Part 2: Giving and gaining spiritual ground

As I start on Part 2 of this study, let me first address an important question. I have already given the answer to it, but what do YOU believe? Can a Christian become possessed by the devil or demons? The answer to this question will greatly determine how you approach the issue of spiritual warfare. Before this question can be given a propper answer, we need to define or explain a few things.

DEFINING TERMS

The issue of the Christian and demonic activity is a hot potatoe. We can not ignore the question or run away from it. And as this is a question that polarizes the churches, it is a tragedy that there are no absolute biblical way to answer it.

Possession

That may sound strange, but the New Testament does not directly answer the question if a Christian can be demon possessed or not. This is because the New Testament doesn’t really address the question of demon possession, as we think of it, in relation to the Christian.

In fact, the very term, demon possession, is part of the problem. It is used in most English Bibles today to translate a single Greek word – and it may not be a good translation at all. Tim Warner writes:

The use of the word “possession” to translate the expressions used in the Greek New Testament to indicate the relationship between demons and people is unfortunate, if not unwarranted. We obtained our English word “demon” by transliterating the Greek word “daimon“. We should have done the same with the Greek word “daimonizomai” – a vern form of the same Greek root. It would then come into English as “demonize” and we could then speak of the degree to which a person could be demonized rather than being limited to the either-or potions imposed by the possessed – not possessed view.

Spiritual possession clearly implies ownership and would seem to indicate the control of one’s eternal destiny. It would be impossible to be owned and controlled by Satan and have a saving relationship with Christ at the same time.

A continuum

We know that Christ has bought us with a price, and I really can’t see Him selling us to the devil. However, the work of Satan in a Christian’s life is not a stark either/or choice of no influence or full possession. It is better represented by a continuum, raging from mere suggestion of waht can be called a dominating and destructive influence. Neil Anderson says:

The fact that a Christian can be influenced to one degree or another by the “god of this world” is a New Testament given. If not, then why are we instructed to put on the armour of God and stand firm (Ephesians 6:10), to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:15), and to resist the devil (James 4:7)? And what if we don’t put on the armour of God, stand firm, assume responsibility for what think; and what if we fail to resist the devil? Then what? We are easy prey for the enemy of our souls.

Look again at 1 Peter 5:8. What does it mean to be devoured by Satan? Why does God warn me of that if it’s not a possibility? The word “devour” means “to gobble down quickly“. Satan not only wants to eat your lunch, he wants to eat you! Satan is able to do tremendous damage to the body of Christ because so many refuse to recognize his influence.

Influence

The key word that has been usd\ed up to this point, at least for believers, is influnce. When it comes to Christians, evil spirits are only spirits of influence. They can be firmly held in Satan’s grasp, under his control, blinded in their hearts and minds  and utterly dead to spiritual truth until quickened by the Holy Spirit. They are members of his kingdom of darkness (Ephesians 2:2).

But, like I have said a few times allready, Christians are allready “possessed” (owned) by the Holy Spirit, so demonic possession in the way of ownership is not an issue. Rather, the issue is the influence the evil one can exert on us. “In discussing demonic spiritual  warfare on a personal level,” Scott Moreauexplains, “one general principle must be noted at the onset: demons can only influence believers to the extent that we allow then to do so.” Moreau, assistant professor of missions and intercultural studies at Wheaton Graduate School, adds: “The act of giving or allowing Satan to take any amount of control in our life is refered to as ‘giving ground’.”

GIVING GROUND TO THE ENEMY

Moreau is refering to Paul’swarning in Ephesians 4:27. After cautioning us not to let our anger simmer over night, Paul says “Neither give place to the devil.” The word translated “place” here is the Greek word “topos“. This word might look familiar to you in it’s root form. The English word “topography” comes from topos, and it refers to the ground or a specific spot or location.

So giving ground to Satan in our lives is giving him ground, a “foothold” according to the NIV, an “opportunity” according to the NASB  and RSV, a “chance” according to TEV.On the other side, one commentator describes Paul’s admonition as allowing the devil “no leeway… no room to move”.

Building strongholds

All of these translations, and there are others, add up to a very graphic description of the way that Satancan gain access into a believer’s life.

It is likely that any sinful activity can be exploited by the devil and turned into a means of control over a believer’s life. Therefore,  Christians need to resist. Believers either resist the influence of the evil one who works through the flesh and the world, or they surrender control of their livesto the power of darkness. Giving into those temptations does not just confirm the weakness of the flesh, it opens up the lives of believers to the control of the devil and his powers. We need to recognize the supernatural nature of temptation and be prepared to face it.

Satan’s pawns?

Notice that we as believers can give ground toSatan. He can’t take it without our cooperation and permission. All he can do is influence us: plant evil thoughts, make suggestions, place temptation in our path.

