What does it look like when a demon reveals itself in a person? Is it always something dramatic (contorted body and eerie voice), or can it be more subtle?
In today’s post, I want to share with you how to recognize that someone has a demon, even when the symptoms aren’t obvious.
In America and several other nations, October 31 is a day when those in the world celebrate fear and darkness. It seems every television station has its own tribute to the devil, airing horror movies and Halloween-themed episodes of all their shows. To a large extent, America’s perspective of evil spirits comes from this media.
The Lord told me these films are nothing more than war propaganda. When nations are at war, they often use media to make themselves look strong and make their enemy look weak. We’re also in the throws of the election season here in the US, when politicians often use media to slander opponents and present only their own good characteristics. It’s all propaganda, and our spiritual enemy uses it too by influencing and inspiring creative people who are willing to listen.
A spirit of fear can give a person all manner of terrifying thoughts; and his or her imagination (trying to make an extra dollar in Hollywood) can then trump up the images and sounds to produce something that spreads the influence of fear around the world, making demons look incredibly powerful. It’s nothing more than war propaganda.
Contrary to the movies, demons are not fearsome beasts who need to be battled for hours with all manner of “holy relics.” On the contrary, they are fallen angels, still subject to the authority of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit in us is greater than any evil spirit.
Personal study and experience reveal that the only time demons are a true threat are when we are not walking in the authority of Christ that comes through relationship with Him. Notice what happened to a group of young men in the Bible who didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus:
Acts 19:13-16–Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. (One day) the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding. (NIV)
To those who don’t know Christ, demons are indeed fearsome. But notice the authority Jesus had over even the most extreme case detailed in the Bible:
Mark 5:2-8–When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.
When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you evil spirit!” (NIV)
Later we learn in verse 15, “When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid.” Jesus had complete authority. There was no danger of him being beaten or injured by the evil spirits. He was untouchable to the enemy. And if we are in Christ, then so are we.
At the beginning of this post, I promised that I would talk about how demons manifest so that we can recognize when we need to take authority. Clearly, one of the ways is in the dramatic accounts described above. However, in some towns, the Bible says that Jesus drove out “many demons.” Are we to believe that those towns were overrun and ruled by maniacs? Of course not. The reality is that demons affect different people in a variety of ways.
Most often, the affected people can still function as normal parts of society. These demons influence people mentally, emotionally, physically, socially, and so forth.
For instance, while some cases of depression may be nothing more than an imbalance of biochemicals, I have seen far too many cases in which the solution was simply to command an evil spirit to leave in Jesus’ name. I have seen people go from utter despair to perfect sanity, marveling at how instant the solution was.
I’ve experienced many different cases. I’ve seen everything from a boy twisting and contorting on the ground to a young man who said that he simply felt as though he could finally think clearly. I’ve seen spirits of confusion, fear, infirmity, anger, depression, and more–all of them manifesting in different ways, some obvious and some subtle.
I used to wonder why demons didn’t manifest more often when people preach the Gospel. In my youthful zeal, I wanted a dramatic display–the preacher declaring the Gospel and a demon suddenly throwing a person into a fit, revealing its presence, and then being cast out. Now, I have learned that this rarely happens, but this doesn’t mean that demons aren’t manifesting in other ways. If we only look for the dramatic and obvious, we will completely miss the subtle. And for that matter, if we will address the subtle, then we can stop a demon before it has enough influence over a person to become dramatic and obvious.
Every time I preach or teach about discernment, evil spirits manifest. In one case, just as I was getting to the most important point of my message, a young man got up and walked out of the room. I didn’t know the young man at the time, but I sensed in my spirit that of anyone in the room, he needed to hear that message. So I told the group, “I don’t know if he’ll come back, so I’m going to continue. But if he does come back, please understand that I’m going to rewind and repeat everything from here on because I believe he needs to hear it.
Sure enough, the young man came back, and I immediately shifted gears, picking up right where I had left off.
