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“The Devil has fallen on hard times. . . More and more Christians, to say nothing about our increasingly secular society, just don’t believe in the Devil, at least not in any personal or literal sense.” (Richard Beck, professor and author)

I want to be a better exorcist.

Over the last three-and-a-half decades of ministry, I have worked hard at improving my preaching and teaching skills, leadership competencies, compassion quotient, and understanding of addiction and recovery. I have sought to grow in my writing, negotiating, and conflict resolution abilities. I have endeavored to become more adept at visioneering, administrative execution, and pastoral counseling. I still have a long way to go in each of these areas, but I think I have made some progress. I definitely believe that my faith, hope, and love (fingers crossed!) are moving in the right direction, but when it comes to exorcism, I am lagging way behind.

Some might find this a bit surprising considering my church roots. I was raised in a Pentecostal, tongue-speaking, hand-clapping, Jericho-marching congregation of believers. I witnessed people getting “slain” in the Spirit and earnest times of “tarrying” in prayer around the altar. There could  be sudden exclamations of joy in the assembly and prophetic utterances given or perhaps a testimony of a divine encounter. While we never got to snake-handling or poison-drinking, healing services where legs were grown, back pains alleviated, and cancers cured were not uncommon. As a boy, I found these services inspiring and fascinating. I wanted more.

So, after high school, I enrolled in a Pentecostal Bible college where I could deepen my knowledge of the Scriptures so that I could be a better equipped, Spirit-empowered minister to God’s people. As with any expression of Christian spirituality, there were some excesses and shortcomings in my experiences as a young man, but I was firmly committed to a faith which took seriously the role of signs and wonders and supernatural phenomena. The Pentecostal meter went to a whole new level in those days when I attended a mega church which put the supernatural on front and center stage. Much to-do was made of the realm of the Satanic. It seemed like demons were under every tree, bush, and rock. They even had demon barf-bags at their Tuesday night deliverance services. I got the jitters and bolted.

At the same time, another set of factors converged which gave me a sour taste for things Pentecostal related—the Jim Baker and Jimmy Swaggert scandals of the mid 1980’s. I became embarrassed over my ecclesiastical heritage and began attending an Episcopalian church while in seminary in Southern California. There I found refuge in the order, structure, and sacredness of the Sunday services. The rich liturgy, celebration of the holy eucharist, expository preaching, and theologically robust hymnody became my salvation. And surprise of all surprises, this high church was charismatic. They believed in the things of the Spirit. They anointed people with oil and prayed for miracles. And they took the Devil seriously.

I wish I could say that I was off and running as a Pentecostal in all things, but that was not the case. The spiritual warfare stuff never quite got off the ground with me. I am sure there are many reasons for this starting with the fact that culture as a whole has become increasingly secular and disenchanted. Ghosts and goblins are the residual of outdated cosmology, a thing of the prescientific age. We can explain all that weird stuff now. Furthermore, the Pentecostalism of the tribe to which I am a card-carrying member has, at least in practice, significantly tamed down. Few are the churches (at least in my hemisphere) whose doctrine of devils matches on-the-ground-fight-the-Enemy reality. I am not throwing stones. As a leader, I am no more innocent than any other pastor-peer. Another reason has to do with my own personality and temperament. I am more traditionally inclined, analytical by nature, and someone given more to the ordinary than the sensational. I readily admit that there is a limiting side to this way of being. Conservatives like me can be too cautious and collected and subsequently miss out on all that God desires to do. And of course, I can never dismiss pride as a reason for my own reluctance to engage in the more extra-terrestrial things. I want to be known as a respectable practitioner of the gospel and not some flake given to superstition who chases demons.

There is nothing like need and desperation, however, to get one to consider something new, push conventional boundaries, and take additional risks. Having personally witnessed the devastation addiction has brought upon individuals and families—the lives lost, marriages wrecked, children abandoned, bodies broken, dreams unfulfilled—I am earnestly asking, “What are we missing? What more can be done?” And based on my journey of late, I think one of those answers has to do with spiritual warfare. I just have not given enough attention to this arena. That is why I am eager to grow in my exorcising powers.

This world is a battlefield of good and evil, powers of light verses powers of darkness. We can minimize or deny this and chalk such talk up to primitive thinking, or we can at least be open to the idea that maybe some of our problems are much larger than simply “flesh and blood.” This does not mean we point fingers at the Devil for all our woes or restrict our thinking to primarily demonic beings possessing or oppressing individuals. Yes, I believe Satan and his fiends can and do inhabit persons (take Judas Iscariot; see John 13:27). But we need to widen our view when we think of the demonic. These beings are not simply disembodied spirits floating around in the air. The “rulers,” “authorities,” and “powers of this dark world” that Paul talks about in Ephesians 6 can also be construed as structural, institutional powers—violent, lustful, divisive, dehumanizing forces working within the media, educational systems, government, business, the arts, etc. In the German language, they are the zeitgeist, “the spirit of the age,” that has a controlling influence over human beings, making things happen and shaping personal agency just as much as circumstances. While it is next to impossible to disentangle the human or natural elements from the spiritual and supernatural (it is a mysterious mix), these powers are very real, taking on a life of their own, saturating the atmosphere, and ever pressing upon people—tempting, taunting, beguiling, and molding persons into their dark image.

