Every now and then I am asked by a disturbed Christian whether he or she might be troubled by an evil spirit. The answer is, “Yes of course! We’re all troubled by that embodiment of evil personified – Satan.” As the Apostle Peter says, “The devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” And this Enemy of our souls certainly has his helpers to trouble us night and day. C.S. Lewis gives some helpful insights into the work of those demons in his “Screwtape Letters”.
The problem is that this answer usually doesn’t satisfy my enquirers. They know that the devil is active in their life. What concerns them particularly is that they may be oppressed by a demon or even possessed by some evil spirit. They say this because they have some serious issue in their life – a persistent problem that will not go away despite their best efforts. So perhaps some evil spirit in them is causing their problem.
Sometimes this concern has been brought about by Pentecostal friends. There is a trend in some Charismatic circles to attribute addictions and personality disorders to demons. The lady who struggles with jealousy is told that she had a demon of jealousy. A man who battles anger is informed by a well-meaning friend that he has a demon of anger in his life. This shifts the area of responsibility. These folk are no longer struggling with the evils of their own sinful nature (as Paul put it in Galatians 5) instead they are struggling against demonic and that’s a scary business.
In every instance in which I have been asked about this, the enquirer has been a person who sincerely believed in Jesus as their Saviour and Lord. They trusted that He lived for us the perfect life that we couldn’t live and that He gave His life to pay the penalty for our sin. Often the question has been asked by someone who has not been a Christian for long but sometimes older and more mature Christians have asked that question too. However, the point is that these questions have always come from committed Christians.
The comforting reassurance that I offer these people is that they are indeed possessed – not by an evil Spirit but by the Holy Spirit. It’s only by the Holy Spirit that anyone can say, “Jesus is Lord” (1Cor.12:3). The wonderful truth is if we are possessed by the Holy Spirit there is no room in us for an evil spirit.
The classic come-back to this, is the story of King Saul in the Old Testament. That man was filled God’s Holy Spirit and that was evident in that he joined a bunch of preachers and prophesied. Yet later we read that God sent an evil spirit into Saul and that this evil spirit troubled Saul greatly. If we use that story to try to justify a Christian being oppressed or possessed by an evil spirit then we conveniently forget that Saul had turned his back on God – and that’s just what my enquirers have not done. Someone who is truly possessed by an evil spirit is not going to be concerned about these issues in their life. So the very fact that these folk express their concern is evidence that what they fear is not true.
It’s a wonderful comfort to us as Christians that Jesus is stronger than Satan. Jesus has already dealt the Enemy a mortal blow. And it is this conquering Jesus who has poured His Spirit into our lives… and where He is present the Enemy may not enter in, no matter how much he may try to entice us and lead us astray. It is the indwelling Christ who is our secure refuge.