Spiritual Eviction


Sometimes popular culture’s interest in the supernatural gives preachers the opportunity to speak about subjects that do not get a lot of pulpit time.  There are many books, movies and television shows that have supernatural themes.  Most of the recent ones are vampire themed but occasionally they move in other directions as well.  People (regardless of their religious beliefs) enjoy entertaining thoughts about the supernatural.  We want to believe that there is something more to the world than what we have experienced and what our eyes can see.

There is a new release (8/27/2010) in theaters, “The Last Exorcism”.  I have not seen it and do not plan to.  I have seen the trailer and read the description of the Lionsgate film and it appears to be standard horror movie fare.  “After a career spent helping the devout through prayer and trickery, Reverend Cotton Marcus invites a film crew to document his final fraudulent days as an exorcist. Soon his faith is truly tested when a desperate plea from the father of a possessed girl brings him face to face with the devil himself.”  The domestic gross for the film was $20 MM in its first weekend.

I am uninterested in debating whether or not this movie should be seen or not seen or if the portrayal of exorcism is biblical.  This message is not a review of the movie nor is it an opinion concerning the movie. I am interested in raising the issue of casting out evil spirits and referring to the Bible as our textbook.

Exorcism is one of those issues that makes eyebrows raise and people quickly begin looking for the back door of your sanctuary.  Most western churches never speak of it.  We don’t really talk about the devil or demons and if we do it is very spiritualized or figurative; there is very little literal discussion of a devil and demons.

On the other side of the spectrum there are Christians who speak frequently about the devil and demons.  They look for him everywhere and seem to find him.  They speak of spiritual warfare, casting down imaginations, binding the devil and casting out evil spirits.  There is a definite air of spookiness surrounding much that is done in “warfare against the devil”.  Sometimes it is difficult to decipher what is real and what is overhyped theatrics.  Regardless of the presentation there is truth to this subject that needs to be addressed and digested by every believer.

As biblical, New Testament Christian believers where should we stand on the subject?    What does the bible have to say?

  • Do demons exist?
  • Is the devil a literal person?
  • Can people become possessed by evil spirits?
  • If so, can Christians cast the evil spirits out?
  • If so, is there a special ritual or set of qualifications to do so?

I want to briefly answer these questions with scripture.  This is not my interpretation of scripture – this is scripture.  I will comment on the verses, but will try to keep my words out of the way.

Do demons exist?

When Jesus arrived on the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gadarenes, two men who were possessed by demons met him. They lived in a cemetery and were so violent that no one could go through that area.  (Matthew 8:28)

And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once. (Matthew 17:18)

Suddenly, a man in the synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit began shouting, “Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One sent from God!” (Mark 1:23-24)

And unclean spirits, when they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried, saying, “Thou art the Son of God!” (Mark 3:7)

And it came to pass as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed by a spirit of divination met us. She had brought her masters much gain by soothsaying. (Acts 16:16)

And the evil spirit answered and said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are ye?” (Acts 19:15)

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers (Romans 8:38)

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)

Then there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and his angels.  And the dragon lost the battle, and he and his angels were forced out of heaven. (Revelation 12:7-8)

I believe the biblical answer to the question, “Do demons exist?” is, “Yes.”  Jesus and the apostles speak of demons spirits.  Demon spirits are even quoted in the New Testament.

Is the devil a literal person?

One day the members of the heavenly court came to present themselves before the Lord, and the Accuser, Satan, came with them. “Where have you come from?” the Lord asked Satan.

Satan answered the Lord, “I have been patrolling the earth, watching everything that’s going on.” (Job 1:6-7)

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry.

During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.”

But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’”

Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’”

Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.”

Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’”

Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus. (Matthew 4:1-11)

And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. (Luke 10:18)

I believe the biblical answer to the question, “Is the devil a literal person?” is, “Yes.”  We have records of conversations between God the Father and Satan as well as Jesus and Satan.

Can people become possessed by evil spirits?

When Jesus arrived on the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gadarenes, two men who were possessed by demons met him. They lived in a cemetery and were so violent that no one could go through that area.

