About two years ago, I had to clarify my beliefs regarding demonic influence to a friend who decided to end our friendship due to my hobby of playing World of Warcraft. I know there are many who live with a heightened fear of the dark side, either due to experience with spirits or a wandering imagination. But, I think that much of the average American Christian fear is based more on what we don’t know, than what we do. Don’t mistake me. What the Bible reveals about the demonic world is scary, but rarely do I see people fear what they should. Instead, they are phobic about speculative theories based on Occult writings and magical lore more than on the truthful Word of God.
Do not give Satan what he wants: the fear that rightfully belongs to God.
I do not believe that Satan is a second god. God and Satan are not on equal footing vying for the souls of men, with our own choice casting the lot with who we think will win. Satan does not come close to matching God’s creative, all-knowing, all-present, infinite power. He is the creature rebelling against his creator. David Powlison puts it this way, “The devil is God’s devil.”
The way Satan spends his time, his location, his abilities, his freedom is strictly controlled. We learn this from the book of Job. He does not surprise God or do anything behind His back. He can only do what God grants. He can only speak when spoken to. He must give account. He is kept on a tight leash. His work on earth is overseen by a just, merciful God who allows this Satanic presence (and the lies, deceit, and corruption that he brings) for His ultimate good pleasure.
I’ve known some people who are enslaved to their fear of demons. They see a demon behind every bush! And yet, they believe they have a spirituality that is more mature than mine because they “know” the power of the devil. They remind me of the villagers in Togo, Africa whose lives revolved around keeping the spirits appeased. When we base decisions from a fear of the reaction of Satan’s minions, we are giving Satan God’s place in our hears. That is devil worship! Instead, we should base our decisions on the fear of God’s reaction. After all, the devil is God’s devil.
The Occult, or using magic to influence the spirit world, is an enslaving illusion.
The Old Testament is filled with warnings to stay away from idols and the demons they represent. Below are a few observations about these pagan, occult societies in ancient times.
- They believed all events, good or bad, had a demonic explanation. “The gods sent this sign.” “The gods killed my child.” “The gods must be unhappy with us.” Hence, people worked to keep these gods happy, by doing the things they decided pleased that particular god.
- It was the cultural norm to practice sorcery, astrology, mediums, ritual prostitution, cursing, spell saying… Everyone was doing it.
- Along side of occult practices, human addictions thrived: gluttony, drunkenness, immorality, greed, covetousness, adultery, murder, vengeance, incest, sinful ambition. Also plaguing humanity were “(un)natural” disasters that we see today: disease, drought, famine, weather disasters, wild animal attacks, war.
How does the Old Testament, which was written in the midst of this pagan era, deal with the predominance of demonic influence? It is relatively quiet. The Old Testament does not set forth an extended demonology. It occasionally mentions Satan and evil spirits, but in a fashion that shows their power is limited by God’s will. In fact, I believe the Old Testament tries to open its reader’s eyes to the fact that this pagan worldview is mythical! Meaning that it is a fantasy to believe in a world of spirits or gods that can be contacted and enslaved by occult means; that humans can exert power and control over the dead or “gods” through rituals, formulas, and words. This “power” is a lie Satan uses and enslaves these cultures with.
Old-fashioned, faithful obedience brings freedom from demonic influence.
In some Christian circles today, there is emphasis on naming the demons to control them, casting out the demon in Jesus’ name, and using rituals to protect yourself from demonic influence. This occult-like focus ignores personal responsibility and blame shifts the suffering and trials to Satan. God does not want us to be diverted from the all-too-real battle for our soul. He stresses human responsibility and minimizes spirit activity in the Bible. Notice in Gen 3:1-15 that “the devil made me do it” is not an acceptable reason for Eve’s disobedience. She was responsible. A person under demonic influence, Christian or not, is responsible to obey the Lord according to His revelation. It is this faithful obedience that brings freedom from the spirits, not an exorcism.
In Ephesians 6, the New Testament war book on how to battle evil spirits, Paul details the defensive and offensive tactics. We defend with the truth, right living, peaceful words and actions, a steadfast enduring belief that God is good, and the safety in the past victory of our salvation in Christ. We strike out against Satan not with power words or incantations, but with a working and growing understanding of God’s Word; an intimacy with His explanation of life and eternity found in the Bible. Is this not how the Son of God himself fought off Satanic attack? And we are to stay alert. Not to the presence of demons, but to the connection we personally have with the creator-God through prayer. This is how we find freedom in the midst of Satanic attack.
The following are Biblical conclusions about spirit activity:
Demonic activity is the result of continued disobedience (rebellion) to God.
In 1 Samuel 16:13-23, Saul is tormented by an evil spirit sent from the LORD. I believe that this spirit was sent to him as punishment for sin. Saul lived a selfish, proud, obstinate life which culminated in outright rebellion against God. Demonic torment was the consequence. From the information given, Saul never sought occult practices BEFORE the spirit came, only after. The demonic activity was controlled by music.
God used the Occult for His purpose.
In 1 Samuel 28:3-25, I believe God used forbidden, occult practices to accomplish his will! This is the longest passage in the Bible detailing the activity of the spirit world. King Saul’s dabbling with the occult does not result in demonic possession, but in wrath. He was killed for rebellion, consulting a medium and neglecting to consult the Lord. Yet God allowed His dead, godly servant Samuel to speak by the means of this medium! The message is clear. God controls all things, even the things He’s called detestable. He controls evil.
God asks the spirits to entice the king.
1 Kings 22:6-28 is one of my favorite passages in the Bible! I love a good mystery, and here God peels back a bit of the veil separating us from the spirit world and gives us a peek. Ooo! I want to know more! Anyway, it is clear from this passage as well, that God is able to use demons as agents of his judgement. They must follow His will, even as it pleases them to do it through deceit and lies.
Godliness attracts the spirit’s attention and the boasting of God.
The book of Job shows me that Satan can harm a God-fearer, but only as God allows. It also shows that it was through no “occult activity” that Job incurred the attentions of the devil. It was through straight-up living, and being SO godly, Satan wanted to destroy him. I also see that Job’s problem was a moral dilemma, not a “evil-spirit” problem. Would he curse God? Job, truly oppressed and tormented by demonic activity, did not deal with his sufferings as such. He did not call for deliverance. He did not want an exorcism. In fact, he never mentions Satan. Job wrestles with God, because he acknowledges God’s sovereignty. How did Job overcome his suffering? By good-old-fashioned repentance. You see, the real battle wasn’t Satan working behind the scene to screw with property, family, and material things, but with something much more insidious. Self-righteousness. I believe (opinion here) this is Satan’s favorite tool, not occult practices. Human, moral dilemmas are where the dangerous battles lay.
Well, this is getting long. More later…