JESUS’ FIRST BATTLE WITH DEMONS – 1
Jesus had proclaimed Himself as the Messiah (‘Christ’) for two years. Some responded but most turned away, following the lead of the religious rulers who completely rejected Jesus and His claims. He did miracles to authenticate His authority and to show His power. If He can heal a body then He can certainly heal a soul as well.
One day Jesus went to Capernaum (Mark 1:21-28; Luke 4:31-37), His new home and the home of several of His disciples. While teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath a demonized man cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who You are – the Holy One of God!” (Mark 1:24) Jesus commanded the demon to be quiet and leave the man, which he did after shaking the man and causing a loud shriek to be heard. Naturally, everyone was amazed and word of this soon spread throughout the whole area. With this event the battle between Satan and Jesus moved to a new level.
LESSON FOR TODAY 1: The Greek word doimonizomai (“demonizing“) refers to one who is heavily impacted by demons. It is used 15 times in the New Testament. The term “demonizing” does not differentiate between possession (demons within) or influence (demons without). God doesn’t make that clarification or distinction, and we shouldn’t try to make it, either. We don’t need to know the exact extent of demonizing, just that it is taking place. The cause is the same, as are the symptoms and so is the cure In the spiritual realm there are no clear-cut divisions like we try to make (demons ‘within’ or ‘without’, etc.). There are, of course, degrees of demonizing depending on the person, the demons involved, the access, and other factors, but it isn’t always possible or necessary to pinpoint what is ‘without’ and what is ‘within’.
Other words the Bible uses for ‘demonizing’ are “entered in” (as when Satan entered into Judas – John 13:27) and “filled” (Acts 5:5 about Ananias and Saphira, the same word that is used of believers being filled with the Holy Spirit). The common denominator is that the person being demonized usually doesn’t separate his own consciousness from the demonic influence. He assumes that the thoughts and feelings the demon feeds him are his own. A person always has a free will to turn to God for help, but when followed these demonic impulses bring one deeper and deeper into bondage. Perhaps demonizing can be better understood by thinking of it as a kind of spiritual hypnotism from within. Hypnotism of any kind is something for God’s people to avoid (Psalm 54:4-5; Joshua 1:8; Philippians 4:8).
LESSON FOR TODAY 2: Demons can impact believers as they do unbelievers. Note that the demonized man was not a pagan who worshipped Satan. He was a faithful Jew who regularly attended synagogue, someone familiar to the people there and whom no one previously had suspected of being demonized. Probably he wasn’t aware that the struggles he had in life were caused by demons. This happened at other times as well (Mark 5:39). While we don’t know this man’s exact spiritual state, this still brings up the question of believers being demonized. While there is general agreement that unbelievers can be demonized, some don’t believe that can happen to believers because believers belong to Jesus. That is true, but demonizing doesn’t imply ownership, just influence.
As long as we are in this body, we still have a sin nature, a capacity to sin just the same as we did before salvation. Salvation creates a new spiritual nature within us. But the old capacity to sin still remains. It is in this area, this sin nature, this capacity to sin, that demons work. Salvation does not remove our capacity to sin (sin nature) but gives us a new nature so we don’t have to sin but can live in obedience to God. Believers can still sin after salvation as they did before. It is in this area of our ‘flesh’ or sin nature that demons work. Our new nature is greater but doesn’t take away our free will choice to still function in our sin nature. Paul’s struggle as recorded in Romans 7 describes this well.
The Bible makes no distinction between believers and unbelievers as far as demonizing is concerned. In fact, the Bible refers to many believers who were demonized: Paul’s thorn in the flesh was a demon (II Corinthians 12:7), King Saul was a believer (I Samuel 11:6) and was obviously demonized (I Samuel 16:14-23), David was motivated by Satan to take a census of the people (I Chronicles 21:1ff; II Samuel 24:1ff), Ananias and Saphira were believers (Acts 4:32-35) but allowed Satan to “fill” them (Acts 5:3), and Peter was Satan’s spokesman in tempting Jesus to not go to the cross (Matthew 16:23). Paul warns believers to not give Satan a “foothold” in their life (Ephesians 4:26-27), showing such a thing is possible. Jesus Himself called deliverance “the children’s bread” (Matthew 15:22-28), meaning it was for His children. A Christian can receive another spirit (II Corinthians 11:2-4) and there are other examples of believers being demonized (Luke 13:10-16; I Corinthians 5:4-5). Christians are warned to guard against this (I Peter 5:8-9; Ephesians 6:10-18).
A believer belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ. Satan cannot own him as he did before salvation (I John 4:4), but he can still influence him, “demonize” him. When the words ‘possessed’ or ‘oppressed’ are used, then the question is asked if a believer can be ‘possessed.’ To answer that then ‘possessed’ must be defined. The Bible simply does not define it, nor does it even talk about ‘possession’ – just ‘demonizing’ which means being influenced by a demon.
A Christian has every right and resource to be free from this demonizing, however. Property which you own can be trespassed on by another person, but you have every right and resource to put him off your property. You just need to learn how to do it. That’s what spiritual warfare is all about.
Do you think you are immune from demonic attacks because you are a believer? Or that you don’t have to battle as fiercely because God is on your side? Those are lies Satan would like you to believe. Rebuke the lies and press forward in faithfulness to Jesus.
cto Rev. Dr. JERRY SCHMOYER
Christian Training Organization
(India Outreach, Spiritual Warfare, Family Ministries, Counseling, World View)
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