The Warfare We Face

Like a Roaring Lion 

Much controversy exists in the Church today over how vulnerable we may be to the forces of the enemy.  Clearly we are not invulnerable, however, for before introducing the spiritual armor used by Christians to engage in spiritual warfare, the Apostle Paul writes about our warfare:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)

From this passage, we clearly learn that Paul sees the battle as dangerous, a struggle to the death. In addition, Paul writes that we need the full armor of God that covers every part of our bodies to resist in these days of evil.  In particular, Paul mentions the shield of faith by which we may extinguish all of the flaming arrows of the enemy.  Here is the complete list of equipment we need to resist the forces of darkness:

Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.  (Ephesians 6:14-18)

Likewise, in the letters sent by the Apostle Peter, we are also taught to be alert and of sober spirit, for our enemy, the devil, “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (I Peter 5:9).  The assumption is that we face much danger from Satan, but we must resist him, standing firm in our faith  This same message also applies to all believers within the Body of Christ even today, not just those living in the persecutions of Nero, for Peter writes that “the same experiences of suffering” are being experienced by our brethren in the world.

Most Christians, in my experience, do not really know their enemy as the one who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).  Jesus declared that Satan was “a murderer from the beginning” and he “does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).  Throughout, the Scriptures declare that Satan is our adversary, both a tempter and a thief who seeks to destroy us.

Of course, the subterfuges of Satan have been so strong that many people today, even Christians, deny even the existence of these spiritual forces.  Any manifestations in the lives of people are attributed merely to psychological causes, one of the reasons why even those who suffer from the lies, temptations, and deceptions themselves believe that they originate within their own minds, rather than from demonic entities that speak to them from the spirit world.


My Near Death Experience

Growing up, I learned very little about the enemy of my soul, and despite dressing up like a skeleton or roaming the neighborhoods with ghosts and witches on Halloween, I knew nothing about how my enemies were deployed against me, despite growing up in the church and attending services three times a week as the son of a deacon and choir director.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I first came to understand the nature of the warfare we all face in this world.  In spite of the fact that I had been born again and Spirit-filled, I only understood the nature of the spiritual warfare I faced when I nearly had my life stolen from me.

I was an English teacher in a public school in Central California, and my wife and I regularly attended a Baptist church.  The pastor’s wife somehow decided that we were worth mentoring, so she often asked me to go with her to minister to those who were hurting.

One incident in particular revealed the supernatural to me.  A young man had been enduring extreme distress, alternating between what appeared to be hallucinations and periods of unconsciousness.  I remember praying for him while he stared off into space, yet in frustration, at one point I said, “In the name of Jesus, I command you to look at me.”  It was the only response we got from him, for he immediately obeyed my command.  We didn’t see much immediate improvement, however, and I was left to wonder what exactly had happened.


Opening the Door

Meanwhile, I had decided that I wanted to be not only a teacher but also a writer of plays and screenplays, so I began searching for a good topic for  a film for Christian audiences.

I determined to write a screenplay about the dangers of the occult and occult practices for Christians.  Unfortunately, I had little firsthand experience on this topic, so I did what I always did in college:  I began to do research on the occult using primary sources, so the sources I found were occult books, not just books about the occult.  Consequently, since no one had experience with computers or Google in those days, I went to the public library to check out my sources, books about witchcraft, sorcery, divination, even ouija boards.

I began writing a prospectus to send to someone I knew to be both a Christian and a producer of films.  It wasn’t but a week or so later, however, before I became very ill, experiencing severe head pain and double-vision.  In just a few days, I was admitted to a hospital with a very high fever, one hundred and five degrees, along with severe diarrhea, double-vision, and strong headaches.

I recall sitting in a wheelchair, riding in the elevator to my hospital room, and sensing that my soul was leaving my body. Whether true or not, I actually believed that I was ready to meet my Lord.  My wife prayed for me, however, and I ended up in a hospital bed for four days, then went home only to return for another eleven days.

