HOW TO DEFEAT DEMONS
By Rev. Jim and Carolyn Murphy
PART ONE - A HISTORIC OVERVIEW
SPECIAL PROBLEMS FOR THE CHURCH IN
I believe the church of Jesus Christ in the emerging nations has a unique set of problems which we in the west do not have. At least, not nearly to the same degree. This chapter is devoted to an examination of these problems and their solutions.
Emerging nation Christians have little trouble embracing the Biblical concepts of the love and forgiveness of Jesus. Peoples of the world are coming to Christ in unsurpassed numbers.
Yet, in one sense, Christianity doesn’t always meet human needs in the here and now. This is something most of us don’t want to admit but it’s true. Christianity is the only religion that fully wipes out our past and guarantees a glorious future. But many times there is a short supply in the now.
Christianity quickly answers the problems shown in the shaded areas of Figure 4-1. The unshaded area shows Life’s hard problems, life’s now problems. That’s where we live...in the now. The emerging nation Christians know their past sins are forgiven and they are new creatures in Christ. They also know that when they die they are going to heaven and have an eternity with the Father through Jesus Christ. But many new Christians in the poorer countries of our world today ask, “How can I feed my children today? How can I get healing for my sick child today? How can I deal with the problems of the now?” These are the questions that bring us to the heart of the demonic hold on the non-Western world. A hold that grips both believers and unbelievers alike.
In every town, community, or village in these countries there are demonic agents. They are what I call spirit or demonic practitioners. Their names will vary from region to region or country to country, but their practices are the same. “Traditional healers,” “practitioners,” “medicine men,” “witch doctors,” are their names. In America we call them “palm readers,” “fortune tellers,” “channelers,” etc. These practitioners do have spiritual powers. This power can give answers to many questions about business, government, people, personal relations or health matters. Many of these people have power to find lost objects, to heal the sick, to control other people, etc. Such practitioners usually “specialize.” Some will specialize in curing headaches or stomach aches while others specialize in telling the future, giving business counsel, causing rain, finding lost objects, and so on.
Westerners often ask, “Is this real? Do these people really have mystical power?” Let me assure you there is no doubt that many of these practitioners do have supernatural powers. In the Philippines some years ago a renown demonic practitioner showed his power. Eye witnesses saw him moving his finger over the skin of a person with a diseased organ...never touching the skin...and an incision opened in the body. He then removed the diseased organ and “stitched” the body back together. All without ever touching the person or causing any pain! This is using great supernatural power to meet a now need, is it not?
Having verified the supernatural powers available to these practitioners, I do want to point out another obvious fact. Not all practitioners have the powers I have described. Their power will vary from practitioner to practitioner. In fact, for every one who has great supernatural power, there will be many who have far less power. The less powerful ones often practice “trickery” to get money or social power within his or her community. These are the fakes.
For example, one person we interviewed in Nigeria told this story about his father: Medical doctors told his father that he had bone cancer in his left arm. He had pain and numbness in his left hand. The medical doctors strongly suggested amputation as the only means to stop the cancer...hoping to spare his life.
Instead, the father went to a witch doctor for advice. The witch doctor told him that his problem was the result of a curse. He said someone had cursed him by demonically planting a razor blade, human hair and wire inside the flesh of his hand.
The witch doctor assured him that he could break the curse and heal him...for a large amount of money. His father collected the money and cattle from friends and relatives for payment.
The witch doctor took leaves, roots, and herbs and built a fire under them, chanting over them as they smoldered. Suddenly there was a bright, blinding flash of light. The witch doctor smiled and told him that he had broken the curse. He then made a cut in the bad arm and drained blood into a jar. Taking the jar to a wash basin, he began slowly and carefully to remove the blood a little at a time as he chanted over it. To climax the ritual, at the bottom of the jar was a razor blade, human hair and wire!
