I picked up this book because I realized, yet again, how ill practiced I was about spiritual warfare. A close friend told me last summer that Barbara’s illness was a demonic attack. I couldn’t say that. Lord, am I so insensitive to the working of demons that I am missing this? Many have said that the way we were treated at our former church, where we labored for more than 40 years, was the result of demonic activity. I had not treated it that way.
So it was with the hope of getting some [more] insight into spiritual warfare I went to this book (which I had try to read many many years ago).
From 10,000 feet, my primary takeaways were this:
- Christians can be demon possessed
- The Baptism of the Spirit opens us up to the spiritual world and thus can open us up to the demonic.
- Lies are the primary weapon of Satan and his minions
- Passivity in all areas of our lives leads to both demonic oppression and demonic possession (See chapter 4 notes)
- Truth from the word of God is the primary offensive weapon we have.
- Deliverance from possession should not be attempted until the ground given to the enemy was taken back. In other words, Satan only can make in-roads into the life of a believer, if we give him ground (open sin, believing falsehoods, passivity of will, etc).
Overall, I felt there were nuggets of truth in this book. Yet I came away not feeling like I knew any more about how to conduct spiritual warfare in prayer. And I am not sure I am any better at discerning whether something is of God or of the flesh or of the devil. They give the example of Paul from the book of Acts where he was restrained from going some place once by the Spirit and once by Satan. But how? More example prayers would have been helpful. At one point they say that one who has the armor of God on does not rely on reason – but throughout the book they encourage us to rely on reason – not on impressions of the Spirit.
I did not agree with their distinctions about the presence of the person of the Father and the Son. (see my notes from Chapter 6). I did not agree with their simplistic way of dealing with discerning whether something was from God or not (see my notes on Chapter 5).
Can a Christian be possessed by a demon?
I did not buy a lot of what was taught in this book. But the one thing taught that I have changed my opinion on was this question: Can a Christian be demon possessed? For most of my walk with Jesus, I have believed that a Christian cannot be demon possessed. Much ink has been spilled on this subject. But simply put, the main argument is that once the Spirit of God dwells in a person, a demon cannot dwell in the same person. Darkness and light cannot dwell together. An additional argument is that the Scripture does not directly address the question. All the people who are delivered from demons are non-Christians. But some New Testament individuals who self-identify as Christ followers are possessed. “Satan entered into Judas.” (John 13:27). Satan filled the heart of Ananias (Acts 5:3). Under church discipline, Christians are “handed over to Satan” (1 Timothy 1:20) and “delivered to Satan” (1 Corinthians 5:5).
Here is what changed for me.
I have increasingly come to the understanding of how compartmentalized we are in our faith. Much like the famous booklet, My Heart – Christ’s Home by Robert Munger, when we first receive the indwelling Holy Spirit, certain rooms are not opened to Him. And as we walk with the Spirit, over time, we may shut Him out of rooms He previously inhabited. Accepting this understanding, it is easy for me to see that a demon can take up residence in one of these uninhabited (by the Spirit) rooms.
Experience over the past 25 years has affected this change of opinion as well. With the fall from grace of so many icons of the faith whom I deeply respected (Ravi Zacharius and Jean Vanier as the most recent) and others I didn’t know as well, I have questioned: How can this be? How can the Spirit of God dwell in such men? I have come to see their lives in this compartmentalized framework – where the Spirit of God inhabited them and enabled them to do the amazing things they did. But, there were rooms in their lives that were opened to demonic possession. I cannot describe their actions as just the work of the flesh nor even demonic oppression (which Jesus experienced in the wilderness).
Over the years, I have seen that all of the works of the flesh Paul lists in Galatians 5:17-19 are within the scope of possibility (and in many cases actuality) in my life. But the despicable and disgusting acts of some of these fallen leaders have never been even remote temptations to me. Am I better than them? No! Am I deceiving myself that I could not fall into such sins? Perhaps – but I don’t think so. My conclusion has been that they have given ground (see chapter 4) to Satan in certain areas (rooms) of their lives and demons have entered and possessed.
Many Christians disagree on this subject and I held a different opinion for over 50 years so it is not a completely settled question. At this point in my journey it is the best explanation for the truth revealed in scriptures and my experience in life.