During my lengthy stay, I was not able to rest much at all between hourly temperature checks, bed pan requests, and every kind of medical test the doctors could think of, from x-rays to barium enemas to intravenous injections.  I was exhausted both physically and mentally, yet no true results appeared from the tests to show what illness I had.  I merely was diagnosed with the symptoms of gastroenteritis and encephalitis.

I was unable to eat or drink, and I had to make constant trips to the toilet or the bedpan, unable to keep anything inside.  At one point, I was even given “astronaut food,” a kind of beef broth that was supposedly predigested, yet I still couldn’t keep it down.

At the end of the fifteen days total hospital time, I was finally able to return home.  I had lost a lot of weight, only weighed 126 pounds, and was extensively weakened from my ordeals of vomiting and diarrhea.  Yet I slowly began to improve in strength, and in a few months I began taking graduate classes in the fall.

While I slowly began to gain strength, however, my spiritual life began to deteriorate, in spite of being newly filled and baptized with the Holy Spirit the previous year.  Finally, after one year of decline our marriage was slowly deteriorating, to the point where my wife packed up the car, took our two-year-old child, and left home.


Finding Help

Desperate for some answers, I turned to a man who had been my pastor years before when I was a pre-teenager.  I had heard that he was doing Christian counseling, praying for people with great success, so I rode the five miles to his house on my bicycle.

What followed was a lengthy and laborious time hearing Scripture verses, singing choruses, and experiencing prayers for deliverance to expel the evil spirits that had entered my life.  I can definitely say that these spirits were inside me, for expelling them through my mouth was never easy.  I felt their feelings of terror at hearing the name of Jesus and heard their words being spoken through my own mouth.

The minister, along with a number of prayer partners, began leading me in prayers of confession, followed by insistent demands that the demons leave me.  I can’t say that I always approved of their methods in retrospect, for they were focused on seeing the evil spirits manifest themselves and state their names, but the reality of the spirit world and the power of the hold these spirits had on my life was certainly confirmed to me.

Appallingly enough, I found that many of the thoughts I thought were my own had actually originated from the evil spirits that had come into my mind and body.  I was asked to write down the names of the spirits so I could see the progress being made, and I slowly began to experience the freedom and joy that deliverance brings.  I even began to pray for others in the process, for I actually lived at this man’s home for two weeks or so.  I experienced home group meetings with singing and prayers for people, and I saw amazing changes in people’s lives, including my own.  

At one point, I began actually seeing the demons leaving those we prayed over in the form of a fine mist coming out of their mouths.  One time, I actually saw them leave the house through the sliding glass door.  I began seeing spiritual manifestations of the Holy Spirit, seeing a mist over the heads of those in our group who were praying and praising God.  

I even began actually seeing the demons leaving those we prayed over in the form of a fine mist coming out of their mouths.  One time, I actually saw them leave the house through the sliding glass door.  I also began seeing spiritual manifestations of the Holy Spirit, seeing a mist over the heads of those in our group who were praying and praising God.  

I began receiving words of knowledge from the Holy Spirit as we were praying for people, revealing very specific moments when lives had been changed because of demonic activity. These words of knowledge were confirmed by those being ministered to.

About one week later, my wife returned to me with our daughter, and we both began living with this pastor’s family, seeing and experiencing the miraculous on a daily basis.  I can’t say that I later approved of all of the methods and practices of deliverance that we observed, for we eventually found that some were detrimental to the lives of those being prayed for. However, the wholeness that my wife and I began to share was truly miraculous.

Yes, we endured further periods of trial as we entered first into home ministry, then into pastoral ministries over the years.  But the reality of what we experienced was life-changing.

The deliverance I received was both humiliating and horrific, but I was thankful for the new freedom I experienced.  I realized that most of the sinful thoughts and temptations I had heard were not just my own.  Yes, my old nature was inclined in those directions, but I learned how to say to myself, “I reject that thought in the Name of Jesus!”  Even if I had to repeat the sentence five times in a row, I found that I could resist the temptations of the enemy successfully and powerfully.  Over time, resisting sin became easier, and I found myself overcoming in the areas of sin that once had so easily beset me.

In addition, I learned that I could help others find deliverance as well, a ministry that was truly edifying to me.


