|FORMS OF DEMON APPROACH
John A. MacMillan
I AM REVEALED
Feb 12 2012
The approach of demons to individuals may be commonly classed in three ways: Oppression, obsession and
"Oppression" is most frequently met with, though its source is not always recognized. Bodily sickness is often from this
cause. The Apostle Peter (Acts 10:38) spoke of "how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with
power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him." If this
passage be compared with the evening in Capernaum (Matthew 8:16), it will be noted that Christ's healing ministry there
was twofold: "He cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick." But Peter classes all of the Lord's
healing as the oppression of the devil, a fact that throws light upon the origin of at least some of the bodily and mental
troubles from which our people suffer.
Under this head may be found many of the difficulties with which pastors are confronted. Spiritual and physical
depression is often the direct result of the impact of spirits of evil upon the mind. Science has developed a method of
dealing with such cases call psychiatry. But the psychiatrist is limited by the fact that he ignores as unscientific the
actuality of the working of unseen powers, confining himself to natural causes. With his mental treatment also are often
combined various forms of so-called shock treatment, the results of which are at times helpful though frequently not
Depression may result from the inward suggestion that sin has been committed for which forgiveness has not been
obtained. In serious cases the sufferer may believe that he has been guilty of "the unpardonable sin," a hallucination
that refutes itself, for if anyone has crossed "the deadline" of divine grace, there would be no inward concern about it.
Conviction comes from the working of the Spirit of God, who in such a situation would have withdrawn from the heart
and mind. Demons, who delight to torment their victims, cause often unbelievable anguish to those to whose
consciences they have gained access.
Earnest Christians may be cast down by suggestions that they are personally failures. Pastors and workers are often
inwardly accused that their work is not succeeding. Let the door be opened and credence given to such thoughts and
there may follow a flood of petty charges within the soul which overwhelm the heart and break down the resistance.
Apparently strong believers may be utterly cast down in spirit under such attacks. Faith is the spiritual weapon of the
saint, but faith may be quite annulled for the time by believing the doubts injected into the mind by lying spirits. Often
when the renewed human spirit seems steadfast toward God, a series of assaults may come on physical health, on
financial or social circumstances or through friends, which puzzle the understanding; the questioning which may rise
because of such things gives opportunity for the enemy to weaken the hold on the Lord.
Depression may take the form of unaccountable lowness of spirits long continued. There are those who never rise
above a certain plane in their spiritual lives, like Mr. Fearing in The Pilgrim's Progress. But others of a more buoyant
nature are often loud and constant in their attitude of praise. It is this latter class that are more seriously disturbed by a
sudden loss of their gladness. We recently met with a brother who had for seven years thus suffered and who was
greatly discouraged, not being able to discern the cause of his declension. Praise is one of the stimulants of the devout
heart, and when the spring of joy is dammed it is hard to hold steadfastly on the way.
Fear is another induced attitude, more common than the majority realize. At times it may become intense and cause
mental disturbance that is hard to allay. On the foreign field it may seem to be based on the surrounding conditions,
but in the homeland it is usually a vague inward sense of impending trouble. The trouble is in itself, as a rule,
imaginary, but it destroys the peace and holds back from the confidence and joy that are the right of the redeemed.
Oppression is probably the most common form of the working of the enemy upon the human mind or body. The
suffering caused may be largely imaginary, but the symptoms, on the other hand, may be very real. Cases have been
seen on the foreign field where a physician's diagnosis has apparently revealed serious functional disorder, and the
patient has been invalided at home. Yet when the home physician has examined the worker, no trace has been found
of the indicated trouble. The change of environment has seemed to remove all signs of physical weakness. If we
consider this to have any connection with the working of the enemy, it would appear as if there were oppression on the
field which did not exist at home, the pressure being removed when the patient reached the homeland. This has
occurred a limited numbers of times but often enough to be suggestive.
Depression is often the direct result of the impact of spirits of evil upon the mind. Many cases could be quoted, but one
will be sufficient. A lady, about fifty years of age, was brought to a most deplorable state of nervous weakness. She
was dealt with, first of all, regarding her spiritual condition and led to the Lord. Then it was pointed out to her that her
condition was quite unnatural, that her nervous state was unnecessary, that it was due to pressure of the enemy upon
her mind and that she could with the help of the Lord assert her will and throw off the power assailing her. In an hour
she was the master of herself and has remained so for several years. The ladies who brought her were astounded and
declared it to be a miracle.