We are in a war. There is a vicious, cataclysmic conflict taking place in the heavenlies right now between angelic and demonic forces (check out Daniel chapter 10). This war includes political, educational, economic, and entertainment-industry related forces that are entwined collectively in a “spirit of anti-Christ” seeking to infiltrate, animate, and hold men and women hostage to evils such as racism, consumerism, militarism, radical expressive individualism, relativism, classism, etc. We must wake up. Ole Slewfoot is on the loose, prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for people to devour (1 Peter 5:8). The four Gospels record no less than twenty-three separate references or episodes associating evil and the devil or his minions with Jesus. The Apostle John makes it clear in his first epistle, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (3:8). To overlook this realm along with its destructive potentiality is to our peril.

The great Protestant Reformer Martin Luther in his hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is our God,” reminds us that this world is “devils filled.” This does not mean we go on a wild demon hunt looking for spooky creatures around every corner. Spiritual warfare is not principally about rebuking the devil, binding spirits, or casting out demons. It is about radical love for others—enemies included. Barking orders at the Enemy is easy. Loving is hard, but this is where the real battlefront lies. True love is not some soft, courteous, Mr. Rogers-like-affection, but the Lion-like-Lamb love described in Revelation 12:11, “They overcame him (the great Dragon) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” The only power capable of disarming the accuser of the brethren is cruciform, Christ-shaped love. The Apostle Paul wrote, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world” (2 Corinthians 10:4). The arsenal to which he refers is love expressed in generosity, humility, gentleness, and deference. This is how strongholds, arguments, and every pretension that sets itself up against God are demolished (vv. 4-5; see the immediate context, chapters 8-10). What may be folly and weakness to some is wisdom and strength with God.

We the church triumph over the evil powers by the cross, through loving, Christ-like sacrifice and suffering. We do this by absorbing violence, welcoming the stranger, walking in humility, and giving until it hurts. This is the great power that takes down the high places (see Colossians 2:15). As Christ-followers, then, we must immerse ourselves in the gospel, taking up the hope of salvation for our helmet, fitting ourselves with the breastplate of justice-making, wearing the gospel boots of peace-making, donning the belt of truth-telling, trusting always in God as we hold the shield of faith, wielding God’s life-affirming Word as our sword, and always keeping in prayer. This is how we stand in days of evil.  

Addiction is more than a bio-psycho-social-spiritual problem. It is also “demonic.” Men and women are being acted upon by evil powers which command a superhuman energy. Understanding the nature of the crisis at hand expands the conversation when it comes to treatment, opening the doors to new possibilities of care (and not simply for those with drug and alcohol problems but for each one of us fighting our own particular demons). We all need therapy, counseling, community, spiritual formation and discipleship, . . . and “exorcism.” If any of us are to make any real and lasting headway against our addictions, we must reckon with the Devil. To carry on as if he does not exist is insanity. Marva Dawn and Eugene Peterson remind us, “We can’t conquer the drug problem without seeing its spiritual roots; . . . We are simply silly if we think we can win against evils by ourselves.”

There is a war going on, one in which we may not be able to see yet one in which we are deeply caught. This raises the stakes and calls for a vigilance that we would not otherwise have. Powers and principalities are actively at work, bedeviling and beguiling. The devil is more than some slick, sneaky gremlin-like cat with horns and a pitchfork. He is the embodiment of networks of evil powers which shape values, morals, worldviews, and cultural norms. Therefore, as Paul charges the Ephesians, we must be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power, otherwise we will surely fall. May God help us live holy, separated lives—loving hard, long, and well as we push against these corrupting, selfish powers in Jesus’s name. In the process, we just might exorcise a demon or two.

And may we not loose heart in these evil times. No matter how rampant and destructive the powers of evil, they are doomed. The message of Christus Victor is that God in Christ has disarmed the powers and is reconciling all things to himself (Colossians 1:19; Ephesians 1:10). Professor and author Robert Webber writes, “Evil is not the final word in human existence. The final word is Jesus Christ. The vision of new heavens and a new earth is not fantasy. It is the reality, the truth. Therefore, it is the hope that lies behind everything we do as Christians.” God is building his church, and the gates of hell will not prevail.

Oh, I want to be a better exorcist, and being a better exorcist is essentially about being a better lover! But being a better exorcist is not about being a better Pentecostal. It is about being a more faithful Christ-follower.

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils.
One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe,
and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.
They themselves are equally pleased by both errors
and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”
(C.S. Lewis)


  • Eric Walter Lockhart says:


  • Anna Manea says:

    Praying for you and your staff that God in His timing will work things out according to His purposes. Please know that you are prayed for not just by me but by many others I am sure. God bless you for all you do in service for Jesus Christ our King.

