Swept Clean or Free?

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”

Matthew 12:43-45

Sometimes I find myself in conversations about ministering to those who are demonized. When I talk about the fact that I’ve cast demons out of a bunch of people, the initial reaction is usually disbelief. After they realize that I am serious and that I have story after story that I can share with them about this reality, disbelief changes to curiosity. While casting out demons fits with everything we see in the Gospels, the book of Acts and the rest of the New Testament, it can be difficult for our minds to comprehend because of western rationalism and materialism.

Occasionally, the question is asked, “Have you ever cast a demon out of a believer? Someone who is a follower of Jesus?” My answer is always, “I’ve only cast demons out of believers. I would be hesitant to cast a demon out of someone who isn’t a follower of Jesus unless they become one soon afterward.” This is usually fairly shocking to the person who asked the question.

In most people’s mind, the image they have of a demonized person is of someone like the Gerasene demoniac who was fully possessed, chained hand and foot, and living in caves. Or the image they have is like something they’ve seen in a horror movie. But what they don’t understand is that there is a continuum of demonization that moves from simple attachment, to internal occupation, to stronghold, to oppression. And if they don’t have the Holy Spirit, it can become possession.

The danger of casting demons out of a person without the Holy Spirit is what we learn from Jesus in the Matthew 12 passage above. When talking about the demonic, Jesus compares our life to a house. One might be able to cast the demon out of one of the rooms of that person’s house, but if Someone stronger doesn’t move into that room, the demon will just come back with his friends. The condition of the person will be worse than before. Just putting the house in order and sweeping it clean (what we see many people do in counseling) isn’t enough. Our lives will simply become a more orderly place for more demons to occupy and oppress.

One time a pagan woman came to Jesus to ask Him to cast a demon out of her daughter. Initially, Jesus denies her request because she is a Gentile. Jesus goes on to describe the ministry of deliverance–casting out demons–as “the children’s bread“(Matthew 15:26; Mark 7:27). In other words, the ministry of casting out demons was always meant as a gift for the people of God.

Casting out demons is a cleansing tool meant to be used mostly in the discipleship process of becoming more like Jesus in holiness and purity. Occasionally, it can also be used in evangelism when combined with the message of salvation. But deliverance ministry was always meant to be for the people of God.

Christians should feel no more ashamed of needing deliverance than a sick person should feel ashamed of going to the doctor. In the earliest traditions of the Church, in the first few hundred years, a person received deliverance prayer immediately after they were baptized. The normal process was: 1) surrender one’s life to Jesus, 2) get baptized in water, 3) invite the Holy Spirit to baptize and fill the new believer, and 4)cast out any demons that are there. Most of the church has lost these last two steps. Based on the ineffectiveness and brokenness of the Church today, I believe we need to recapture #3 and #4 as a normal process for the new believer.

Is there an area of your life you struggle to gain victory? A chronic sin? An addiction or compulsion? Self destructive thoughts or behaviors? A temptation that feels impossible to resist? If so, there’s a good change you need deliverance ministry. God’s gift to His people is deliverance ministry. Never be ashamed to take Jesus up on His offer of true freedom!

Attack from Both Sides

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”

Matthew 11:18-19

Do not be surprised if our culture, which is so heavily influenced by the kingdom of darkness, attacks people trying to follow Jesus from both sides. This has always been the strategy of the enemy. This is the strategy we see the enemy employ against Jesus and John the Baptist.

The culture of Jesus’s day found a way to be offended by both John the Baptist, living in the strictest holiness, and Jesus, living in the freedom of grace. John’s holiness was seen as demonic and Jesus’s freedom was seen as sinful.

Our culture is currently following the same strategy of the enemy. Recently it was reported that some politicians were trying to follow the “Billy Graham rule.” This rule is basically a commitment by a man not to be alone with a woman who is not his wife, especially in private settings, as it could lead to accusations of impropriety or actual impropriety. There has been a lot of exposure of sexual assault and sexual harassment at the highest levels of society recently, so this Billy Graham rule seems like a healthy safeguard.

Yet, in response to this desire to honor women and honor their wives, these men were attacked for being sexist. So we have a situation where if a politician is seen being alone with another women who is not his wife, he’s easily attacked with claims of impropriety. Yet, if he tries to safeguard against those accusations, he gets attacked as sexist. If they live in the freedom of grace, they’ll be attacked as morally corrupt. If they hold to a high standard of holiness, they’re called sexists. The “attack from both sides” strategy has been around since Jesus and continues to be alive and well today.