The entire community rejoiced at his father’s “healing” only to be much saddened at his death from cancer some months later. We asked the son what he thought and he said he later came to realize the witch doctor had used a trick by secretly putting the razor blade, hair and wire in the bottom of the jar.
Not all of the deeds done are deceptive tricks like this story. Many of the deeds done by practitioners appear”good.” By “good” I mean the immediate result of their activities pleases us and seems beneficial.
Look at Figure 4-1 again. Often there is no medical treatment available for the Christian who has a “present need.” The present need may be medical treatment for a severely sick child. Sometimes a doctor is too far away or there is no money to pay for treatment. Fortunately, his church can give love and prayer! But unfortunately, the church usually cannot provide a trained doctor or the money to pay for treatment. This untaught Christian knows he has another option...the demonic practitioner. He knows he can go to the practitioner and often get “good” results... now. Unfortunately, for many untaught Christians this isn’t the last choice...it’s their first choice when a problem arises.
People may ask, “What’s wrong with going to these practitioners if what they are doing is good. They are helping people, aren’t they?” Or “What’s wrong with learning about the future? What’s bad about that?”
These are valid questions and deserve answers. If one judges by apparent, immediate results, no one could deny that many such practices were “good.” However, the Bible doesn’t allow us to judge on the basis of a perceived result. From a biblical point of view we must judge these practices based on the source of power or information, not on results. Thus, the key question we must ask, “Where does the power come from that the practitioner is using? Where does the information come from that the practitioner is using?” For Scripture tells us:
If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, `Let us follow other gods’ (gods you have not known) `and let us worship them,’ you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. (Deut 13:1-3 NIV).
From this Scripture it is absolutely clear that the Bible judgment rule is not whether the event prophesied comes to pass, nor is it whether or not it is true. Rather, the question we must always ask is, “Where did the information (or power) come from?” By this standard we can judge the deeds of the demonic practitioners. The judgment rule is not whether his or her deeds are “good” but where does the power come from? If the source of power or knowledge is demonic, it is always bad!
Once we understand the importance of the source of power, the next question is, “How can we know the source of the power?” How can we know if this practitioner or one who operates in knowledge of the spirit world is a true servant of Jehovah God or a medium of Satan? Here again the Bible provides a fool-proof means of finding out:
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. (I Jn 4:1-3 NIV).
That’s simple enough in principle, but how do we put it to work? If we cannot discern in our own spirit the source, then we must ask the practitioner questions. Don’t ask the practitioner leading questions like, “Did Jesus come in the flesh?” Of course, a demon will say “Yes” to that! But rather ask the practitioner to describe Jesus to you. Ask him or her to tell you all about who Jesus is, where He came from, how He came, why He came. Then the final question, “Who is Jesus to you?”
If the response is something like, “Praise God! Jesus is the Son of the Living God who came to earth from heaven in human form to be a ransom for my sins! He is my Lord and Saviour risen from the dead!” then you are dealing with a believer.
But if there is hesitation, vagueness, lots of words that speak confusion, uncertainty, or much talk about “god,” then you are dealing with a false prophet. You can be sure his source of power and information is not from God.
Remember, in the spirit world there are two powerful, but unequal, beings - God and Satan (see Figure 1-1). Just as God has countless angelic beings to do His bidding on earth, Satan also has his demonic beings to do his bidding on earth. The individual man and his destiny is the object of the spiritual activity of both God and Satan. God, through the Holy Spirit, is calling man to eternal life in Jesus Christ. Satan, through lies, half-truths, deception, and sometimes sheer force, is working to prevent man from having eternal life in Christ.
Concerning the roles of Satan and of Jesus, Scripture says, “The thief [Satan] comes only to steal and kill and destroy; but I [Jesus] have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (Jn 10:10 NIV).
If Satan’s plan is to steal, kill and destroy man, why would he grant miraculous powers to practitioners to do “good” for man? The answer is simple, he wants to own you!
