Overcoming demonic influences
Satan will actively work against whatever is good and righteous in us in an attempt to stymie God’s love, hope, joy and peace in our lives through sin. How can we recognise the demonic influences in our lives that pull us away from our Heavenly Father?
Ezekiel 18:20 The soul who sins shall die.
Whether we like it or not, Satan is an enemy that we will continue to come up against until Jesus appears again to establish His kingdom on earth. The good news is that our enemy is already defeated and God has given us every weapon we need to deflect demonic attempts to drag us into spiritual self-destruction. You and I have all spiritual authority on earth in the name of Jesus as well as a living and active Sword that “pierces to the division of soul and spirit”, God’s Word.
Ephesians 6:17 … take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
All Satan has are lies and his abilities to perform signs and wonders to influence and captivate people. With the odds stacked up against him, our enemy knows he has little time left and will actively deceive, manipulate and steal from believers. The Bible warns that his lawless activities will increase over time and if we are not careful, will turn our love for God cold.
Revelation 12:12 NLT … terror will come on the earth and the sea, for the devil has come down to you in great anger, knowing that he has little time.”
Matthew 24:12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.
Victory and new life through Jesus Christ
Jesus called Satan a murderer because the devil seeks to bring spiritual death (separation from God) through sin. This is why Jesus came to earth, to defeat the devil and give us new spiritual life in all its abundance.
1 John 3:8 …The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
John 10:7,10 So Jesus again said to them… The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
God promises to guard us against our enemy and his demonic influences. Jesus’ victory on the cross brings great power to you and me, because every demon will have to submit to us once we call on the name of Jesus.
2 Thessalonians 3:3 But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.
Luke 10:17 NIV The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”
God also poured His Holy Spirit into us to provide wisdom, discernment and the knowledge of the truth, so we will not need to fall into the enemy’s traps.
John 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
Recognising demonic influences
No believer begins his or her day deciding to sin. We are only lured into sin by circumstances, people and suggestions that the enemy will place in our way to tempt and deceive us into falling into sin.
Difference between our flesh and evil spirits
It is helpful to distinguish between our own fleshy responses and the demonic influences that lead us to sin. We must not blame everything on evil spirits, nor shirk our personal responsibility when it comes to dying to our flesh and training our bodies to become “instruments for righteousness”.
Romans 6:12-13 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.
Let us use an illustration to distinguish between the influence of our flesh and evil spirits. Suppose you unexpectedly bump into someone who was the cause of a lot of hurt and trauma in your past. It is a person you had recently prayed to God to forgive.
Your initial reaction may be of surprise and dread. This is a fleshy reaction. However, if you start to have thoughts such as, “She looks so happy. She really doesn’t deserve any good in her life. How can she get away with all the hurt she has caused my family and me?” This is a subtle temptation from evil spirits. We should not fall for either our flesh or demonic influences, but submit ourselves to God and extend His grace and love to the person we just bumped into.
Typically, one can recognise demonic influences by certain patterns. Just as the Holy Spirit gives us spiritual knowledge, demons will try to operate through our thoughts. We can discern the influence of evil spirits if they are:
- In the first person – Demons will use deceptions said in the first person. We will think thoughts based on “I”, “my” or “me”.
- Emotional – Demonic influences stir up uncharacteristically high levels of ungodly emotions, such as fear, judgment, pride, shame, sorrow and guilt to tempt us to respond in unloving ways. We will think along the lines of “what if …?” or “if only …” etc.
- Accusing and Condemning – Demons will entice to judge and curse others. We will think “she only…”, “he will never …”, “she deserves…” etc.
- Doubtful of God – Demonic influences will make us question God’s Word and His good character. Our thoughts will sound like “what if God doesn’t…?” etc.
Here are some examples of how demons work to create strongholds in our minds, hearts and souls.
1. Our minds are enticed by falsehood
The Bible warns us that deceitful spirits and teachings of demons will try to lure us into rebellion against God. Let us be careful not to “depart from the faith” because we fall victim to lies, doubt and unbelief such as:
- “The Bible says I can do anything as long as I don’t cause anyone’s faith to stumble.”
- “I can continue to sin endlessly and God will still forgive me.”
- “God won’t come through for me.”
- “What if this isn’t really against God’s will?”
- “The Bible doesn’t explicitly say that this is wrong.”
1 Timothy 4:1-2 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,
2. Our hearts are enticed by worldly desires
Demons will keep us focused on temporal worldly desires with thoughts such as:
- “What if I don’t have enough savings for my future? I better put off tithing.”
- “I won’t give up smoking and drinking because it’s the only thing I have in common with my college classmates.”
- “I’m too busy to be still before God and pray. I have too many commitments to other people that I have to keep up.”
- “All my friends cohabit to save money on rent as couples. I don’t see why I shouldn’t do so too.”
- “If only God would give me all that I want.”
3. Our souls are enticed by spiritual bondages
Demons love to keep our souls in spiritual bondage:
- “I don’t need to forgive until he / she has said sorry. It’s not fair to me.”
