After church one day a few years ago, a solid Christian woman began to be overcome with feelings of extreme sadness. A few of us, my wife included, went with her into a room to intercede for her away from the crowds.
As we prayed, a demonic presence appeared to manifest. She started to growl, drool and claw at the floor like a wild animal. Honestly, I was kind of freaked out. Though we eventually saw her receive deliverance from the evil spirit, within a few weeks it happened again. When I got a call about her experiencing her third bout with the demon, I sensed God telling me to ask her if she had been harboring bitterness and resentment toward a certain family member.
Unfortunately, this is not the only time I have ministered to brothers and sisters in Christ where prolonged bitterness and an unwillingness to forgive allowed evil spirits to have their oppressive way. Sometimes these Christians heard audible, evil, and berating voices, and one believer even heard voices telling him to do harmful, malevolent things to others.
In Ephesians 4:26-27, Paul makes sense of this situation. He writes, “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.” The word translated “opportunity” in this verse (topon) has a lexical range that includes “place,” “region,” “seat,” and “opportunity.” Jesus says in John 14:2 that He is going to God the Father to prepare a topon, a dwelling place, for His disciples.
So basically, remaining bitter with someone and refusing to forgive him or her is like handing a thief the key to our house. Specifically, Paul tells us this thief is the devil, and the house for which the key is made is our body. To be sure, handing over the key to our house is not the same as signing over the deed to that person. Just because someone has a key to our house does not mean he or she owns it. We still own the house.
If you have been born again, God hasbought you with a price and your body has become the temple of the Holy Spirit. The devil cannot own or possess something that is owned or possessed by God. However, if you have given away the key to your house to him, he has the ability to cause much damage to your life. Again, as Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). Knowing this, why would you willingly give the key to your house to the thief?
Though what you just read may be outside of your tradition, the early Christians affirmed that unrepentant Christians can be oppressed and demonized by evil spirits.
Holy Scripture teaches us that there are certain invisible enemies that fight against us. And it commands us to arm ourselves against them. … We receive certain initial elements and (as it were) seeds of sins from those things that we use agreeably to nature. However, when we have indulged them beyond what is proper and have not resisted the first movements to intemperance, then the hostile powers size the occasion of this first transgression. They incite and press us hard in every way. They seek to extend our sins over a wider field. – Origen 225CE, ANF Volume 4, p. [CD-ROM]
Thankfully, all of the individuals experienced full and lasting deliverance once they repented of the sins of bitterness and unforgiveness. They experienced the Spirit of God cast the evil spirits out from their bodies through the power, authority, name and blood of Jesus Christ. These Christians felt incredible spiritual and physical relief as a result of the repentance and deliverance that had taken place. One of them was finally able to start having a full night’s sleep after roughly two decades of restlessness.
What about you? Has a root of bitterness been allowed to run deep in your life for too long? Is there someone you need to forgive?