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Can Christians be demon-possessed?

A Christian counselor once wrote,

“Just this morning a young man I have never met called and poured out his story. He is a college graduate, articulate, and displaying a large vocabulary. He is a professing Christian, yet he is in such emotional anguish and bondage that he cannot hold down a job. He has spent large sums of money on psychiatry without apparent help. His waking hours are torment, and his sleeping hours result in hideous, bizarre behavior and a trancelike condition. ‘What’s wrong with me?’ he cried out. ‘Am I possessed with demons?’ ” (Mark Bubeck, The Adversary, p. 17)

Torment. Anguish. Bizarre behavior. Trances. Demon Possession. Is this possible for a Christian? Can a believer really be handled by a demon like a remote control?

Charles Ryrie defines demon possession as “a demon residing in a person, exerting direct control and influence over that person, with certain derangement of mind and/or body. Demon possession is to be distinguished from demon influence or demon activity in relation to a person. The work of the demon in the latter is from the outside; in demon possession it is from within."

This state is impossible for a true Christian. Though demons are very real, very dangerous, and we probably brush shoulders with them every day, we can have absolute confidence that Christians cannot be demon-possessed. Why? Here are six reasons:
  1. We have been rescued from the domain of darkness (Col. 1:13). God has transferred us into the kingdom of His beloved Son. It would be impossible for a citizen of heaven, one who has been rescued from Satan's domain, to return under the bondage of that domain.
  2. The Holy Spirit dwells inside of us (Rom. 8:15-17; Eph. 1:14). We would never think of sharing our homes with a venomous snake or ferocious beast prowling around. Neither would the Spirit ever permit a demon to inhabit His home.
  3. We are safe in God's arms (Jn. 10:27-30). Just as Christ our Good Shepherd would never let a sheep be snatched out of His hands, so He would never let a wolf bite and devour one of His sheep while He is holding us tight.
  4. We have union with Christ (Jn. 14:19-20; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 2:6, 7, 10, 13). This New Testament doctrine teaches that a new believer is immediately united and permanently joined together with Jesus Christ. There is a transformation that takes place. There is new bond, a vital link between Christ and us. Surely Christ would not allow Himself nor His people to be indwelt and controlled by Satan or any demon. 
  5. God's power is greater than any demon (1 Jn. 4:4). Are demons powerful? Absolutely. Can we overpower a demon in our own strength? Not a chance. If the Lord were not on our side, we'd be knocked down in an instant like the seven sons of Sceva (Ac. 19:16). But God's power is infinitely greater than any demon's power. And He would never let His protection be thwarted.
  6. It is impossible to serve two masters (Mt. 6:24; 2 Cor. 6:14-16). We can serve God, or we can serve Satan and his minions, but we cannot serve both. It is impossible, just as light and darkness, or oil and water, cannot mingle. With Christ as our Master, we never need to fear that Satan will shove Him out of the way and coerce us to obey him instead.
There is no need to fear! God has built a fence or a “force-field” around the believer. It is impossible to be possessed or controlled by demonic powers. We are certainly targets of demon activity. The enemy is clever and ruthless. But God is our refuge, and never leaves us without the necessary supplies to overcome temptation.

What would I do if that articulate, yet unstable man stepped foot into my office? I would probably first assure him that a true Christian cannot be possessed by demons. This immediately gives hope that there can be victory over whatever he is facing. Then, I'd want to probe deeper into his understanding of the gospel. What does he mean by 'Christian'? When was he saved? How does he know he's going to heaven?

If he has a faulty few of the gospel, then demon possession is a possibility. But even then, we must bring the gospel to the person and not focus on spells or incantations or rebuking demons in the name of Jesus. Our responsibility is to inject the antibiotic of the gospel into our counselee, which alone is the power of God to salvation (Rom. 1:16-17).

From there, it would be wise to learn more about his medical history, how long he's been suffering these symptoms; where he attends church; who are his friends; what is he reading or watching on TV; and if he's taking any legal or illegal drugs. There could be any number of causes for these dreadful symptoms. But if he is a child of God, demon-possession is not one of them. There is always hope and freedom in Jesus Christ.

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