Deception The Bible portrays Satan as a “liar from the beginning,” with deception as perhaps his primary strategy. We see that strategy employed in the temptation of Eve, described in Genesis 3. God had warned Adam against the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and identified “death” as the consequence of eating the forbidden fruit. Satan attacked, asking “did God [really] say.” He denied the consequences God had laid out, arguing “you shall not surely die.” Satan even impugned God’s motives, suggesting “God knows that you will be like him.” With her trust in what God had said and in his motives eroded, Eve relied on her senses to evaluate the fruit. Since it looked good, and smelled good, and since it seemed to Eve that to “be like God” in any respect was a desirable thing, Eve ate. Eve had been thoroughly deceived, with tragic results.
This early Genesis scene provides a template of Satan’s strategy of deception. In his word God provides an accurate description of reality, marking out how we are to live our lives in fellowship with him and to avoid the disasters that follow when we stray. Satan focuses his efforts on distorting our understanding of reality and on undermining our commitment to live by God’s revelation. When a person has been deceived he is left with his or her distorted perceptions of what will help and not harm, and is forced to rely on illusions when making moral decisions.
The Bible portrays humankind’s cultures [called “the world”] as a web of distorted ideas, desires, and passions under the control of “the wicked one.” Trapped in distorted ideas about ourselves, about God, and about every aspect of our life on earth, we are vulnerable to manipulation by demons. Deliverance thus calls for more than casting out any demons that may have found an opening. Deliverance requires closing open doors by teaching the truth about God, ourselves, and how to live a life that is in harmony with the Holy Spirit. The truths that Paul emphasizes in Ephesians as the “armor of God” are critical for lasting deliverance.
Deliverance. In its broadest sense “deliverance” involves guiding Christians into the fullness of the new life which Christ won for us in his cross and resurrection. More narrowly, deliverance is viewed as freeing believers from the influence of demonic powers who are intent on thwarting God’s purposes in them. In the narrower sense, deliverance often involves healing deep emotional wounds and casting out demons who are oppressing believers with psychological and/or physical disabilities. More broadly, deliverance involves discipling by providing the teaching, fellowship, and encouragement which enables believers to grow to maturity in Christ.
Deliverance Evangelism. In cultures in which demonic activity is widespread, effective evangelism often involves open, public conflict with evil spirits. As demons are cast out and demonically caused illness and afflictions are healed, those who have lived their lives in fear of supernatural beings realize the power of Jesus and come to him for salvation. Many revivals in the developing world feature deliverance evangelism.
Demons. They go by a number of names. The gods of the pagans named in the Old Testament are identified in both testament as demons (cf 1 Cor. 10:20). In the Gospels they’re known as demons and. evil spirits. In the Epistles they’re called powers, authorities, rulers, and principalities. Whatever name is used, “demons” are spirit beings who were created as angels, but followed Satan in his original rebellion, becoming demons. Like angels, demons are individual created beings. Unlike angels, they are utterly hostile to God and to human beings. Because God loves humankind, Satan and his demon followers hate us and are intent on doing us harm.
Demonic Oppression. Deliverance ministers have attempted to catalogue ways in which demons can adversely affect [oppress] human beings. Any such catalogue includes far too many items to list here. However a sampling shows that demons cause, or exacerbate, addictions and dependencies, feelings of anger, anxiety, and bitterness. Demons encourage manipulation and controlling behavior, depression, lying, anxiety and fears. Demons have also been associated with financial bondage and physical disabilities. Demons operate through cultural forms, from music to occult practices, as well as directly in our lives. They stimulate pride and rebellion, strife and hostility. It is not an exaggeration to state that demons may be involved in any harmful aspect of our lives. But it would be an exaggeration to claim that each problem a person has has its source in demonic oppression. Generally demons do not create our problems, but where problems exist they will seek to make them worse.
Demonization. This is the transliteration of the Greek word used in the Gospels to describe demonic activity. The verbs associated the daimonizomai make it clear that in some sense demons are “in” a demonized person, and that they can be “cast out.” Demonization, then, is the term the Gospel writers chose to describe the presence of one or more demons within the life [personality] of an individual. Unfortunately, the Greek word is often rendered in English versions as “demon possessed.” See below.
Demon Possessed. The translation of the Greek diamonizomai (demonized) as “demon possession” has unfortunate connotations. This translation suggests that demons control those who host them, while the Greek term merely indicates that a demon or demons have in some sense taken up residence in the host. Deliverance ministers are convinced that only in extreme and unusual situations does a demon actually control a person. What demons seem to do is to fasten on something already present in an individual’s personality or makeup and exaggerate it. Thus a person who has difficulty with his temper may be pushed from anger to rage. But the temper problem was the person’s before any demons were involved. For this reason a deliverance minister will normally attempt to find the root of the anger and deal with it as well as expel the demon.
Demonic Manifestations. Demons generally prefer to remain hidden both from an individual they inhabit and from others. The overly dramatic exhibitions portrayed in such films as The Exorcist are far from typical, although such phenomenon as levitation have been documented, as have exhibitions of unusual strength, falling to the floor, facial and vocal changes, etc. Most deliverance ministers prefer to minimize such manifestations and do so by commanding the demons not to cause any kind of disturbance. At the same time, it is important that any demon “surface” [by speaking through the victim] to confirm its presence.
Discernment. In the context of deliverance, this term is typically used of the ability to identify the presence of one or more demons, and also to confirm that they have left following an exorcism. So used, “discernment” sometimes refers to a natural talent for assessing evidence of demonization, and sometimes refers to spiritual insight given directly by the Holy Spirit. As a natural talent discernment is a skill, gained by experience, for reading clues in a person’s behavior or responses that indicate the presence of evil spirits. As a spiritual gift, discernment is a Spirit given ability to sense the presence of evil spirits, that at times may include specific information about those spirits. It is extremely helpful to have a person with a gift of discernment present when ministering to someone who may be demonized.
Dissociation. This is a phenomenon in which a person [typically a young child] deals with some extreme trauma by separating himself or herself from the experience. The product is one or more alters . . . personality fragments whose experiences and emotions are walled off from the dominant personality. Once called “multiple personality disorder,” the phenomenon is now understood as “dissociative identity disorder” [DID], and treated by seeking to make the primary identity aware of the alters, ultimately integrating them into the whole.
The reason that DID is significant for deliverance ministers is first, that a dissociated identity that surfaces during a session may be mistakenly identified as a demon, and second, that demons may be linked to one or more of the alters but not to the primary identity. It takes great skill and understanding to work with individuals suffering from DID, especially if one or more alter is demonized.