Free at last!

The night was cool. A gentle breeze reminded me that fall would end soon. I had lived in this house since my birth, 17 years earlier. I knew its every nook and corner. My bed was familiar. Nothing fancy, nothing new, but this night would change my life forever. For some weeks now, an inner glow had accompanied me everywhere I went. This glow came from my recent discovery of Jesus and the Advent hope. As a newly baptized Seventh-day Adventist, I was enjoying every moment of this journey of faith. Bible studies, prayer, reading of devotional literature, and a new life in the Spirit had brought a peace of mind that I had not experienced before.

But this night in 1961 was to be so different. I had just finished reading about the dangers of modern-day spiritualism in God Speaks to Modern Man, a then-popular Adventist book. I went to bed with mixed emotions: faith in a God who loves and cares for His children, and fear that we live in a world where Satan carries on a real battle against those who love God. As I lay on the bed, stories of my grandmother who had died eight years before I was born flashed through my mind. Stories that my mother told me. My grandmother, so I learned, had extraordinary gifts. She could speak with the dead and foretell the fortunes and misfortunes of many. She had psychic powers and served as a minister of a spiritualistic church.

As a boy, I paid little attention to these stories. But now, with my new relationship with Jesus and my understanding of the battle that Satan wages in the world, I was distraught. The awareness that I was living in the same house where my grandmother, a practicing spiritualist medium, lived, sent a chill down my spine. Would the evil spirits thwart my newfound joy? I prayed, turned off the light, and went to sleep. But not for long. In the middle of the night I woke up in a cold sweat. I heard some whirring sounds. I felt as if someone was physically assaulting me. I couldn’t move or speak. Was this a dream? Perhaps a nightmare? No, my physical feelings of being semiconscious were real. My mind was alert, and I knew I had to rely not on my strength, but on the power of the Holy Spirit. With all the inner strength I could gather, I repeated in my mind some of the great Scripture promises and called upon my God to deliver me from this attack. Suddenly, the attack ceased and I experienced peace, knowing that God had protected me.

That night’s battle assembled many pieces of the puzzle for me, and I began to see the reality of the warfare between Christ and Satan. As long as I did not know the Lord and His saving faith, no evil spirit bothered me. I had not paid much attention to the stories about my grandmother or even the involvement of my mother in the spirit world. My mother, too, was an occult practitioner who spoke of seeing “ghosts” and “spirits.” She said she studied “divine science” and had premonitions about the death of certain people she knew in our small town. Often she was right. She claimed that a spiritualist healer had cured her of ulcers and gallstones. My sister, 10 years my senior, was supposed to have been healed of lockjaw in her childhood by a spirit medium. My mother loved to use the ouija board with her spiritualist friends. She spoke of some of her relatives who also consulted with spirit mediums.

I had dismissed all these as superstitions. As I entered my teenage years, I wanted to understand the truth about God revealed in the Scriptures. I wanted to know God personally. I knew many Bible stories that I learned as a child in the Methodist church in our little town in northern Illinois. But I really did not know God. One day, I watched Billy Graham on TV explain the meaning of coming to Christ. I confessed my sins and made a commitment to God, but still I did not know what it meant to live a Christian life. I had many questions about God, Jesus, salvation, and life.

Through a set of unusual circumstances, I enrolled in the Voice of Prophecy Bible correspondence course. I was 15 then, and soon began studying the Bible with a local Adventist pastor, Gordon Shumate. He cleared up the cobwebs in my thinking regarding the Trinity, Christ’s divinity, the Second Coming, and salvation by grace. In the fall of 1961, as a senior in high school, I was baptized an Adventist.

Satan’s assault continued as I matured in Christ.

However, the mid 1960s were an unusual time in the United States. Eastern mysticism and occult practices invaded American intellectual, social, and spiritual life as never before. Thousands of young people began experimenting with drugs and cultic practices and started rejecting Christian values. Meditation and mantras became the fashion of the young. My sister came under the influence of this cultural shift through what seemed like a simple game—the ouija board. Through this she communicated with our dead “relatives.” The ouija has the English alphabet and the numbers zero through nine, with “yes,” “no,” and “goodbye” printed in large black letters. It comes with a plastic pointer with soft felt tips, which at times is moved by the spirits to letters and numbers that spell out messages.

