The deceiver and the human heart

When the enemy first appeared, he disguised himself as a serpent, one of God’s creatures. He remained hidden, obscured by darkness, until Jesus exposed him.  

The father of lies’ strategy remains the same: stay hidden so the source and nature of the lies are not identified.  But even if exposed, he has a secondary strategy:  draw attention away from God and onto himself, seek worshipers, distort the image of God and lead people to think he has more power that he does.

The third temptation of Jesus in the desert demonstrates this strategy:

Matthew 4:8 “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; 9 and he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’”

To put it another way, the first strategy is to rob us of relationship with God and lead us to mistrust God’s goodness in order to keep us from knowing God as a good father. The second strategy is for the enemy to take God’s place, bring us under his kingdom rule, and replace faith with fear.

People often want to tell me stories about the devil and his work. I really do not want to hear it, unless the person is telling me about the victory Jesus brought to him in a time of need.  Speaking about the power of the devil can detract from our trust in the goodness of God.  We need to be careful about curiosity. Curiosity about the devil can lead us to welcome his presence through fear, superstition, or confusion. Discernment is not only about discerning evil but also discerning the good.  If we give him too much attention and become devil-conscious we are falling into his subtle trap of drawing attention away from God.

Once we are aware of the influence of evil spirits we need to be disciplined in the way we think about them, always keeping our eyes turned to the Father.  

It is very helpful to keep in mind that the root of evil is within the heart of man.  St. John Paul II said it well:

"The wisdom of Christ makes you capable of pushing on to discover the deepest source of evil existing in the world. And it stirs us to proclaim to all men the truth we have learned from the Master's lips (Mk 7:21), that evil comes "from within people, from their hearts." So the root of evil is within man. The remedy, therefore, must also begin in the heart. And it is precisely here that our Lord wishes to lead us."

Demons are fallen angels; they have intellect and will and have no bodies to limit them. They become present where we focus our thoughts.  In our hearts, the demons find unrepentant sin, fear, unresolved  trauma—doors we have opened to the spirit world—and they are drawn like flies to manure. Then, these demons work to increase the darkness, and confine us in it. They seek a place of rest inside us, a home where they belong.  Being spirits, they do not take up space within us; they become attached to the evil in our hearts. They become present within us, intermingled with our darkness.  Their presence becomes familiar and is part of the scenery of our lives.

The source of evil in humanity remains the human heart that has fallen into sin and separation from God.  A spirit of hatred is not a little demon called hatred; it is an evil spirit that has attached itself to hatred in our hearts. Hatred is an aspect of a fallen angel and the place where it wants to “rest”.  Once welcomed, repentance may not be enough to dislodge the access we gave the evil spirit.  But by responding more fully, using the additional keys of Forgiveness, Renunciation, Authority, and Father’s Blessing, we can experience deliverance and great freedom.

Deliverance and healing require an understanding of the human heart more than they require understanding of evil spirits.  We can learn more by observing what evil spirits do within people, than by learning about the spirits themselves.   We need to remember what Jesus told us about them:  the devil is the father of sin but the source of evil in this world is the human heart. And in the heart, evil will be battled and defeated.  When the obstacles to God’s love are removed from our hearts, we can be truly free to experience the Father’s love and affirmation


Reference:  Pope John Paul II


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