Now that we understand the source of these mystical powers, what price do we pay for using practitioners who receive their power from demons? The answer is that we pay a big price. From the moment we submit to a practitioner, an exchange takes place. We get the demon’s “services,” and (in addition to our money!) we give him the right to leave a demon with us. You see, the demon has a contract with the person who came seeking his services. In exchange for its services, the demon gains access to the one who is treated or counselled.
At first there may be no evidence of the demon’s presence. But, as months and years pass, the demon begins to act. Problems develop in the person’s life. It may be psychological problems like depression, unusual fears, nightmares, lying, hostility, being overly-selfish, schizophrenia, paranoia and so on. Or it may be physical problems like unexplainable pain or weakness, epilepsy, arthritis, cancer, etc. PLEASE NOTE that the problems listed here aren’t brought about ONLY by demonic activity...such problems often have natural, medical causes. We must seek the wisdom of the Holy Spirit in each instance.
Once a pastor understands about the source of power and the long-term dangers of going to a demonic practitioner for treatment, he can act. He or she then is ready to help his people who automatically go first to the community demonic practitioner the moment he has a “now need.” The pastor or spiritual leader must speak out against these practices and the individuals who use these demonic powers. The pastor can teach his congregation this source principle. The immediate benefit they get from demonic participation is not worth the long-term price paid.
The non-Western church continues to face the dilemma of whether or not to allow or encourage the use of herbal medicines as possible cures for disease and illness. The poor economic conditions and lack of adequate medical facilities found in much of the emerging world makes the use of herbal medicines appear desirable. The problem with their use is that they go hand in hand with witchcraft. As part of our research, we asked a friend of ours who has been a missionary in Nigeria for 40 years what she thought about the use of herbal medicines. She responded, “That’s a tough question!”
In our research we interviewed many committed Christians in emerging nations. Some said that the connection between herbal medicine and witchcraft was too strong. They believe we should never use herbal medicine. Yet we have also interviewed many committed Christians who approve of its use under certain conditions.
In this section we will explore the various positions on this issue. Then we will give some guidelines to help church leaders reach a solution. We have tried to give a balanced view of the whole picture. We have also tried to separate opinions on the one hand, and Scripture and biblical principles on the other.
Let us begin with an examination of some Scriptures that are helpful. In Exodus 12:8 Moses told the Israelites to eat bitter herbs as part of the Passover meal. In II Kings 20:7 Isaiah applied a poultice of figs to Hezekiah and he recovered from an illness. In Exodus 15:25 Moses threw a tree branch into a pool of bitter water and it purified the water. In John, Chapter Nine, Jesus made mud as part of the healing of the blind man’s eyes. In I Timothy 5:23 Paul instructs Timothy to take a small amount of wine for stomach aliments. (The point here is not whether the wine was fermented, but rather that it was the fruit of a vine used for medical purposes). Thus, there is no question that both the Old and New Testaments contain the use of various herbs, leaves, fruit, etc. as part of the healing process for the body.
There seems to be, at least among some in the non-Western world, a tendency to reject herbal medicines as second rate. They just assume that “Western” medicine, that is, medicine one gets from a chemist or medical doctor, is inherently better. The reality is that plants and herbs (often grown in their own country) produce much of our “Western” medicine. Natural substances comprise a very large part of Western medicine.
Some non-Western governments are trying to educate their people in the proper use of herbs. For example, in Ghana, the government is printing natural herbal remedies in the newspapers. They want to broaden their people’s understanding of herbal medicines. This is taking the fear, superstition, and error out of the use of herbs.
Another problem we have encountered with herbal medicines is that, just as with “Western” medicines, people can and do overdose themselves on natural medicines. Professor Isaacs Sodeye, a Western trained medical doctor in Kano, Nigeria, informed us that Africans have a very high rate of liver cancer. Some medical authorities believe that this cancer is from continual overdosages of herbal medicines.
