If someone had asked me a few years ago, “Do you believe in the power or existence of the spirit world?” I would have hesitated, not knowing what to answer. Today, I give an emphatic “yes.”
Why? Because I have seen it! As a counselor, I have talked with many people who have confronted the spiritual forces of darkness.
Linda was one example – a single working girl who had always been fascinated with the occult. One day she was notified that her fiancé, David, had been killed in action in Vietnam. A few days later, Linda received a poem from David that he had written just before his death. Naturally she cherished it, and after consulting the Ouija board, decided to tack it on the inside of her closet door.
Within a week she began to reveal to her roommates that David’s spirit lived in her closet. The roommates brushed this aside as pure fantasy caused by her deep sorrow, until one evening they found Linda shaking with fear from what David’s spirit had told her to do. Immediately all three girls consulted the Ouija board, which commanded Linda to burn the poem. Vehemently refusing to burn the last word from her lover, she and her roommates retired for the night.
Suddenly the roommates heard a terrible scream from Linda’s bedroom. Rushing in, they turned on the light, and gasped in shock. The closet door had been ripped off its hinges! Linda finally settled down, jumped out of bed and burned the poem. Now Linda will tell you that David’s spirit lives inside her: “He tells me what to do and what not to do. I like it, but it scares me so!”
Today increasing numbers of people are naively opening themselves up to the perverted powers of the supernatural through their fascination with the occult. Thousands of Americans are active practitioners of witchcraft, spiritualism, magic and even devil worship. Millions more are addicted to astrology, numerology, fortune-telling and tarot cards.
While most people regard occult practices as intriguing and harmless, many are discovering that the occult is not a game. Involvement in the occult provides an inroad for demonic activity in a person’s life – part of Satan’s master scheme to lure people into spiritual captivity. Dr. William S. Reed, U. S. psychologist, states, “Many mental and physical illnesses result from demonic attacks.”
Jean’s roommate was a white witch who had read her future from tarot cards. She told her a young man would come into her life and bring good fortune. A few evenings after this prediction a fiery light appeared to Jean, communicating that it had come to fulfill the prophecy. Screaming, Jean bolted from the room in terror, afraid to tell anyone what had happened. The next night the fire returned. Now she was crying for help.
Jean would be the first to tell you that the spirit world is real. She has confronted it face to face. The Bible frequently mentions the demonic activity of the spirit world, referring to demons and the leader of demons, Satan. The apostle Paul wrote, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world-forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”1 Satan is battling for people’s lives.
In warfare, three basic principles lead to certain defeat when violated: 1) realizing that a war is going on; 2) knowing the enemy’s strategies and methods; and 3) knowing how to fight. The same tenets apply to spiritual warfare. Many people experience defeated, tragic lives because they are ignorant of these three principles.
Satan’s devices are not always ugly or frightening as in the cases of Jean and Linda. More often he disguises himself as an “angel of light,”2 concealing his real identity in a more favorable way. When he appeared to Jesus he did not offer Him something intrinsically bad, but offered Him genuinely good things. Behind these offerings, however, was the snare – Satan was trying to lure Jesus into acting independently of the Father.
Satan is more than willing to give good things, but to obtain them, you must do it his way. His way of independence short circuits dependence on God. He enjoys counterfeiting everything that God has to offer, all to trap unsuspecting people.
In spiritual warfare, Satan employs three major war tactics – the occult trap, the religious trap, and the sin trap.
The tragic effects of dabbling in the occult have already been illustrated. In every occult practice there is contact with the spirit world. The evil spirits linked with the occult are fallen angels who followed Satan’s rebellion, remaining in subjection to him. Now they are under his command, roaming the earth to destroy men’s lives.
All occult practices require a meditative, passive state in order for the spirit world to operate properly. A person who uses drugs, music, lighting effects and other methods to empty and “open his mind” is actually leaving himself up for grabs in the spirit world. At this level, there is no guarantee who is in control.
The Religious Trap
This is by far Satan’s most effective trap. It makes full use of the occult, wrapping it in the respectability of religion.
