Years ago, I lived in a Victorian row house in the Kensington Market area of Toronto. Next door lived a rescued pit bull named Max. Max did not like me, and whenever I would venture into my backyard, he would lunge and gnaw at the chain-link fence that was the only thing standing between his jaws and my certain death. Although an avowed atheist at the time, I thanked God every day for that fence.

The occult is a major draw even for those who say they don’t believe in anything. As a former dabbler in the occult, I can tell you that the ‘draw’ comes directly from the demons and other evil spirits themselves. They constantly surround people and put ideas into their heads as a way to gain access to their soul.

Not understanding the nature of the supernatural, many people attribute magical powers to places and things. We know from scripture that places and things have no such powers. An idol is just wood or metal in a particular shape or form. In and of itself, it has no power because it has no life.

Even some Christians are confused about this concept. They believe that places or things can be evil in and of themselves (or, conversely, that places or things can be holy in and of themselves), but evil can only exist where there is life: It feeds off the life. Evil needs life the way a toaster needs a live electrical outlet to function. So there are no haunted houses, just haunted people who live in or visit them.

God gives us the Commandment not to bow down before idols not because the idols in and of themselves have any power, but because of the power people attribute to them. During my early years of rebirth, I attended Catholic mass daily for more than three years. I was there so often that, in the final year, I was given a key to the church so I could come and go as I please. I mention this as evidence that I know a thing or two about Catholicism not from hearsay, but from extensive personal experience.

Catholicism encourages idol worship. Catholics are taught to bow down (genuflect) before statues of alleged saints, to bow down before crucifixes, to bow down before obelisks, to dab themselves with ‘holy water’, to light the ‘blessed’ candles next to the altar (for a fee) that will then somehow turbocharge their prayers. They are also taught to wear certain talismans on different parts of their body, to pray to angels, to kiss and touch containers holding ‘holy relics’ such as the bones of alleged saints, and to pray to ‘saints’ (that is, to certain dead people). Catholicism is steeped in superstition, which is a polite way of saying it’s steeped in paganism, which is a polite way of saying it’s grounded in the occult. That all of these things Catholics are taught to do are not only forbidden by God but severely punished by God in the Old Testament is lost on most Catholics, as most Catholics have never read the Old Testament. Catholicism does not encourage Bible reading.

I started reading the Old Testament the morning I left Catholicism, and then I dropped off the key at the church office the next day.

I have not been back since.

As born-again believers, we need to be clear within ourselves about the nature of evil and its power over people. Jesus defeated Satan through his sacrifice on the cross, but Jesus didn’t purge the world of evil. He succeeded in establishing God’s Kingdom on Earth as a refuge for born-again believers. A refuge from what? From evil. The world, as Jesus tells us, is under Satan. We, however, are not under Satan. Evil has no authority in God’s Kingdom, which means it has no authority over God’s people unless we permit evil to have authority over us by inviting it in.

Jesus spent a good deal of his ministry casting out evil spirits. They didn’t have a hope against him because, as Jesus explained, he cast them out by the power of God’s Holy Spirit. All the demons in Hell cannot stand against even one believer who operates in the power and protection of God’s Spirit. Evil simply has no authority over that person. The demons well know this, so it’s important that believers know it, too.

In casting out demons, Jesus didn’t need any paraphernalia such as holy water or other ‘blessed’ artifacts. He didn’t need to recite church-sanctioned poetry (otherwise known as vain repetitions). He simply asked the demons their name and then ordered them to leave. Jesus could do this because he operated in God’s Spirit. The demons knew who he was and knew they had to do what he said. No longer having free will, they had no choice: They had to obey.

As followers of Jesus, we’re expected to cast out demons. We’ve been given the means to do it by the power of God’s Holy Spirit, so we’re expected to do it. In exorcising demons, we shouldn’t be afraid of them, but at the same time we shouldn’t toy with them. We shouldn’t go looking for them or summoning them. And we should never act proudly with them. We in and of ourselves don’t have the power to cast out demons; God has the power. We in and of ourselves have no authority over them; God does. The demons are not afraid of us; they’re afraid of God. They have very limited spiritual space to act within (as a minister once put it, they’re on a very short leash) and can only go where they’re welcome, so don’t welcome them. Only deal with them if God gives you the signal to do so.

The presence of evil in the world will increase, not decrease, in the years to come. We know this from scripture. Hell is scheduled to empty out on Earth some day, and we can only pray that we’re not here when it does. There’s no need for us to fear evil, because God protects us from it by the power of his Spirit, but we need to remain vigilant not to invite evil in. We should never converse with demons beyond asking their name and telling them to leave, like Jesus did. We should never be curious about them or try to get information from them, such as about future events. We should never argue with them or curse them. We should not study them, even from an intellectual perspective. It is best, regardless of how protected we are, just to leave them alone unless God indicates we need to cast them out.

Hauntings are real, but only people – not places or things – can be haunted. Don’t join their ranks.  Demon-summoning isn’t a parlor game, and neither is exorcism. Obviously, you should never summon demons, but you also need to wait for God’s guidance and direction before casting them out. Never do it on your own volition. There’s a good description in Acts about what happens to people who try to exorcise evil spirits without God’s help. That cautionary tale was put there for our benefit.

As born-again believers, we are a protected people, but don’t let that fact go to your head, and don’t presume a power or an invincibility that you don’t have. We need to be ever on our guard, even as God’s children, because we live in the midst of an ongoing battle between good and evil. The Kingdom is our spiritual safe space, but outside its boundaries the battle rages.

If I’d ventured, all those years ago, into Max’s backyard, I have no doubt whatsoever that he would have mauled me to death. I was safe on my side of the chain link fence, but only as long as I remained on my side. We are safe in God’s Kingdom as long as we remain within it and don’t rattle or sit astride or jump over the spiritual chain link fence surrounding it. Everything we need to know about evil we can learn from the Bible or from God and Jesus. We don’t need to consult other sources.

Please remember that.

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