During the late 1970s, an interest in the area of demon possession and deliverance ministry developed within the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Although the Adventist Church believes in the existence of demons, it did not offer a particular method for deliverance.
An array of deliverance ministries emerged within the Adventist Church, causing some concern among the leaders. Some deliverance ministers would spend hours communicating with demons and extracting information from them, such as their names and how and when they possessed the individual. Was there any legitimacy to these ministries?
In 1987, I had my first encounter. While I was writing a paper on exorcism in the Gospel of Mark, my supervisor invited me to accompany him to a prayer meeting with a church member who was experiencing some spiritual problems. He had suspected a case of demonization and wanted me to assist him in this prayer session. Having never encountered this kind of ministry before, I was overwhelmed by the whole experience. The physical manifestation of the demons, as seen on the contorted face of the member, was accompanied by their low, guttural voices, speaking through this woman. I observed with keen interest as the demons departed from the woman with reluctance, as a direct result of my professor calling on the name of the Lord. At the end of the session, which lasted approximately 90 minutes, the lady refreshed herself and left.
I shared my testimony in church. In no time, I was receiving phone calls from members experiencing similar problems. As my name passed from person to person, I was in danger of having this aspect of ministry consume all my time.
Scripture is clear. There is a cosmic battle between good and evil. Jesus refers to a literal devil and “unclean spirits” or demons (see Matt. 6:13; 10:7, 8; Mark 6:7; John 14:30). These demons can harass, oppress, and even possess human beings. One may then ask, how does somebody become demonized?
In February 2018, I was invited to join a group of missiologists and theologians to study this very subject. Our findings were published in the book Finding Freedom in Jesus. In the book, Bruce Bauer lists a number of ways a person can become harassed by evil spirits and suggests demonization takes place when one chooses the following:
- To dabble in spiritualism or the occult, providing an entering wedge for demons
- To follow an intemperate or frivolous lifestyle, giving Satan a foothold
- To willfully reject biblical truths, allowing false teachings to gain a stronghold
- To verbalize doubt and unbelief, attracting the attention of Satan and his angels
- To knowingly contravene God’s commandments, coming under the control of Satan.
- To permit unrestrained thoughts and feelings, inviting influences from evil angels1
Nonetheless, we must hold fast to the indisputable truth that the devil is a defeated foe. Speaking about Jesus’ victory, the apostle Paul writes in Colossians 2:15, “Having spoiled principalities and powers, he [Christ] made a show of them [Satan and his demons] openly, triumphing over them in it [the cross]” (KJV). Once we recognize our identity in Christ, we can claim the freedom He gives us over the power of the enemy (John 8:36).
Today, I do not go around casting out demons from those who call me. Rather, I encourage people to know who they are in Christ, and call on Him to be set free from Satan and his demons.
- Bruce Bauer, ed. Finding Freedom in Jesus: A Deliverance Ministry Manual (Lincoln, NE: Department of World Mission, Andrews University, with AdventSource, 2018), 30.