Passivity as Ground for the Enemy to Enter
This was a new idea for me and I think I can buy into it. For them, it is the chief means by which Satan enters a Christian. We can be passive in many areas of our life (see the notes on Chapter 4). We can be active and attentive and alert in most areas but be passive in another area. This provides additional support for the compartmentalization of possession.
The following represents the major points I took away from each chapter (Direct quotes are indented or in quotation marks):
Chapter 1 A Biblical survey of Satanic deception
Knowledge of truth is the primary safeguard against deception. The “elect” must know, and they must learn to “prove” the “spirits” until they do know what is of God, and what is of Satan. The “knowledge of truth is the first essential for warfare with the lying spirits.” “Nothing can remove a lie but truth.” [from chapter 3 where this statement is given as the central premise of the book].
Chapter 2 The Satanic Confederacy of Wicked Spirits
Evil spirits do not know the future but they know what they are going to do and thus can predict “accidents” and deaths. I found this as a helpful approach to several amazing stories I have heard from people who visited fortune tellers. How did the demons know that? Because they were going to cause it.
Chapter 3 Deception by Spirits in Modern Times
The thought that God will protect a believer from being deceived if he is true and faithful, is in itself a “deception,” … Christ would not have warned His disciples “Take heed . . be not deceived” if there had been no danger of deception.
The Baptism of the Spirit opens one to the spirit world. Previously we were led by principles from God’s word – now as we attempt to keep in step with the Spirit – we are more open to being deceived.
Those who have their eyes opened to the opposing forces of the spiritual realm, understand that very few believers can guarantee that they are obeying God, and God only, in direct supernatural guidance, because there are so many factors liable to intervene, such as the believer’s own mind, own spirit, own will, and the deceptive intrusion of the powers of darkness.
A saint can know they are not being deceived if the message bears the fruit of the Spirit and / or is consistent with the character of God.
We cannot therefore, at this time, over-estimate the importance of believers having open minds to “examine all things” they have thought, and taught, in connection with the things of God, and the spiritual realm. … What, then, is the condition of safety from the deception of evil spirits?”
- Knowledge that they exist;
- That they can deceive the most honest believers (Gal. 2: 11-16);
- An understanding of the conditions and ground necessary for their working, so as to give them no place, and no opportunity of working; and, lastly,
- Intelligent knowledge of God, and how to co-operate with Him in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Chapter 4 Passivity – the chief basis of possession
They believe that possession is “much more wide-spread than is supposed” based on their definition. They take possession to mean: “a hold of evil spirits on a man in any shade of degree.”
What gives ground to the enemy?
- known sin
- every thought suggested to the mind by wicked spirits, and accepted
- every faculty unused invites their attempted use of it.
“Truth of every kind makes free, while lies bind up in bonds. Ignorance also binds. Man’s ignorance is a primary and essential condition for deception by evil spirits. The devil’s great purpose … is to keep the world in ignorance of himself, his ways, and his colleagues… This builds off Paul’s statement that there is a great on-slaught on the church in the latter times. They say it would be ‘an army of teaching spirits.’”
Speaking about Eve, they say that she was good – but “goodness is no guarantee of protection from deception.”
Interesting tidbit: “it is not recorded that he [Satan] appeared on earth since the time of the Fall.” I am not sure where Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness fits into that. This is something I don’t agree with.
Passivity can be manifest in:
- The mind
- The will
- The body
- The spirit
- The conscious
- Reason and Judgment
Chapter 5 Deception and possession
They claim that our individual faculties can be possessed while the rest of us remains faithful to God. For example, the person who gives himself to slander and “it lends itself to sin; and becomes liable to possession.” This makes sense of something I experienced a few years ago. God told me that a person was possessed – but theologically I struggled with that. But this person had given himself over to a significant amount of slander (which I didn’t know about at the time). In one particular meeting with him, when God said the demon was going to manifest itself, his speech became almost unintelligible. Sitting with two others, we all agreed that we had no idea what he was talking about. Normally he was the most lucid and articulate of individuals. But I didn’t see how that was manifesting possession until now.
Though one cannot establish a point where possession happens, they agree that there is:
- Sin without possession
- Sin that opens the door to possession
- Sin that is the result of possession
In this section, they also claim that possession can pass away without deliverance but merely by the person confessing and renouncing the sin that caused it.