I want to keep coming back to this idea of influnence because it’s so important to waging successful spiritual warfare. No Christian is a helpless pawn of Satan! That’s why we don’t ever want to become fixated on the enemy and his power. Our focus should be on Christ (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Knowing how the enemy operates and becoming obsessed with him are two very different things. Most evangelicals err on the side of knowing far too little, not too much. My greatest problem is not Satan, but myself. If I desire to hold on to sin, I give the enemy the ground he needs to launch his destructive attacks against me. If I cherish sin in my life, Satan will seek to exploit it. Since I must serve someone (see Joshua 24:15), the fact is that any area of my life I don’t yield to the Holy Spirit’s control, Satan will control.

Legal jurisdiction

It is helpful to think of “ground” as legal jurisdiction. When I give ground to Satan, I am giving him legal permission to attack me. The enrmy wants this ground so he can build strongholds on it. If atan gets a firm enough foothold in a person’s life, he can turn an act of sin into a regular practice of sin, and from there it degenerates into a habit which leads that person downward into bondage, where he “shall be holden with the cords of his sins” (Proverbs 5:22).

This downward spiral is fairly easy to discern in any form of bondage that has a physical component. For instance, most alchoholics didn’t start by announcing “I plan to ruin my life and my family by drinking as much alcohol as I can hold every day from here on out”. No, it begins with a drink, then two, then a couple to get the person goingin the morning and a couple more to help him unwind after a hard day. The slide downward can be traced from the initial act to a regular practice to a habit of bondage.

Additction or sin?

By the way, I don’t like the word “addiction“. Addiction is a secular consept, and I don’t like it because it suggeste that I am a powerless victim of my problem. God calls it sin, the world calls it “bad genes“.

We’ve got to chose which way we believe. If it’s sin, there’s hope. If I’m just born this way, or if I’m a helpless victim of some powerful force or substance, then my situation is hopeless. As far as I’m concerned, the only “bad genes” you get are in your local clothes shop.

Nurturing sin

I am not saying that every time we sin, we give Satan a hugee chunk of ground which he can build a towering stronghold. Can you imagine what kind of mess we would be in if every sin we comitted led to a satanic stronghold? Instead, we give ground when we refuse to let go of our sin, to confess it, and turn from it. I think that’s very clear from Ephesians 4:26-27. It is not nesessarily one moment of anger that gives Satan a foothold, but anger stored up, nurtured, and allowed to turn to bitterness and other horrible things the apostle goes on to describe in the closing verses of Ephesians 4.

In other words, giving ground  and allowing Satan to build a stronghold on that ground are different issues. Giving ground is the enemy’s entry point in our lives. Strongholds are belief systems that take more time and involvement to build. You have to listen and believe a whole lot of lies before Satan can get this kind of stranglehold on your life.

Giving ground is like giving Satan the land and the “building permit” , the permission he needs to erect his stronghold.

Believing lies

The deception aspect of this is important to understand, because the very definition of a stronghold makes it clear that satanic strongholds ares built on a foundation of lies. The very “bricks” or foundation of a stronghold are lies. We know that Satan “is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44). Satan knows that if he can get our eyes off of Christ and on to our circumstances and problems, we’ll soon be tripped up.

Lies can only trip us up if we believe them, of course. But once we believe Satan’s lies, they become the truth for us.

A BIBLICAL PROCESS

Now that I have used terms like “giving ground”, “strongholds”, and “towers of truth”, let me show you where we are going with all this. I will present five biblical steps to freedom in Christ. These steps will be helpful to you both in leading someone else to freedom, and in equiping you and your family to wage successful spiritual warfare. Many people have discovered that because these principles are from the Word of God, the principles are effectivefor more than those who are in deep bondage to some habit or secret sin. They are also part of the “spiritual weapons” God has given all of us, weapons which are mighty through Him for the “pulling down of strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4).

STEPS TO FREEDOM IN CHRIST

In case I don’t say it often enough; Satan is a defeated for! He was rendered powerless at the cross of Jesus Christ. The enemy has no power over God’s children except that power we permit him to have. Keep those thoughts in mind as we look at ways Satan can bring us under bondage and what it takes to defeat him.

1. Genuine repentance

The first step in bringing someone to genuine freedom in Christ is this: There must be genuine repentance of sin. Conviction of sin is the Holy Spirit’s work! Only He can put the finger on sin and bring the “godly sorrow that worketh repentance” (2 Corinthians 7:10).

Turning from sin includes confession and cleansing by the blood of Christ (1 John 1:9, 1 Peter 1:18-19), and a committment to letting go of the sin. This has to be the first step, because without true repentance nothing of any lasting value will happen. I have met several people who are not willing to let go of their sin, and because of that is beyond help.

