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Can a Christian have a demon?

A couple of days ago, a blog reader raised a good question: “Can a Christian have a demon?” My quick and dirty response: Hey, Christians can have just about anything they want! If they want to invite demons to hang around and whisper suggestions, they can do that, just like they can invite the…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

A couple of days ago, a blog reader raised a good question: “Can a Christian have a demon?” My quick and dirty response: Hey, Christians can have just about anything they
want! If they want to invite demons to
hang around and whisper suggestions, they can do that, just like they can
invite them to go to hell.

The problem with the way this question is
often answered is that the answer may have nothing to do with either what the
Bible says or any actual experience. I’ve
heard Christians who wouldn’t have the first clue about what to do with a
demonized person give categorical answers (see my earlier blog). “No, Christians can’t have demons,”
they assert.

Well, what does that mean? Can they be tempted? Yes. Can they be seduced and lied to? Yes. Can they be troubled and tormented?

That’s what demons do to people.
The real question is, “Can a demon control a Christian’s behavior like a
puppet?” That’s what people usually mean and the word they associate with that
behavior it is “possession” – the point of reference being the movie “The

M. Scott Peck has written some great stuff
on the subject, beginning with the classic overview of the problem of a
personal evil, People
of the Lie
and concluding with Glimpses
of the Devil
, which looks at the issue of possession. If you’re really interested in the subject, I’d
begin there.

It’s probably best to look at the issue as
one of degree of influence. Rather than
getting caught up in a conversation about semantics, recognize that we are all
influenced to one degree or another by demonic activity. Demons whisper lies and people listen to them
– that’s part of the natural order of things. The
more we dally in realms controlled by demons: drugs, criminal activity,
pornography, and violent video games for starters, the more we give them
permission to influence us. Check out 2 Peter 2 for a great description of where all this leads.

Ratchet up the time you spend in any of
these areas and you’ll open yourself to greater demonic influence. Pornography, for example. On a 100-point scale, you may start out at a
15 on the scale of demonic influence as a good Christian adolescent. Yes, you’re regularly tempted, but you
usually resist. Then as a college
student, hanging around your fraternity as a senior, you find yourself daily
looking at your friends’ Hustler magazine – you’ve jumped to a 50 on the
scale. It gets worse, after college, you
regularly frequent the nearby “Adults Only” store and unwittingly you’ve given
a demon of lust and his buddies significant access to your life – you’re at a
74 on the scale. The demon doesn’t even have to whisper anymore, he just nudges
you and you feel helpless to resist.

At that point you “have” a demon in same
sense that you’d have a good friend. And
to the degree that you’re easy prey for the demon, maybe it’s more accurate to
say he has you. Do you as a
Jesus-follower also have the Holy Spirit and the power to resist evil? Absolutely.
But demonic temptation is a fact of life for Christians as well as
non-Christians. You’re never completely out of the woods.

Also, check out the article “Sons of Sceva: Wielding true spiritual authority” for more on  what demons can do to Christians and people who think using the right words is all they need to do.

Comments (15)

  • Good blog Seth.

    “unwittingly you’ve given a demon of lust and his buddies significant access to your life ”

    Is there an actual “demon of lust” or is it simply Sin.

    I am not questioning the existence or even the heavy influence of demons, but how often are they merely the whisperers in our ears and the temptations of our flesh? Is it not our sinful nature and the sinful nature of others that would be the source of lust or greed or even murder?

    How often do you think manifestations of sin in a believer or nonbeliever are given credit to demonic presence when in reality the source of the problem is just sin in a range of degrees?

  • Jeff,

    I agree that we shouldn’t attribute the presence of sin in our lives to just us. It’s like saying the presence of cake in our lives is just us. I am not a piece of cake and I didn’t make the cake, but I do choose to eat it. Whether it was brought to me by an evil cake deliverer or I sought it out on my own. Either way there are a LOT of factors in why we sin, what causes us to sin, and what allows us to keep sinning.

    I guess that’s where my question was headed. Like Seth mentioned. There is a pendulum and I think every case of “sinful”/”demonic” behavior can be explained on some point of the pendulum’s swing either WAY to the right or WAY to left and everywhere in between.

    I asked the questions because I don’t know the answers to them all the time…

    I absolutely love this friggin discussion.
    I love it. 🙂
    Blog world is fun.

  • who knows, Brian? Clearly there is a mix of free choice leading to sin and the active targeting of believers by the demonic. The Holy Spirit gives us discernment about what’s what.

    I do know this: the evangelical church has let the pendulum swing way over to the “oh, that’s just a sin issue” side of the equation and has very little clue what to do with demons. Do you have much experience in deliverance ministry? If you do, you’ll know what I mean. If you don’t, you may need to get some experience.

  • Neil T. Anderson’s “Bondage Breaker” does a really good job of explaining this and showing believers how to deal with it.

  • yeah, there’s a demon of lust. Is there such a thing as “just sin”? Were Adam and Eve possessed? No, I don’t think so? Were they tempted? You betcha. Was it “just sin”? No, it was the Devil, but they had a choice. That may be an over-generalization, but Brian, I think we need to be careful that we don’t attribute the presence of sin in our lives to just us. Clearly, we’re responsible for our actions, but I waste significant amounts of time fighting myself, when I should just be telling the Devil to go to hell.