In the subsection: DUAL STREAMS OF POWER
This is what I have experienced with the person mentioned above:
“How sane and reasonable he is! What a passion he has for souls!” may be said with truth of a worker, until some moments later some peculiar change is seen in him, and in the meeting. A strange element comes in, possibly only recognizable to some with keen spiritual vision, or else plainly obvious to all.
Here is an interesting thought they put forth:
Christ as a Person is in no man. He dwells in believers by His Spirit–the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8: 9), as they receive the “supply of the Spirit of Jesus” (Phil. 1: 19; Acts 16: 7 R.V.).
Here is how they describe the Trinity:
God the Father, as a Person, is in the highest heaven. His presence is manifested in men as the “Spirit of the Father.” Christ the Son is in heaven as a Person, His presence in men is by His Spirit. The Holy Spirit, as the Spirit of the Father, and of the Son, is on earth in the Church, which is the Body of Christ; and manifests the Father or the Son, in, and to believers, as they are taught by Him to apprehend the Triune God. … According to them, only the Spirit is present in person.
The counterfeit “Presence,” as an influence, precedes the counterfeit of the “Person” of God, through which much ground is gained.
From the subsection: OBSESSION AND ITS CAUSE
What it is: “Obsession” means an evil spirit, or spirits, hovering around, and influencing a man with the object of obtaining a footing in him, and gaining possession, in however small a degree
The deliverance of persons under obsession of any kind, or degree, is by truth, such as:
- Giving them knowledge how to detect what is of God or the devil
- Showing them that they should accept nothing from without either in suggestions to the mind, or influence of any kind coming upon the body (The Holy Spirit works from within)
- Teaching them how to stand in Christ, and resist all besieging attacks of the powers of darkness
“casting out” may avail in some cases, it is not the only means of deliverance.
Here is an interesting statement:
“it is never safe in any case to feel God’s presence with the physical senses, for it is almost beyond doubt a counterfeit ‘presence.'” I do not buy into this from a scriptural point of view. More later.
I agree with the following statements:
- The presence of God always results in: The retention of the use of the will, and faculties.
- The counterfeits always result in; The loss of personal control through passivity.
In addressing “automatic writing, what they say is from the evil one
- The person writes what he hears dictated audibly in a supernatural way.
- He writes what he sees presented to his mind supernaturally, sometimes with rapidity as if compelled.
- He writes automatically, as his hand is moved, without any mental, or volitional action.
This is interesting in terms of journaling. When God speaks to me (and others) through prayer journaling, it is not something dictated. It is not written without volitional effort. We are not compelled but we do write what is presented to our minds supernaturally. So I agree with one and three are of the evil one. But with item two I only agree with the fact that we are not compelled.
Conversely, addressing what is true spiritual journaling:
In writing under Divine guidance, three factors are required:
- A spirit indwelt by, and moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1: 21).
- An alert and renewed mind, acute in active power of apprehension and intelligent thinking (See 1 Cor. 14: 20).
- A body under the complete control of the spirit and volition of the man (See 1 Cor. 9: 27).
Chapter 6 Counterfeits of the Divine
This was a challenging chapter. I didn’t agree with much of it. They claim that one of the tactics of the enemy is to provide a counterfeit of the divine presence. “the basis of this counterfeit, is the mistaken location of God; either (1) in them (consciously); (2) or around them (consciously).” They make a distinction that the Father is not present as a person in the believer. Jesus is not present as a person in the believer. The Spirit is present as a person in the believer. The Father and Jesus as person’s are in heaven. This seems to violate Jesus own words in the Gospel of John.
I think the Spirit mediates the presence of Jesus and the Spirit mediates the presence of the Father. “Anyone who does not have Christ does not belong to Him” Romans 8
Some believers so live inwardly in communion, worship and vision, as to become spiritually introverted, and cramped and narrowed in their outlook; with the result that their spiritual capacity and mental powers become dwarfed and powerless. Others become victims to the “inner voice,” and the introverted attitude of listening to it, which is the ultimate result of the location of God as a Person within, so that eventually the mind becomes fixed in the introverted condition with no out-going action at all.
