Updated: Mar 6, 2021
"And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" John 8:32
Growing up, I had a dramatized view of the concept of deliverance, I now know that this view is wrong. I still have the image in my head of an evangelical minister doing his best to maintain laid hands on a wriggling and struggling demon possessed person. This mental image has been parodied in many ways and I am sure that many Pentecostal Christians have a similar image in their heads. But is it right to limit our views of deliverance to demonic possession? I don’t think so. I also think that dramatic view of deliverance reduces the importance of deliverance in other aspects of our lives & faith, aspects that I consider far more common and as damaging.
“Therefore, God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth” Philippians 2 vs. 9 - 10
What does deliverance mean?
When Christ announced that only the truth will make them free in John 8:32, the insinuation that they were enslaved offended the disciples and so they probed further. Christ Clarifies: “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin”. When Christ refers to being free, he does so in the context of slavery.
Deliverance means freedom from slavery, spiritual slavery, of which there can be many manifestations but impacting the enslaved for similar purposes and with similar mechanisms.
Deliverance from slavery – 3 specific aspects
There is the tendency to generalize satanic oppression to a narrow-minded perspective but there are several ways a Christian can be enslaved, alluded to in the bible. I discuss 3 specific aspects here:
Demonic Oppression/Spells/Curses etc. Luke 8 vs. 26 – 27. In Luke 8, we are introduced to the man of Gadarenes possessed by a legion of demons, but there are other examples across the bible. This example makes a great literal demonstration of how slavery and oppression work we will come back to it shortly.
Mental Slavery: Proverbs 23:7a. The slavery of the mind. Once as a boy, I caught a bird in a cage and kept it for a few days. When my father who had travelled at the time returned from his trip, he did not like the idea of enslaving animals, so he asked me to open the cage and set the bird free and I did. There was only one problem, even a day after the cage had been opened and the bird had been set free, it refused to leave the cage. Very often our minds adapt to limitations imposed by the society, parents, media etc. such that even though Christ has set us free, we choose to remain in slavery. The Israelites exposed themselves to 40 years of needless wandering and death because they chose not to believe God – though God had delivered them from slavery and oppression in Egypt, they remained slaves in their minds
Slavery to our lusts & sin: The ultimate aim of sin is to dominate and enslave us, this was Christ’s direct warning to the disciples. Galatians 5:16 & 17 explains this uniquely “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish”.
How satanic slavery works
As mentioned earlier, although there are multiple manifestations of slavery, the mechanisms that slavery adopts over our lives are similar. Here I will draw on lessons learned from the demon possessed man in Gadarenes:
“there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs” Luke 8:27.
Anyone who has been in an abusive relationship will tell you how this works, an oppressor first aims to isolate you from sources of support and strength. Over a period (usually it is not instant), anything or anyone that aims to oppress us first separates us from family, friends, church, God’s words and ultimately God’s reality. Once isolated with an oppressor, even in terrible conditions, we develop a sense of dependence and even fondness for them – an alternate reality is created.
What has been described may seem far-fetched but can be reasonably explained by the psychological phenomenon called the Stockholm Syndrome, “psychological response wherein a captive begins to identify closely with his or her captors, as well as with their agenda and demands.” The victims live in “enforced dependence” and misinterpret their captors happiness as theirs.
There are many today who live in the reality created by demonic or psychological oppression – depression & other forms of mental illness, who feel helpless and lonely seemingly, without any reason to feel that way. Many feel it is impossible to live a life without sin, again this is a reality created by lust – we were designed to live sinless lives. The church’s response is usually to ask people to snap out of oppressive realities, ignoring the fact oppressive reality is really a symptom not the cause of the problem.
The best way to help is to unwind the process: a disconnection from the source of oppression and (re)connecting with Christ (through salvation, Church, community & loving family) – to fill in the need for dependency (Matthew 12:43-45) and finally the development of a new reality through God’s words (Romans 12:2)
We are vessels
The legion was only interested in the man as a form of their own expression, in other words, the man was simply a vessel. This makes me think of how retroviruses work: ordinarily viruses (like retroviruses that cause HIV) generally cannot fulfil their replicative purpose outside of a suitable living cell. A single virus attaches a compliant cell by receptors the cell carries, once it attaches to a host cell it usually forces the cell to create multiple copies of itself until the cell dies and releases multiple copies of the virus, these then find suitable hosts and continue the cycle
A common trick of the devil is to convince us that we need to go after things that we really do not need, are outrightly un-beneficial to us or things that we already possess (read: misalignment). In reality, submitting to the devil only subjects us to his will, we start to do the things which we wish not to do, losing control of ourselves.
Ultimate purpose of slavery is death:
The lesson from retroviruses resonate here. No slave owner intends to willingly release a slave because slaves serve purposes that please their masters. Very often that purpose is destructive to the slave: mentally, physically and spiritually. Consider the Israelites who were severely burdened by their Egyptian slaveowners. Unfortunately, the Israelites suffered from a form of Stockholm Syndrome even after they were freed physically, mentally they remained enslaved and none of them entered the promised land. Powerful lesson here as this failure to fulfil purpose was not due to any demonic possession yet was because of slavery.
The Good news, Christ came to be our salvation from all forms of slavery. Deliverance from any of the forms of slavery can be obtained through the salvation that Christ brings. When Jesus declared his mission on earth, he was clear about this “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…. To set at liberty those who are oppressed”
Christ is the true source of liberation. What he did at the Gadarenes, he continues to do even today.
Growing up, I had an over-dramatized view of deliverance, a perception driven by a religious obsession with demon chasing. Now I know that the greatest deliverance of all, the deliverance from sin, involves no physical drama, that drama is replaced by a greater one – celebration in heaven.
“Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:10
Biblical references taken from the New king James Version except otherwise stated