Jesus drives out a demon or unclean spirit, fr...
Jesus drives out a demon or unclean spirit, from the 15th-century Très Riches Heures via Wikipedia

By: Donald Ibbitson, PhD

As Christian counselors, we get asked that question all the time. Part of our focus is helping people get free from demonic strongholds and bondages and this is an important issue. Often, clients will ask about demonic oppression and how that differs. We will address that issue in this article. Let me say that, in fact, we never pray for deliverance unless we are certain that the person is a Christian. It’s one thing to get free. It’s another matter to stay free. People will not be able to remain free unless they have the power of the Holy Spirit in them. This comes when they are born again. This anointing is necessary to defeat the enemy.

In general terms there is a significant difference between possession and oppression. Possession implies “ownership”. One can own a house and that house can be infested by termites. Do the termites “possess” the house? It is not a perfect analogy but the parallel is clear. Christians be demonically oppressed but not demon-possessed. The following discussion will lay the groundwork for clarifying that distinction.

Man is a trichotomy or three-part being: spirit, soul, and body.

Genesis 2:7 says “And God formed man of the dust of the ground (body), breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (spirit), man became a living soul (soul).”

The very first commandment Jesus gave us is contained in Mark 12:20: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy Heart (spirit), and with all thy Soul, and with all thy Mind (soul), and with all thy Strength (body).”

When we became born again, our spirit man was born again. II Cor. 5:17 states “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things pass away; behold all things become new.” Our spirit man becomes a new creature and the Holy Ghost seals it. Demonic spirits cannot touch that part of us. John 3:6-7 says that “Flesh gives birth to flesh but the Spirit gives birth to spirit”. Our spirits are born again or made new at the time of conversion.

When we become born again (Christian), normally no change takes place in our soul and body. That is because we did not get “born again” body or soul, only a born again spirit. If you had a broken arm before you were born again, you still have it afterwards. If you had cancer before, you probably have it afterwards. If you had fear before you got saved, chances are, you are now a Christian that still has fear. If you had anger, you probably still have anger, although the Holy Spirit convicts you every time you “fly off the handle.”

Medieval book illustration of Christ Exorcisin...
Medieval book illustration of Christ Exorcising the Gerasenes demonic via Wikipedia

Every human being has a God-given gift called a free will. We all have a right to choose or think on our own. No one can take that from us including Satan himself. Therefore, demonic spirits know they cannot possess us or take total control. We have seen one or two people that have been totally possessed, out of the thousands we have prayed for, and that’s only because they gave their will totally to Satan. A friend of mine (now a full time evangelit) spent time in a jail cell next to Charlie Manson years ago and ventured his view that he did not believe a person could be demon-possessed until he met that man!

Demonic spirits cannot possess us as Christians but they still want to gain a stronghold. What is a stronghold? It’s a portion of territory that refuses to submit to the ruling authority. It’s a military term. Satan wants to get a little territory under his influence. It may be fear, rejection, depression, bitterness, revenge, anger, also bondage of addiction, lust, pornography, or any type of perversion. These strongholds often begin when we are children. Our environment, the things we were exposed to and our inherited bloodline determine what these strongholds are. They start working on our soulish area (emotions, memory, mind, and will). These are demonic oppressions (not demonic possession) and can become so strong in our lives that they hinder our Christian walk. They split marriages and cause division in our homes, churches, and businesses.

It is also significant to note that when spirits are referenced in deliverance in Scripture, that the spirits come out of them. References include: Matt 12:43, Luke 11:24, Luke 11:14-15, Mark 1:25 and more.

Many Christians don’t acknowledge demonic influence, yet these unseen forces are working in their lives. They just can’t get the victory. Ungodly attitudes and actions certainly are not the fruits of the Spirit. They are works of the flesh, and in many cases there is a demonic spirit behind them. When people keep falling into the same trap over and over again and cannot get victory over it, that behavior is generally caused by demonic oppression. This is not from God. There is a demonic force behind it. We have seen even Christian pastors delivered from demonic spirits of pornography and perversions. These pastors were saved, filled with the Holy Spirit and were doing the works of God but were tormented and hindered until they gained freedom.

Jesus came to set the captives free, performed deliverances, trained the disciples to do it and sent them out. He also called the church to do the same (Mark 16:17). We have ministered to thousands of people, individually and in seminars, and seen them get set free. After you are set free you are able to soar with the Lord. You will mature more in the Lord in a few weeks than some have in years and able to move on to accomplish the call of God on your life (Ephesians 3:20)!

About The Author

Donald J. Ibbitson, PhD, is an NCCA Licensed Clinical Pastoral Counselor at Above & Beyond Counseling Ministries. The ministry focuses on Christian individual and marriage counseling with an emphasis on deliverance ministry – helping people get free from strongholds and bondages such as addictions, perversions, fear, depression, anxiety and more.

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