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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Weekly Trivia Files: "Possessed" by the Holy Spirit?

Someone once asked me what it was like to be "posessed" by the Holy Spirit.  I was taken aback at first, because such a statement is practically blasphemous in Christianese--a language I thought this person (a lifetime churchgoer) was familiar with.  Apparently, not so.  Since I've been explaining various examples of Christianese (terms Christians commonly use which are baffling to others) each week, I thought I'd give some special attention to this one.  So, first, the difference between "possessed" and "filled."

  • Possessed--Used in the term "demon possession."  Refers to complete control over an individual's mind and body by a supernatural evil entity, that is, a fallen angel (aka a demon).  This spirit literally assumes control of a person and forces them to do what it wants (like a puppet).  Some examples in the Bible are the demon who threw a boy into fire and water (to burn or drown him) (Matthew 17: 13-18), and the demon who forced a man to live as an outcast among the tombs and scream and cut himself all night (Mark 5: 1-20).  Common to these examples (and others I haven't cited from the Bible) is the demonic agenda.  Demons hate God's creation, and want to destroy it.  Demon possession brings suffering, fear, and chaos to those affected (Matthew 15: 22).  They speak against the things of God, and mock the things of God, though they acknowledge God's power (Luke 4: 32-34; Acts 16: 17-19).
  • Filled--The infilling of the Holy Spirit is a doctrine that many denominations don't teach, except to agree that it happened at one time, to the early church, in the book of Acts.  We'll not go into this discussion in this brief post.  The term "infilling" or the phrase "filled with the Spirit" is used to denote the Holy Spirit's power coming upon a person, enabling that person to work miracles, prophesy, etc.  through God's power and on His behalf.  The differences between "infilling" and "possession" are clear.  God does not take away our free will; that would be against the whole body of Scripture, since Christ's sacrifice would have been unnecessary if God could just choose to make us obey.  Also, God does not speak against Himself or contradict Himself (see 1 Samuel 15: 29; Luke 11: 14-20), and His nature is not characterized by fear and disorder (Romans 8: 15; Romans 15: 5-6; Ephesians 4: 2-6).  The infilling of the Holy Spirit is to give believers "extra strength," that is, God's strength, to do the tasks He has set before us.  This power that believers have been given is not to be used to glorify or serve anyone besides God, and that includes ourselves (Acts 8: 8-25).  By these and other, similar signs, we can tell the difference between "filled" and "possessed."
Hope that clarifies this issue a bit for my readers.  I have a lot of other things on the "to do" list, so I'm ending it here.  If you have anything to add, feel free to leave me a comment!  I'll be back here in a few days.