Suggestion to the mind that the unpardonable sin has been committed is repeatedly the cause of mental depression. It
could be pointed out to the patient that if that sin had been actually committed, there would be no conscience of it
because the Holy Spirit would have withdrawn. When every other cause for depression has been explored, the
teaching that it is the work of the enemy frequently clears up the situation. If the sufferer is rightly instructed on how to
oppose and overcome the enemy, relief quickly comes.
The unreasonable pressure of fear is another most frequent difficulty. A lady sitting in a chair in her kitchen heard a
voice telling her that she was shortly to die. A sudden fear gripped her mind, which quickly covered nearly every aspect
of life. She stated that if she went down into the cellar, fear would possess her so that her heart would pound severely.
A missionary among the Mohammedan people told how a spirit of fear came upon him until he would lie awake at night
listening for murderers to come. These might seem to be natural, but they so overcame the individuals that their lives
and work were hindered. An understanding of the cause of the trouble cleared away the dread. But in a thousand
forms, this trouble is repeated, causing much distress and agony of mind.
A surprising number are met with whose ministry is disturbed by false guidance. They are not sure that the inward
suggestions which come to them are of God, but they cannot determine what is right or what they ought to do. This
indecision become a real burden to them and a decided hindrance in their service. A deaconess in a prominent church
was seized with the conviction that she ought to confess some slight fault. At a prayer meeting of the members
accordingly she rose and stated her failure openly. But at the next gathering the same pressure was on her mind, and
she again confessed. Thereafter, at every meeting, there was a similar feeling of conviction; she did not confess, and
the rebuke in her mind grew to such proportions that she was in agony of soul. When it was pointed out to her that the
conviction was not of God but the act of an accusing spirit, there was quick relief with following complete liberty.
People of a sensitive nature often fall into the snare of believing that others about them are criticizing them. When two
friends are seen talking together, the inference is that they themselves are the subject of conversation. This condition
is more widely spread than is supposed; good friends are separated, bitter feelings are stirred up, false stories grow
among believers for which there is no foundation. When the matter develops, it sometimes happens that sides are
taken and that church rifts occur. A wise pastor can often gain spiritual control of such a situation by calling a few
trusted members of like mind, and binding, by directed prayer, the powers of evil that lie behind the movement in his
congregation. Every Christian minister should understand the subject of spiritual authority and should be prompt to
apply his knowledge. Watchfulness and observation would prevent many forms of trouble which often split spiritual
The Christian public is at times shocked by the news that some strong leader has succumbed to a nervous or mental
collapse. It is discovered that for a period he has been suffering from unaccountable lowness of spirit. Others whose
spiritual life is low find a fear growing upon them that they also may be overcome by the same trouble. Often the fact
comes out that the leader in question has for a long time suffered from a belief that his ministry was not succeeding and
that he himself was personally a failure. But to those closest to him, these things were far from the truth; however, they
had observed in him a growing introversion and an apparent belief that his popularity was waning and that people were
noticing his declension spiritually. He had begun to speak about giving up his ministry, telling his closest friend that he
was a failure and that the consciousness of it was robbing him of sleep and peace of mind. Yet when this man was
convinced that his depression of spirits, his fancied failure and loss of the esteem of his fellows were due to the
suggestions of evil spirits - an idea he had never considered seriously - he was enabled to take fresh ground for his
whole ministry, he began to oppose the spirits with definite affirmations of victory, and in a very short time he had
regained more than he had lost for he now had a new viewpoint which was scriptural and convincing.
A young missionary lady in China, living with two companions in a river port, was suddenly seized with intense
depression. So great was the effect upon her that the older missionary in charge sent word to the field chairman that
she must be removed as she was causing harm at the station. Accordingly she was sent to the headquarters, where
much prayer was offered for her without result save that her depression seemed to increase. The case came under the
observation of the writer, who spoke strongly to her, saying, "Miss, you are doing wrong in keeping up this continued
blueness of spirit; I want to tell you that all depression is of the devil." The words shocked her, as hitherto she had been
petted and nursed with tenderness by all in the headquarters. She showed her resentment, which was a most hopeful
sign. He repeated his words; pointed out that the Lord commands all of His followers to rejoice in Him; something she
was disobeying. Then he indicated that her condition was due to her yielding to the lies of the enemy and that she must
resist the devil. In a surprisingly short time she was back in her station, equipped this time to discern the attacks of the
devil and to throw them off.
