Counterfeit Self Esteem and the Demonic Stronghold of Pride

Shortly after the Welsh Revival in 1904, Jessie Penn Lewis and Evan Roberts wrote War on the Saints, which became one of the seminal works on spiritual warfare for this century. Unfortunately it has suffered from abridgements, revisions and in some passages, an unnecessarily small and practically unreadable font. Every year or two I usually pull it out and review it. My current copy is the version reprinted by Thomas E. Lowe Ltd., which restores many of the passages later abridged by other editors. It’s rather remarkable that many evangelical pastors who speak on the demonic assume that modern people are in a denial of the demonic based in 19th century naturalism when modern entertainment is filled with depictions of the demonic and spiritual, personal evil.

There is a remarkable passage which describes a counterfeit presence of God which feeds the self love of the believer. The description in the passage (Counterfeit Presence of God, in Chapter VI, Counterfeits of the Divine) is vivid enough that it’s hard not to conclude that they found that it was a counterfeit that a number of believers had experienced.

They first describe a very soothing experience, sometimes with even a spoken voice or a vision, in which the believer is given suggestions that he or she is specially chosen by God, and becomes hard, unteachable, unyielding and confident almost to the point of believing in his or her own infallibility. They mention deceptions of being a special instrument for God, being more advanced than others, and intended to feed self love, an independent spirit, and the taking of rash, unscriptural and even immoral actions. The believer at this point begins to trust in his or her experience, becomes puffed up with pride and neglects the call of conscience and the plain meaning and commands of the written Word of God.

I’ve at times met professed believers who are like this, and they have sometimes attested to experiences like this. I’m afraid, though, that Satan often feeds people nowadays with the same kinds of suggestions and deceptions, and may not even need to give them the same kinds of experiences to bolster their deceptions in these areas. With a generation behind us of psychological teachings on self esteem, people in our culture are more inclined to pride and conceit than in previous generations. And spiritual leaders seem to be more unaware than before of their peculiar vulnerability to these kinds of deceptions if they have not grown into a place of spiritual maturity: “(An elder) must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil” (I Timothy 3:6).

The goal here is not to scare anyone, but to make my brothers and sister in Christ aware that a proud spirit, one which is self absorbed, lives in a sense of superiority to fellow believers, believes and acts as if he or she has been given special privileges and authority from God, and does not receive the mildest correction from the written Word of God for deceitful, slanderous, abusive, tyrannical and aggressive behavior, may have a stronghold of demonically cultivated pride and conceit at its core. Discussion is usually fruitless with such a person, and anyone who says or does anything which threatens that person’s demonically nourished pride may find himself or herself being targeted with a counterattack which in its craftiness, malevolence and vehemence, can only be said to have come from the very pit of hell itself. This person needs to be made a subject of continuous prayer for a period of time and probably a day or two of fasting.

With my previous post on The Epidemic of Narcissism, believers who believe in the truth of the Bible and who know the reality of the supernatural must consider whether a person causing conflict in a family, a church or a workplace may not only fit the psychiatric profile of a narcissist, but may be under actual demonic influence. For myself, I’ve found that the ways to victory in those situations depend more on holding strongly to scripture and the truth of reality, and to spend time prayer and fasting than on being tough and glib. The real enemy in these circumstances is often not the human being in the situation, but at least one unseen supernatural being with superhuman cunning and malice.

For the believer, what James the brother of Jesus wrote pertains here: “  . . . Scripture says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you . . . Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:6-7, 10).

All scripture references taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, copyright 1973, 1978 by the International Bible Society and used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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