2. Taking back ground

Step two in coming to freedom yourself or helping someone else find freedom is taking back ground that has been yielded to the enemy. How do I take back ground that has been surrendered to the enemy? By an open decleration to God that what I did was wrong. This means verbally announcing that in the Lord’s name and power, I am  asking Him to take back any ground I have yielded to Satan. I announce to the forces of evil that here and now, I renounce Satan’s works and ways in my life, that I want nothing to do with them anymore. There are Christians who have let Satan push them around and keep them in bondage their whole lives without ever once resisting him.

Remember that “ground” is a legal jurisdiction. It is like givingthe enemy the key to my house. When I yield ground, I am giving the enemy permission to attack me with destructive thoughts and temptations. Looking at it from another angle, I have strayed into his jurisdiction, his territory, and that gives him a claim I must renounce.

Once all ground has been taken back from the enemy (his legal right to attack me), this is the time to command the enemy in the name and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ to leave and go where Jesus sends him.

3. Tearing down strongholds

The third step in gettimng free of the enemy is tearing down strongholds. Remember, a stronghoSatan builds in your heart and mind. God wants us to tear down these structures, as we have seen (2 Corinthians 10:4). Unlike fortresses made by stone and brick, these strongholds can’t be destroyed by the weapons of the flesh.

What undermines and destroys a lie? The truth! Jesus said it is truth that sets us free (John 8:32), but it is only when truth is believed and acted upon that does the job.

Another reason we need to identify and tear down strongholds is because Satan is a deceiver (Revelation 12:9). That’s one of his major attacks we have to deal with. A deception is when your mind and emotions believe something that isn’t true. Deception may be 90% truth and only 10% lie, but the power of a deception is broken only when we recognize that it is a lie.

Satan is not only a liar and deceiver. He is also “the accuser of the brethren” (Revelation 12:10). This is his other tactic. He will accuse God to me, me to God, and even me to me. He will intrude his thoughts into my mind, and then accuse me for having them.

Our belief systems are shaped by a number of significant forces: family, society, our peers, education, television, and even music we listen to. That is why we as believers have to renew our minds (Romans 12:2) by thinking God’d thoughts. One way we do this is by dwelling on those things that are honest, true, pure, lovely, and of “good report” (Phillippians 4:8). More about this later.

4. Building towers of truth

When you tear down a satanic stronghold, use the bricks to build towers of truth. This is the fourth step to freedom.

A tower of truth is just what it implies: reprogramming your mind with the truth about yourself, about God, and about Satan and his ways. Then, when the enemy comes with his intruding thoughts – lies, deceptions, and accusations – you can flee to the tower.

Of course, God’s Word is the ultimate source of the truth we need to replace Satan’s strongholds of lies. In the Psalms, King David several times used this idea of a tower to which we can flee (see Psalms 18:1-3).

5. Taking thoughts captive

For this fifth and final step, we go back to 2 Corinthians 10, a critical passage that teaches us that the mind is the battleground between God and Satan in spiritual warfare.

Verse 5 instructs us to  take every thought captiveto the obedience of Christ“. We are to bring our thoughts in line with what Ha desires ans what pleases Him.

Do you know what wrong thoughts look like? That is, would you recognize a wrong thought when you had one? You’d be surprised how many Christians don’t. Or perhaps I should say, you’d be surprised how many Christians think horrible, vile, and even blasphemous thoughts Satan torments them with are actually their thoughts. What can you conclude about yourself if you believe these thoughts are coming from you? You would conclude “I must be a terrible, rotten person. No child of God would think like this. God can’t love me when I have such wicked thoughts.”

Many people struggle with intruding thoughts, often coming so fast they can’t turn off the flow. I ask these people: “Are these terrible thoughts coming from God?”

The inevitable answer is “No, no way!” But they cannot discern whether the thoughts are coming from them or from the enemy. Trying to deal with thoughts when they’re coming fast is exhausting. It’s like a kid in a batting cage trying to hit one houndred balls coming at him evey minute. He’s defenceless.

But Matthew 16:13-23 shows us that our thoughts can come from one of three sources: ourselves, God or Satan. In verse 16, God put His thoughts into Peter’s mind so that Peter spoke out the very mind of God when he confessed Jesus as the Son of God.

The interesting thing is that if Jesus hadn’t told Peter this thought was from God, Peter wouldn’t have known where it came from. He would have assumed it was his thought. But then, in verse 22, Peter rebuked Jesus for talking about the cross. Jesus immediately informed Peter that this thought was from the devil.

Don’t let the enemy set the agenda. When the enemy sends an intruding thought, say “I give no concent to that”, and move on. By the way, God hasn’t left it up to us to decide what kinds of thoughts to shun and what kinds to embrace. Letting our minds dwell on the things described in Phillippians 4:8 will help us discern when the enemy is attackin us with his intruding thoughts.

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