  • yeah, this is a fun discussion.

    I was taught to be skeptical of the “a demon under every rock” idea for a long time. Then I realized that no matter how hard I tried there were certain sin issues in my life (yeah the usual lust, anger, pride etc.) that I just couldn’t shake and I beat myself up over it, got really down on myself, and ‘trying harder’ didn’t work.

    Since the training and the experience of the world race I have had my eyes opened to a whole new world of spiritual warfare. I still know I have the sin nature and self control and all that, but I do believe the demons are lying and suggesting, appealing to the sin nature, as much as we allow them to.

    I worked through Anderson’s “Bondage Breaker” and “Victory Over Darkness” this year. I did what he said to do…and I do see big differences in my daily struggles. Huge victories and change in me.

    But, I still struggle…I don’t think it is an either/or thing with the sin nature vs. demonic influence I think it is both. Good thing for Jesus, huh?

  • I told you Seth – bunnies & kitty cats – maybe little puppies. All this doctrine stuff is just too much to bear – I’ve got my stuff all figured out all ready 😉

  • Brian, I need to be honest here… I don’t know the answers either. Is every sin attributed to demonic influence? I guess I really have no idea. Could some of it just come from the brokenness of the world? I suppose so. I think that my response came from the belief that we are surrounded by an Enemy who prowls like a lion, waiting to attack. So whether we take his bait or pursue sin ourselves (tried to think of a clever fishing analogy to follow “bait” but decided against it), I imagine that the demons rejoice. But I have no proof for that.

    And I’m with Scott. I liked Neil’s book, went thru the painfully long exercises of renouncing ancestral sins, felt pretty good afterwards, and it helped… My favorite part of the book is that he assures you that it will take time, and there is no silver bullet, except to keep giving your life to Jesus. I can listen to a guy like that.

  • To defer to those much wiser than myself, let me quote the preface to “The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis – “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existance. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”

    I guess this has been debated for quite some time now.

  • Questions I have been thinking about…

    What is the relationship between being ‘spiritual’ and being ‘biblical’ in this situation?

    Can two people disagree passionately about a Biblical issue and still both be spiritual?

    Some would say it’s not possible.

    I wonder about the discussion between Paul and Barnabas concerning taking Mark along on the mission trip – they both disagreed intensely (and smart people say that one must have been wrong/unspiritual), but I wonder if they were BOTH spiritual, but just different.

    Doesn’t mean you don’t have passionate discussions about issues and study Scripture to see if our experiences are consistent with what God’s Word says – but it seems important that while the discussions are taking place, we don’t automatically judge our brother as more/less ‘spiritual’ than we are – even though he may be more/less ‘biblical’ than we are…

    Cultivate the Fruit of the Spirit!

  • ditto about the Neil Anderson books. They shine a light on the lie that satan & his demons have been whispering in christians ears for ages. many times we accept the lie as our human nature. when the bible clearly states that isn’t true anymore:

    -2 Cor. 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

    -James 1:17, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

    Which leads me to believe that anything that is not good is not from God. Anything not of God is of what? satan. Matt. 12:30 “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.”

    christians need to get a clear picture of sin. you either ARE or you AREN’T. yes, it’s a journey, but God has a clear definition of what sin is. too many times we make it easier on ourselves by chalking it up to “that’s just the way I am” or my personal favorite, “that’s just the way God made me”.

    by no means have i mastered this topic, but like others, the veil that satan has been holding over my eyes has been lifted on this issue of spiritual warfare, sin and the supernatural of God.

    I agree with bob and we need to cultivate the Fruit of the Spirit. taking each person’s comments as a challenge to further deepen our relationship with God and our knowledge of the scriptures. discussions like this show that we can spur another on in love, challenge and sharpen each other.

  • I prefer to view demons / angels and God as entities of the Universe. Just another species. If they have the capability to influence control over us, I prefer to view them as rational entities that have respect and a sense of fairplay towards those that respect them.

    In other words, talking to a demon like a new co-worker from another country. I don’t understand his culture, nor him, mine. Yet, we are both stuck together working on a project. We have to get along or we both lose.

    Respecting that the entity (demon) exists and has needs, but that you cannot allow it to take total control, yet you don’t demand total control. Harmony. At a spiritual level, is my recommended approach.

    For all we know, these beings are simply out of phase with us, temporally. Their “power” might be their way of communicating. We show anger, they react.

    I believe in the message from the movie K*Pax. EVERY living thing in the Universe knows right from wrong.

    I’ve had strange inklings of a feeling something might be present in my home. When I am alone and think I feel a presence, I converse with it. I respectfully request it to protect me and the others in my home. I respectfully request it to “look out” for me and the others in my home, and I will accept it’s presence in the home. I request it to not take possession of myself, or anyone in my home, and I thank it for doing so. I am not obsequious to it. I do not make demands, I do not yell, or get angry.

    The golden rule. Treat it how I would like to be treated. With respect.

    Even a the smallest most powerless person can have influence over evil. You never know unless you ask.

  • Doesn’t anyone read the scriptures where Jesus tells His disciples (that includes us) to “CAST OUT DEMONS” in His name and there are so many of these one would have to wonder, why isn’t this being taught and fulfilled today?


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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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