By now we should understand that the term “demon possession” conjures a wholly bogus image of how things actually work. The question is not binary; all of us suffer some demonic presence in our lives to varying degrees. There is no imaginary threshold beyond which we start talking about outright possession. English translations of the Bible are very misleading about the whole picture because those translations rest on a badly heathenized cultural mythology.
Let us never forget the ultimate goal of Satan: to maximize global deception. Whatever it is he hopes to gain hinges on denying us what God promised was available in this world from His hand. He can’t actually disable the character of God living in Creation, so all that’s left is persuading us to avoid revelation and trust in something — anything — except a heart-led awareness. This is part of our teaching that Creation is not fallen; you and I are fallen. Satan can’t alter what God has done in Creation, but he can alienate us from Creation, from the things for which God designed us.
You cannot sell your soul. You most certainly can surrender your divine privileges. Insofar as Satan can own you, he cannot touch your eternal destiny. He’s confined to this realm of existence in the sense that what we can surrender to him belongs to this realm only. That still leaves an awful lot of damage he can do.
We are aware that God can choose whom He will to carry out certain missions and callings on this earth. His purposes are often inscrutable. We can grasp a moral vision of what He intends in general terms, and we can be certain of what He wants from us individually. However, we can hardly grasp the full details of how He uses us. So it is with Satan; he chooses whom he will for inscrutable purposes. Thus, just as there are some folks who seem to carry a much more notable service to Christ, there are some folks more demonized than others. To you and I it will seem random in most cases, but that merely reflects the power of Satan’s deception against our very limited grasp. We can discern through our heart-minds what we must know to obey.
We cannot possibly discern without our heart-minds when and where we should seek to intervene when folks are so obviously demonized, any more than we could reason our way to an accurate assessment of when we should intervene in anyone else’s life. Never forget: we are all demonized in various ways and degrees. Our own demons can hinder how well we help someone else with theirs. Everything in our human existence is a matter of recognizing when the fruits of the Spirit are ripe. Picking green fruit serves no purpose, and can be quite harmful.
I’m willing to bet you’ve encountered at least one soul that poked into certain spiritual matters way before they were ready. It typically results in something that our society calls “psychosis.” Unless God says we are ready for something, we aren’t ready and it will hurt us. This is a primary element in drug abuse, for example. One therapist accurately noted that messing with some narcotics constitutes psychic burglary, exploring parts of your psyche that you don’t yet own in the sense of being ready to put it to good use. It’s not that these psychoactive substances have no uses, but that we cannot mistake them for mere entertainment. We get far more from them than most people are willing to recognize.
You shall not be terrified of them; for the Lord your God, the great and awesome God, is among you. And the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you little by little; you will be unable to destroy them at once, lest the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. (Deuteronomy 7:21-22 NKJV)
As the entire Conquest serves a parable for us (1 Corinthians 10:1-13), so we learn the divine standard for the conquest of our own lives. We cannot just jump right into full blown moral perfection with all the requisite miracle-working powers. We have to explore the unique landscape of our souls and occupy little by little what the demons once kept from us. We learn from Matthew 12:43-45 what happens when we try to run out the demons too soon. If you do not occupy the delivered area of your life with active heart-led service of the Kingdom, that area becomes ripe for an even worse moral failure. That whole chapter is loaded with Christ refuting a lot of false demonology.
But this business of being ready is part of what’s not explicitly stated in the narrative of Acts 16. Paul and Silas were in Philippi and wound up in the jail because they tossed out a demon from a girl who was prophesying about them. They were reluctant to do it in the first place because their hearts knew it would serve little purpose until she was ready. Clearly she was not ready. Instead, her pronouncements came closer to mocking them. Their actions were purely defensive in spiritual terms. It also came with a heavy secular price.