Nearly every time I even mention Satan or demons in a sermon, someone walks up and asks, “Can Christians be possessed by demons”?
This is one of those questions that many people answer too quickly. The problem is that the word possess has several meanings. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary it can mean three things. First, possess can mean “own” so that a Christian would essentially belong to Satan. Second, possess can mean “dominate” so that a Christian would be controlled by Satan. Third, possess can mean “influence” so that the life of a Christian would be marked by the influences of Satan. Obviously, what people mean when they use the word possessed matters very much when answering the question, “Can Christians be possessed by demons?”
The Devil Never Owns a Christian
In the first sense, the Devil never owns a Christian. We have been rescued from the dominion of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of the Son, Paul tells us in Colossians 1:13.
The Devil Can Influence a Christian
In the third sense, the Devil can influence a Christian. We are in warfare against the Enemy who seeks to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10). Even Jesus was attacked by the Devil in this way according to Matthew 4:1–11 and Luke 4:1–13.
A Christian Can Give the Devil Power
It is the second sense where there is a lot of debate among Christians. Can demons dominate a Christian? While some teach that through personal sin, generational sin, or even curses, demons can have authority to dominate believers, Scripture is clear that Christians are never under the ruling authority of darkness. The Devil can never take authority over a Christian. Others teach that if we pray and feast on God’s Word we never need fear a demonic attack. But if Jesus can be attacked, how can we say we cannot?
We believe Christians may be deceived, accused, or tempted by Satan and may yield to those attacks (though they do not have to). If believers begin to respond wrongly to such things, they may give demons influence in their lives. Apparently an evil spirit can empower, energize, encourage, and exploit a believer’s own sinful desires. Examples would include Peter (Matt. 16:22–23) and Ananias (Acts 5:3). As children of God, regenerated and indwelt by the Spirit, we are responsible to and empowered by God to resist Satan, and if we do resist, we need not suffer from his influence (Eph. 6:10–18; James 4:7; 1 Pet. 5:7–9; 1 John 4:1–4; 5:1–5, 18–19).
In conclusion, a true Christian belongs to God and not Satan and that ownership never changes. Because a true Christian belongs to God, they are also an enemy of Satan and therefore are attacked in a variety of ways much like a when two nations are at war one side attacks the other. Furthermore, through believing lies and yielding to sinful temptation, a Christian can give Satan greater influence and power in their life. Thankfully, through repenting of our sin, drawing near to the Lord, submitting to the Holy Spirit, believing the truth of God’s Word, and living in ongoing relationship with God and His people we can walk in victory over Satan and demons.
Note: Much of this blog was adapted from Death by Love by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears