Jesus said that her physical infirmity was caused by an afflicting spirit. When Jesus cast the evil spirit out, her physical infirmity immediately disappeared and she was able to stand up straight. Scripture also speaks of lying spirits (1 Kings 22:23), a spirit of dizziness (Isaiah 19:14), a spirit of prostitution (Hosea 5:4), a deaf and mute spirit (Mark 9:25), a spirit of fear (Romans 8:15), a spirit of stupor (Romans 11:8), a spirit of timidity (2 Timothy 1:7), a spirit of falsehood (1 John 4:6), and so on. These are possible examples of afflicting spirits, and there are many other ways in which evil spirits can afflict people.
Please understand that I am not speaking of demon possession, I am talking about demonic affliction. Demons do not "possess" anything, especially human beings, because possession means ownership and they do not own anything or anyone. The English word "possessed" is not the best translation from the original Greek, but unfortunately this is the term that has been used in many versions of the Bible. A better word is "demonized," which covers the range from mild afflictions to partial control of the person by evil spirits. The above passages (in the previous section) show that Christians can be demonized. Again, I am not talking about "demon-possession," I am talking about demonization which can range from mild to severe. There is a self-deliverance procedure in my article called How to Cast Afflicting Spirits Out of Your Life which may help you rid yourself of demonic afflictions (physical or mental) that may be hindering your walk with Christ. I and many others can personally attest that this type of self-deliverance procedure has allowed us to gain victory over areas of sin or physical affliction in our lives which we could not otherwise get victory over.
All Christians Are Involved in Spiritual Warfare
Now that we have seen that the devil can and does try to attack us and influence our minds, our thoughts, our beliefs, and our actions, can you see that we are all involved in spiritual warfare, every one of us, whether we like it or not, whether we even realize it or not? Imagine a soldier on a battlefield who can't see or hear any enemies and therefore he doesn't believe that there is an enemy out there, so he wanders around without his weapons, not carrying out his assigned duties, completely defenseless and vulnerable, stumbling into the enemy's camp without even being aware of it. The enemy doesn't care if that soldier was ignorant or if he was "just playing around." That soldier won't last long, yet that is precisely the way that many of us live. We don't know that there is a war being fought in the spiritual plane, we don't understand that there is an enemy of pure evil out there and that we are God's soldiers in this spiritual battle. We don't understand that God has an assigned place for each and every Christian or that we have all been given spiritual gifts and spiritual weapons (defensive and offensive) for waging the battle in the heavenlies while we are here on earth.
Our Spiritual Armor
Notice the descriptions of weapons and armor that Paul uses. We are told to put on the full armor of God, which includes the belt (or girdle) of Truth, the breastplate of Righteousness, the shoes (or sandals) of Peace, the shield of Faith, and the helmet of Salvation. These are descriptions of the defensive armor worn by first-century Roman soldiers, but they are given spiritual application by Paul. They are intended to protect every vulnerable area, and just like Roman soldiers we are told to wear this armor daily.
The two offensive weapons that we have are the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (this is the weapon Jesus used in Luke 4:1-13 (above) to defeat the devil in the wilderness) and praying in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. The apostle Paul points out that we do not wage war as the world does, but rather our weapons have divine power to demolish the strongholds of the enemy. Notice the commands we are given (these are not mere suggestions!) and notice the wording which indicates that all Christians are soldiers in this spiritual war: "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes." (Ephesians 6:10-11) "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Ephesians 6:12) "Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." (Ephesians 6:13) "Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace." (Ephesians 6:14-15) "In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." (Ephesians 6:16) "Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (Ephesians 6:17) "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." (Ephesians 6:18) "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds." (2 Corinthians 10:3-4) "in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left." (2 Corinthians 6:7) "Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs-- he wants to please his commanding officer." (2 Timothy 2:3-4) "to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier and to the church that meets in your home" (Philemon 1:2)
"But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs." (Philippians 2:25)
Every Christian Has a Role Assigned by God
Jesus said, "on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it" (Matthew 16:18). The Greek words which are translated as "will not overcome it" literally mean "will not prove stronger." In other words, the gates of hell will not prove stronger than the Church, the body of Christ. When we share the Gospel with someone and that person trusts in Jesus for his salvation, we have literally snatched him out of the gates of hell, out of the enemy's hands. No matter where we are or what our situations may be, God considers each one of us to be in the ministry in some manner. He has assigned each one of us roles to perform in His service, and He has given us spiritual gifts to equip us for our own individual ministries. Sadly, most of us are too wrapped up in our busy lives to even notice. When we focus too much on the physical (looks, money, comforts, possessions, "things") we leave ourselves wide open to spiritual attack (which is often very subtle and insidious) and we fail to live out God's purposes for our lives.
