The Evangelical branch of the Church today has one biblical issue it doesn’t want to discuss much anymore. Charismatics can’t seem to shut up about this for even one second, but Evangelicals—perhaps put-off by their charismatic brethren—can’t bring themselves to preach or teach about it at all. I know that in the last ten years this rarely mentioned topic has become to Evangelicals what the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is to the swamps of Arkansas: You knew it’s there, and while people want to see it, those who have seen it can’t reveal it lest some yahoo take a potshot at it.
I’m talking about demons.
I can’t remember the last time I sat in a non-charismatic church and heard someone speaking forthrightly about the demonic. I side with C.S. Lewis’s thinking that too much talk about them is not healthy, nor is too little. It’s that “too little” part in Evangelical churches that has me bothered.
Evangelicals simply do not take the issue of demons seriously enough. In a time that can be categorized by its unrelenting dereliction of truth, sources of deception and darkness must be exposed for what they are. Failure to shine the light on this infernal darkness means that it will necessarily increase in boldness.
Folks, I read the Book, too. I know how it all ends. But this doesn’t give us a pass on confronting evil. To ignore it imperils even those in the Church, because while Christians possessed of the Holy Spirit cannot be simultaneously possessed by unholy spirits, demons still oppose Christians. There are reasons why Paul wrote about the weapons available to Christians in our battle, just as there are reasons why our fight is not merely against flesh and blood.
The man I consider my spiritual mentor took me to a revival meeting out of town many years ago. During the speaker’s message, my mentor dropped a bomb on the young, impressionable Dan. “See that woman in the second row, the one in the red dress?” he said casually, his head nodding that direction. “She has a demon.” He turned back to his bulletin as if he’d said there was a great old Andy Griffith Show episode on the local UHF channel that evening, leaving me staring. He didn’t know her; we weren’t from around there. So how did he know? After a few minutes, I also sensed something in the room—and it came from that woman. For all appearances she remained calm and collected, but the second the speaker stopped speaking, she lunged for his throat. It took eight men to wrestle her to the ground. Trembling, I accompanied my mentor when he went up to pray over her. I heard her speaking in a disembodied man’s voice. I witnessed her fingers and limbs moving in directions even a first year med student could tell you were physically impossible. I felt the coldness in the air. And the sense that there was something horribly, awfully awry right in front of me was unshakable.
Through all that I learned something: They are out there and they have a signature stench that the Spirit readily reveals to those fully attuned to what He is saying.
We are doing a great injustice to folks in the Church when we shy away from talking about demons. Again, an unhealthy preoccupation is wrong, but so is leaving the chthonic unmentioned. We have too often treated the demonic like bogeymen, thinking that if we ignore them they’ll leave us alone. But rest assured of this one thing: they do not exist to leave us alone. And for this reason, we ignore them at our peril.
Since that day in that little rural church in Nowheresville, OH, I’ve had numerous run-ins with demonic powers. A friend and I praying in my car outside a psychic’s parlor experienced the chill of a demonic force that finally let loose with a moan when its power was broken. The psychic, who had been in that location for as long as I could remember, closed up shop less than a week later. Beyond personal accounts like that, I’ve heard several stories from friends who have served overseas as missionaries, telling of encounters that left former naysayers hospitalized when they casually took on what was ultimately a demonized individual.
As the time nears for their end, the demonic powers and principalities out there will grow increasingly desperate. We American Christians, who so easily live off our cultivated scientific rationalism, need to be diligent. Christians are coming under increasing attack and either don’t realize the true source for their problems or are lacking in the wisdom needed to confront real demonic oppression when it occurs.
If you never hear messages and teachings on how to deal with the demonic, ask your pastor why not. More to the point, ask him about his own personal encounters with the demonic. Truthfully, if he claims he’s never had any, then something’s wrong. Christians will be opposed. Demons hate it when we take back what they’ve stolen, expose their practices, or reveal their lurking about.
Along with the weapons of the Spirit in Ephesians 6:10-18, we also must know the saints of God
…have conquered [the accuser of the brethren] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.
—Revelation 12:11 ESV
Adhering to the truth of the Gospel not only defensively prevents the Enemy from piercing the chinks in our spiritual armor, but it has offensive power as well. Therefore, we stray from the truth or use it carelessly to our own disadvantage. To our persecutors, the very human tools of the demonic, bearing that Gospel truth to our own deaths is their ultimate defeat.
Yet too many of us aren’t fighting the battle wisely or even at all. Nor do we cover each other’s backs as effectively as we could. Pray for the defeat of the demonic forces that may plague people in your church. Learn the signature of the demonic in people’s lives. Make certain the Lord’s revealed the chinks in your own armor and let Him patch them before you do serious battle against the demonic; they never abide by the rules and are far more vicious than we can understand this side of heaven.
As the world heats up, it will be demons stoking that fire. Our confidence despite that flame is that the Lord has already overcome them. Remember that, abide in Christ Jesus, and deal with the demonic soberly.