What about me?
In this last blog of the series, let’s boil it down to the personal level. How does spiritual warfare affect me personally? What are the dangers? Can I protect myself?
First, it is important for us to remember that there are three areas in which a Christian can come under attack. These include the world, the flesh, and the satanic. In other words, not everything that befalls us or tempts us is a spiritual attack. We are subject to bombardment from the temptations surrounding us in this sinful world, and from our own imperfect thoughts and impulses. We are responsible for protecting ourselves from those external and internal temptations, by guarding our hearts and minds. Our viewing and reading choices are our choice. So are the topics we choose to dwell on or fantasize about. If we get ourselves in trouble in these areas, we have only ourselves to blame. The ways that we can protect ourselves are not a surprise: we guard our hearts by spending time in God’s Word, in prayer, in Christian fellowship, and in Christian service.
But spiritual warfare is also real. It takes several forms, we’ll call them oppression and possession.
- Demonic possession is relatively rare. It is when the demon completely controls and overwhelms a person. Possession carries with it a sense of the demon occupying the body of the possessed person. In the Bible, demons are shown to sometimes have an influence both over the souls and bodies of men, showing themselves able to inflict dumbness, blindness, epilepsy, and insanity. Most theologians agree that demons cannot possess the body or soul of a true follower of Jesus Christ. Demons cannot own the body of a Christian- that has been bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus. The documented cases of possession are found in individuals who do not have a relationship with Him.
- Demonic oppression– A believer can be subject to oppression, which refers to external attacks. The Bible, in various places, speaks of a person having an “unclean spirit” that negatively influenced or affected his or her life in some way, either major or minor. The oppression is most often an invasion of our thoughts and inner “dialogue”. Let’s consider this in more detail. It is possible for a Christian to invite oppression into their life. If one has an area of habitual and unconfessed sin, or has not surrendered a part of their life to the Lord, a door is left open to spiritual oppression. Think of your life as a house. The areas of your life which are surrendered to God and in which you are in obedience to His will are the rooms which are illuminated, well-lit. The areas which harbor unconfessed sin or which have not been surrendered to the Lord are also rooms, but they remain dark. The dark rooms allow an opportunity for oppression. If we have opened the door to our oppression, it will correspondingly be more difficult to gain relief from it.
Believers who are “doing everything right” can also come under oppressive attack. Satan and his demonic want nothing more than to take out the Lord’s faithful.
What forms do these attacks take? Rarely will they manifest themselves physically. By far the most common appearance will be mental self-doubts and/or accusation:
- What makes you think you can serve in that ministry?
- It’s no wonder that your girlfriend broke up with you..
- Do you really think that God could forgive someone as messed up as you?
- Everyone in the church has it all together- except you.
- You might as well have another beer- nobody cares about you anyhow..
How can we recognize these subtle attacks?
- If the whisper in your mind violates scripture- IGNORE IT!
- If the whisper in your mind just makes generalized accusations of your non-worth- IGNORE IT!
- If the whisper in your mind speaks in the second person (uses “you”)- IGNORE IT!
Those are all voices of spiritual attack. When we experience them we should pray offensively against those whispers in the name of Jesus. Our God is stronger than demonic forces, and is able and willing to protect His people. Call on Him! While we recognize spiritual oppression when it happens, we do not fear it but call it out, pray against it, and stand strong against it. Demons flee when we start returning fire.
It should be our fondest desire to stay in the middle of God’s will. We do this by becoming biblically literate, understanding our theological beliefs, praying personally and often, being part of a faith community, and serving the Master. If we do these things, Satan and his demons cannot stand against us!
For more reading on this subject I recommend Spiritual Warfare, by Dr. Karl Payne, and Demon Possession & the Christian: A New Perspective, by Dr. C. Fred Dickason. Dr. Payne’s book in particular is very readable, and it is based on his many years on the front lines dealing with spiritual warfare. Dr. Payne’s book was instrumental to me in developing the theology presented in this series.