By Reverend Mark Hunnemann
Pastor Jim “Thanks for coming in the office today Sam—what’s on your mind my friend?”
Sam “Well, it seems like ever since I decided nine months ago to really love Jesus above all else, that is when the troubles began.”
Pastor Jim “What kind of troubles brother?”
Sam “I feel this battle inside—heck, I don’t even understand my own actions. Often-times, I do not do what I really want to do…and I end up doing the very thing I hate! Pride, lust, and anger are things I wrestle with—a lot. It happens so often I feel depressed.”
Pastor Jim “Sam, I know you are a godly man—so there must be some outside influence that is oppressing you. Sounds like you have a demonic attachment. Why don’t we set up an appointment to deliver you from those demons of pride, lust, and anger?”
The above is a compressed composite of many complaints I have heard from earnest Christians over the years—ongoing frustration with sin. The diagnosis and treatment suggested by the spiritual physician (the pastor or deliverance minister) has become standard operating procedure.
My heart is broken over this because I do not like to correct brothers, but I have to say the following—the vast majority (not all) of deliverance ministers and books are harming more people than they are helping. Why do I make that dreadful comment? Because if our diagnosis is way off, then so will be the treatment…and our diagnosis above is an example of how awful the situation has become. Of necessity the above conversation had to be brief, but even after hours of counseling and questionnaires, it accurately depicts the final outcome—almost always demons are found to be the culprit. Categories frequently ignored are the fall (and its psychological consequences), and indwelling sin, which is the focus of this analysis. Even if personal sin is mentioned, it is almost never discussed in the manner in which we will.
Do you realize that the problem Sam mentioned (which got him diagnosed as having a demonic attachment) is a quote from the apostle Paul regarding his own struggles with sin??!! (see Romans 7:14—8:1) The existential, psychological anguish which Paul expresses over his battle with sin—specifically v.15 (which Sam quotes almost verbatim), is a major reason why the pastor thought he was experiencing demonic oppression. I’m convinced that if Paul were alive today and writing as he did then, he would have deliverance ministers claiming he was diabolically oppressed.
My dear friends, I hope and pray this discussion will bring comfort to some troubled souls. Demonologists and deliverance ministers are causing incredible carnage amongst Christians due to an epidemic of shallow understanding of theology and the bible. We know that Satan and his demonic hoard are our sworn enemies, and to be ignorant of their schemes will cause all sorts of significant problems for us. The bible tells us that Satan is a defeated foe, and yet we are engaged in a battle royal every day !! (Eph. 6) Likewise with sin—it is a defeated foe (not blinded or enslaved anymore), but we are engaged in a life-long battle royal with indwelling sin. Why do we recognize the former, but not the latter?
The united voice of scripture states that the vast majority of hateful thoughts, lustful thoughts, covetous thoughts (fill in the blank) are not caused by demons but from indwelling sin. It is vitally important for demonologists to know this…it is equally imperative that every Christian know this!
Tragically, the compressed hypothetical conversation above is repeated many times everyday by deliverance ministers, who are abysmally ignorant of the bible’s teaching regarding indwelling sin. Listen to God’s word…
“…every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen. 6:5) Lest we think this was just a pre-flood observation, “…for the intentions of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” (Gen. 8:21)—written AFTER the Flood.
“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Ps: 51:5) This reference to “original sin” is not the original/first sin of man, but the sin nature passed on to every human being.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9) So much for following your heart type advice!!
“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matt.12:34)—according to James, NOBODY has their tongue properly trained, so what does that say about the heart? (James 3:2)
“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” (Matt. 15:19) Out of the heart…not demonic influence/projection.
“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire…” (James 1:14-15)…do you see demons anywhere in this text on temptation???
