Below is a response I wrote on Facebook concerning a popular Bible teacher’s proclamation that Christians cannot be possessed with demons. Please leave comments, as a healthy reasoning from the scriptures is a good thing.
RESPONSE TO CAN CHRISTIANS BE POSSESSED
The fundamental issue with teaching that a Christian cannot be possessed, begins with a lack of understanding concerning human free will; and how it works in both a positive and potentially negative fashion.
Consider that we are “not to be drunk with wine… but to be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:19-18). The “be filled” in the Greek is to “be being filled”. This communicates a present continuous progressive infilling of the Spirit. This fullness of Spirit is not automatic (as Paul’s command was for them to avoid being inebriated with wine), but must be maintained by obedience and absolute surrender to Christ; moment by moment.
Can a person who is filled with Holy Spirit still fall into sin if not careful and watchful? The answer is Yes. This “Yes” is despite the reality of the old man of sin being crucified with Christ and the body of sin being done away with (Romans chapter 6:1-11). We don’t have to sin, but when we do, it occurs as we yield to sin, rather than reckoning it dead in our lives. We know from scripture we are to yield to righteousness and not unrighteousness (Romans 6:12-13).
Even though the word of God declares that sin shall not have dominion over us, do we know of Christians who have fallen into sin, where it is overwhelming their faith. Again So how can a person who has the Holy Spirit still sin? It is a matter of how much we allow the world, the flesh, and the devil to influence us to sin.
So, when it comes to being continuously filled with the Holy Spirit it is a matter of how we yield to Christ and His righteousness, by seeking and the leading of the Holy Spirit. When we sin, it is a matter of how we are choosing to give into the world, the flesh, and the devil as they come at us. It is this yielding to sin, which opens us to satanic influence, even should we be Christian.
How does this relate to demon possession?
The most common Greek word for possession is “daimonizomai”. The English translation of this word is unfortunate, for it is translated “possessed”, yet is actually a phrase “to be exercised by” a demon. In our vernacular, this means that the unclean spirit is commanding and we are following. Simply put it means to be influenced by the commands of the unclean spirit. A better word would be demonization or the degree to which a person is being influenced by unclean spirits. Once more this follows an understanding of how much a person yields to demonic suggestion.
Take for instance the demonized man from Matthew 8:28-34, Mark 5:1-20 and Luke8:26-39. This man was almost completely demonized or “being exercised” or “worked out” by demons. I grant that he was not a Christian, but although he was almost fully demonized, he still had enough free will to run towards Jesus and bow to Him. Would not the demons have wanted him to run in the other direction? Once more demon possession is about the amount of influence they have over a person. So, can a Christian be influenced by demons?
Consider Ananias, especially what Peter speaks over him, concerning his sin…
Acts 5:3-4 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? 4 While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”
Interestingly, Peter declares “Why has Satan filled your heart”. The word “filled” is the same word for “filled” used in Ephesians 5:18-19, when Paul commands us to be “filled with the Holy Spirit”. The word means “to make replete, to cram to continual overflow”. My point. How is it that Ananias, a Christian, was filled with whatever hell Satan filled him with, rather than the Holy Spirit? Because in sinning he opened himself to satanic and demonic influence to the point, he was overwhelmed by darkness, rather than light.
Some would offer that Ananias was not save, or a tare among the wheat, although that is a hard sell given the contest of both chapters 4 and five of Acts of the Apostles, the argument of demonization in Christians can be made from a most troubling trend among American pastors: Suicide.
Let’s leave out the foolish debate we normally fall into, considering their final state; suicide in pastors, is rarely heard of outside of the western Christian communities (America, Canada, Australia, Europe), where as in America it is about to become tracked statistic. With Western Christianity making up the vast minority of the world’s population of Christians, we ought to be troubled. In the last ten years, I have personally read in national newspapers, of the self-murder of multiple pastors. So many in fact I have lost count.
Why is this the case? One article I read had this to say… “There is no lack of statistics about pastors and depression, burnout, health, low pay, spirituality, relationships and longevity—and none of them are good. According to the Schaeffer Institute, 70 percent of pastors constantly fight depression, and 71 percent are burned out. Meanwhile, 72 percent of pastors say they only study the Bible when they are preparing for sermons; 80 percent believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families, and 70 percent say they don’t have a close friend”.
The reason I highlighted the word believe is underlined is that it signals the turning point from word of God influence to fleshly, worldly and devilish influence. The battle for influence in fought in our mind. When pastors, begin to believe contrary to the scriptures concerning role, calling ministry focus or what is our ultimate hope, we are ripe to fall into to compromise. When we begin to fall into compromise we are ripe to fall into sin.
The Christian world we live, does not deal with sin anymore and pastors who do not, cannot help but feel the weight of the grief sin is to their soul. Compound this by ineffective word of God ministry, with little unction and churches which are cold, clueless and mired in carnality and sin; we can understand the statistics above.
Once this sets in ministers are more than happy to entertain that mental illness is a reason for perpetual depression. Add to this the lie, that a “good Christian” can commit suicide and God will forgive him and look what we have… another pastor who murders himself and destroys his family.
Everything written in the last paragraph is demonic suggestion, because it does not line up with the scriptures. Pastors who kill themselves, in my biblically informed opinion, have hearts equally filled by Satan, as Ananias. Just as His behavior was contrary to the leading of the Holy Spirit so is theirs—just as Ananias behavior was detrimental to the body of Christ, so is the behavior of suicidal pastors—just as Ananias did not get up to gain forgiveness, neither do they.
Are pastors who commit suicide demonized almost completely under the influence of the demonic?
The debate over whether Christians can be possessed is therefore a useless argument. The question, more germane is it possible for a Christian be influenced by Satan or demons to the point where they are overcome and in danger of apostasy? Yes, is the answer.
For good scriptural teaching concerning this subject look to “Spiritual Authority” by John McMillion or “Strange God’s” by Keith Bailey.