Spiritual Bondage

There are two critical reasons why we must acknowledge our spiritual vulnerability. First, if we adopt the attitude that Christians are somehow immune to Satan’s attack, we actually become defenseless. There would be no need to put on the armor of God, be alert or take every thought captive. Paul urged the church at Corinth, “Forgive . . . in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:10-11). Christians aren’t immune, they’re the target; and ignorance isn’t bliss, its defeat. One can bury his or her head in the sand like an ostrich, but that leaves a huge target exposed.

Second, if we are ignorant of our spiritual vulnerability, we cannot correctly diagnosis many mental, emotional and even physical problems. Therefore, we don’t have a comprehensive answer. Attributing Satan’s activities to the flesh, which is a common error in the Western church, leads only to self-condemnation and defeat. On the other hand, blaming the devil for our own carnal nature is a lame excuse and just as defeating. We have to crucify the flesh and grow out of our old flesh patterns, and we must resist the devil so that he will flee from us. We don’t grow out of spiritual attacks, nor do we exercise our spiritual authority by telling the flesh to leave. We have to know the nature of our problem in order to have the right answer.

Satan kept a “daughter of Abraham” (Luke 13:16) in bondage for 18 years. She was a believer under the Old Covenant who was worshiping God in a synagogue – a God-fearing woman who was under spiritual bondage. As soon as Jesus released her from spiritual bondage, her physical problem was cured. This passage clearly indicates that Satan can affect a person physically. Twenty-five percent of those whom Jesus delivered from demons in the Gospel of Mark experienced a physical healing. That doesn’t even take into account all the psychosomatic illnesses that were cured when people became mentally and emotionally free. Obviously, not all our physical problems are caused by demons, but Scripture allows for the fact that some are.

One of the more intriguing illustrations is Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.” Almost every Christian has heard of it, but few know what it was, even though the passage tells us. “I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me” (2 Corinthians 12:7). A messenger of Satan is a demon. One time, a co-ed at a Christian university wanted “power perfected in weakness,” so she prayed and asked for a “thorn in the flesh.” She started to have symptoms of multiple sclerosis and was even diagnosed with it until she confided with a professor who informed her what the “thorn in the flesh” was. When she renounced it, the symptoms disappeared.

James teaches that the result of yielding to jealousy and selfish ambition results in a “wisdom” that is earthly, natural and demonic (see 3:14-16). In Ephesians 4:26-27, Paul writes, “’In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” The word “foothold” in this passage literally means “place,” so Paul is saying that we can allow the devil a place in our lives if we fail to speak the truth in love and be emotionally honest.

Dr. Neil

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