Again – they feel that the location of God as a Person is not within except the Holy Spirit. I agree that contemplatives can become so fixated with introverted naval gazing that there is no out-going action at all. But I fundamentally disagree that the person of the Father and the person of Jesus does not reside in us.
They claim that
Sensuous feelings, or “conscious” physical enjoyment of some supposed spiritual presence is not true communion of spirit with spirit, such as the Father seeks from those who worship Him (John 4: 24).
Here I take another exception. If words can cross the bridge between spirit and mind (or heart) (which they accept), why cannot sensuous feelings – like a feeling of warmth or nearness communicated by the presence of God.
This also seems to miss the fact that since God is Spirit – location as we know is not something we can pin down. How many dimensions exist in our physical reality? Which dimension(s) does God locate in our of universe. The key is that as Spirit he is not located in our space time reality at all. But he can intersect with our reality. In a simplistic view (viz a viz – Flatland by Edwin Abbott Abbott), a being can be in the 4th dimension or 4 dimensional (Abbott doesn’t take time as the 4th dimension) – fully located there but still manifest itself in the 3 dimensions of space. And do it in some weird ways. That is just a mathematical fact.
The Lord’s words recorded in the gospel of John, chapters 14, 15 and 16, give the truth very clearly concerning His indwelling in the believer. The “in Me” of being with Him, and in Him, in His heavenly position (John 14:20) both speak of Jesus’ presence as a person with us.
This seems to my little brain – just muddled thinking. Not really understanding the scriptures nor the power of God – not really understanding how Jesus can be in heaven – how we can be in heaven and on earth at the same time. The central question here is Does the Spirit of God dwell “in us” here on earth? What about when Jesus appeared to Paul? Was that Jesus’ presence here on earth?
I like their identification of wrong speaking – useful in my Discernment blog:
Some of the suggestions made to the believer by deceiving spirits at this time, may be:
- “You are a special instrument for God,” working to feed self-love;
- “You are more advanced than others” working to blind the soul to sober knowledge of itself;
- “You are different from others,” working to make him think he needs special dealing by God;
- “You must take a separate path,” a suggestion made to feed the independent spirit;
- “You must give up your occupation, and live by faith,” aiming at causing the believer to launch out on false guidance, which may result in the ruin of his home, and sometimes the work for God in which he is engaged.
For them all physical or sensory experiences of God’s presence are counterfeit. Were tongues of fire sensory? Did Stephen see Jesus standing at the right hand of God the Father? Here I have a very different view of the intersection of the body and soul with the Spirit. Those who are by nature emotional – their emotions are much more affected by the seam between spirit and soul. Those who are by nature very influenced by the body (athletes, dancers, etc) the body gets affected when the Spirit of God touches their spirit.
They claim that Jesus did not hear the voice of the Father and when He did it was for the sake of others. But this misses two major points: What was going on during those long times of solitude? AND Jesus’ statements that He only speaks what He hears the Father tell him.
At the heart, they are somewhat cessationists:
A careful study of the epistles of Paul–which contain an exhaustive epitome of God’s will for the Church, the Body of Christ, as the books of Moses contained God’s will and laws for Israel–seems to make it clear that God, having “spoken to us in His Son,” no longer speaks by His own direct voice to His people.
Again – for the book on discernment, I find these helpful:
From the subsection: HOW TO DETECT THE SOURCE OF “TEXTS” SUPERNATURALLY SPOKEN
- Does the believer rely upon these “texts” apart from the use of his mind or reason? This indicates passivity.
- Are these texts a prop to him?
- undermining his reliance on God Himself;
- weakening his power of decision, and (right) self- reliance.
- Do these texts influence him? and
- make him elated and puffed up as “specially guided by God,”
- crush and condemn him, and throw him into despair and condemnation, instead of leading him to sober dealing with God Himself
Here is another helpful discernment:
“Fear of the devil may always be regarded as from the devil”
Chapter 7 – Ground and Symptoms of Possession
One of their central premises is that Satan can speak to believers. But the form and the way he speaks depends on the degree to which they have given ground or even be possessed.
