A spirit is a force that influences the will of people. A spirit can be an anonymous force responsible for the atmosphere in a meeting of people, or for the mood within a person, it can also be as personal as the spirit of other people who shape our daily actions. It is called a spirit because it relates not to matter but to mind, soul, and feelings. Spirits can be loving, harmless or dangerous, fleeting or powerful, discreet or haunting, helping or hurting. They can inhabitate places, memories, books, or people.
The most important fact about spirits is that they have to obey the commands of Christ. If we feel under the power of a spirit we do not want, we can command the spirit to leave in the name of Christ since we are His people, and the devil's forces have no power over Christians unless they cooperate. It may be simply a matter of a single command spoken in trust of God, or it may be a spiritual battle (Eph. 6:10-17) where we need to draw closer to God in faith and let go of attachments to passing values (1 Tim. 6:6-12).
It is dangerous to play with the powers of the spirits since, in this way, we give the devil an easy way to irritate us, mislead us, and finally lead us astray. Instead, we should ask God for discernment that we learn to recognize the spirit that is of God and helps us to grow and become strong in love and faith. 2 Tim 1:8.
Deadly spirits make it easygoing initially, and take their toll later when resistance has become weak. It is like drugs that promise heaven for free but ruin the life of those who trusted and became dependent. The devil's spirits dress like a spirit of light, but in the long run cause death (Rom. 6:16-23).
God's spirit may be demanding initially, but prepares you for a life of quality and freedom, and develops your personality and your abilities so that life becomes easier and more fruitful as you cooperate with Him. God's spirit is like a loving teacher who shows you what is true and what is worth doing (John 14:26), and the results are such that you'll not regret your efforts (Gal. 5:16-26).
Arnold Neumaier (Arnold.Neumaier@univie.ac.at)