I remember encountering an adolescent version of this in high school. I told my friends that I didn’t want to “hook up” with a particularly attractive girl that was interested in me. As a high school boy, turning down sex with a beautiful girl a year older than you was a radical stand. Yet, because I was striving to live a life of holiness, my classmates who couldn’t understand my stance began to accuse me of being gay.

My response to accusations of being gay was that I didn’t believe homosexuality was God’s design for human sexuality. I told them that I had nothing against a person who is gay, but I disagreed with a lifestyle where one chooses to engage in same-sex sexual activity. This also didn’t fit their paradigm of understanding. They didn’t know what to do with me. So then I started to receive accusations of being homophobic.

Can you see the “attack from both sides” strategy? One minute I am being accused of being gay and the next I’m being accused of being homophobic. This often happens when you try to live a biblical standard of holiness. A life of following Jesus doesn’t make sense to the world. It doesn’t fit all of their neat little judgmental categories. They don’t know which condemning box to put you in. But they did this with Jesus and John the Baptist, so we shouldn’t be surprised if it happens to us.

I fought for and advocated for women in the strongest way possible as I helped to create and launch a nonprofit that addresses human trafficking in the Baltimore area. I stood side-by-side with women who were some of the most progressive, feminist activists I’ve ever met. And as a staunch Pro-Life advocate, I continue to fight for women and their well-being but in a way that is foreign to most of my colleagues in the human trafficking world. I don’t fit into a nice neat category. This is true of most Christians, which is why the strategy of the enemy is often to attack from both sides.

The desire to stop being attacked from both sides often draws Christians into error and compromise. It’s a powerful temptation to want to be liked and thought of as compassionate and insightful by at least one side of the cultural battle. So some Christians begin to compromise truth in order to win favor with one side or the other. But that is not where Jesus stands.

Have you experienced the “attack from both sides” strategy of the enemy in your own life? If so, you’re in good company.

All People

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and humankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. 

1 Timothy 2:1-6

Paul urged Timothy to pray for all people.

Why?

Because God wants all people to be saved.

How?

Through the one mediator between God and humanity, Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.

What this reveals is that in this broken and fallen world, God’s will is not always done. Jesus gave himself for all people and God wants all people to be saved, and yet not all people are saved. This is why we were taught to pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”(Matthew 6:10). We have to pray that God’s will be done on earth because it’s not always done on earth. His will is always done in the heavenly realms but not always on earth.

Why?

Because there are forces that resist God’s will being done on the earth. Ephesians 2 lists three forces that push against God’s will being done on earth.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. 

Ephesians 2:1-3

The three forces that push against the will of God being done on earth are: 1) our flesh–our old self riddled with cravings, desires and thoughts that are sinful; 2) Satan (a.k.a. the ruler of the kingdom of the air)–the one who works in the hearts and minds of those who are disobedient (see Ephesians 6:12); and 3) the ways of the world–the collective societal deception and disobedience that the enemy uses to create corporate strongholds of lies and unbelief.

God did not create humanity to be marionettes. He gave us the freedom to be in an authentic love relationship with Him. Yet, we continually abuse this freedom and usher evil into the world. When we sin and rebel against God, we hand the authority God gave us to rule (Genesis 1:28) to our enemy, and he uses it to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). This is why what God wants to happen on the earth doesn’t always happen.

We have to stop blaming God when hard things happen. We need a better understanding of His sovereignty that factors in human freedom and the forces at work against God’s Kingdom coming to earth as it is in heaven.

Hope at Denny’s

Cam and I were exhausted from shaking all night, and we were hungry (see my post called Hand Spun Shakes for the backstory on that). He suggested Denny’s. Cam is prophetic⏤strongly prophetic. Every time Cam “suggested” we go to a particular restaurant or place, it always ended up being a divine appointment. I should have realized this was going to be another one, but I didn’t. All I could think about is eating a Moons Over My Hammy breakfast sandwich, a classic late night meal for me from years ago during “study” sessions in seminary. 

Denny’s in Redding is in a shady part of town. We could sense it as we got out of the car. The first thing Cam said was, “Hey, we need to have our guard up.” I knew what he meant. He was saying there was demonic stuff crawling around, and we needed to have our physical and spiritual heads on a swivel. 

On our way toward the restaurant, we walked past the hotel next door. It was called The Red Lion Inn. I commented to Cam as I pointed at the hotel sign, “We’re heading into the lion’s den.” We both laughed, but we couldn’t have predicted how right we were.  

