In Western cultures today there is a growing fascination with the occult and Satanism, despite the traditional Christian teaching that Satan represents the consummate evil.
Statistics show Satanism and Wicca to be among the fastest-growing religions in the United States today. Popular movies make it appear cool to be able to cast spells or call on powers that mere mortals do not possess. The Gothic culture calls to those who tend toward sadness or anger. The spirit world is clearly becoming more and more of a factor in our society.
Teens today report that this is a big issue. Local high school students told me there are many openly Wiccan students at school, and that the number appears to be growing. There are also a number of students who are heavily involved in the Gothic culture and mentality, which for some includes a fascination with bondage and torture. One teen also mentioned how much easier it is to get caught up with the spirit world when drugs and alcohol are involved.
A popular genre of music is referred to as "Gothic/Darkwave," which one Web site describes as "a musical journey of sadness and anger." There are also a growing number of movies focused on witchcraft, demonism and any number of "horror" themes. Books can be checked out of the public library on how to cast spells or how to be a witch.
The Internet is a ready source of "how-to" information on any of these subjects. Add to this tarot cards, Ouija boards, palm readers, psychic hotlines and an abundance of both drugs and alcohol, and we have a picture of a growing percentage of youth today experimenting with the spirit world.
At the same time a growing number of people deny that Satan, demons and a spirit world even exist. Many "enlightened" people today make statements like "I don't believe in a personal Satan. Satan to me is more of a metaphor, and a scapegoat to take the blame for the evil deeds of man." They believe Satan is simply a creation of the minds of men, a fantasy and nothing to take seriously. Satan is dismissed as a creation of "religion" to scare people into submission.
So what is the big deal? Isn't participating in Wicca or Gothic culture simply an expression of personal taste? Who are we to criticize personal choice?
Aren't these movies about witchcraft and demonism just "fantasy"? Surely we are mature enough to tell the difference between fantasy and reality. Aren't Ouija boards and tarot cards just harmless party games? What is the problem with playing around with them?
As followers of Jesus Christ, what should our perspective be toward the spirit world? If we are willing to believe the Bible, we see that Satan is not only very real and very powerful, but God clearly commands us not to get involved with him or the occult (closely associated with Satan) in any way. Let's understand why.
Who are Satan and the demons?
The Bible reveals that Satan was originally created as "Lucifer," which means "light bringer." At some point he chose to rebel against his Creator (Isaiah 14:12-15 Isaiah 14:12-15  How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how are you cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations!
 For you have said in your heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also on the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
 Yet you shall be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.
American King James Version×). Ezekiel wrote of him, saying, "You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you" (Ezekiel 28:15 Ezekiel 28:15You were perfect in your ways from the day that you were created, till iniquity was found in you.
American King James Version×). There was no sin, no evil, no disharmony in all God had created. This changed with the rebellion of Lucifer.
When this very first sin took place, Lucifer, whose name was then changed to Satan (which means "adversary"), apparently convinced a number of the angels to rebel with him against God. Together they fought God and lost. Satan and the rebelling angels, now known as demons, have been restrained here on earth since that time (Job 1:7 Job 1:7And the LORD said to Satan, From where come you? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.
American King James Version×; Revelation 12:3-4 Revelation 12:3-4  And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns on his heads.  And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.
American King James Version×). Instead of being the "light bringer," Satan came to be known as a ruler of darkness (Ephesians 6:12 Ephesians 6:12For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
American King James Version×).
Even though they were defeated by God, the demons have not given up their goal of trying to destroy whatever God creates. They have worked feverishly since the creation of man to destroy mankind, as we can see by the example of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:1-6 Genesis 3:1-6  Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, Yes, has God said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
 And the woman said to the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.
 And the serpent said to the woman, You shall not surely die:
 For God does know that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also to her husband with her; and he did eat.
American King James Version×).
Neither Satan nor the other demons can forcibly take control of a human being against his or her will, as some people fear. But that does not mean that Satan and the demons are powerless among men. We must be sure we understand what power they do have and, as Paul wrote, make sure we do not allow them to take advantage of us (2 Corinthians 2:11 2 Corinthians 2:11Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.
American King James Version×).
Avoid contact with evil spirits
We can, whether we mean to or not, invite demonic influence into our minds. When Israel came into the Promised Land, God warned them not to allow anyone to practice witchcraft, cast spells or try to talk with the dead (Deuteronomy 18:9-14 Deuteronomy 18:9-14  When you are come into the land which the LORD your God gives you, you shall not learn to do after the abominations of those nations.
