But then we spotted a church.
We were driving down an old country road, one I'd traveled many times before. This time, for the first time, she was with me. My mother who had recently moved to my area rode shotgun as I cruised at 60 mph past abundant trees, lush green grass, and periodically, a house in the middle of nowhere. Our destination was twenty minutes away, so we turned up the radio, sat back in our seats, and attempted to enjoy the rural scenery.
But then we spotted a church.
As a child, I remember seeing the movie The Exorcist, featuring a girl who was possessed by a demon and a religious clergy who attempted to release her from this awful fate. Since then, a plethora of movies and books have emerged, sensationalizing demonic possession in an intentional effort to scare the living daylights out of us. The worst of those endeavors being the ones that begin with the eerie disclaimer, “Based on a true story.” I’ll never forget going to the theater to see the movie The Exorcism of Emily Rose, and afterwards, being terrified of waking up in the middle of the night for weeks. If I was smarter and bolder back then, I would have done my homework on both this particular phenomenon and demonic possession, and probably would have slept better a lot sooner. Unknown to me in those days, in movies that are based on true events, the original story is often drastically changed or added upon for the sake of entertainment. Despite this truism, demonic possession does occur; however, before you find a wooden cross and start reciting The Lord’s Prayer, allow me to give you a bit more information about the topic.
We know demonic possession is real because it is spoken about throughout the Bible, including during the time of Jesus. There are many references to Jesus and his disciples casting out unclean spirits—better known as demons. Since we are aware that demonic possession has taken place throughout time, the next crucial questions most would probably ask is why and how. I don’t claim to be a Bible scholar, but in my research for my novel, Spell, I discovered the following Christian-based beliefs about the why and how.
The Bible tells us that the devil and his “fallen” angels were cast out of heaven. Since then, they have become the enemy of God and mankind. This enemy seeks to destroy humanity because of his jealous nature toward God. His hope is to hurt God by ruining one of His greatest creatures—man. This mission began in the Garden of Eden with the tricking of Adam and Eve and will continue until the enemy is cast into the Lake of Fire before the creation of the new heaven and new earth.
The enemy’s army is spiritual which means that they do not have human bodies. Without a human body, their ability to influence the natural world is limited. Therefore, they look for human bodies to become houses, places where their spirits can reside and have a greater negative impact on the natural world. This is where it is important to understand the how. Spirits without a human body can only oppress people, but some find a body to reside in, and those persons are considered possessed.
As stated, most spirits reside outside of the human body and only have the ability to oppress. Demonic oppression is simply having an influence on a person via their thoughts or emotions, but unable to have access to the person’s mind and body. The spirit can only impact the individual using their senses (what the person sees, hears, smells, touches, tastes). An oppressive spirit might try to get the person to believe they are depressed, angry, lonely, vengeful, tired, etc. Simple prayers and a refocusing of thoughts are enough to overcome an oppressive spirit. The Bible tells us in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” We are encouraged to keep our thoughts on what is positive right after we are told not to be anxious for anything, but to use prayer and petition, as well as to allow God’s peace to guard our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:6-7).
Alternatively, demonic possession reflects the inhabiting of the person’s body, giving the evil spirit more influence and control than oppression. In most cases, people who are possessed must be delivered and the possessing spirit must be cast out. Often we think of exorcisms as the typical method of casting out spirits, but it is possible that salvation itself could remove the spirit. Spiritual guidance is warranted in these cases.
Based on my research, Christians can be oppressed by evil spirits, but not possessed. The Bible states that light and darkness cannot exist together. However, Christians can make themselves vulnerable to possession through sin. Christians are encouraged to stay far away from witchcraft and occult practices such as Ouija boards, horoscopes, tarot card, palm readings, psychics, séances, etc. Christians are also told to flee from all sin because sin creates holes in our spiritual armor, making us more prone to the tactics of evil.
So let’s recap. Demonic possession is real. The enemy wants to destroy lives and often does so through demonic oppression and possession. Demonic oppression is influencing the individual from outside of the body while demonic possession occurs within the body. Salvation is key to avoid possession, yet a saved individual can still be oppressed, and if they open themselves up through witchcraft and/or sin, can also be possessed. To avoid oppression, think on good things. Keep your mind stayed on God who is able to keep you in perfect peace. To avoid possession, receive salvation, avoid sin and witchcraft, and repent (turn away) from committed sins. “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” (Ephesians 6:11-13). True story.
***This blog entry was originally written and posted as a guest blog article for Mayne Man. The original guest spot can be viewed at http://mayneman.blogspot.com/2013/11/the-difference-between-demonic.html
We have all seen movies like the Exorcist, where demon possession of some would-be normal person turns them into a scary, uncontrollable being, leading to the inviting of a religious professional to remove the evil, spiritual force. I will never forget my experience going to see the movie The Exorcism of Emily Rose, and being so creeped out, it interrupted my nighttime sleeping for days. I hadn't thought about the topic of exorcisms in a while...that was until writing my upcoming novel demanded that I take another look at the subject.
In Spell, I address the issue of pastor and his wife being stalked by a woman who attempts to use witchcraft to win the affections of the pastor. The topic, being one that I was not familiar with, forced me to plunge into research on occult practices and Christianity's response to it. In my studies and conversations with religious leaders, exorcisms (also known as the casting out of spirits) are frequently used as a remedy to demonic possession. Many of us might believe that exorcisms are rare and/or a big hoax, but my research indicates the opposite. Not only are exorcisms being performed daily, all over the world, but also, they are believed to be a real solution to a supernatural problem.
The Bible tell us that unclean spirits were cast out by Jesus and His disciples (Luke 4:33-36, Matthew 17:14-20, Mark 5:1-43), and Jesus promised that those who believed in Him would be able to do what He did and even more (John 14:11-13). Now, speaking for myself, I've always been aware of these scriptures, yet watching an exorcist always seems to raise that skeptical flag of mine, wondering if this particular person/ministry is really real, and even if the possessed person is being authentic. I took my research as far as watching videos of exorcisms which were very enlightening (especially since I always seemed to watch them in the middle of the night). One well known figure who claims to have done thousands of exorcisms is Bob Larson. He has a worldwide ministry dedicated to delivering people from demonic oppression and training others to do the same. He has come under much scrutiny by the media and general public because he often records his deliverance services and posts the videos online for free public viewing. Of course, this seems very unorthodox, causing some to think it's a scam and others to feel it's real because he's not hiding his activities. Believe it or not, there are countless videos of him casting out spirits, and although some have challenged his practices, I have not found a dispute yet that can without a doubt prove that his ministry isn't legit.
So, back to the original question: Are exorcisms real? Based on the Bible, they are. If Jesus walked a small part of the earth for 33 years and found many people to free from unclean spirits, not only does it make sense that the need to do so would still remain, but also capable people to perform these works would be required. Jesus promised believers that He would give us the power over all the power of the enemy and that nothing would be able to harm us (Luke 10:19). Not that I still won't be giving exorcisms that I witness the side eye, because although exorcisms are real, everybody isn't for real. In any case, use wisdom and discernment, and test the spirits (I John 4:1).
Feel free to let me know your thoughts, but please remember to be respectful.
For a front row seat of an exorcism, check out my novel Spell, releasing July 9th in paperback, Kindle & Nook! Click HERE for more info. Also read a sample of my short stories Vanity & Grave, both available now on Kindle & Nook for only $.99.
A Christian writer/author passionate about God, understanding spiritual warfare, and fighting the good fight of faith.