Just as we approached the entry door to Denny’s (mind you it is 11pm at this point) a dad and his young adult daughter were about to enter Denny’s at the same time. I recognized them from Bethel Church earlier that day. Out of all the people there I’m not sure why I recognized them, but I did, so I pointed to them and said, “Hey! Bethel?” They both turned and smiled and acknowledged that they had been there that day. 

They both had a European accent that we would later discover was from Sweden. People from all over the world fly to Bethel for various reasons. They flew in for a week so that the daughter, who’s 21, could check out their school of ministry. The daughter immediately invited us to have dinner with them, which seemed strange at the time. But since the whole trip had been one adventure after another, we agreed and embarked on yet another unexpected adventure. 

The four of us sat at a booth together, and as soon as we sat down I asked them about what led them to Bethel. The dad (we’ll call him Matt to protect his identity) said he had done bible school in the U.S. before moving back to his home country of Switzerland. As soon as the daughter started to share her story (we’ll call her Lulu since that was the affectionate nickname used by her father) all of the alarm bells in Cam’s spirit and my spirit started to go off. We had seen this sort of thing before, unfortunately.  

Lots of things gave it away: her personal story of hearing evil voices and seeing evil things since she was a young girl, her longtime struggle with deep depression and self-hate, her scars from cutting that went up and down both arms, the way her eyes shifted away from me and Cam when she talked, how she would “go away” into a sudden catatonic state while we affirmed her identity in Christ or spoke of the love of the Father or talked about Jesus. All of these were indicators that she was heavily demonized. She was fighting for her life and the demons didn’t want her free. 

Demonization this severe in a Christian is not unlike domestic abuse or human trafficking. The young girl was being tormented daily by many demons that resided within her. She didn’t know how to get free. Yet, she had been demonized for so long, since she was 12 years old according to her story, she also wondered that if she got totally free whether it would make her lonely. She had gotten used to the voices even if they were awful to her. They were some of her only “friends” as odd as that sounds.

There can develop a kind of trauma bonding with demons. The lies and the manipulations can create this toxic bond between the tormentors and the tormented. We saw this a lot in the world of human trafficking when I was a part of a nonprofit that fought against child sex trafficking in the Baltimore region. The dynamic was similar here. The truest part of her, the real Lulu, wanted freedom. But the deceived part of her wasn’t sure it was possible.  

The other interesting thing about Lulu is that she had a really strong seer gift, which means she could see things in the spirit realm. Cam is a seer too. Lulu had been seeing demons and other things in the spirit since she was very young. Lower level seers get glimpses of things. Higher level seers can see things in great detail. Yet, if this gift goes without guidance, instruction and wisdom, this gift can be turned and used against the person who has it. Even worse, it can be recruited into the occult world of witchcraft. This kind of powerful gifting is a threat to the enemy, and so he often goes to great lengths to torment and demonize seers if he can get a foothold. She, unfortunately, gave him all too many footholds and open doors into her life.

We talked as we ate dinner together. We tried to encourage Lulu and her dad. We explained a little about deliverance, and Cam and I tried our best to wait until dinner was over before we set about to get her free. When you can literally see demons (in Cam’s case) and/or sense them (in my case), it is hard to have dinner with them sitting in the booth across from you. We did our best.  

We then adjourned to my favorite ministry room known as the parking lot. Cam told me later that angels were encircled around us out there as demons were moving in to help their “compatriots” residing in the girl. He commanded them to leave in Jesus’s name so we could have room to work. 

We worked through the deliverance process with her and cast out a handful of demons. Most of them were so deeply entrenched that each one took a while to leave. Though the dad had a charismatic church background, he had never seen a deliverance firsthand and certainly not with his daughter. It shook him. 

We didn’t have the time or energy to try to get them all out, so we didn’t try. Instead, we took her hands in ours and imparted everything we could—the increase of the Holy Spirit’s presence, more power, more love, more joy. We could see her confidence growing. Hope was returning as her identity in Christ was being re-established.

When Cam released joy to her it was something to behold. She collapsed in laughter from the sheer overflow of joy that was being downloaded into her soul. Of course, demons don’t like their host so full of joy, so the spirits of despair and depression rose up, yelled obscenities, and gnashed their teeth at Cam. Spirits of despair and depression hate joy, and Cam was releasing a weaponized joy into Lulu that they were powerless to prevent.

During this process, both Cam and I experienced the Father’s love for Lulu. This was His daughter. She was trapped, enslaved, abused and tormented by these demons. He wanted her free, and so did we. She felt the Father’s love too. She kept hugging and holding on to me and Cam. She didn’t want us to leave. Through us she got a taste of the freedom, joy and love of the Kingdom of God. She got a taste of her real identity; she is a warrior princess. She is the one whom Jesus loves. She is a daughter of the King.  