- “I can’t let go of this piece of jewelry because it is the only thing left from the man I committed adultery with. Let me keep this one thing.”
- “There is nothing wrong with yoga. It is the only thing that helps me stretch. I won’t give it up.”
- “I can’t love this person. I still clearly recall every offence he / she has committed against me.”
- “This is my private life. I won’t talk to anyone about my sexual addictions.”
The Bible says that sin brings spiritual corruption and enslavement to demons. If we are not careful, we end up straying after Satan and becoming “of the devil” instead of God.
1 John 3:8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning…
Satan and evil spirits are corrupt angels who rebelled against their Creator that are doomed for destruction. Their original role was to convey God’s messages, deliver the law, minister to people and in general, keep His children from straying too far away.
Revelation 12:9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
Each type of evil spirit will specialise in a specific area of darkness. In Ephesians 6, the apostle Paul outlines a spiritual dimension where evil forces have different roles and hierarchy.
Ephesians 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Throughout both the Old and New Testament are examples of different spirits that impart physical infirmities, mental problems, ungodly emotions, supernatural abilities and sinful behaviour. None of these come from the Holy Spirit, who only gives us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Possible signs of demonic influence
|Betrayal / treachery||Judges 9:23 And God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem, and the leaders of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech,|
|Blindness||Matthew 12:22 Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw.|
|Confusion / Mental blocks||Isaiah 19:14 The Lord has mingled within her a spirit of confusion, and they will make Egypt stagger in all its deeds…|
|Crippled / orthopedic issues||Luke 13:11 And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself.|
|Mark 9:25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”|
|Deep sleep||Isaiah 29:10 For the Lord has poured out upon you a spirit of deep sleep, and has closed your eyes (the prophets), and covered your heads (the seers).|
|Despair / sorrow||Isaiah 61:3 NIV … to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair…|
|Divination / fortune telling||Acts 16:16 As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling.|
|Epilepsy||Matthew 17:14-15,18 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly.|
|Error||1 John 4:6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.|
|Fear||2 Timothy 1:7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.|
|Impure worship||Zechariah 13:2 NLT “And on that day,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will erase idol worship throughout the land, so that even the names of the idols will be forgotten. I will remove from the land both the false prophets and the spirit of impurity that came with them.|
|Jealousy||Numbers 5:14 and if the spirit of jealousy comes over him and he is jealous of his wife who has defiled herself, or if the spirit of jealousy comes over him and he is jealous of his wife, though she has not defiled herself,|
|Lies / Deceit||1 Kings 22:22 And the Lord said to him, ‘By what means?’ And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’
1 Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,
|Prostitution / whoredom / sexual debauchery||Hosea 5:4 Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God. For the spirit of whoredom is within them, and they know not the Lord.|
|Signs and wonders (deceiving)||Revelation 16:14 For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty.|
|Spiritism / familiar spirits||Leviticus 20:6 ISV “I’ll oppose and eliminate from contact with his people whoever consults mediums or familiar spirits, thereby committing spiritual prostitution with them.|
|Supernatural strength||Matthew 8:28 And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way.|
|Torment||1 Samuel 16:14-15 Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a harmful spirit from the Lord tormented him. And Saul’s servants said to him, “Behold now, a harmful spirit from God is tormenting you.|
|Violence||1 Samuel 18:10-11 The next day a harmful spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand. And Saul hurled the spear, for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall.” But David evaded him twice.|
Note: This list above is not exhaustive.
Practical steps in cutting off demonic influences
Everyone needs to be aware of the spiritual forces of evil that are at work against us, so we are not outwitted by our enemy’s schemes.
2 Corinthians 2:11 So that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.
1. Understand the law
Any believer who seeks to thrive and have an abundant life must first know the principles and laws that God has set out for mankind. This knowledge should not merely be at an intellectual level, but planted so deeply into our psyches that it drives our motivations, understanding and actions. Intellectual knowledge is easily corrupted by meaningless debates and philosophies. This is how true understanding will be quickly stolen away from us by the evil one.
Matthew 13:19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart…
When we know and understand God’s laws in our hearts, we will not be inclined to break His laws and will be able to discern the influence of evil spirits. Our thinking will shift from focusing on the things of man to the things of God.
Matthew 16:23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
2. Know our God-given authority over demons
God is the absolute Ruler over this world. He will judge all things when the times comes. His authority is also absolute. It is this same authority that we pray with in Jesus’ name in.
The Bible records the astonishment of the 72 followers of Jesus that demons would submit to them when they commanded them in Jesus’ name (Luke 10:17). Demons are terrified of the authority that Jesus has given us and will try to stop us from using it by promoting ignorance, fear, doubt and unbelief.
Mark 3:11 And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.”
We must never fall for demonic deceptions because Jesus paid an incredible price in order to restore mankind’s authority on earth. We nullify the work of Jesus on the cross by staying blind to what He has given to us. It would be almost as if His death and resurrection did not make a difference if we continue to live in fear and enslavement to sin and demons.
