Sexual addiction and the demonic
One of the least thoughtful ways to help a struggling Christian is to say: “let me pray for you for deliverance from the spirit of lust, after which you will be free.” Not that this must not happen, but ultimately because it has to be accompanied by discipleship.
Sexual addiction obviously includes an element of demonic activity (Ephesians 6:11 ff). But so does anger (see Eph 4:27). So does judgmentalism. Jesus said to a group of strictly moral men who were judgemental and angry: “You are of your father the devil” (John 8:44). They were so incensed and threatened by him that they were plotting murder! I have seen some committed Christians manifest the most irrational forms of intense anger in church meetings that I thought their repressed emotions were a stronghold of Satan.
However, to get back to our sexuality, this is a huge focus of Satan’s attack. In a sense the spiritual bondage is actually backed up by neuroscience in which we now know what takes place during viewing in the brain and in the body. When a Christian watches pornography a powerful bonding takes place with those actresses (prostitutes) and actors (male prostitutes). During porn viewing the bonding hormones, Oxytocin and Vasopressin, are released in the same way that they are released when physically sleeping with someone. They bind a person’s memories to the object that gave him or her pleasure.
Neurochemically people get bonded to these images.
The actresses and actors caught up in the industry are deeply wounded human beings and when we view the material we are participating with them in the sexual acts, vicariously becoming one with them. Neurochemically: “Neurons that fire together wire together.” Spiritually: “Giving place to the devil” (eph 4;27).
This is why it can take years before the memory of those images lose their power. They have been stored in our emotional memory as the dopamine, endorphins and adrenalin surged through our body and brain during viewing. These are the areas where Satan gets a foothold, affecting, harassing, restricting or dominating.Therefore any healthy counselling session in this area is one in which God’s truth begins to shine into a person’s life and is therefore a move towards deliverance.
The reason is simple. Demons are like scavengers that feed on rotting flesh. Driving the scavengers away without healing what is wounded inside will just keep them coming back
Sexual or porn addiction is sexual bondage and will be an area where Satan gains a foothold. The word translated ‘demon possessed’ in NT Greek is δαιμονίζομαι (daimonizomai) and it is literally to be ‘demonized.’ It has, as indicated, a wider range of meanings depending on the context. Some people Jesus ministered to were simply affected or harassed by an impure spirit. Others were afflicted. Still others were restricted in some way and still others were completely dominated.
Demonic activity can vary from being either affected, afflicted or restricted – all the way to being dominated
None of us chooses this, but it is the reality of the warfare we face. Our sexuality is such a focus of demonic attack because in marriage (and by extension the family) the image of God is fully expressed according to Genesis 1:27: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them”. The evil one devises his strategies to prevent a husband and wife from having high levels of regard, trust and intimacy towards each other. What better plan than to desecrate human sexuality.
The bottom line is this: to pray for deliverance without a person committing to counselling and a long term recovery group is an attempt at a quick fix solution that won’t bring lasting results. The person will simply be like a house swept clean that will invite seven worse demons than before. Deliverance will only work if there is a commitment to counselling and / or a recovery group in which the wounds are healed and the mind is renewed. You can pray for God to take away the sexual pressure, but casting out demons without attending to the addictive roots, the addictive mindset and addictive lifestyle will only keep attracting forces of darkness.
Two views on deliverance
To get a balanced view, the question of sexual addiction and demonic activity should be looked at in broader terms of spiritual warfare. In this present age we are engaged in a fierce warfare as the evil one opposes us through wiles and attacks. Counselling people who are caught in the straightjacket of sexual bondage will as mentioned always at one level or another involve deliverance somewhere along the line.
It’s important to note that there are two extremes with spiritual warfare, the demonic, and the Christian. There are the “demon caster outers” who see a demon in and behind everything and cast demons out of everything, and its brings no lasting results. The devil will gladly keep you very busy with that kind of thing if you want it and you will think you have a deliverance ministry, but really you will be helping very few people.
Then there are those who say a Christian cannot be influenced, oppressed or possessed at all.
This is again a contradiction to the teaching of the Bible because it’s not balanced nor realistic about the human condition or about the warfare we are engaged in. Why else would folk who have had powerful encounters with Jesus still feel that inside they are vulnerable to ongoing addictions? And this is more pervasive than ever with Christians because pornography is so absolutely demonic and energised by the world powers of darkness – ‘the world – the flesh – and the devil.’.
A balanced approach from the book of Ephesians
In the book of Ephesians we see the big picture of our lives as believers and how demonic forces oppose us.
- Gripped by grace
Firstly, we are Chosen to be God’s beloved children. We are seated in Christ in heavenly places. We find this magnificent statement made by the apostle Paul concerning our relationship with God in Ephesians chapter 1: “We are blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ, for he chose us in him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons and daughters through Jesus Christ for the praise of his glory, ” (v3 ff). Simply put, he has chosen us. This is no different to Israel, when he says to in Deuteronomy 7 ‘I am bringing you into a good land and why’?: “The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.”
Our struggles do not change the fact that we are under grace
We can be gripped by his grace because he has given us the gift of no condemnation by choosing us, adopting us, redeeming us, forgiving us, giving us the Holy Spirit – all through Jesus Christ. And as an ongoing relationship we can experience his love through encounters with him (Eph 3:23 ff).