  • Ruthie Gendich says:

    Pastor Jeff,
    I always look forward to your articles, they are so thought provoking and contagious (makes you want to be a part of the solution). Since the devil/demons and their influences are very real, I’m so thankful/encouraged for the hope and victory we have in our resurrected and ascended Savior. I’m eternally grateful for Life Challenge and the hope it offers because hope is one of the things that defeats the enemy. I have seen first hand the dedication and love that Life Challenge Ministry sows/pours into the lives of so many. Thank you ALL from the bottom of my heart.

    PS – I like the passion with which Derek Prince taught about the subject at hand.

  • Joann and Doug Blake says:

    Jeff, this is a timely reminder to each of us to be wary of the deceitfulness of Satan and his minions. Especially with the media it is becoming ever harder to discern truth from fiction and Satan is behind such confusion. I often think of C.S, Lewis’s “Screwtape Letters.” Though a work of fiction, it aptly describes some of the deceitful actions of Satan and his agents in the world. As Christ followers, we need to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ,” (2 Cor 10:5b). We appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

    • Thanks for your response Joann. I really like Lewis’ “Screwtape Letters.” May God “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” Peace to you and Doug.

  • Eddie Taber says:

    Dear Jeff,

    Amen and amen. The famous AG missionary Mark Buntain established a very larger and vast ministry in Calcutta, India which is visually impressive but he was first and foremost a warrior in prayer against the powers of Hell.
    We would do well to duplicate that lifestyle.

    • Yes, prayer is mentioned repeatedly in Paul’s discussion of spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6. Love ya bro!

    • Andy Collins says:

      Jeff, I agree with a lot of what you wrote. I would simply summarize it as “Jesus is perfect theology” Jesus was the embodiment of love, and yet he still had to exercise authority over the demonic forces that plagued his sons and daughters. Love IS the key component (1 Cor 13) but learning how or better stated, growing in authority, is the responsibility of the believer. Mark 16:17 says it so clearly, “and these signs will follow those who believe. In My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues…” you know the rest 😀. In my opinion, our denominational preferences are irrelevant, but our “believing” in Him is not. The easiest way to understand this is to simply come into agreement with the Jesus we read of in the Gospels. Jesus loved unconditionally, He preached the Gospel of the Kingdom, He confronted religious and powerless systems, He healed, He raised the dead, AND He cast devils out of people! So basically, whatever Jesus did in His Earthly ministry, we should be doing too! Let’s all keep growing in our love and our authority.

  • Russ Banush says:

    As usual, Pastor Jeff has hit another home run with this message!

    It hits the heart!

    I am truly grateful for his wisdom and for sharing his thoughts with us.

  • Lisa Porter says:

    Come and see what the Eastern Orthodox church in America is doing! The Orthodox Church does fight against Satan everyday. With the holy tradition of the apostles of Christ, true worship of the Holy Trinity, the reading of the scriptures and prayers of the faithful. Our Holy Fathers teach that we will fight against the evil powers until our death but our church gives us everything we need to be victorious.

  • Dave Bonello says:

    Jeff, thank you for this important message. When I shared my testimony at our last rally, I unexpectedly was led to speak to the demonic nature of addiction as you describe here. As can happen, afterward, I have had times of doubt, concerned that I crossed a line that I should have prayed more about. This article eloquently describes the unseen spiritual battle for our minds, bodies and souls that addiction brings. When we replace our dependency on God with any substance or seductive idol, we allow the enemy underserved control over our lives. Thank God that “Evil is not the final word in human existence. The final word is Jesus Christ.”

    Thank you Jesus!

    • David, my dear friend, thanks for your kind words and the support you have given both me and this ministry. You are a blessing. And yes, I am so glad evil does not have the final word. Christ is risen; he is risen indeed!

  • Marilyn Buchman says:

    Oh my goodness, Pastor Jeff! Thank you for sharing this amazing writing! I felt particularly blessed to understand that those of us who do believe in satanic, demonic influences can be missing the boat if we are too much influenced by that knowledge. Thanks for putting Christ’s triumph back in the lead position!!
    Marilyn Buchman

  • Jerry says:

    Dr. Bonzelaar, thank you for an excellent and convicting article (again). I have two thoughts.

    The first is something my wife and I have discussed several times when confronted with some unexplainable act of viciousness committed by one person against another, or one group against another. Sometimes I think we are too quick to dismiss such acts as simply the evil nature of man (and they certainly are, of course). But I would suggest there is often a supernatural, very dark element of influence in so many of these atrocities.

    Second, if you haven’t already, I would strongly recommend the book “The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible”, by Michael S. Heiser. It is an incredible book that opens your eyes to Scripture that has always been there that lays out the depth, structure, hierarchy, and reality of the supernatural armies and beings at play in our world. It is very biblically sound and a fascinating study.


  • Cheryl Davidson says:

    That was one of your best newsletters yet. 😃

  • Cari Smith-Gammicchia says:

    This is by far the most thought-provoking, extremely well-written, heavily informative article I’ve ever read. There’s so much in here to unpack and hold and act upon.

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