The first post in this series pointed out that Satan is at work in our world and in our lives. Awareness of this reality is essential if we're going to learn to win in our battle with evil, and live in freedom and joy.
The second step in the process of overcoming is recognizing. . .
How Demonic Forces Operate
Satan, through his demonic helpers, “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) It may be helpful to think of demonic influence in terms of varying levels of involvement, so we can recognize how, and to what extent, we might be affected.
Level One: Temptation
Satan’s first line of attack is to tempt people to think wrongly and to make wrong choices based on that thinking—choices that will increase his influence over them. Each time we give in to temptation to do or think wrongly, the enemy’s power over us grows. When temptation comes at this level we have the right and the responsibility to say “No” and to send the temptation away. The Bible says if we resist the Devil he will flee from us (James 4:7). At this level of demonic influence, resisting will work.
Level Two: Oppression
Oppression is a sense of spiritual heaviness that hovers over the heart—a cloud of darkness that cannot be totally explained by our physical or psychological circumstances. Sometimes this feeling is simply a sign that warfare is being waged in the spiritual realm--the "heavenlies” (Ephesians 6:12). In this case we just give thanks, and pray through it until the heaviness lifts, knowing God is at work. But if it continues, and becomes characterized by feelings of guilt, fear, hopelessness or inadequacy, we need to seek release. Continued spiritual heaviness may be a sign of the kind of demonic oppression that drains our spiritual strength and prevents the victory God created us to experience. In the long term, this kind of demonic influence can cause physical and psychological problems as well. For this reason, people seeking physical healing from God will often experience spiritual healing first.
Level Three: Bondage
Bondage is demonic affliction at a level that controls a believer’s thoughts and actions in one or more areas of their lives. What we tend to call “habitual sins” may fall into this category. Most of us live with these bondages quite happily until we get more serious about following Jesus. When He presses into us in search of a deeper relationship, we become more aware of the habits and our desire to overcome them grows. That’s when we find out how strong they are. Temptations can be resisted by an act of our will, but bondages cannot be broken without help from the Holy Spirit. Deliverance from spiritual bondages requires a deliberate decision to pursue freedom, and a process that involves both the exercise of our will and the power of God in our lives.
Level Four: Possession
Demonic possession is an extreme case of spiritual bondage, where there is no control over evil in a person's life. This level of demonic influence is believed to be rare in our North American culture, though it is commonly recognized in many other places in the world. The enemy has made a caricature of the term “demon possession” in our culture, turning it into something either too ridiculous to deal with or too frightening. For this reason, the term is hardly used anymore when dealing with demonic affliction.
How Are Demonic Forces Operating in Your Life?
All of us experience demonic influence at Level One, and it's important to be aware of what's actually happening when we are tempted. Demonic forces take a personal interest in what we do with temptations. My strongest motivation for resisting temptation is the realization that when I give into temptation, Satan laughs. I hate making him happy.
But demonic influence on the other three levels is not always easy to diagnose. If you're wondering how much influence the evil spiritual realm is having in your life, here are some signs of a deeper involvement.
Signs of possible demonic oppression or bondage:
· Panic attacks.
· Compulsive behaviour, or besetting sins
· Phobias—irrational fears
· Uncontrollable, irrational anger, rage or hatred
· Inability to forgive—bitterness
· Consistent problems in relating to other people
· Consistent negative “self-talk”
· Physical self abuse—eg: cutting yourself, eating disorders
· Low self esteem
· Hearing voices, especially negative name-calling
· Depression and an inability to experience joy or peace
· Sense of hopelessness
Some of these conditions may be present when a person suffers from clinical depression. Clinical depression is a medical condition which may or may not be associated with demonic oppression. But if you're experiencing any of the above symptoms, why not go to the Lord in prayer. Ask for His intervention, for His wisdom about how to deal with the situation, and, ultimately, for His complete victory in your life.
On Monday I'll post the last in this series--a list of suggestions on how to fight spiritual battles successfully. Meanwhile, if you're struggling, hold onto the truth that the actual war has already been won. The King James translation of Isaiah 59:19b reads: "When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him." Jesus is the victor! (Colossians 2:15) His Name is the standard raised over our heads as we fight.
"Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He will strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord." Psalm 27:14