I think whenever we’re uncomfortable with a particular teaching or action, it behooves us to dig into the scriptures and pray for wisdom on the matter. Sometimes you run into individuals with gifts of discernment and other apparent spiritual gifts, but mixed into those gifts are murky behaviors that are inconsistent with the fruit of the Spirit. Pray about it. For sure there are EGRs in our life that can make us uncomfortable, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. Sometimes certain people can cause uneasiness in our spirit and there’s often good reason for that.
There was one such person in my life, who was once a part of our community. This person would speak many flattering words into individuals and even pray for them, but often exhibited strange behaviors and I never felt comfortable with them around. It took me several months to figure out where they were coming from. After much prayer and reading scripture I came upon a passage about a slave-girl with a spirit of divination, mentioned in Acts chapter 16 that kept crying out and saying of Paul and Silas, “these men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.” The girl followed them around with this mantra for many days, and the NASB says that “Paul was greatly annoyed.” He then turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” And it came out at that very moment.
There are a few things to be mindful of in this passage. Paul and Silas are in Philippi, a Hellenistic society known for polytheism. In the original Greek, “the Most High God” is Theos Hypsistos, which to many Jews would have meant the one true God of Israel, but to the largely pagan society they were in, many would have interpreted that to be Zeus or some other god. In any case, the term implies that there may be other gods, even if they are lower than Theos Hypsistos.
We need to be careful not to allow murky practices into our lives where we can inadvertently bring in traditions of the occult into our faith. Anything that would take away any glory from the one true God is something to avoid. That includes spiritual gifts on people that imply they are given by any other power than Christ Jesus and His Spirit. Certainly, any teaching contrary to the bible should be corrected immediately.
I believe the spirit of the pagan Theos Hypsistos is still lingering in our society today and we need to be wary of it. Spiritual discernment takes time. This was true for even Paul, which is why it took many days before Paul cast out the spirit in the slave-girl. Once you have determined a specific, negative spiritual presence over someone, I’m not suggesting you turn around and yell “in the name of Jesus, come out!” to their face, as Paul did. I do know some that operate this way, but with the person in my community I was troubled by, I simply began to pray quietly over them–that God would start removing whatever spirit of negativity was residing in that person so that it would not affect our community. Immediately following that prayer, a giant battle began to occur within that person . At that point, I was ready to come around to support them, but they ended up leaving our community.
I’ve learned that prayer is the best way to deal with such encounters. Whether it’s an EGR God has brought into your life to grow you, or you need to pray for protection over your people against a negative spirit, prayer is always the place to start.