Attacks on Ministry
Who is there among Christian preachers who has not at times felt a deadness in the atmosphere of his meetings that
seemed impossible to dissipate? Such may be overcome by prayer and an attitude of spiritual authority in the name of
the Lord Jesus. For spirits of evil infest meetings where the truth is set forth, seeking to distract the minds of hearers
and to resist the working of the Spirit of God.
The late Dr. Jaffray told the writer of an incident where, in circumstances of peculiar opposition, plans which were
formulated in private meetings for prayer seemed to have been revealed in some mysterious way. Realizing that the
enemy was responsible, the precaution was taken in each such meeting of binding the foe and of prayerfully covering
each plan. The result was that the hindrances were overcome and success attended the work in place of frustration.
Our Lord, when teaching His disciples the principles of prayer, said, "Thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and
when thou hast shut thy door, pray" (Matthew 6:6, emphasis added). How many of us have found that the closing of the
closet door has failed to exclude the distractions which come. Prayer has at times been most difficult, concentration of
thought seemingly impossible. Round about the heart and mind circle the unseen powers of the air, bent on checking
the intercession and supplication of the prayer warrior. There is a remedy. Recognizing the source of the hindrance,
quietly claim from God the clearing of the air of the closet and accept the divine working in quiet praise. It is quite
possible to be freed from such foes and to wait on the Lord without distraction of mind or spirit.
The Believer's Authority
To the seventy who returned to Christ with joy (Luke 10:17, 19, ASV), saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject unto
us in thy name," the Master replied, "Behold I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over
all the power of the enemy." Lest any argue that this authority was given to them in a special time and is not now
operative, we will refer to Mark 16:17, ASV, the scope of which cannot be questioned: "These signs shall accompany
them that believe; in my name shall they cast out demons," etc. All that went before is included in this commission and a
wider range is given to it. "Them that believe" is the only limitation; he who believes and obeys has a wider ministry
open to him than the vast majority of Christians have understood or exercised.
Yet, while the foregoing is true, it is equally true that not all are called or equipped for the full performance of what is
here outlined. Nevertheless everyone who is named as a minister of the Lord and of the Word should examine himself
as to whether he comes short of that to which he is commissioned. There are not a few serving congregations who are
permitting conditions to exist among their people that are displeasing to the Head of the Church. There are others who
face individual cases which need help and who realize that they are not instructed or ready for the task of deliverance.
The civilized world as at no other time in history, save perhaps during the period when the Son of God was on earth,
faces a working of demon power. The advance of so-called Spiritualism witnesses to this. But, in addition, there is
manifest in the very congregations of Christians great numbers who need special understanding and help. Our national
educational systems show the influence of what the apostle calls "doctrines of demons." To meet these sad conditions
every minister of Christ needs a more intensive knowledge of what the Bible has to say about the impact of the unseen
world on the seen.
In a Western city, at the close of the weekly prayer meeting, a young woman was brought to the pastor. Her face was
sullen and downcast, and her whole appearance that of despair.
Sitting down beside her, the pastor asked, "Can I be of help to you?" Almost savagely came the reply, "I didn't ask you
to speak to me."
"No," was the answer, "but it is easy to see you are in trouble. I am sure if you would open your heart we could find the
cause of your distress."
She burst forth bitterly, "God has left me!"
The pastor said, "Why do you say that?"
With the same bitterness she answered, "I sinned against Him and He left me!"
The pastor said again, "My dear young woman, that is not God's way of doing. If anyone has told you that, or it has
come from an inward suggestion, it is not true. His Word is, 'If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us
our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness!' He never breaks His Word. You are deceived by the enemy."
To this there was no reply, and the pastor went on, "Now, in your inmost heart would you not like to be back in the same
relationship with the Lord that you were before this took place?"
Eagerly she cried, "Oh, yes."
He continued, "My dear child, you have been listening to the lies of the devil, and he has blinded your mind to the
promised of the Lord. The very fact that you long to be restored proves this. If God had given you up, and withdrawn
His Spirit, you would have no desire for Him."
In a few minutes she was on her knees praising God in restored fellowship. Her trouble, in the first place, had come
from the seeking and receiving of subjective manifestations. When these had left her, and could not be regained, she
accepted the devil's suggestion that God was grieved and had cast her away.