Are Christians Immune? 

I can state emphatically from personal experiences that a Christian can “have” a demon, for I was a spirit-filled Christian yet I was delivered of a very many demons over the course of several weeks, enduring much labor and stress, yet experiencing a freedom I had never known.  How was this possible? 

So many Bible teachers state without hesitation that a true Christian cannot be demon-possessed, but unfortunately there is much confusion  in the language used.  

In the original Greek, the word is a verb:  δαιμονίζομαιI, or “daimonizomai.”  Even in the Authorized Version of the Bible the phrasing is “possessed with,” not “possessed by,” and the difference is more than significant.   The most important factor is the choices we make.  We may choose to entertain sin in our lives to the point where it becomes addicting or dominating

A person who is “possessed by” something or someone no longer has freedom of choice but is a slave, yet a Christian has made a choice to make Jesus Lord.  To be “possessed with” has an entirely different meaning.  This phrase means “to have,” not “be a slave to,” much like “having” a cold or “possessing” the flu.  

However, a more accurate translation of daimonizomai is “to be demonized,” and those who have experienced addictions of any kind know what it means to be attacked by temptation and evil desires.  Christians are constantly exhorted to resist temptation and refrain from evil, but we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, the reason we continually need His grace, His forgiveness, and His mercy.


Finding Clarity

After witnessing a miraculous deliverance of a man with a mute spirit, certain people in the crowd accused Jesus of using the power of demons to cast out demons, saying, ““He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons” (Luke13:15).

Jesus emphatically refutes their charge with just a few sentences, pointing out the false logic of their conclusion:

Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? (Luke 11:17-20)

Jesus continues to refute His accusers with the following example:

But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are undisturbed. But when someone stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away from him all his armor on which he had relied and distributes his plunder. He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters.   (Luke 11:20-23)

Ironically, comparing Himself to a thief, Jesus essentially is saying that only a more powerful opponent can defeat and overthrow a man who is secure in his own house.  The inevitable conclusion is that He is overcoming the unclean spirits using the “finger of God,” not the power of Beelzebub.

Jesus then makes the following application:

When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.  (Luke 11:24-26)

Thus, even a house that has been cleaned, therefore, may be inhabited again, and the end result is worse. Likewise, even Christians who have been cleansed, baptized, and filled with the Holy Spirit may be inhabited by unclean spirits if they give in to temptations.  This is why we are exhorted to “walk in the Spirit” so that we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh or enter into sin (Galatians 5:16).


More Proof

I believe that the story of Peter’s experience during the Last Supper with Jesus and other disciples helps explain this conclusion even more convincingly:

Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. . . .[He] got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself.Then He *poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. So He *came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” Peter *said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” Simon Peter *said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.”  (John 13:1, 4-10) 

This story is filled with significance, and many truths may be gained from it.  However, one important application relates to the deliverance issues.

Much of the story focuses on how Jesus changes his attire, wears a towel around his waist, and washes their feet, along with Peter’s strong objection.  However, another question should come first: Why did the disciples need to have their feet washed?  

The many places in the Scriptures that describe this custom of foot washing show that the practice was very common, usually performed by a servant or attendant.   Given the eating customs of the people, particularly their reclining while eating, it was appropriate that the feet be washed before gathering together.  Otherwise, the smells and dirt of the streets would have been very disturbing to the appetite.

Jesus began washing the disciples’ feet to demonstrate the nature of true leadership and godly service: “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you” (John 13:14-15).

Much may be written about this aspect of the account.  For example, Jesus also washed Judas’ feet, for Jesus discloses the treachery later.  But the exchange between Jesus and Peter is significant, for it illustrates the idea that walking about through this world, even Peter, the one whom Jesus used mightily in the Early Church, would be soiled as he walked through the world as a disciple and a later apostle.  Yet, Peter did not lose his place even after he denied three times that he  knew Jesus just before the crucifixion.   

Walking through the world, we will be dirtied by the sinful conditions we may face, but we need only seek the forgiveness and deliverance freely given by the One who willingly gave up His life for us and Who continues to wash us of all that soils our house. 


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