Are People Still Possessed by Demons?

February 18, 2019 at 10:37 am | Posted in Q&A | 5 Comments
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Question: While studying Mark 5:1-17, I realized that how this “wild man” was described sounded a lot like someone who today would be called mentally ill. People say there are no demon possessions anymore, but our hospitals are full of people cutting themselves and crying out in despair (Verse 5). Could mental illness be less of a “chemical imbalance” and more of a demonic presence?

Answer: That’s a great question. I do not think the Bible says anything to indicate that demon possession can’t still occur today, although it is true that it may be misdiagnosed as another problem, because, like you said, “people SAY there are no demon possessions any more.”

There are a couple of issues here, though. First, a person who has trusted Christ unto salvation is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, so that person can not be truly “possessed,” although he or she may be what we call “oppressed,” meaning that sometimes God allows demons to have access to the lives of Christians to cause problems for them as part of God’s secret plan for our good. You can see this happening in Job Chapters 1 and 2, for example. But Luke 5 clearly shows that people without saving faith in Christ can certainly be possessed, controlled, and driven mad by demons. Thankfully, they can also be delivered and set free by Jesus!

Second, some mental illnesses are caused by physical things, such as chemicals in the brain. The doctors examine the levels of certain elements in their blood, and, when certain chemicals in their blood are low or high, they act crazy (crazier than the average person, anyway). They are given medicine, and after a while it gets into their systems, and they start acting normal (or at least some reasonable semblance of “normal”) again. There are Bible verses that encourage us to treat certain illnesses with medication, since God created the chemicals that the medicines are made out of, and since He gave doctors or scientists the wisdom to figure this out. So there’s nothing wrong with doing that, when it is in fact a physical, rather than a spiritual, problem.

Of course, if there are no conclusive medical results, it’s hard to tell demonic activity apart from a chemical imbalance, or conditions caused by past mental trauma, which is why we always need to pray for healing and trust God before we go to the doctors, and even while they’re trying to treat it. He is the one who ultimately gets credit for the healing, regardless of the means used to accomplish it.

Furthermore, one thing that often gets overlooked is that physical illness – in both the body AND the brainCAN be caused by unconfessed or unrepented-of sin in our life, even though that’s not always the cause. Some verses that show this are: Psalm 38:3-8; Pslam 6:2-3; Psalm 51:8; Psalm 32:3.

Personal anecdotes are not authoritative like Scripture, so you don’t have to read this part unless you want to, but I will share one very strange experience I had. At the church where our family served at the time, a young man (mid-20s) came forward at the end of a worship service. His father-in-law, who was one of those big muscular motorcycle-gang-looking men, had dragged him to church against his will. I took him back in a little prayer room we had and talked to him about being saved. He said that he went to church when was a kid, but when he was about 12 he went to some kind of heavy metal rock concert, where they were singing about the Devil and hell and had those pentagram things on the stage. He said that, afterwards, he got out of church and started drinking and doing drugs and other stuff. He looked truly miserable to be in church that morning, and his in-laws and his wife were outside the room praying for him. This dude’s face was just strange. His brows were furrowed down, his teeth were kind of bared, he had a wild look in his eyes, even his hair looked all disheveled and strange. It was so weird, because I don’t think he was trying to make a monster-face, but he just sort of looked like that. However, the longer I talked to him about Jesus and showed him from the Bible how his sins could be forgiven, the more intently he listened, and he started to look more scared and sweaty than mean. Finally, I asked him if he wanted to trust Christ, and we prayed. When we finished praying, he looked up, and it was so bizarre! His whole face looked different! He almost didn’t look like the same person. He was smiling and crying at the same time, his hair was laying down, his facial features were uncreased. To be honest, it kind of freaked me out, and I was thinking, “Is there an invisible demon flying around loose now!?” I probably wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen it. When we came out of that room, his family saw the same thing. They kept saying how different he looked, and he kept saying how free he felt. He started coming to church regularly after that, and got involved in some kind of motorcycle-riders-for-Jesus outreach program with his father-in-law. About 4-5 years later I saw him at the local convenience store by our house early Sunday morning on his way to church, and he was still serving Jesus! So, I don’t know if he was really demon-possessed or not – but it sure seemed like something happened to him in that room.

Give Good Advice: Avoid Sin

May 14, 2012 at 10:22 am | Posted in Biblical Advice, Selected Psalms | 10 Comments
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In my line of work I am often in the position of giving advice. I am thankful that the Bible gives us valuable guidelines for giving, and taking, good advice. Here is a key Scripture passage on the topic of Godly advice:

Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD.

Psalm 4:4-5 (emphasis added)

When someone asks you what he or she should do in a given situation, a good answer will always include the advice to: “Avoid sin.”

This advice involves more than just “not committing sin.” It goes even further: Do not go into areas where there will be a temptation to sin.

Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.

Proverbs 4:14-15

A good Biblical example of a man who heeded this advice is Job.

There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.

Job 1:1

Job did not flirt with sin. He did not simply sidestep areas where sin might be lurking. He eschewed sin. In other words, he gave it a wide berth, and tried to avoid it like the plague. Many times, the solution to a difficult situation may appear to have many different possibilities. However, when someone asks your opinion about which possibility is the best, you can immediately rule out any course of action that is sinful or that leads near sin.