They tell us to watch how things come into the mind. Basically if they come out of the blue be very skeptical. “It is best to be suspicious of the abnormal in every shape and form. … A sudden inability to listen, described as “absent-mindedness” or “preoccupation,” when the person is compelled to follow some “thought” suggested, or picture presented to the mind, or to follow the words of another, are all indications of the interference of evil spirits…”
The Lord’s words in Matthew 13: 23, that the good ground hearer is “he that heareth the word and understandeth it,” show that the mind is the vehicle through which the truth of God reaches men to win their affections, and bring back the will into intelligent and loyal co-operation with God. In like manner the mind is the hindrance to Satan’s carrying out his schemes to win back control of the believer. For the success of his plans, the enemy knows that the mind must be lulled into inaction and disuse by some means or other, either by stratagem or attack.
Passive yielding to circumstances is a sign of evil interactions:
The believer slowly loses power of decision, he becomes more and more tossed about by letting everything in his environment decide for him, and sometimes thinking and believing it is God choosing and deciding for him by “Providences”; he therefore does not choose or decide for himself, but passively drifts, and accepts the choice or decision made for him by “circumstances”; or else he is full of impulses, with no central poise of any kind.
Chapter 8 The Path to Freedom
They strongly encourage us not to cast out a demon until the cause of the possession is dealt with – otherwise the demon will come back.
True deliverance comes when we accept all the truth about ourselves and all the ground given to the enemy.
The man himself must
- ACT to get rid of passivity;
- he must revoke his CONSENT given to evil spirits to enter, and
- by his own volition insist that they retire from the place (Ephes. 4: 27) they have obtained by deceit.
The key point in this chapter concerning discerning the Spirit: “one single contradiction is sufficient to reveal a lying spirit at work.” Here again, me, with limited knowledge and experience compared to these writers, I protest. We can often attempt to discern the Spirit and only get part of the message. Another part might be heard in such a ways as to appear as a contradiction. But the whole message is not wrong. Look at the lying spirit speaking in and through Balaam. Not all he said was not of the Spirit.
Also his example stretches me. If in praying for the sick, you sense that God is going to heal the person and they die, they say a lying spirit is present. No – we so want the person to be healed and restored – it is easy to speak our wishes and conflate them as from God.
In another brief form a summary of the steps to deliverance may be given as follows:–
- Recognize persistently the true cause of bondage; i.e., the work of an evil spirit or spirits.
- Choose to have absolutely nothing to do with the powers of darkness. Frequently declare this.
- Do not talk or trouble about their manifestations. Recognize, refuse and then ignore them.
- Refuse and reject all their lies and excuses, as they are recognized.
- Notice the thoughts, and the way in which they come, and when, and immediately declare the attitude of Rom.6: 11 against all the interference of the enemy.
Hindrances to deliverance from deception and possession may again be given here briefly, as:–
- Not knowing it is possible to be deceived;
- Thinking God will not allow a believer to be deceived;
- Saying “I am safe under the Blood,” without intelligent knowledge of conditions;
- Saying “I have no sin,” to open the door to an “evil spirit”;
- Saying “I am doing all that God wants, so all must be right”; without seeking to understand what the will of the Lord is. (Eph. 5: 10- 17).
Some hints on overcoming passivity of mind, are as follows:–
- Act as far as you can, doing what you can.
- Take the initiative, instead of passively depending on others.
- Decide for yourself in everything you can. Do not lean on others.
- Live in the moment, watch and pray step by step.
- Use your mind, and THINK–think over all you do, and say, and are.
Chapter 9 The Volition and Spirit of Man
Here they address the question: How does the Spirit work in individuals:
They make a point that part of the fruit of the Spirit is self-control. Not Spirit-control. This is a helpful distinction.
Something we have seen on retreat, where people who are Baptized in the Spirit take every little movement as a movement from God:
believers sometimes think that then He alone acts in them, and they are infallibly, or specially guided by Him, with the result that everything which takes place in their inner life is necessarily His working.
They use Paul’s example from 1 Corinthians 7 where Paul says some things come from the Spirit and some from his mind. This is helpful.
Chapter 10 Victory in Conflict
Here is a bold statement:
If the man is right with God, standing on Romans 6, with no deliberate yielding to known sin, then any manifestation of sin coming back again unaccountably, may be dealt with as from evil spirits.
So bold that I don’t buy it. But of course it can never be proven because if a brother or sister manifests sin not from an evil spirit, one can always say that they are not in right with God.