- Taking back what was stolen
Secondly, we are called to take back what was stolen by the enemy through a process of discipleship. We are to live in a manner worthy of the Lord as dearly loved children. The foothold of the devil can only come when we ignore the deep wounds in our lives and medicate them through addictive behaviour. In this sense demons are like vultures that feed on rotting flesh. The evil one focuses his attack on those deep wounds and this is where a believer can give Satan a foothold . In Ephesians 5:18 ff we have this key statement written to who? The beloved children, redeemed through Jesus Christ, sealed with the Holy Spirit. “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.…Instead, be filled with the Spirit…”
The process of sanctification is also a process of inner healing
We like the Ephesians were not by nature moral good upright people. They were involved in witchcraft, in magic arts, in temple prostitution, some in thefts, others were simply hardworking people, craftsmen and the like, but nevertheless involved in the darkness of the Greco Roman lifestyle. (See Acts 19: 18 ff). So were we in terms of our own cultural influences. This was the “empty way of life handed down by your forefathers” Peter speaks about (cf 1 Peter 1: 18), that they and we were redeemed from. Now, as a result of redemption we have to learn to live in the new way of God’s kingdom. This is why in Ephesians 4, 5 and 6 Paul presents a picture of discipleship that is intentional. The language he uses is: ‘putting off’, ‘putting on’, ‘renewing the mind’ and growing in restoration. It is living life under grace, filled with the Holy Spirit, having a clean conscience and growing in relationship with God and others.
“As with the ‘putting off’ so the ‘putting on’ is a matter of consciously deciding, again and again, to do certain things in certain ways, to create patterns … – NT Wright
Paul shows that out of redemption leads to walking with Christ as a deliberate set of choices and as we relate to God as our loving Father.
NT Wright makes this helpful statement about discipleship in Ephesians:
“As with the ‘putting off’ so the ‘putting on’ is a matter of consciously deciding, again and again, to do certain things in certain ways, to create patterns of memory and imagination deep within the psyche and as we saw from contemporary neuroscience, deep within the actual physical structure of our mysterious brain. Gradually, bit by bit, the ‘putting on’ of these qualities – qualities that seem, for the moment so artificial, so unnatural, so unlike me, – will in fact transform the character at its deepest level. Colossians 3 is indeed a primer in Christian virtue.” (After you Believe – pg 145).
This process of “becoming who I am” includes the possibility of regressing or running on empty and giving Satan ground again in my life. It is what Paul calls “grieving the Holy Spirit” through continual old behaviors. This is all summed up in the warning “not to get drunk on wine”, a metaphor for being “out of control”.
Being filled includes the possibility of regressing or running on empty
To let yourself “keep on being be filled with the Spirit” would be to move forwards and grow in grace. To “get drunk on wine”, is to be out of control with old behaviors, to be defiled having an unclear conscience. It is remaining or continuing in bondage or falling back into bondage . The Lord’s intention is for us to live out of our ‘belovedness’ and through intentional discipleship, become who we are. This is what it means to reclaim what the enemy had stolen, because witchcraft, lust, evil, sexual immorality, drug or alcohol addiction, pride, a spirit of fear, abuse etc left their mark on us and damaged us.
This tension can be summed up in a parable Jesus told in Luke 11
23 “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 24 “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ 25 When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. 26 Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.”
This parable was a warning to Israel at that time. Many were touched, healed and restored by Jesus. But we also know that from a certain time, when it became clear what following Jesus meant, many followed him no more (see John 6). They would be like a house swept clean and put in order, but their final condition would be worse than before, because they refused to follow him. In the same way we may have had profound encounters with Jesus. As mentioned, demons are like vultures that feed on rotting flesh. But if we just chase away the vultures without dealing with the rotten flesh in us (the past wounds we medicate throughs sexual bondage), then the vultures will return.
Deliverance without learning new patterns of living can lead to a final condition that is worse than at first
- Standing against the enemy
Paul warns us therefore against falling back or continuing in old ungodly behaviours. We have to learn to stand in the warfare against us, resisting the temptation to give up or relapse. How is it in terms of Ephesians chapter 6 on spiritual warfare, that we can give Satan a foothold? Mostly because of a lack of preparedness and wrong thinking about who God is. Not realising that: 1) knowing God is interactive relationship with the one who is for us and not ashamed of us and relying on his resources and 2) that this involves intentionally following Jesus because we have an enemy who opposes us. Look again at the following warnings:
- 4:27 and do not give the devil a foothold (through the sin of anger)
- 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
- 5:17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.
- 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God,so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
When we relapse we are no longer standing and probably not walking on a personal level. We are grieving the Holy Spirit. And if this becomes an ongoing pattern we can get oppressed by the enemy, giving him a foothold getting either afflicted or restricted (pinned down) or even dominated.
If acting out becomes an ongoing pattern we can get oppressed by the enemy
True biblical deliverance therefore must involve the binding of the oppressor as well as taking care of ‘home base’ through an ongoing process of discipleship and standing firm in spiritual warfare.
Counselling and deliverance
Part of counselling will include receiving prayer through the laying of hands to bind Satan’s influences in our lives. And getting free from addiction will lead to impure spirits being cast out or cast off as we confess and renounce:
1) Sexual sin
2) Ungodly vows
3) Fortresses or words we or others spoke over us (Example a ‘projected lie’ by a caregiver towards you when you were small and vulnerable like: “you will never amount to anything” )
4) Generational curses through modeled behavior passed on to me (EG: Dad medicated his pain through addictive behavior, I medicate my pain through addictive behavior – even if the addiction is a different one)
5) Negative false beliefs etc etc
Physical reactions to deliverance must not be the focus
All this may or may not include physical reactions and that is not the focus. Deliverance, Jesus showed us in this story, must include an ongoing relationship of following him. He did not teach “easy believism.” Following Jesus would be an ongoing healing journey, since the warfare is continuous. Jesus warns us that if we just do deliverance by casting Satan out, but do not teach people to enter into discipleship with Jesus to become practically holy (the healing journey), they will be like a house swept clean, put in order, but not filled with God’s presence and ways. Thus, their final condition can become worse than the first.