Adverse Possession

by Olufunmilayo

There was a time that because of my inner struggles with “sin” or “Mr. Flesh”, I began to fear I was demon-possessed because I kept doing the things I did not want to. I also did not know any way out except to pray. Having seen many exorcist movies and supposed real-life exorcisms, mostly for women, who would toss around, scream in eerily shrill voices, and contort their faces in unimaginable ways, I decided that I was not going to subject myself to the public humiliation of a demon being driven out of me. And so, I kept praying harder and harder for “victory” over sin privately.

Now I have a better (not complete) understanding of the finished works of Christ. My works and prayers do not sanctify me, but my victory lies in my submission by faith to what Christ did on the cross. I do not need to struggle with sin anymore, because I cannot win. Christ has already paid that price, and as I abide in him and he in me daily, I live more and more victoriously.

However, I always wondered how I got where sin (or the works of the flesh) became the dominant force in my life, despite being born again. How did it become the only thing I desired consciously and unconsciously? How did it take over my life when that was not the outcome I wanted for my life?

Recently, I watched a YouTube video about how squatters on a property over time could legally possess another person’s property – this principle is called “Adverse possession”. I am not a lawyer, so I was deeply disturbed by this principle which I felt was being “abetted” by common law. It seemed so unfair that if I were to own, say, a house, and if I left it unoccupied for an extended period, if someone else moves in and stays there, they could lawfully gain full possession of it without my permission. So, I put on my research cap to find out more about this principle. And as I read up on it, I began to draw a spiritual parallel on how “sin” became the legal occupant of my life through what I would call – “Spiritual Adverse Possession”.

For adverse possession to be admissible, I found out that five elements must be met, and as I discuss each of the conditions, I will draw parallels to sin problems that people face including myself (source:

  1. Open and Notorious: The adverse possessor (specific sin problem) must occupy the land (my heart or a portion of my heart) in an open and obvious manner. That means that when the sin problem began, it must have been manifesting itself openly, whether I was conscious of it or not.
  2. Exclusive: The land (my heart or a portion of my heart) must be occupied exclusively by the adverse possessor (specific sin problem) and may not be shared with the public or the true owner (me). It must take complete control.
  3. Hostile: The occupation by the adverse possessor must be hostile and adverse to the interests of the true. Sin, is hostile in that, our spirits genuinely want our hearts to be used to serve God purely, yet sin seems to take over and not fulfill that purpose.
  4. Statutory period: Possession of the land (my heart or a portion of my heart) must continue for the state’s predetermined statutory period (could be as short as three years or as long as twenty years). This means that it could fester for a short period or a long period for sin to take control. Clearly, for struggles with addictions like drugs and sex, I believe the statutory period is very short.
  5. Continuous and uninterrupted: All the four elements above must be met at all times during the statutory period.

There is some good news though – adverse possession is not permissible in all situations. Most especially, for government-owned land (God-owned hearts), the title (ownership rights) CANNOT be obtained by adverse possession. I consider situations where people build on government land without the right permission. It is usually only a matter of time before they receive notice that their buildings will be demolished. Even if they complain and try to seek leniency, the government will always possess what belongs to it. An understanding of this would help us in our work with God and understanding of the sin problem.

2 Corinthians 5:17: Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things have become new.

When I truly and completely give or submit my life to Christ, it means I give His government full ownership of my body, my mind, and spirit. Under this new leadership or government of Christ, sin cannot “dominate” or adversely possess me.

Romans 6:14: For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

This is particularly true for those who have crossed over from trying by the law to please God but fully rely on the Grace of God in Christ Jesus to make them right with God. Under the law, I can be fully possessed by sin if I rely on the law. Under grace, it is simply impossible for sin to dominate by the cross. Though my flesh would try to produce the only thing it can produce, which is sin; because I am now “government property”, the blood is presented as the age-long decree that overrides the unlawful occupant, sin, and it wipes or drives it away.

I feel like jumping, just thinking at the wonderful work God has done for us. We do not need to struggle and fight sin. It is a finished work!

We must acknowledge the finished work of Jesus on the cross, understand what the blood does for us in cleansing sin, and the cross has dealt a final blow to the works of the flesh in His death. So daily, we remind ourselves by offering our lives as a sacrifice to God for what he has done for us through Jesus.

We are not adversely possessed by our struggles today. We are not wretched sinners. Christ has indeed set us free from the cycle of rising and falling.

I pray that our eyes are opened, and we begin to get a deeper understanding of the truth of the cross.







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