 There shall not be found among you any one that makes his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that uses divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch.
 Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.
 For all that do these things are an abomination to the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD your God does drive them out from before you.
 You shall be perfect with the LORD your God.
 For these nations, which you shall possess, listened to observers of times, and to diviners: but as for you, the LORD your God has not suffered you so to do.
American King James Version×). The reason for this prohibition is that by involving ourselves in these practices, we open up our minds to the direct influence of the demon world. It is as if we opened the door of our minds and invited an evil spirit to come on in!
Put in terms of today's practices, this would include tarot cards, Ouija boards, palm reading, horoscopes and psychics. It would also include filling our minds with music, books and movies of the occult. There is an added danger if we also give up control of our minds through the abuse of alcohol and drugs. Our minds are precious instruments, and God expects us to carefully monitor what we allow to come in.
But the idea of having or being given a special "power" is an incredibly appealing idea to our pride and vanity. Satan knows this and uses it to his advantage.
In Matthew 4 we read that he even tried to get Jesus Christ to fall for his perverted reasoning. After showing Him all the kingdoms of the earth and their wealth and power, Satan said, "All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me" (Matthew 4:9 Matthew 4:9And said to him, All these things will I give you, if you will fall down and worship me.
American King James Version×). But Jesus understood the price of such a decision—worship of Satan meant losing His position as Savior and member of the God family. What will be the cost for us if we fall for the lie and worship Satan?
How Satan deceives us
Some of what we have talked about may seem quite extreme. What if you aren't involved with any of these practices? What if you don't worship Satan? If you don't go to horror movies, use Ouija boards or read bad books—then you are safe, right? Perhaps the most powerful way in which Satan influences human beings is through his power to broadcast attitudes. He is described as the "prince of the power of the air" (Ephesians 2:2 Ephesians 2:2Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience:
American King James Version×). This seems to be a reference to his ability to transmit attitudes and tempting thoughts, and from this no one is immune.
Have you ever found yourself thinking an evil thought and wondered where it came from? Have you heard the comment "The devil made me do it"? The devil cannot make you do anything. But he can make something sound or feel so appealing that you are willing to choose to do it "on your own." Maybe the quote should be, "The devil tempted me to do it, and I gave in."
In Ephesians 6:12 Ephesians 6:12For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
American King James Version×(NIV) we are told: "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
We struggle with ourselves, with the unrighteous influences of our society and with the powerful attitudes and temptations presented to us by Satan and his demons. Temptation worked effectively against Adam and Eve, and it can work just as effectively against you and me!
How to resist satanic influence
What can we do to fight against Satan and his powerful evil influence? The apostle James gives very solid instruction: "Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded" (James 4:7-8 James 4:7-8  Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded.
American King James Version×).
How do we cleanse our hands and purify our hearts? We make sure that our relationship with God is right. No other relationship we will ever have will be as important.
We must come to know God through prayer and Bible study. We have to learn to think like He does. We must ask Him to help us build a strong relationship with Him. We must repent and ask Him to cleanse us of our sins and give us the strength to stop sinning (Psalms 51:10 Psalms 51:10Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
American King James Version×). As we develop this relationship with Him, we will be able to discern what is of God and what is of Satan. They are not the same.
Once we are able to distinguish between what is of God and what is of Satan, we need to eliminate what is of Satan. The verses above in James tell us to resist the devil. We need to remove ourselves from situations where there are activities involving Satan and his demons.
This should include movies and TV shows that glorify witchcraft and the occult. It should also include music that is dark in nature or that makes you feel sad or depressed. It also means that we do not give in to the many temptations that we face every day to break God's laws. That is what it means to resist Satan and draw closer to God!
Even though we cannot see it, the spirit world is very real. It has become quite popular with many people, young and old alike, to become involved with it through Wicca or various Gothic practices. Music, movies, books and magazines make these practices seem all the more appealing. But you do not have to join them. If you have been involved, you can remove yourself from it by the help of Almighty God.
When Paul recounted his conversion, he said that Christ sent him "to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins" (Acts 26:18 Acts 26:18To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
American King James Version×). As God worked through Paul to bring people to the light, so He will do for you if you choose to obey Him. VT