It was nearing 2am so we had to leave. We strongly suggested that Matt take his daughter to the deliverance ministry offered by Bethel Church during the weekdays. We stressed that more ministry was absolutely essential in order for her journey into freedom to continue. We exchanged information and left. During the drive back to the place where we were staying we felt saturated in the love of God for Lulu. She was our sister, and in some ways, our daughter. The love and compassion we felt for her was unusually strong. It wasn’t love we were capable of conjuring up ourselves. It was the Father’s love. It was the compassion of Christ. 

I am happy to report that we got word yesterday that Lulu has a time slot for tomorrow (Friday, March 8th) to receive more deliverance ministry from the Bethel ministry team. Please be praying for her to be totally free and for her identity in Christ to be restored. 

A final postscript to this encounter with Lulu:

One of the more interesting parts of ministering deliverance to a girl who is a seer is that she could see things in the spirit as they were happening. Sporadically throughout the night she would tell us things that she was seeing in the spirit. At one point, she was hugging me tightly and said to Cam and me, “You both have the most beautiful armor on. I see it. It’s beautiful. It looks like Roman armor. And you have helmets on with that thingy on top.” 

I asked, “Helmets with a plume?” 

She said, “Yes, and it is so beautiful with all different colors.” 

Since Cam is also a seer, I asked him about it later. He said that as soon as she started describing the armor he could see it. He said it was beautiful, shiny gold. As he was searching for words, he finally said, “It looked royal!” This is the armor of God. And while not all of us are gifted in a way where we can see it in the spirit, we can all be sure to put it on daily (Ephesians 6:10-18).  

Who would have thought that a late-night trip to Denny’s would end up in a parking lot deliverance for a daughter from Sweden? Only God. The Father gave us all something that night. It was the beginning of hope and freedom for Lulu and her dad, and it was a download of love and encouragement for me and Cam. Thank you, Jesus!

Freedom

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

Notice that we were set free by Christ, we were saved and redeemed, for the purpose of walking in freedom. But also noticed that just because Christ has set us free, it doesn’t mean we automatically walk in freedom. There are things we can walk into that trap and enslave us even in our Christian life.

One thing that keeps us from walking out the freedom that was purchased for us on the cross is what Paul calls, “trying to be justified by the law”(Galatians 5:4). When we try to employ religious practices to earn our righteousness from God, whether they are practices from Judaism, Christianity or false religions, Paul says we, “have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace” (Galatians 5:4).

Paul mentions another thing that can keep us from walking in the freedom offered to us by Christ. He writes, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love”(Galatians 5:13). Like ditches on both sides of the road, we should be careful not to fall into religious performance, a version of Pharisaical legalism, nor sinful indulgence, a version of licentiousness and antinomianism. Both are forms of enslavement.

These mindsets and behaviors give away our freedom. They open the door for demoni spirits to enter our lives, set up strongholds, and torment us.

But can Christians have demons?

First, we have to get rid of the idea that being demonized means being “possessed” like the man who lived in the tombs of the Gerasenes from Mark 5:1-20. The word “possession” is not even in the New Testament. The Greek word for when a person is influenced, occupied or tormented by a demon, properly translated, is demonized. And it is clear that demonization happens on a spectrum of severity from harassment to attachment to strongholds to oppression and possession. Demons gain varying levels of influence in various parts of a person’s life.

Christians cannot be possessed because they have been bought at a price and are now owned by Jesus (1 Corinthians 6:20). But they can demonized! They can be heavily oppressed by the demonic. They can have various levels of demonic strongholds and attachments in their life. It is said, “A demon can’t have a Christian but a Christian can have many demons.” I know this because I have firsthand experience casting demons out of many Christians.

In fact, the ministry of deliverance (casting out demons) is specifically for those who have the Holy Spirit which can “re-occupy” the part of them that was once occupied by a demon. Jesus himself warned that the Spirit is needed to fill “the house” or the condition of the person will be worse when that demon who was cast out comes back with friends:

When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. 

Matthew 12:43-45

The freedom that was purchased for us on the cross must be walked out; it must be lived. Just as the Hebrew people had to do more than sacrifice an unblemished lamb on that first Passover night but had to apply the blood to their doorpost, we must apply the blood of Jesus to our lives (Exodus 12:7, 13). We can’t earn our freedom. Jesus won our freedom for us. But we must obediently walk in the freedom that He’s given us so that we don’t fall into the enemy’s snares, traps and enslavements. Paul says it this way, “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).