Imagine with me a drug addict in a prison cell. He is dirty, wearing tattered clothing. This prisoner is sitting on a concrete sidewalk with his back up against a brick building. His sleeves are rolled up and you can see bruises on his arms from all the needles he has used to inject drugs. Empty syringes lay scattered around him. Demonic beings lurk about him to his right and left, appearing to be half-animal, half -human. The addict lives in his own private “prison cell,” and he cannot do anything without the approval of the demons. They even grant him the desires of his heart to continue using drugs. And when he’s unable to get the drugs, he is overwhelmed with horrible thoughts and physical sensations.
The addict is twenty-four now, but his years have been hard almost from the beginning. His father sexually abused him from the time he was five until thirteen. When the young man was fourteen, his dad committed suicide. His mother was a junkie and sold her body for heroin. She disappeared not long after Dad died.
With his past a constant weight pressing down on him, the man becomes restless and sick when the drugs wear off. As he begins going through withdrawal, the demons feed his mind with dark, doom-filled thoughts—every thought in opposition to anything good. Every idea leads him further away from freedom. He never senses a hint of hope, love, encouragement, or anything of the sort in his mind when the demons are speaking. When the pain finally grows unbearable during this time of withdrawal, the demons offer him a path out of the pain: more drugs. It’s difficult to resist the temptation because the pain is so great.
The young man—Ryan—has been sentenced to this particular prison cell for life. Only the demons have the key as far as he knows, and the drugs are his only sense of relief.
People pass by Ryan every day on their way to work. Of course, they do not know him as “Ryan.” To them, he is a man without a name who needs to be cleaned up along with the rest of the trash on the streets. These ordinary people cannot see the demons. They don’t even see the prison bars that keep him confined. They don’t know Ryan and don’t seem to care about him. To them, he is only a junkie sitting on the sidewalk while leaning against the wall in downtown New York City.
Sometimes the people who walk by notice questionable men approach Ryan. After a brief conversation with the strange men, Ryan leaves with them, only to return shortly afterward. These same men who approach him randomly throughout the week give Ryan money in exchange for sex. Many of the businessmen who walk by every day have taken notice of this—and they are disgusted. They sometimes rant at him as if he should be able to leave the prison cell on his own. They are even more disgusted when Ryan once again loads his used syringe to inject the drugs. Little do the people realize that Ryan is disgusted as well. He hates the men he has sex with—and he is not even gay. He hates the drugs, too. Most of all, he hates himself. Suicide is the easiest option for him, but he’s afraid—too afraid—of the unknowns in the afterlife to do it.
It seems that about every few days or so, Christians come by his prison cell. They know about prison cells and demons, but many still do not acknowledge them and some cannot recognize them for what they are. The Christians often offer Ryan advice and recommend that he leave this life. “God loves you Ryan, but you need to quit these drugs and get help,” they sometimes say. This is confusing to Ryan and causes him to doubt their words and their God. As these Christians give Ryan advice on what to do, he is still locked behind the bars of his cell, unable to heed their words even if he would decide to do so. And then the Christians leave, as if they have offered him invaluable advice. Ryan, though, is only left confused. He wonders why the people do not notice that he cannot leave his cell. At the same time, he doesn’t understand why the Christians cannot see the bars or the demons. Ryan once read in the Bible that “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (John 8:34 NIV). So the message shared by these Christians only brings more pain and more doubt into Ryan’s life. The shame increased when they arrived and the pain increased as they left.
Some Christians come by speaking in strange languages—tongues—and then they pray for Ryan. This is spooky to him because he knows that the Bible says not to speak in tongues without an interpreter (1 Corinthians 14:13, 27-28). He also knows that the gift of tongues can be given to edify the person speaking, but this prayer language is not to share with others; it’s only for the individual speaking. The apostle Paul himself mentioned once that he would rather hear five words in English than 10,000 words in tongues when Christians would meet together (1 Corinthians 14:19). Because these Christians came speaking in tongues to him, Ryan doubts that they are from God.
So the demons are strengthened against Ryan, and he remains in bondage even though these people of seemingly great faith prayed for him. They prayed fiery prayers, but spoke little truth.
Then one day, a man turns down the street and Ryan notices that the demons immediately begin to tremble, seeming to be restless and uneasy. The man continues to walk toward Ryan, and he appears to be in his right mind, which comforts Ryan. He read in the past that the apostle Paul said that if he, Paul, were out of his mind, it was for the sake of God, but if he were in his right mind, then it was for the people (1 Corinthians 5:13). Though the man who walks toward Ryan is filled with the Holy Spirit and has the gift of speaking in tongues, he does not speak in tongues during this time—at least not to the level that anyone can hear it. When the gentleman notices Ryan, he stops immediately. He walks up to the spot where Ryan has been sitting every day for the past three years, and he begins to examine Ryan’s environment. He tells Ryan that he notices the bars of Ryan’s prison cell. He notices the used syringes lying around and can even see that Ryan has been imprisoned by the sins of his father. The man of God teaches Ryan about this “sins of the father” principle while also targeting this life lesson at the lurking evil. The man continues to speak many truths to Ryan over the next couple of minutes. Some things Ryan understands and some things he does not, but the demons understood everything.
The man then looks into Ryan’s eyes and rebukes the powers of darkness by the blood of the Lamb. The demons disappear and the door to the prison cell opens wide to freedom.
Scripture quotation marked (NIV) is taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™