From the subsection: BELIEVER SHOULD MAINTAIN NEUTRALITY TO ACCUSATIONS UNTIL SOURCE PROVED
This above statement is a major point and to my mind a helpful point.
We gain victory over Satan by using the weapon of truth.
To have victory over this persistent stream of lies from the father of lies, the believer must fight (1) with the weapon of God’s truth in the written Word, and (2) truth about facts in himself, others and circumstances.
“We would fain have come unto you . . . but Satan hindered us” (1 Thess. 2: 18), wrote Paul, who was able to discern between the hindering of Satan, and the restraining of the Holy Spirit of God (Acts 16: 6).
The whole of his schemes against God’s children may be summed up under three heads:
- To cause them to sin, as he tempted Christ in the wilderness;
- To slander them, as Christ was slandered by family and foes;
- To slay them, as Christ was slain at Calvary, when, by the direct permission of God, the hour and power of darkness gathered around Him, and He by the hands of wicked men was crucified and slain (Acts 2: 23).
The armored and non- armored believer may be briefly contrasted as follows:
|The armored Christian||The non-armored Christian|
|Armored with truth||Open to lies, through ignorance.|
|Righteousness of life||Unrighteousness through ignorance.|
|Making and keeping peace||Divisions and quarrels.|
|Self-preservation and control||Reckless unwatchfulness.|
|Faith as a shield||Doubt and unbelief.|
|Scriptures in the hand||Relying on reason instead God’s Word.|
|Prayer without ceasing||Relying on work without prayer.|
Chapter 11 War upon the Powers of Darkness
In war, whether natural or supernatural, there are two principles governing the warfare, viz.: aggressive and defensive, i.e., the attacking force must be able to defend itself as well as to take the aggressive against the enemy.
A central point of the book is that casting out a demon by commanding only is not always effective because sometimes the ground given is not taken back. This essentially is Jesus teaching about the demon coming back to an empty house.
Then they say this:
the degree of knowledge he has about the workings of the spirits of evil determines the degree of his:
- authority over them in wielding the Name of Christ,
Example of warfare prayers:
“Lord, destroy that work of the devil!” or “May God open the eyes of that man to the deceptions of Satan around him!”
Learning to do warfare prayer is important: “such a warfare by prayer needs to be learnt as much as any other subject of knowledge in the world of men.” Lord I am not sure how to do this.
Another warfare prayer they taught: “pray that any evil spirit present may be exposed”
They give a warning against praying universal prayers:
The order of prayer is therefore, first exhaustive prayer for all personal and local spheres, praying through these out to the wider range of the universal. Prayer not only exhaustive, but persistent. The believer needs for all this
- strength to pray,
- vision to pray,
- knowledge of what to pray
Also, concerning motivation:
He knows that to see a need for prayer is sufficient call for prayer, and if he waits for “feeling” that he can pray when he has vision to pray it is sin.
Chapter 12 Revival Dawn and the Baptism of the Spirit
“We have seen that the period in the believer’s life wherein he receives the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is the special time of danger from the evil supernatural world, and the Baptism of the Spirit is THE ESSENCE OF REVIVAL”
“Few go through the crisis [the hour of Revival] without deception by the enemy in more or less degree, and only those who cling to the use of their reasoning faculties at this time, can hope to be saved from the catastrophe of becoming a victim to the subtle workings of evil supernatural powers.”
We close the book summary with some interesting statements based on their experience with the Welsh revival:
The scheme of the powers of darkness in Revival dawn, is to drive, or push to extreme, what is true.
The mistake at the time of the Revival in Wales in 1904 was to become occupied with the effects of Revival, and not to watch and pray in protecting and guarding the cause of Revival.
The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is the essence of Revival, for Revival comes from a knowledge of the Holy Spirit, and the way of co-working with Him which enables Him to work in Revival power. The primary condition for Revival is, therefore, that believers should individually know the Baptism of the Holy Ghost.
The Holy Spirit fills the human spirit of the believer, and communicates to him the very Spirit of Jesus, joining him in one spirit to the Spirit of the glorified Lord, imparting to him the life and nature of Christ for the building up of a new creation in His likeness (Rom. 8: 29; Heb. 2: 2-13).