It’s long been said the best way of identifying counterfeit money is careful study of the genuine so any deviation is readily detected. The same is true in medicine where the study of normal x-rays and scans is key to recognizing abnormalities. And the same applies to recognizing demonic activity. All unrighteousness is sin, and some degree of suspicion should arise whenever thinking, speech, or actions do not reflect characteristics manifested in the life of Christ Jesus. That obviously requires that one knows how Jesus thought, spoke, and acted by study and meditation on the Word of God so a basis of comparison exists. Thus the apostle Paul commands us,
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:5
There is no substitute for renewing one’s mind by study of scripture to become a follower of Jesus. And such takes place but one way….daily washing the mind with the water of God’s Word. Jesus drew specific attention to this when undergoing temptation by Satan after fasting for forty days in the wilderness prior to starting ministry. Knowing the man Jesus of Nazareth was hungry, Satan tried to have Him turn stones into bread. But Jesus had to deny Himself bread before it was possible for Him to make bread to feed thousands. Jesus rejected temptation by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, saying, “Man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds outof the mouth of the LORD does man live.”
Later Christ would tell His disciples, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it” (Matthew 16:24-25). The apostle Paul understood what this meant as he beseeched people to offer themselves as “a living sacrifice” to God….living as dead to self and alive in Christ (Romans 12:1). Anything that opposes Jesus’ command to surrender one’s will to God needs to be recognized as demonic in origin. To this end, renewing the mind by learning the will of God through the study and daily meditation on scripture is key. Then thoughts can be taken captive and made obedient to Christ by virtue of one knowing the mind of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).
“And be not conformed to this world, but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is tht good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:2
Today’s church is conformed to the world in so many respects. We’ve been given warning that demonic activity will increase by “seducing spirits and doctrines of devils” in these last days of the church age (1 Timothy 4:1). Yet little heed is given this warning in a majority of churches. Many seem unable to recognize the presence of demonic activity, even though Jesus and Paul warn about teachers who pervert the gospel. I know many who depend on teaching from a pulpit or at a bible study instead of personal study of scripture. They ignore promise of blessing to those who delight in the Word of God and meditate day and night on scripture (Psalm 1:2). Even though God says His people are destroyed for lack of knowledge, most choose to ignore His warning (Hosea 4:6).
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you.” Hosea 4:6
Seducing spirits abound, deceiving born again believers that they are fully sanctified at salvation because Jesus did all that is necessary at Calvary. By listening to false apostles who preach the doctrine of false security known as eternal security, they fail to appreciate that believers are expected to cooperate with the work of Holy Spirit in cleansing themselves from all filthiness of the flesh and the spirit. Many seem to not realize that sanctification is a process never completed fully in life on earth, and that any teaching to the contrary is but a “doctrine of devils.”
“Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” 2 Corinthians 7:1
Those who are babes in Christ, immature in knowledge of the Word and not yet having learned to exercise their senses to discern good versus evil, are especially susceptible to false teaching. The writer of Hebrews refers to such as babes still sucking on milk, not ready for the strong meat of the gospel which calls not only for increased righteousness but persecution and suffering for the sake of Christ. The writer chastises those who fail to grow up sufficiently in faith as to become teachers themselves after years of presumed regeneration as true believers.
“We have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing you are dull of hearing. For when for the time you ought to be teachers, you have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God, and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that uses milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongs to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Hebrews 5:11-14
Many in the church today should be sufficiently schooled in the Word of God so as to be teachers, yet are still on milk because they have not exercised their senses so as to discern between good and evil. They can usually be recognized as living in a way that conforms to the world instead of offering their lives in a genuine way as living sacrifices to the glory of God (Romans 12:1). Such as been true since the early days of the church, reflecting work of the great deceiver Satan. Let us not forget Satan was able to deceive fully a third of angels to leave the very Presence of God to follow him, How easy it is then to deceive mankind through temptation to love the ways of the world and to rebel against God in so doing.
This latter should help us recognize demonic activity, both inside and outside the church. One sign is living by those priorities and standards the world contends as success. We are told bluntly in scripture, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). The only ones Jesus condemned outwardly were hypocrites, a Greek word used for actors in the Greek theaters of those days. Hypocrites are those who pretend to be something other than their true character. They attend church services, carry bibles, praise God with uplifted hands, and may even tithe and go on mission trips. Yet in private (and in their hearts), their lives and thoughts are corrupted by the cares and obsessions of the world including materialism..
One of the most important spiritual gifts described by Paul is the discerning of spirits (1 Corinthians 12:10). Often given little attention, discerning of spirits is incredibly important in these latter days. I recall listening to two very charismatic pastors in earlier stages of their ministry, one on TV and the other personally in the past twenty years. My spirit found itself troubled after a single exposure to each man and I told my wife something was amiss, so we avoided their teaching. Yet each of their churches continued to grow to well over 10,000 members over time in our state. Both senior pastors had to resign recently in light of long-standing sexual immorality. No natural sense would have predicted such a tragic outcome, which is why discerning of spirits is so critical in these days of increasing deception. And both of their former congregations are now struggling because they are listening to messages which are not as “soft” to ears which enjoyed being entertained.
When salvation is offered without a demand for repentance brought by sorrow which is godly (2 Corinthians 7:10), you can recognize the gospel is perverted. You easily can recognize a doctrine of devils when it is taught that Christ did all that is needed for one’s sanctification at Calvary, and that no effort or cooperation with Holy Spirit is needed on the part of man to be eternally saved. When it is taught that once a name is written in the book of life, it cannot be blotted out even if there is failure to overcome acts that scripture says lead to death (like bitterness and being unwilling to forgive others, or continued sexual immorality including the perversion of homosexuality), you can recognize deceiving spirits are at work (e.g., Galatians 5:19-21). Jesus says the road to eternal life is narrow and few find it (Matthew 7:14). Demonic activity would have us ignore the warnings of Jesus in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 that His promises in heaven are only for those who are overcomers. To the pastor of the church in Sardis, Jesus says the following:
“You have a few names, even in Sardis, which have not defiled their garments: and they shall walk with Me in white for they are worthy. He that overcomes, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels. He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelation 3:4-6
If it is not possible for a name to be blotted out from the book of life, why does Jesus speak of blotting out names of those who fail to overcome? It is likely that your pastor can find a scripture used out of context to refute what Jesus is saying. But Jesus says the gate into His sheep pen is narrow because there is no room for the baggage of self, and the road to follow is so narrow that very few seek it. (Matthew 7:13,14). So beware of those false teachers of whom Jesus warns fourteen times in the gospels! They’re found in the pulpits of most churches in America if truth be known. And recognition of demonic activity in our own lives should not be that difficult to detect except for deceiving spirits. For such activity exists any time our thinking or speech or behavior is not being led by the Spirit of God.
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Ro 8:14