A.void sin
D.
V.
I.
C.
E.

Calling Witnesses (Part 2)

March 30, 2011 at 10:16 am | Posted in Bible Studies, Salvation | 3 Comments
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The first witness that I called to take the stand against the unconverted sinner was the True Christian.

SECOND WITNESSES: PRAYING PEOPLE

I now call to the stand Christians who are serious about prayer. Sometimes we call them “prayer warriors.” These are people who pray often, who pray long, who pray sincerely, who pray passionately – people who pray without ceasing.

Their testimony will not take long. I really have only one simple question for them: “Aside from your loving conversation with your Heavenly Father… aside from the time spent simply adoring and speaking forth the majesty of God in worship… what do you spend most of your time praying about?”

Their answer: “Why, unconverted sinners, of course.”

Does this surprise you? Did you think true Christians spent all their time begging God for new cars, new houses, new clothes, big piles of money? Certainly they spend a great deal of time in prayer for the sick, and for the concerns and cares of their fellow Christians, but number one in the “request” portion of their prayer time is spent not in begging, but in volunteering: they are asking God to use them to reach you with the truth of the Gospel. Their zeal is exemplified in the statements of that master soul-hunter, the Apostle Paul:

For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:

Romans 9:3

For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.

Philippians 1:23-24

Paul was almost willing to go to hell himself if it meant his family could be saved. And he was willing to delay going to Heaven if he could reach more souls.

THIRD WITNESSES: GODLY MEN AND WOMEN OF THE BIBLE

Some of these witnesses are even the inspired writers of the Holy Book itself – God’s explicit revelation of Who He is, what He has done, and who you really are. Can I call each one? Well, I could… the pages of the Bible are filled with them. But for time’s sake, I’ll let the person who has not trusted Christ choose.

Would you call Job? He lost everything in this temporal world that was dear to him except his life… but here is his testimony:

And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.

Job 1:21

Would you call Jeremiah? You may say that he would help your case, having devoted his life to serving God, but appearing from a worldly standpoint to be a failure. After all, he preached for years without a single convert. But here’s his testimony:

The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.

Jeremiah 31:3

Would you call David? He was persecuted, hunted, abandoned by his friends. Surely he would not recommend that you give your heart to the Lord! Yet here is what he said:

It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man… O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

Psalm 118:8, 29

Maybe you could find somebody more recent – ah, how about Stephen? In Acts Chapter 6 they made him a deacon, and in Chapter 7 they stoned him to death… talk about a witness against the Lord! But wait – here’s what Stephen had to say:

And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God… Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.

Acts 7:56, 59

These men of the Bible have let you down… and they have hurt your case.

Next time, we will continue the parade of witnesses against the unconverted.

Who Do You Think You Are?

June 2, 2010 at 8:59 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 12 Comments
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Most, if not all, Christians have experienced times of sorrow, loss, disappointment, or grief. It would be callous to compare the trials and tribulations of one person to those of another person in an attempt make light of anyone’s troubles. However, in the history of human tragedy, certainly the Bible patriarch Job would rank pretty high on the list of those who have experienced grief.

Despite being a man who feared God and eschewed evil (Job 1:1), Job received the news of the deaths of all his children and the loss of all his property almost all at once (Job 1:13-19).

In the end, Job was patient, persistent, and persevering, and God ultimately blessed him in a great way (Job 42:12). However, God did make it clear that it was God, not Job, who understood and controlled the workings of providence. At one point, the Lord spoke to Job, and asked him,

Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?

Job 38:2

We would probably be hard-pressed to find a Christian today, in a solid, fundamental, Bible-believing church, who would pick up a Bible and say, “Some of this Book is true, but a lot of it, I’m not so sure about.” Few Christians would question the truth of God’s revealed Word. However, how many of these same Christians would turn around and question God’s providence: “Lord, why have You let such an unfair thing happen to me?” “Lord, why have you placed me here, or why have you let this terrible person come into my life?”

If we believe God’s Word is perfect, then we must believe His will is perfect, too (Romans 12:2), and we must not challenge His divine providence. Shall we – mere animated vessels of dust – rail against the Lord Who has created, and has the power to smoothly control, all things, events, seasons, and creatures?

Arise: Naboth’s Vineyard, Ahab’s Vice, and God’s Vengeance – Part 4

December 16, 2009 at 3:53 pm | Posted in Arise | 5 Comments
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In Part 1 and Part 2 we met:

I. The Pious Patriarch (Naboth)
II. The Pouting Potentate (Ahab)
III. The Poisonous Puppeteer (Jezebel)
IV. The Pestering Prophet (Elijah)

In Part 3 we saw:

V. The Preeminent Precept

Now we will discover:

VI. The Poignant Payment
and
VII. The Punctual Punishment

There came a time when Jehoshaphat the King of Judah was preparing to go to war with Syria, and he wanted the help of Ahab the King of Israel. Ahab agreed, on the condition that he would disguise himself, and that Jehoshaphat would wear the robes of a king. The King of Syria had a plan for his men to disregard the rest of the troops and go directly after the king. But a strange thing happened in the heat of battle.