Among those we interviewed, there were four main viewpoints taught and believed on this issue. They are as follows:
A Christian should never use any kind of herbal medicines because the source of the knowledge of the formula and use is always demonic. Thus, the use of all herbal medicine is forbidden to the Christian. The most adamant on this point were those who had experience with witchcraft in their past. These people tend to connect all plant use with the demonic rituals practiced by witch doctors.
A Christian can use plants if he selects the leaves, fruit, etc. himself. In other words, if a Christian personally gathers the plants, their use is acceptable.
Christians may use herbs sold at the market because these plants are no different than salt or some other spice one buys at the market. All who supported this position agreed that one must pray over the plants before they are used. This is because the people who gathered and handled the plants are unknown.
A Christian should use plants as cures and can even go to a herbal practitioner or traditional healer if the healer is a born again Christian. Note here, one must know the person personally and be sure that the healer is a Christian. We define a traditional healer or practitioner in this setting as one who has knowledge of herbs as medicine. These practitioners know how to use herbs, fruit, leaves, and medicines for such physical ailments as a rash, fever, diarrhea, or other common, simple ailments.
Now the question becomes, which of the above four viewpoints is correct? The answer is: it depends ... in other words, the church leadership in each region must analyze that region and the local church to make a proper judgment.
For example, if the region is bound in witchcraft and superstition, and the Christians have a limited level of understanding, it is proper to discourage all uses of herbal medicines. This helps the newer church members break all bonds with the old ways and come fully to Christ as the true physician.
However, if a region is more free from the hold of witchcraft, and if the church members and leaders have an adequate level of understanding, then they are able to free their people from the fear of the use of the herbs. They should teach the church the difference between herbs and demons. Those who teach can emphasize that all such healing is ultimately from God. This teaching would encompass the idea that God created all plants as a gift to humans. God could never create anything evil. It is only the misuse and abuse of the plants that results in their bad or harmful effects.
We do want to suggest certain guidelines that Christians should follow in all circumstances.
Never have anything to do with any herbal cure that includes secrets or some kind of ritual. For example, if one has learned to use berries in healing but must speak certain words over the berries a certain number of times, this is wrong. No Christian should have anything to do with it, no matter how “good” a medicine the berries may be.
The use of herbal medicines should not be a stumbling block to anyone, either saved or not yet saved. If one Christian feels free enough to use herbs and it is offensive to other members of his church, then he should quit, or use them privately so he won’t offend anyone. (Ref. I Cor 8:4-13, 10:23-33).
Never, ever go to a witch doctor or spiritist for healing or engage his or her services for any reason. True practicing witch doctors are connected to the demonic world intentionally. Christians should totally reject all they do and have to offer. Remember that the test is not whether the medicine works, but rather, what is the source? In the case of a witch doctor or spiritist, the source is always evil. A Christian should not even go to a traditional healer unless that healer is a committed Christian.
Finally, we must always remember that Jesus is the true healer. We must never let any medicine, whether “Western” or native to any region, replace our trust and faith in Jesus Christ.
Non-Western pastors continually face the universal problem of seeing their people bound by local superstitions. These superstitions are more often than not taught by demons to keep people in bondage and fear. For example, in one region of Tanzania the people are forbidden to eat certain foods such as rabbit. Another superstition in that same region is that it is bad luck to allow a black sauce pan to pass behind your back. Such superstitions change from region to region and country to country but the result is always the same - fear and bondage. Christian leaders must expose these superstitions for what they are.
Non-Western pastors must contend with their people’s
normal problems with sin and the flesh that pastors worldwide face. But
they also must confront Christians involved with demonic practitioners,
traditional healers, herbal medicines and local superstitions. To
repeat, we can be sure the Western church has its own brand of demonic
oppression in the forms of materialism, hedonism, cults, and so on. But
in a very real sense, our brothers and sisters in Christ in the
non-Western world have a special additional burden. They are often in
the heart of demonic activity and oppression. They deserve and need
prayer and financial support for they truly do work on the “front
lines” of the kingdom of God.