As it turns out, the young man had felt a sudden urge to go smoke a cigarette. That’s why he left at the exact moment that I was about to speak on being free from addictions. He ended up getting saved that night, delivered from the evil spirit, and started turning his life around.
Another time, I was teaching a Sunday School class. The topic I chose for the week was how to recognize a demon in operation (much along the lines of this article). I was already sensing in my spirit that a particular young man in the group was being influenced by an evil spirit, when he abruptly asked, “I’m suddenly feeling really antsy. Do you mind if I get up and walk around?”
“I don’t mind,” I answered, “that’s fine.”
The young man stood up and seemed frozen in his place. He then asked, “Well, where can I walk?” I pointed to a stretch of floor right next to us.
“Okay,” he answered. As soon as he got there, he pointed outside the room and asked, “Can I walk out there?”
“Nope. Here is fine.”
So as the young man paced the floor, I finished talking about how to recognize the subtle work of demons, and how to cast them out effectively in the name of Jesus. It was almost time to finish the class, so I asked, “How many of you would like to see how this works?”
The class looked at me with stunned faces, wondering how I could possibly do such a thing. I pointed out how demons will often make us want to leave a room when a message is being preached that might expose them. The funny thing to me is that this is often what exposes them! I reminded the young man about how he wanted to walk out of the room and then asked, “Do you mind if I pray for you?”
I have found that this question is far less threatening that “Do you mind if I cast a demon out of you?” so I use it more often. After praying for God to reveal His presence and love for the young man, I addressed the demon in a calm voice and said, “In the name of Jesus, I now speak to that unclean spirit and command you to leave right now. You may not have any more influence over this man of God.”
“How do you feel?” I asked the young man.
He slowly raised his head with a look of astonishment on his face and said, “I feel happy! I haven’t felt like this in years! It’s like a cloud lifted and I can think clearly!”
I then looked at the class and said, “See? It’s that simple. You’re dismissed.”
I also spent some time of follow-up with the young man, praying for him and giving him some biblical counsel about maintaining his freedom.
Finally, I want to share a story that just happened this week. A young lady has been attending one of the groups I lead for about six months. When she first came, she didn’t have any relationship with God, but now she’s on fire! Nevertheless, she still has a lot of influence from worldly perspectives and other religions to sort through in time (just like any of us).
Part of this week’s study was to display a handful of quotes from the Bible and also from various other religions and ideologies, not labeling their sources. I had quotes from Buddha, Muhammad, Gandhi, and Hitler mixed in with some obscure proverbs from the Bible. Each quote that I showed, I asked the group to discuss until they could identify what was right or wrong about it, thus practicing how to discern truth from error.
Immediately before I even announced this activity, the young lady got up and walked out of the room. I instantly knew that it was demonic, but I let her go anyway. As soon as the activity finished, she walked back in. As you might guess, I went right back to where I started and reviewed those quotes and what was identified as being wrong or right. The young lady was full of questions.
At the end of the meeting, she confessed that the reason she had to leave was because she suddenly had a panic attack. Then she said she was still feeling the fear.
Can anybody say “demon”?
I shared about what I had observed and then took authority over the evil spirit in Jesus’ name. The Lord gave me a prophecy to share with her, and the young lady found herself in tears as the Holy Spirit ministered to her heart. Surely, “perfect love drives out fear!” (1 John 4:18)
Later that night, my wife, Robin, counseled her for some time, walking the young lady through a process of inner healing that enabled her to realize and receive Christ’s love for her. Robin then felt that what the young lady needed was boldness, so she explained the baptism in the Holy Spirit, prayed for her, and she received!
As you minister to others, pay attention to the subtle things that we might often overlook. Just because someone suddenly has to use the bathroom while you are speaking doesn’t mean that he or she has a demon. But with a little discernment, which comes through relationship with the Holy Spirit, you can recognize when there truly is a demon at work.