Possession vs. OppressionBy Susan Lockhart
Have you heard someone in church (or maybe even you yourself) claim to have an evil spirit? We hear this often: "I have a spirit of addiction" or "He has a spirit of lust," for example, and perhaps there is a desire for deliverance from such spirits. I mean, if a person is possessed by an evil spirit, he would certainly want it removed, wouldn't he? But is the problem really possession in these cases?
I'm not speaking of people that are legitimately demonically possessed. There are such people — though not in the vast numbers that Hollywood might have you believe! Possessed people exhibit a variety of medical and psychological pathologies that adversely affect their lives in alarming and debilitating ways. Such individuals do require intervention and possibly deliverance. (See Luke 11:24-26 for a caveat.) What's more, possessed people are not Spirit-filled Christians. A Christian's body is a temple, and it contains the Presence of God. The Holy Spirit is not going to share God's temple with an unclean, demonic spirit. Biblical truths make this clear. But a Christian can be demon oppressed.
It's true that some Christians falsely blame demons for most, or all, of their sins. But the fact of the matter is, human sin nature is a very powerful force. Sinful behavior comes naturally to us because we are born that way (Psalm 58:3). Charles Spurgeon once said, "As the salt flavors every drop in the Atlantic, so does sin affect every atom of our nature. It is so sadly there, so abundantly there, that if you cannot detect it, you are deceived." The doctrine of total depravity is Biblical.
Christians in particular are burdened by our sin nature. We don't want to sin, but we can't help it. We are slaves to sin (Romans 7:14 NLT). So we feel guilty when we do. We feel ashamed. We don't like confessing our sins to God every day, because we know how we look in His holy eyes, and we feel bad about that. We know that as humans, we would have a hard time forgiving people as often as God forgives us.
So to avoid this shame, we may be tempted to blame our sin on direct demonic influence or "evil spirits." It's true, devils do tempt us. The temptation may be very strong, yes, but God enables us to resist (1 Corinthians 10:13). Still, resistance is difficult, lots of times we fail, and in the end, it's so much easier to view ourselves as victims rather than as the culprits that we are, particularly in the case of habitual sin.
We cannot properly fellowship with God with unconfessed sin in our lives. As the chief of sinners, I personally know how difficult it is to acknowledge sin before a sinless God. But what some people are surprised to learn is that God not only forgives, He forgets. That's right; in His eyes, it's as if you never committed that sin to begin with! I know it seems too good to be true, but Isaiah 43:25 tells us, "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more."
So the next time you've committed a sin — and you will — look into your heart and ask yourself honestly whether you were really forced to do it against your will by a demon, or whether you were driven by your sin nature, as all of us are. We cannot learn from our mistakes unless we admit and recognize them for what they are. Remember the words of George Santayana, who wrote, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."