Christmas 1967, I visited my sister. As soon as I arrived at her home, she wanted me to see the ouija board perform. I told her I would be willing if I could ask it the first question. As my sister and her daughter began to play with the board, our “deceased relatives” began to speak through it. I immediately told the spirits to stop and said, “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, who are you?” I expected the board to spell out the word “devils,” but instead it boldly wrote “Lucifer.” I asked how many angels had fallen, and the board replied one-third. I asked other questions to expose its true identity to my sister. Its answers agreed with the biblical portrait of Satan and his demons.

The spirits working through the board became very angry with me. They threatened my life. The pointer upon which the fingers of my sister and niece were placed came off of the board and began to poke at my stomach with force. I asked the spirits to quote John 8:12, where Jesus said, “I am the light of the world...” but they adamantly refused. I placed a Bible upon the board. They quickly pushed it off and began to swear profusely. I thought my exposure of them could help my sister become interested in the Bible. Instead, she said I was projecting my thoughts onto the board. In retrospect, I wish I had never tried that experiement. But the Lord protected me from my immature adventure.

The experience of that frightful night of 1961 repeated itself often as I entered college. Two or three times a week the battle would be waged in the middle of the night with a fierceness that left me weak. Even through my early years of married life with Nancy, the struggle continued. I dreaded going to sleep. Often I left the lights on for fear the spirits would return.

Finally, relief came in 1975, when I discovered a new book on spiritual warfare, The Adversary, by Mark Bubeck. The book offered biblical as well as practical guidance. It was written for those who had participated in the occult or grew up in homes involved in spiritism and felt threatened by demonic oppression. The book suggested “spiritual warfare praying” by claiming full authority of Jesus. Here is an example of one such prayer: “Dear Lord and heavenly Father, I enter by faith into the full power and authority of my Lord’s resurrection. I desire to walk in the newness of life which is mine through my Lord’s resur-rection… I bring the mighty truth of my Lord’s victory over the grave against all of Satan’s workings against your will and plan for my life. The enemy is defeated in my life because I am united with the Lord Jesus Christ in the victory of His resurrection.” Nancy and I began to pray such prayers, saturated with Scripture. We were not repeating just words, but intentionally and prayerfully experiencing the power of the risen Lord. He is our victory, and we were claiming that victory as our own. As a result, I began to feel a new sense of freedom. I was no longer fearful of what the enemy could do to me. I now could go to motels alone and enjoy normal sleep without any attacks and without leaving the lights on. This didn’t mean the war was over. The Christian soldier must constantly guard heart and mind and be alert to the twisted strategies of our common enemy, the devil.

My victory remains total because of the abiding presence of my Saviour in me. I have walked away from the world of the occult because of the love of my Lord. For the past 27 years, in peace and thankfulness, I have been able to minister for my Lord as a campus chaplain, sharing my hope with hundreds of young people.

What did I learn from my struggles? Is there something you can learn from my experience? Here it is:

1. Remember the struggle with Satan is real. Satan is at war with the saints of God. The closer you are to God, the more He is desirous of getting you on his side. Spiritual warfare is real, and we need to be watchful (Ephesians 6:12-14).

2. Do not indulge in any of Satan’s spiritistic activities even for fun. Be it the ouija board or cult music or mystical meditation, keep as far away from them as possible. Occult tools are dangerous (Isaiah 8:19).

3. Be totally committed in your Christian experience. Make your Christianity real. Know your Bible. Pray. Claim the victory of Christ in all that you do, and let God be your constant companion. Put on the armor of Christian warfare that Paul describes in Ephesians 6:12-14. Without identifying with the victory of Christ, we have no hope of victory.

Joe Jerus, an ordained Seventh-day Adventist minister, has been directly involved in public campus ministry in California for more than 30 years. His e-mail address: joeynancy@msn.com