Obsession is a control of the human mind from without, similar in many ways to hypnotism. The direct cause of it is not
always easy to trace, but it invariably is the result of having at some time believed a lie of the enemy. As a result the
mind is blinded and the will comes increasingly under the control of unseen forces until the personality is quite swayed
by them. There is despair and hopelessness. Usually, the individual fears that the unpardonable sin has been
committed and that there is no possibility of again coming under the mercy of God. This fear, however, may also
accompany other forms of mental distress.
The control of the will is the vital issue at this stage. But the will has become so influenced by false conceptions injected
into the mind that it cannot respond to the presentation of the truth. In fact, there has been in some manner an
unconscious surrender of the will which is not realized by the sufferer. Control must be regained before relief and
peace can be restored.
Here again, the relief afforded by psychiatry is only partial, especially in the case of God's children. For where a truly
regenerated person has been thus brought through deception under the power of the enemy, the renewed spirit can
find no contact with God, yet it can be satisfied by nothing else. Quite recently a person who had been brought into a
gracious state of spiritual liberty stated that she had undergone "shock treatments" in an institution, and that though
apparently much better immediately afterward, the condition of mental and physical bondage sooner or later invariably
returned. A firm grounding on the solid rock of the Word of God brought to her lasting assurance and renewed delight
in witnessing for Jesus.
The objection is frequently made that a true child of God cannot be brought thus under the power of the enemy.
Experience disproves this, for even spiritual believers and earnest and successful workers have suffered, some of them
never coming to the place of complete deliverance. We have in mind a successful evangelist and Bible teacher who
was affected in this manner and confined to a state hospital. His particular obsession regarded his own spiritual state,
which he considered hopeless. He would converse on ordinary topics with clear judgment and maintained a remarkable
grasp of the current questions of the day. His knowledge of the Bible was comprehensive, and he would not
infrequently interrupt the visitor who read passages to him, quoting accurately from memory verses which followed. To
the observer he seemed like an expert swordsman who knew the technique of spiritual swordplay but had laid aside his
weapon and refused to use it. He would commend the visitor to the care of the Lord but could not be brought to pray
for himself. He remembered the peaceful hours he once enjoyed and found their memory sweet, but felt he was out of
the sphere of the Lord's mercy and died in this state of mind.
As mentioned above, the control and exercise of the will is the crucial point in deliverance. Two things are essential.
First, faith must be stimulated to the point where hope awakens. Here the Word is the worker's main reliance, but it
must be used in constant expectation of the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit in the mind that is being dealt with. The
utter hopelessness of gaining a response from the bound human spirit by merely natural means is keenly felt in the
contact with such cases. Second, the will must be given suggestive aid until it can function for itself. For the effort of
the human will to lay hold upon and appropriate to its owner the promises and provisions of God's Word is absolutely
vital. How can this be done?
In a very serious case of obsession, the individual concerned was a Christian worker on a foreign field. The mental
distress was intense, including the fear of lost salvation. There was constant rebellion against her condition, though
with so little hope that thoughts of self-destruction kept repeating. Strange statements came at times from her lips, as
though suggested from some personality outside of herself. She was conscious of these, but her mind in such things
was able to take no voluntary actions of its own.
The method adopted in deliverance aimed at the restoration of willpower, as well as the freeing of the spirit from the evil
control under which it was suffering. Much united prayer was offered by fellow workers, but it was clearly realized that
the sufferer must come to the place where she could exercise faith for herself and take a decisive stand against the
powers that bound her.
Daily a brief session was held with the afflicted person. Fear of eternal loss was the prominent feature, and this was
first dealt with. In order to quicken the will, the afflicted one was asked to make certain definite affirmations, setting forth
positively the spiritual attitude which was desired. The worker said, "Sister, I wish you to repeat after me, 'I believe in
the Lord Jesus Christ.'" This was pressed until a firm response came. She was then encouraged, "He that believeth on
the Son hath eternal life. Claim eternal life."
The sessions were short, not more than twenty minutes daily, as there was much physical weakness. Step by step,
each phase of the bondage of the mind was dealt with, until at the end the attitude was taken, "I resist the devil! I refuse
the working of the devil!" At this point a deadlock seemed to arise. But, when the victim joined in the affirmation, relief
came suddenly and completely. In less than two weeks there was a full resumption of service.
THE AUTHORITY OF THE BELIEVER, by John A. MacMillan, Copyright 2007, WingSpread Publishers.
|LIFE IN JESUS-MINISTRIES