The Body of Christ
It is important for us to understand that every Christian is a member of the body of Christ, and that we all have vital roles to perform for doing His work on earth and fighting the spiritual battle that is being waged in the heavenlies. A human body has eyes, ears, arms, legs, etc., but in the body of Christ it is Christians themselves who fulfill the necessary functions based on where God wants us to be, what He wants us to do, and what spiritual gifts He has equipped us with: "Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines." (1 Corinthians 12:1-11)
"The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free--and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it." (1 Corinthians 12:12-27) "Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord." (Romans 12:4-11)
Are You Giving the Devil a "Foothold" in Your Life? (Ephesians 4:27)
Scripture tells us that we must examine ourselves and test our beliefs to make sure that they are solidly grounded in the Truth. We must be careful that we do not give the devil a foothold in our lives or become swayed by false teachings: "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you--unless, of course, you fail the test?" (2 Corinthians 13:5) "Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil." (1 Thessalonians 5:2122)
"and do not give the devil a foothold." (Ephesians 4:27) "The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron." (1 Timothy 4:1-2) "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world." (1 John 4:1) "Jesus answered: "Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ, ' and will deceive many."" (Matthew 24:4-5) "At that time if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or, 'There he is!' do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect--if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time." (Matthew 24:23-24) "But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough." (2 Corinthians 11:3-4) "For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless." (1 Thessalonians 3:5) "But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them --bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute." (2 Peter 2:12) "For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths." (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
What Are You Feeding Yourself Spiritually?
In light of these strong warnings, have you ever examined yourself (and your environment) and honestly and prayerfully tested your beliefs against Scripture? What are you feeding yourself spiritually through activities that you're involved in, through books,
magazines, TV shows, movies, radio, etc., and what types of beliefs have you begun to embrace because of the things you are exposed to? What organizations are you involved with, such as "lodges," "orders," "leagues," "societies," "masons," etc., and are you aware of the spiritual philosophies that they teach as you go deeper into the organization? Do you know for sure that your church is not teaching false doctrines, have you ever asked for their statement of beliefs and compared it with the Bible? Remember David Koresh and that Waco raid a few years ago or Jim Jones and the poisoned Kool-Aid murder/suicide in Guyana awhile back? People have a tendency to follow leaders who have lots of charisma instead of following what their Bibles say. Do you try to "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5)? As a Christian, have you ever gone to a palm reader, a fortune teller, a seance, a "trance channeler," played with an Ouija board, followed your horoscope, purchased "healing" crystals, gotten involved with hypnosis, "visualization," transcendental or other forms of meditation, yoga, martial arts, or other activities associated with "Eastern" philosophies? Do you believe in reincarnation, karma, fate, evolution, out-of-body experiences, psychics, the prophecies of Nostradamus, UFOs, "near-death experiences," past life experiences, good luck charms, voodoo, superstitions, etc.? Do you own statues or jewelry or other objects which depict pagan gods or goddesses or have occult symbols on them (such as an Egyptian "ankh," which looks like a cross with a circle on top)? I am not necessarily saying that all of these beliefs and practices are equally sinful or evil, but some of them such as trance channeling, mediums, seances, voodoo, etc., are quite obviously sinful and evil in nature because they are denounced in Scripture (Deuteronomy 18:10-12). Going to a palm reader or a fortune teller, playing with an Ouija board, and so on, may seem harmless enough, but we have already seen that there are sinister unseen forces of evil at work in the spiritual realm. The devil and his demons are masters of cunning, subtle deceptions which draw the unwary deeper and deeper into his territory as they make a "small" compromise here, believe another "little" lie there, and so on. Soldiers in wartime do not make little "harmless" excursions into enemyoccupied territory on a lark, and neither should we be dabbling in areas which are not of God, because at that point we are voluntarily entering into the devil's domain. Notice that reincarnation, "karma," past life experiences, and similar beliefs are also refuted in Scripture ("Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment" - Hebrews 9:27), but what about such things as yoga, martial arts, meditation, visualization, "healing" crystals, and so on? Don't they potentially have some positive exercise and health benefits? If you are involved in some of these things, it would be wise to ask yourself, "What spiritual philosophies am I being fed as I do these things?" For example, most martial arts studios require students to bow to a shrine or to an emblem on a flag or to the master (the teacher), or to do something similar. Often there are statements that the students must repeat over and over which are intended to instill a certain set of character traits in the students (gentleness, humility, and so on). Make it a point to become fully aware of any spiritual philosophies that you or your family are being exposed to, and listen to the Holy Spirit within you to discern whether you have peace concerning these things.