They began screaming at him, “Why are you interfering with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torture us before God’s appointed time?”

There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding in the distance. So the demons begged, “If you cast us out, send us into that herd of pigs.”

All right, go!” Jesus commanded them. So the demons came out of the men and entered the pigs, and the whole herd plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned in the water.

The herdsmen fled to the nearby town, telling everyone what happened to the demon-possessed men.  Then the entire town came out to meet Jesus, but they begged him to go away and leave them alone. (Matthew 8:28-34)

One day as we were going down to the place of prayer, we met a demon-possessed slave girl. She was a fortune-teller who earned a lot of money for her masters.  She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, and they have come to tell you how to be saved.”

This went on day after day until Paul got so exasperated that he turned and said to the demon within her, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And instantly it left her. (Acts 16:16-18)

I believe the biblical answer to the question, “Can people be possessed by evil spirits?” is, “Yes.”  We have many instances recorded in the New Testament of men, women and children who were possessed by evil spirits.

Can Christians cast out evil spirits?

And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; (Mark 16:17)

Jesus called his twelve disciples together and gave them authority to cast out evil spirits and to heal every kind of disease and illness. (Matthew 10:1)

And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. (Luke 10:17)

Crowds came from the villages around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those possessed by evil spirits, and they were all healed. (Acts 5:16)

I believe the biblical answer to the question, “Can Christians cast out evil spirits?” is, “Yes.”  The disciples of Christ cast out demons while Jesus was with them on the earth and after the day of Pentecost.

Is there a special ritual or set of qualifications?

And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; (Mark 16:17)

And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?”

So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17:18-21)

I believe the biblical answer to the question, “is there a special ritual?” is, “No.”  I can find no evidence of an exorcism ritual in the bible.

I believe the biblical answer to the question, “is there a set of qualifications?” is, “Yes.”  I believe that in order to cast out demons we must:

  • Be born again; having placed our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ
  • We must believe that God through Christ has given us the authority to cast out demons in Jesus’ name
  • We must live a holy, prayerful and fasted life

Why did I write this message?

  • I wrote this message because power over the evil forces of this world is something that the church of Jesus Christ is neglecting to preach and teach the body of Christ.
  • I wrote this message because there are people in this world whose lives have been overtaken by evil spirits and they need to be set free in Jesus’ name.
  • I wrote this message because I believe that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  If there was a need to cast out demons in the book of Acts there is a need to cast out demons today.

Important points to remember:

  • Jesus Christ defeated Satan and his demons when He rose from the dead.
  • Our authority over Satan and His demons comes solely from Jesus Christ – we are powerless without Christ.
  • God and Satan are not opposite equals.
    • God is the omnipotent Lord of the universe who is absolutely unique and absolutely holy.
    • Lucifer is a creation of God who chose to forsake serving the Lord and rebelled against God and in doing so became Satan.
  • The eternal destiny of Satan is already written – he will spend it in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:10)

Things that cannot be cast out

  • Flesh – you cannot cast out your flesh.  Flesh must be crucified (Colossians 3:5)
  • Attitudes – you cannot cast out attitudes.  Our minds must be renewed with the word of God (2 Corinthians 10:5)
  • Sin – you cannot cast out sin.  Sin must be repented of (Acts 3:19)

Conclusion

Exorcism is a much maligned and much misunderstood topic that is normally only discussed by staunch unbelievers or the certifiable.  Regardless of the opinions of people we must stand with the truth of scripture.  The devil is real, he wants to destroy as many lives as he can, but he is a defeated foe. (John 10:10)

Christians need to understand that where false religion, drug addiction, sexual addition, abuse and violent crime exist (as well as many other things) there is often times a need to evict the defeated enemy.  As believers we are here to present the gospel to the world and enforce the victory that Jesus has won.

As we continue to move forward in our lives, fulfilling the Great Commission we must be prepared to cast out the evil spirits we find tormenting people.

My prayer for you is that you will study the scriptures and digest this biblical truth.  I pray this verse will apply to my life and to your life:

And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. (Acts 10:38)

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