“For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you for doing the things you want to do.” (Gal.5:17)
This text in Galatians encapsulates an excruciating, extended exposition of the battle with indwelling sin in Romans 7: 14-:8:1)…”Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.”(v.20)
This side of heaven there is a tension between the “already” and the “not yet”. Much harmful, shallow teaching regarding sanctification/spiritual warfare disregards the fact that some aspects of our salvation are true “already” (or now) and some are “not yet”…their full realization will not be experienced till heaven. When these are “telescoped together” (already and not-yet), then disaster often occurs. In 1 John 3:2 we are told that when we go to heaven, then we will finally be able to see God face to face because will be sinless.
In wiser times, the universal testimony of notably godly people was how sinful they saw themselves to be, and how they yearned for heaven to see Jesus face-to-face, and to be free from the presence of sin. If a Christian were to admit how sinful they were in many Christian circles, he would be rebuked for not being “victorious”!! I have said this before but the greatest deficiency in modern preaching is the dearth of God-intoxicated messages. The heresy of the prosperity gospel has affected most TV preachers. A deficient understanding of the holiness of God, will lead to a deficient view of our sinfulness, and a deficient view of our sinfulness leads to a deficient of grace-as well as leaving us woefully out of touch with reality. Perhaps this will help: justification (past tense already/now) deals with the GUILT OF SIN, sanctification (present and on-going or progressive) deals with the POWER OF SIN, and glorification (not yet..future) deals with the PRESENCE OF SIN.
Let me use an analogy to illustrate what happens as we mature in Christ. Picture an iceberg—nine-tenths of it is under the water line..only a small portion is visible. That is an apt analogy of how many see sin. The focus is on the visible behavior—do certain things, and avoid others, then you are seen as godly. But under the water line, in the cold, dark, murky depths lies our impure motives…covetousness…critical attitude..and so on. As we mature, more spiritual nerves are exposed, and we become increasingly aware of what is going on “under the water line”. The sin was always there but was overlooked.
In Rom.7:17,20 Paul laments that sin indwelling inside of him causes him to do that which he hates, or not do what he loves.(the law helped him see below the water-line) Demons or Satan are nowhere in sight in this discussion. Friends, we are very capable of being tempted FROM WITHIN because indwelling sin never leaves us—it corrupts everything we do. As one saint said, “He had to repent of even his most fervent of prayers.” Our motives are never utterly pure. But back to demons—they are finite in number and localized…they come and they go (unless oppressed or possessed), but indwelling sin is always present. There does not have to be a demon within 100 miles, and we still have to be on guard against indwelling sin, which can flare up at any moment and destroy us if we are not careful.
I dare say that if a person paraphrased Romans 7 (or just Gal.5:17) to the average deliverance minister, they would be convinced that person was under demonic oppression! And worse, they (as has happened countless times) will try to cast out demons from inside this struggling Christian. No time to elaborate, but demons cannot physically indwell a Christian…PERIOD!!!
What is indwelling sin? The simplest way of answering that is to say that after we are saved, there remains sin in our hearts. We are new creations (Gal.2:20) with a new nature—we do NOT have a battle between two natures, because the old nature is gone. But that does not mean indwelling sin has been eradicated. There is a nexus of anti-God and selfish inclinations lurking within us—and it will be a battle royal until the day we die. Though not a personal being like a demon, it is still an energized cesspool--a network that vitiates or pollutes EVERYTHING we do—even our best actions with best of intentions are corrupted by this radical despoilment of our entire human nature. As we mature in Christ we should become more aware of how radically and comprehensively indwelling sin corrupts everything we think, do, and say. Please believe me when I say there was a time when a humble school child could elaborate on indwelling sin. Anemic views of God lead to anemic views of sin.
Indwelling sin operates much like demons do—there are two main functions…force of temptation and deceit or deception. Though it is inanimate, indwelling sin is an active energy pulsating and polluting everything in its path. In James we see that the “intent” of indwelling sin is our destruction—much the same as demons. All sorts of temptations bubble up from within, and indwelling sin will also seek to deceive us that it does not exist.
PLEASE…if you are struggling, don’t assume it is demonic. It may very well be demonic, but examine yourself…chances are you are simply struggling with indwelling sin. But praise God for the daily beauty of the gospel and that we stand perfect in Christ’s righteousness. Much more could be said, but I need to stop.