Satan subtly blinds men’s minds so that they will not accept the true gospel. He often does this by deceiving them into thinking that one way to heaven is as acceptable as any other way. The Hare Krishna devotees, with their unusual dress and chanting, are a prime example of Satanic blindness.
One of the more predominant characteristics of false religions is that they have placed God’s Word secondary to experience. Many people accept supernatural experiences as gifts from God when there is no scriptural basis for such phenomena.
Satan loves nothing better than to give people overwhelming and thrilling experiences that seem to come from God. People have received visions, powers of automatic writing and dramatic gifts of healing – all coming from the counterfeiter. The tragedy occurs when people become so caught up in the spectacular nature of the experience that they take their eyes off God.
The Sin Trap
The effects of sin are universal, because all have sinned. Sin in its most fundamental sense is opposition to God and to His character.
Satan is the originator and the minister of sin. He manipulates people’s thoughts, attitudes and actions into rebellion against God. The devil’s work further consists of accusing people of sin and forcing them to believe that they are utterly evil and worthless. These accusations often lead to deep depression, the most common symptom of demonic attack.
A person may be depressed over something he has done wrong, and evil spirits intensify the depression to an unbearable point. This intensification is brought about by heaping accusations against him for his sins, thereby inducing strong guilt feelings. Fear, anxiety and the sense of worthlessness become so severe, that frequently a person considers suicide to be the only way to relieve the pain.
Jerry was a good illustration of one who had been caught in the sin trap. He could not gain victory over his recurring problem – homosexuality. His thoughts and actions were dragging him into suicidal depression. It seemed like the more he fought the problem, the worse it became. One evening he claimed to be actually “driven” to a park where he participated in homosexual activity. The problem became so uncontrollable that Jerry was afraid of what he might do next. “If this is how I must live the rest of my life,” he said, “I might as well end it all.”
When the sin trap is unveiled with all its devastation, sin becomes an extremely serious matter. “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”3 Playing with sin is not a spiritual game; it opens the door to a fierce enemy. And Satan plays for keeps.
Satan is a cunning warrior, but he is not invulnerable. We can fight the spiritual war triumphantly, but to do so, we must know how to fight.
The Bible says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved”4 – saved from the chains of Satan, from the bondage of sin, and from the agony of eternal separation from God. Satan can battle against us with all the strength he can muster, but he has already been defeated! “When He (Christ) had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.”5 The “ruler and authorities” are Satan and his demons. And Christ disarmed them when He died on the cross and rose from the dead.
We are released from the bondage of sin because all of our sins were nailed to the cross. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”6 Jesus has paid the penalty for all of our sins. If a person trusts in Jesus Christ as his Savior, Satan can no longer accuse him or make him feel guilty because he has already been forgiven.
It was also at the cross that Jesus destroyed the power of death. “Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.”7
Whereas we were once in Satan’s domain, we can now have a new position in Christ. In Him we have the forgiveness of sin, we are made complete, we are “blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,”8 and we are also sealed for the day of redemption.9 In other words, God will preserve and protect us until the day that Jesus returns.
God’s gift of salvation does not come to us automatically. As a gift, it is ours to accept or reject. The person who rejects Christ is totally under the control of his sinful nature, making him a prime target for the attacks of Satan. Without the power of Christ, he has nothing on which to stand, no means of defense.
When a person acknowledges Christ as his personal Savior, his old nature is crucified, and he receives a new nature. He is indwelt by the Holy Spirit of Christ Himself. In this new relationship, he is freed from the obligation to obey sin. He is no longer forced to surrender to the power of Satan, because Satan was defeated at the cross 2,000 years ago. The battle has been won. We need not fight for victory over Satan and his demons; we can stand as victors in Jesus Christ!
1. Eph. 6:12; 2. 2 Cor. 11:14; 3. 1 Pet. 5:8; 4. Acts 16:31; 5. Col. 2:15; 6. Rom. 5:8; 7. Heb. 2:14-15; 8. Eph. 1:3; 9. Eph. 4:30.
A person who uses drugs, music, lighting effects and other methods to ‘open his mind’ is leaving himself “up for grabs” in the spirit world. There is no guarantee who will control him.