Back around 2012 and 2013 I was incredibly unstable – that is when I was able to feel anything at all. Most of the time I was depressed, but when I wasn’t, I was either so euphoric I would do crazy things like riding my bike down two flights of concrete stairs, only to fall off half way down and not even feel it, or I was so angry I thought I’d end up killing someone, or I was so miserable I’d spend the whole day crying. I was a complete mess. Throughout this whole time I always had this one question in the back of my mind; “Am I demon possessed?” I was certainly experiencing a lot of strong forces under the surface which I had little or no control over. And the fact that I was struggling with porn didn’t help either.
To answer this question properly, we need to get our definitions straight. What do we even mean by the term demon possession? In modern times, the term has become a euphemism for all kinds of mental illness. The thinking being; “back in the bad old days of religion and ignorance, people who didn’t know any better just called all kinds of mental illness ‘demon possession'”. Perhaps there is some truth to this, but if we examine what the scriptures say about demon possession, the term describes a condition that is a lot more than mental illness.
When Jesus encountered people who were demon possessed, oftentimes they demonstrated secret knowledge about Jesus and the end times. Sometimes they would know his name without asking (Mark 1:24, Mark 5:7 [Luke 4:34] Luke 8:28), know that he is the Son of God (Matthew 8:29 [Mark 5:7, Luke 8:28], Mark 1:24 [Luke 4:34] Luke 4:41), and beg Jesus not to torture, destroy, or send them into the abyss before the appointed time (Matthew 8:29 [Mark 5:7, Luke 8:28 & 31], Mark 1:24 [Luke 4:34]). In Mark 9:26 a demon even shrieks when it is cast out. And when the Jews in Acts 19 are driving out evil spirits, they use the name of Jesus as an incantation, but the demon replies “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?”
So when the Bible talks about demon possession, it really does mean a person who is under the control of a personal, spiritual entity: a demon. This is not just mental illness. Although sometimes a demon will cause a person to show the appropriate symptoms. (Mark 9:14-33, [Luke 9:37-46]).
But can a Christian become demon possessed? Proponents of the spiritual warfare movement would say ‘yes absolutely’ however you’ll find their answer is always based on a lot of personal experiences, and a lot of stories, but never on solid Biblical doctrine.
Although the Bible doesn’t contain the exact words; ‘No a true believer cannot be demon possessed’ it still gives us the answer to our question.
Whenever we read stories about demon possession, it’s never in the context of believers. In fact oftentimes people will become believers after they have been delivered but there are no Biblical accounts of believers being possessed after conversion. Furthermore, there are no warnings in any of the new testament letters or in Jesus’ teachings warning Christians to beware of demonic possession. If anything we have the opposite:
“What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”(2 Corinthians 6:15-17)
Basically, if we belong to Christ, God the Holy Spirit inhabits our whole being. There is no partition where God and Demons need to get along in the same space like unhappy room mates. No! God doesn’t put up with this. When God claims a man for himself he claims the whole man. Even Jesus himself said “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand”.
In fact, Paul says it even more strongly in Colossians:
“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”(Colossians 1:13)
As Christians, our standing is no longer in the dominion of darkness. We no longer live under Satan’s rule and the rule of the demonic. We used to, until God saved us. There’s no ‘gotta keep the devil down in the hole’ type thinking. We’re saved 100 percent. Hallelujah! Thank you Jesus!
However, there is a very real chance that many who read this may not in fact actually be saved. And if this is the case for you, then you very may well be demon possessed. But what’s more terrifying, you could be heading towards a Godless eternity in hell. So it’s important we take inventory and examine ourselves to ‘work out our salvation with fear and trembling’ (Philippians 2:12). It’s a terrifying thing to think that so many church-goers think they’re saved just because they prayed a prayer one night at a youth rally or just because they feel all warm and fuzzy during worship music. But real conversion is so much more than this. There has to be a love of God through his Word. There has to be a thirst for truth, a hatred of falsehood and a hatred of sin. There has to be evidence that you’ve had an encounter with God. Your life should be different. Your priorities should be different. Your attitudes should be different. All these are markers of real conversion. Not this consumer-driven emotional fluff some people call “Christianity”. Paul Washer’s book ‘Narrow Gate Narrow Way’ is fantastic depiction of what real faith looks like. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
Now I should point out briefly that even if we are genuine believers, this doesn’t mean that we are immune from mental health problems. Even the apostle Paul got depressed (2 Corinthians 1:8). God takes away our sin but he doesn’t take away our human vulnerability. Traumatic events past and present will take their toll, and just like we go to the doctor if we have a physical problem, we might need to go to a good counselor or psychologist if we have an emotional problem that we can’t quite figure out ourselves. And in some cases, a formal diagnosis can bring about some much needed relief.
Additionally, just because we sin and are tempted to sin, doesn’t mean we are demon possessed. All Christians sin, however if we sin sexually, we sin against our own bodies (1 Corinthians 6:18). Since our bodies are members of Christ himself (1 Corinthians 6:15), (that is, if we are genuinely saved), a soul-tormenting division takes place when we sin by uniting ourselves with anyone else, whether it be physically or through pornography. We can’t serve two masters as Jesus said when he was talking about money (Matthew 6:24). And if this is true for money, then how much more true is this for sexual intimacy? So it’s no wonder people feel torn when they get caught up in sexual sin. But this feeling certainly isn’t the same thing as being demon possessed. If anything it’s the opposite. It demonstrates that we’re possessed by God the Holy Spirit who convicts us of sin, and brings us to repentance. The Bible is full of people who sinned sexually, but we never read of any of them being demon possessed.
So, if you’re a genuine believer struggling with under-age attraction and have thought that perhaps you’re demon possessed, I have good news for you. You’re not. It’s a trick from the enemy. You belong to a jealous God (Exodus 20:5) who won’t share you with demons. You are completely his. Like me in years past, you may still find yourself struggling against strong emotional forces, but as you walk with God, saturated in his word, I think you’ll find these forces will weaken as time goes on – as God conforms you into the image of his Son (Romans 8:29). For me, there was no sudden moment when I realized I wasn’t demon possessed. As I walked with God and continued to see my psychologist, life just started to get better. I didn’t get so caught up in patterns of negative thinking, and my mood became a lot more stable. After a while, the idea that I could be demon possessed just stopped entering my mind.