And a certain man drew a bow at a venture…

I Kings 22:34

Dr. R.G. Lee, who preached a great sermon on this passage of Scripture, called this man “the nameless aimless archer.” He was a “certain” man – not named – who drew his bow at a venture – not really aiming at anything. (In keeping with my own outline, I probably should have called him the “Passive Pointer.”)

Are you “nameless?” God knows your name, even the hairs of your head are numbered. But does the devil know your name? He knew Job’s name. When God asked, “Hast thou you considered my servant Job?” (Job 1:8) the devil didn’t say, “No, who is that?” He knew Job by name, because Job was living an exemplary life for the Lord. The devil knew Paul’s name. The evil spirit summoned by the Jewish exorcists said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?” (Acts 19:15) As Christians we should not be “nameless,” because we are certainly not “aimless.” We are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Your “calling” (your vocation) is to love God and love others – to serve God and to serve others. This archer did God’s will, but there is no indication he received God’s blessing for doing it. God will get the glory out of your life one way or the other. The question is not whether God will be glorified – the question is whether you will get the tremendous blessing of having a part in that glory.

And a certain man drew a bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness: wherefore he said unto the driver of his chariot, Turn thine hand, and carry me out of the host; for I am wounded. And the battle increased that day: and the king was stayed up in his chariot against the Syrians, and died at even: and the blood ran out of the wound into the midst of the chariot. And there went a proclamation throughout the host about the going down of the sun, saying, Every man to his city, and every man to his own country. So the king died, and was brought to Samaria; and they buried the king in Samaria. And one washed the chariot in the pool of Samaria; and the dogs licked up his blood; and they washed his armour; according unto the word of the LORD which he spake.

I Kings 22:34-38

This is the Poignant Payment. Just as the dogs had licked the blood of Naboth, so they licked the blood of King Ahab. But what about Jezebel?

Ahab’s son became king, and Jezebel pulled his strings the way she had pulled Ahab’s. He also worshiped Baal, and was a wicked king… and years passed. Elisha replaced Elijah. Then, one day God told Elisha that Jehu, the chariot driver, was to be anointed king.

And when thou comest thither, look out there Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat the son of Nimshi, and go in, and make him arise up from among his brethren, and carry him to an inner chamber;

II Kings 9:2 (emphasis added)

Jehu rode down on the palace in Jezreel, and, after killing Ahab’s wicked son, he looked up at Jezebel, the painted and poisonous puppeteer.

… and said, Who is on my side? who? And there looked out to him two or three eunuchs. And he said, Throw her down. So they threw her down: and some of her blood was sprinkled on the wall, and on the horses: and he trode her under foot. And when he was come in, he did eat and drink, and said, Go, see now this cursed woman, and bury her: for she is a king’s daughter. And they went to bury her: but they found no more of her than the skull, and the feet, and the palms of her hands. Wherefore they came again, and told him. And he said, This is the word of the LORD, which he spake by his servant Elijah the Tishbite, saying, In the portion of Jezreel shall dogs eat the flesh of Jezebel:

II Kings 9:32-36

Why did God make the penalty for the sins of Ahab and Jezebel so poignant? We might say that God was pleased with the symmetry of it. Sometimes, as in the case of Absalom’s hair (II Samuel 14:26 and 18:9), God just decides to make the punishment fit the crime in a ghastly humorous way.

When Elijah was announcing God’s punishment to Ahab, he told him:

Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy posterity, and will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel,

I Kings 21:21

Most Bible versions other than the King James Version speak of the punishment of all the “male” followers of Ahab, but that is not the correct translation. The King James Version gets this right and retains the true context. Ahab and Jezebel did not see Naboth’s vineyard as God’s property. They saw it as belonging to whomever was powerful enough or sneaky enough to get it. So they marked it as theirs – the way a dog marks his territory against a wall. The poignant penalty is when God takes our vain attempts to dishonor Him, and our foolish boasting that we can somehow spite Him and get away with it, and He turns them into our own shame and disgrace. Be very careful about what you try to mark as “your” territory in this life. If we are trying to keep some things from God, He may just decide to take those things away, so we will have more time, energy, focus, attention, and love for Him.

The Punctual Punishment

God’s judgment may seem late or slow to us, or it may seem terribly swift, but the fact is – it is always right on time. The devil arises. His agents arise, and pull the strings of the lost. (Lost people are the devil’s puppets. See Ephesians 2:2.) God’s servants arise to proclaim His warnings and judgments. Finally, God ARISES.

Ahab got three years. Jezebel got many more. But the payment came due – and it was only a down payment. Jezebel is paying for all eternity. If you are not right with God, you have to ask yourself how close is God’s judgment from coming to you right now? It will not be tardy; it will not fail. One day everyone who has ever lived is going to confess the truth about God: that He is worthy of honor and obedience. Would you rather God have you by the heart or by the throat? II Corinthians 6:2 says now is the accepted time. “Behold, now is the day of salvation.” Fling yourself on the mercy of Christ this instant.


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