Defeat the Demons Within You

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 St Michael triumphs over the devil c 1468, Bartolomé Bermejo National Gallery London

 

Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this.  Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” 

 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable.  “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them?  For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)

He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them.  For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” Mark 7: 14-23

Demons come from within. They are our thoughts and emotions – the thoughts and emotions of unclean spirits – and the nearer we get to God the more troubling they become. It is much easier to battle an outside enemy than see the enemy within.

The Desert Fathers, in their solitude, found that they encountered their own thoughts, feelings and emotions and they began to discern the good from the bad; the positive from the negative; those that lead us to God and those that block our path to God. The negative ones they called demons. They discovered that first we have to identify the demon to see what is working against us and they found eight primary demons of which we should be extra aware: gluttony; avarice; sloth; fornication, sadness, pride, anger, vainglory.

So, what is working in our lives to separate us from the presence of God? What is there that is not of the Holy Spirit in my life; that wants my good, my peace, my healing, my love. What is in my life that is hidering the fruit of the Holy Spirit?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22

There are motions in our hearts that do not lead us to God. They start with a thought – shall I go to the fridge and open that tub of ice-cream? Shall I surf the internet and see if I can find that picture? Nobody is interested in me, they never phone. She is so stupid, she deserves what she gets. If he does that again I swear I’ll hit him….and so on.

So be aware and capture that negative thought…’we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ’. 2Corinthinas 10:5

I know that in my case I have a critical spirit. I am an ultra-organised person and it drives me crazy when others are disorganised. I criticize and snipe and that causes discord.  Forgiveness is another difficulty for me – again coming from the same root – expecting too much from others and being disappointed and critical when I don’t get it. These two faults do not come from the Holy Spirit and they hinder His work in my life. They are my principle demons.

So –  first identify the demons that trouble you. Screen your thoughts and discern whether there are spirits within you that are negative, counter productive and blocking the work of the fruit of the spirit. We all have various negative scripts in our head – I’m not good enough; I’m not fit enough; I’m not clever enough; people don’t care about me – and so on. Name these negative thoughts and inspirations and then you have control.

Firstly work at the heart of the matter on the negative thoughts – capture them and reject them as soon as they trouble you. Remember that thoughts can come from without as well as within so do not panic if you find yourself troubled by really awful thoughts. They are an attack to try to stop your progress. Just reject these thoughts remembering that God is your shield. Then you can make a conscious decision to replace them with good and positive thoughts.

The way to do this is to ‘talk back’ to the negative spirit by using scripture passages that personally inspire you and touch your heart. They can be used as a weapon and protection. Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit and it conquers bad spirits. Demons tell falsehoods and try to lead us astray but the Holy Spirit puts everything back in order and heals us.

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. Psalm 28: 7

The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 21:1

Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings. Psalm 17:8

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 32:6

Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:39

Finally, find good rituals and routines that keep you close to God – prayer, reading scripture, eucharist and fellowship. Remember that the Holy Spirit is stronger and more powerful than any negative spirit and all things are possible with God.

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

 You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

 St Michael triumphs over the devil c 1468, Bartolomé Bermejo, National Gallery London The Archanger Michael is shown defeating the devil, a monstrous creature, part reptile, part bat. The kneeling donor is Antonio Juan, Lord of Tous. His prayerbook is open at two penitential psalms (51 and 130). This is the centrepanel of an altarpiece formerly in the parish church of Tous, near Valencia, Spain. One of the leading Spanish painters of the 15th century, Bermejo was active in Valencia and Barcelona. His mastery of the Netherlandish technique of oil painting suggests that he may have trained in the Netherlands.

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Jesus Teaches Tolerance

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La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

‘Master,’ said John, ‘we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.’ ‘Do not stop him,’ Jesus said, ‘for whoever is not against you is for you.’ As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him;  but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?’  But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Then he and his disciples went to another village. Luke  9 49-56

Here we have two lessons in tolerance. There were many exorcists in Palestine all claiming to be able to cast out demons. No doubt John regarded this man as a competitor and wanted to elininate him. The direct way from Galilee to Jerusalem lead through Samaria but most Jews  avoided it. There was a centuries’ old quarrel between the Jews and the Samaritans. The Samaritans did everything they could to hinder and even to injure any bands of pilgrims who attempted to pass through their territory. For Jesus to take that way to Jerusalem was unusual and to attempt to find hospitality in a Samaritan village was still more unusual. When Jesus did this he was extending a hand of friendship to people who were enemies. In this case not only was hospitality refused, but the offer of friendship was spurned. No doubt James and John believed they were doing the most praiseworthy thing when they offered to call in divine aid to blot out the village.

Jesus directly teaches the duty of tolerance. In many ways tolerance is a lost virtue and, when it does exist, it exists from the wrong cause. God has his own secret stairway into every heart. God fulfills himself in many ways but, and this is intensely important, tolerance must be based not on indifference but on Love. We are not tolerant because we could not care less but because we look at the other person, not with the eyes of criticism, but with the eyes of love. When Abraham Lincoln was criticized for being too courteous to his enemies and when he was reminded that it was his duty to destroy them he gave the great answer “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” Even if a man be utterly mistaken you must never regard him as an enemy to be destroyed but as a strayed friend to be recovered by love.

William Barclay Study Bible Luke