2. "That's in the past. Forget it!"
My comment: It is in the past in the sense that Jesus has been crucified for it on His cross. It no longer has a claim on a person's life. There are two aspects to crucifixion. "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me . . . " (Gal. 2:20, emphasis added). And Galatians 5:24, "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (emphasis added). Galatians 2:20 expresses the passive voice; Galatians 5:24 expresses the active voice. In the first we only receive what has been done for us. In the second we act to effectively and specifically call to death what Jesus has slain.
Some quote Philippians 3:13, claiming that it tells Christians to forget what lies behind and reach forward to what lies ahead. However, this verse is not talking about our personal past. Paul is saying that he is choosing to forget about that which he used to take pride in (circumcised on the eighth day . . . a Hebrew of Hebrews, and so on [v. 5]). But even if the verse did refer to our past, nothing is ever forgotten either by ignoring or suppressing it. If that is all we do, it will remain in the "treasure of [our] heart" (Luke 6:45) to drive us from deep inside and possibly to spring up someday as a "root of bitterness" to cause trouble and defile others (Heb. 12:15). Thus, we only look to the past to find the starting points of what is still happening in the present. The Lord would have us recognize that ongoing pattern of sin, confess it, crucify it in prayer in His power, renounce it, reckon it as dead, and give it to Him. Then it can truly be forgotten, no longer carried as hidden baggage.
If the demands of points 1 and 2 above have been presented without ministry to enable a person to fulfill them, the one who made those demands would do well to apply to himself the words of Jesus: "Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers" (Luke 11:46).
"You can do it if you try hard enough." Such demands set people into fleshly striving. The probability is that the wounded are already exhausted from striving. They need healing by the applied blood and the cross of Jesus. Insensitive demands are likely only to cause them to conclude, "Christianity doesn't work-at least not for me."
3. "You have a demon of lust . . . "
And the prayer minister proceeds to exorcise what might never have been demonic! My comment: I do not mean to say that the presence of demonic influence is never to be considered. I do say emphatically that Christians must be careful not to approach every problem as though it were first a case necessitating deliverance. Such things as lust, fear, anger, hatred, and so on are emotions that, when repeatedly acted upon, become character traits, habitual structures within a person's flesh. If he/she stubbornly practices fleshly habits, those structures may indeed provide housing for some demonic entity.
We appreciate the insight our son Mark has shared with us on this subject. He says that if a person has not known or chosen to put on the full armor of God (Eph. 6:13-17), he will wear some other kind of armor. Either we wear God's armor consciously, through prayer and relationship with Him, or we wear our own fleshly armor. It is not possible to wear no armor at all. Since nature abhors a vacuum, to the degree that trust in human authority and God's power and faithfulness have been shattered, a person who is hurt or threatened will build his own defense mechanisms, which are self-made armor. A demon may then be attracted and will mold itself in the shape of those defense mechanisms to "help" the person practice them. A person, for instance, has said, "I'll never forgive, so that I will never be vulnerable enough to be hurt again."
That determination becomes armor instead of the breastplate of righteousness. A demon then molds itself to that and expands on it, and may even tempt the person to actually take vengeance on the unforgiven one. If more and more access is given through stubborn vengeance on the unforgiven one, a demon may enter the person to inhabit his/her house of character. Before that time, the demon is only attached to part of his armor. A person's fleshly armor separates him/her from others and from God, especially if a demonic entity has become molded to it. John and I have been called countless times over the years to minister in areas of deliverance. But we do not cast out flesh. Fleshly attributes must go to the cross. Demons are to be cast out.
If a demon has been inhabiting a house of flesh, and the house is dismantled through prayer, the demon will have to leave. Sometimes eviction happens as an automatic outcome of bringing an old structure to death on the cross and filling the person's inner being with the light and love of Jesus. To bring an old structure to death, the person must repent of practices in his flesh and disavow the armor in which he trusted. When this has been done, the demon no longer has a place to live or armor to mold itself to.
Sometimes we are called upon to express our authority in the name of Jesus to cast out a demon directly. More often it is appropriate to pray for cleansing from the defilement of a demonic spirit that has been "hanging around the door" as it were, creating an oppressive, threatening, or accusing atmosphere. In Jesus's authority we command it to leave the premises.
How can we know the difference between actual inhabitation and merely being oppressed by something "hanging around"? By receiving and exercising the Holy Spirit's gift of discernment in each case.
Too often when discernment has accurately indicated the presence of a demon, the exorcist has cast it away without knowing that the house of character must be dealt with as well. What then happens is described by Jesus:
When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, "I will return to my house from which I came." And when it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.
When we hear excited testimony, "We cast out 265 demons!" and there has been no testimony that structures of habit patterns in the house of flesh have been dealt with, we know that Satan probably has been given a playfield. He will willingly lose battle after battle if it means he will be granted center stage and, later, a house to return to.
If the one who ministers falsely assumes that a demon of lust is present and prays to cast it out, the person receiving ministry will be no freer than before. Consequently he/she may feel accused, misunderstood, and abused, or hopelessly in bondage to the devil.
Often what the prayer minister identifies as lust in the sexual abuse victim is not that at all. Dr. David Peters explains a dynamic that frequently expresses in what he calls the "latency-age group" (children between six years of age and adolescence).
Sexualized behavior and extensive knowledge of sexual facts and terminology are important indicators of abuse. . . . But added to these important factors is the appearance of seductive behavior on the part of the victim during this stage. Since these children have learned at home that the only sure way to gain attention and affection is to relate sexually, it is very common for them to behave seductively toward both peers and adults.
Such behavior may also serve the function of providing these children with a measure of control over their lives. It allows them, at least in one area, to be the aggressor rather than the passive victim. For whatever reason such behavior is adopted, it seems to be a common phenomenon among female victims in this age division and is often carried over into the adult victim's life.
These remarks by Dr. Peters caused my spirit to leap in recognition of truth. I had observed such behavior in children and adults and had puzzled about what in sexually abused young teenage girls seemed to be inordinate preoccupation with sexual themes and compulsive flirtation. I had identified it primarily as a need for love and sometimes with self-destructive tendencies related to a lack of esteem and self-loathing. But this insight provided a new dimension of understanding. I had known with certainty that we were most often not dealing with lust, and that to treat it as such, especially as a demon of lust, could be extremely harmful to very fragile, needy people.
I once observed a gifted prayer minister as he responded in a very sensitive and constructive way to the seductive behavior of one young teenage girl who had come to him for ministry. She was extremely attractive and tended to relate flirtatiously to males of all ages. He had won her confidence, and she expressed her appreciation with enthusiastic affection, throwing her arms around him in a hug, pressing herself against him. He immediately responded with kindness and firmness. He told her he cared about her. He was tremendously glad that she was coming to life. But he respected her too much to allow her to express her feelings of gratitude and friendship in an inappropriate physical way that could arouse sexual responses. His gentle loving rebuke was at the same time affirming. By it he drew clear wholesome boundaries for her without communicating rejection and gave her a safe resting place in his trustworthiness.
And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And He will delight in the fear of the Lord, and He will not judge by what His eyes see, nor make a decision by what His ears hear; but with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth.
-Isaiah 11:2-4, emphasis added