3. Submit all our ways to God
We must lay our heart, soul, strength and mind down before God and surrender fully to Him, so that He is able to work through any and every area of our lives.
God gave us free will and He will not do anything that we would resist or object to.
A person who is fully submitted to God will not question God’s goodness, His ways, His intentions, His timing, His plans or His powers. Such a person will simply say, “Yes Lord” when He calls. Submission to God is a vital first step to resisting demonic influences and having victory over evil spirits.
James 4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
4. Learn to ask, “Holy Spirit, is this from You?”
One way to test if the subtle ideas and suggestions we appear to be entertaining in our minds are from God is simply to ask the Spirit of Truth if they are from Him. The Holy Spirit will tell us if they are not and convince us if they are, He brings a very quiet conviction of what is right and wrong.
John 14:16-17 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth…
5. Be open to correction
People who are under the influence of evil spirits tend to be rebellious and reject godly counsel, because the demons that are influencing them want nothing to do with guidance from the Holy Spirit. If we find ourselves behaving this way, we must repent, humble ourselves and be open to correction, even if it feels painful and unpleasant at the beginning. All godly correction will lead to righteousness.
Hebrews 12:11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
6. Repent for sin
Any area of sin in our lives that is not confessed and surrendered to God will act as a landing pad for more evil spirits to influence us. The Bible calls this “giving the enemy a foothold” (Ephesians 4:27). Demons cannot influence us if we do not give them a foothold or vantage point.
Sin grieves the Holy Spirit. God will not tolerate deliberate sin. If we keep on sinning, there will be no more sacrifice or forgiveness left for our sins because we would only be mocking and crucifying Jesus, our Saviour, all over again.
Ephesians 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Hebrews 10:26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,
7. Repent for incorrect views of God
If we have ever thought of God as distant, mean, unapproachable, vengeful, merciless and cold, we need to repent of slandering God and renew our thinking. It is precisely because Satan was able to get Eve to question God’s good character that she fell into sin.
This is another demonic foothold that we must remove from our lives. Make an effort to study the Bible and learn what God says about Himself and why He chooses to do the things He does. It is always because He loves us!
Ephesians 3:18-19 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
8. Command evil spirits to leave in Jesus’ name
There may be times when, out of the blue, we feel angry, lustful, offended or fearful etc. Or we may suddenly suffer from headaches and muscle pains. This could be the work of evil spirits who are trying to pitch our fleshly nature against the Holy Spirit in us.
If we suspect this to be the case, we simply need to command the spirit by its name e.g. spirit of lust, spirit of anger, spirit of infirmity, to leave in the name of Jesus Christ. Then seek to identify the foothold that the demon/s had used to attack us and promptly surrender that to God. We must rebuke evil spirits aloud and expose their dark hidden schemes, and not stay silent.
Luke 10:19-20 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
9. Pray with fellow believers who can keep us accountable
In Hebrews 10, the apostle Paul called believers not to neglect meeting together, stressing that this discipline is particularly important in the last days before Jesus’ return.
Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
As spiritual corruption and wickedness increase, so will the influence of demons over people. We all face trials and demonic influences and benefit greatly when we are in a community of fellow believers, as this allows us to:
- Encourage, pray for and counsel one another.
- Share uplifting testimonies.
- Alert each other to our blind spots and spiritual weaknesses.
- Learn from other people’s experiences and how to build up our spiritual perseverance.
10. Watch out for bad influences
Demonic influences can come from various sources including what we see, read, watch, interact with and listen to.
Matthew 6:23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
For instance, we should not watch movies that show explicit scenes of gore, bloody violence and sexual pervasion and think that it won’t affect us. Fifty Shades of Grey may have been a top selling book but the underlying message is a perversion of God’s intention for love and sexual intimacy. Reading the explicit descriptions only leave ungodly marks in our subconscious memory. When we expose ourselves to such literature long enough, our defences against such sexual perversion are lowered.
Messages are implanted in our minds, both through conscious thought and subconscious exposure. Let us be wise in our lifestyle choices and protect our eyes, ears and minds.
11. Overcome evil with good
If demons cannot quietly lure us to sin against God, they may turn to abuse, oppression, ill treatment, discrimination and harassment to push us into reacting sinfully. The apostle Paul warned us to expect trials, persecution and troubles from Satan, the tempter.
It takes great discipline and wisdom not to be overcome by such pressures. In all the tests He faced from Satan and people, Jesus always considered his responses and reacted wisely. The Bible calls us to react just as Jesus did, and overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
God allows trials to sharpen us and will never forsake us along the way, even if everyone else has. Anyone who overcomes affliction from evil spirits will always benefit from the experience when we rely on God. The memory of the experience may remain, but the intense pain felt during the trial itself will be forgotten. What will be left are wisdom, righteousness and a testimony worth telling.
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