Sometimes Christians are swayed by seemingly Biblical concepts such as "going to the light when you die and being enveloped in total Love" (as those who have had "neardeath experiences" often describe) or by the prophecies of Nostradamus or other psychics. But once again, these things must be interpreted in light of Scripture. There is a book called Embraced by the Light by a woman named Betty Eadie in which she describes her near-death experience, and many people have found comfort in her descriptions of "Jesus" and of the "utter explosion of love" she felt while she was in "heaven." But is this the Jesus of the Bible? Many of the things she says about her version of Jesus and heaven are totally out of character with the real Jesus and heaven described in God's written Word, and there are several books and magazine articles which refute Betty Eadie's book in light of Scripture (such as Deceived by the Light by Doug Groothuis). But what about the prophecies of Nostradamus? It turns out that he was a sixteenth-century seer who was schooled in spells and incantations and other "magic arts," and he used numerology and occultic (i.e. satanic) forms of divination to come up with his prophecies. People say that his prophecies are amazingly accurate, but we need to have some discernment here. His methods came from occultish, satanic practices, and for this reason alone he should be dismissed by Christians. Consider also that the apostle Paul encountered "a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future." (Acts 16:16). Notice that this girl was predicting the future, and notice that it was because of an evil spirit. Therefore, the fact that Nostradamus' predictions seem to be accurate in some cases and the fact that he is known to have been schooled in the occult should make us realize where his prophecies really came from. His alleged accuracy should not influence us to believe him in any way or to be impressed by him or to feed our spirits with his non-Biblical predictions. If you own any artwork that has occult symbols or pictures of pagan gods or goddesses on them, be aware that these may be more dangerous than you realize. Idols are associated with demons in Scripture, and the Israelites in the Old Testament were told over and over to smash and completely destroy all sacred images and idols from other cultures. Notice carefully what God's attitude is toward any artwork or objects associated with pagan beliefs: "They made him jealous with their foreign gods and angered him with their detestable idols. They sacrificed to demons, which are not God-- gods they had not known, gods that recently appeared, gods your fathers did not fear." (Deuteronomy 32:16-17) "They worshiped their idols, which became a snare to them. They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons." (Psalm 106:36-37) "Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons." (1 Corinthians 10:18-20)
"Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places.'" (Numbers 33:51-53) "This is what you are to do to them: Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols in the fire. For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession." (Deuteronomy 7:5-6) "Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains and on the hills and under every spreading tree where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places." (Deuteronomy 12:2-3) It is clear what God's attitude is towards anything associated with pagan (i.e. nonChristian) religious beliefs and practices.
Stay Focused on Jesus
The point of this discussion is to get you to take a look at the beliefs and practices that may have subtly crept into your life. These things may have seemed harmless or even healthy at the time, but they may have a dark spiritual side when examined in light of God's Word. Think about the music you or your children listen to, the TV shows and movies you watch, the games you play or allow your children to play (there are many, many occultic or demon-oriented video games, card games, board games, etc., on the market), the way you celebrate Halloween, and so on. How are these things de-sensitizing your spirit towards immoral sexual activity, violence, crude language, the occult, New Age philosophies, and so on? We must always set our minds on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2) and fix our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) and take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). We must be careful not to be taken captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ (Colossians 2:8). Always remember that our focus is to be on Jesus and not on the enemy. As Christians we are all victorious through Christ our Savior, but we must take hold of that victory each and every day by putting on the full armor of God and submitting completely to God's will. Stay focused on Jesus, your Savior, your Redeemer, your Lord, your King. Let Him be the object of your attention, your love, your praise, your adoration, and your worship.
References for further reading
There is a self-deliverance procedure in my article called How to Cast Afflicting Spirits Out of Your Life which may help you rid yourself of demonic afflictions (physical or mental) that may be hindering your walk with Christ. I and many others can personally attest that this type of self-deliverance procedure has allowed us to gain victory over areas of sin or physical affliction in our lives which we could not otherwise get victory over. There are also a number of good books on spiritual warfare, including:
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The Handbook for Spiritual Warfare by Dr. Ed Murphy The Adversary and Overcoming the Adversary by Mark I. Bubeck The Believer's Guide to Spiritual Warfare by Thomas B. White Breaking Strongholds in Your City, edited by C. Peter Wagner. Possessing the Gates of the Enemy by Cindy Jacobs The Last of the Giants by George Otis, Jr. That None Should Perish by Ed Silvoso Taking Our Cities for God by John Dawson
Now that you are aware of the spiritual battle which is taking place all around us and you understand that God has given you particular spiritual gifts to be used in His service, please get involved! Don't just be a "spectator Christian" or a "pew potato" who is useless for carrying out God's purposes in saving lives here on earth. God does not want you sitting on the sidelines living life for your own pleasures and pursuits! Make yourself available to the Holy Spirit day by day, moment by moment, so that He can work through you in the role that you are meant to perform in the body of Christ, and always "keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord" (Romans 12:11). I invite you to read my article entitled Spiritual Maturity/Spiritual Authority to learn more about spiritual maturity and being a victorious disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.