Casting Out the Demons in our Lives
How many of us believe in demons? In demonic possession? In the dark side that can attack and control a person?
Our society seems obsessed with this darker side of life. I recently drove by a place in Worcester called “The Unholy Grail.” We seem to be a society content with seeking out the unholy ways of life. Look at all the horror films Hollywood produces, reflecting a society enamored with the dark side of life. Daily I see people wearing clothing with the skull and bones, with the grim reaper, or with demonic emblems. And in the daily newspapers, we can see most clearly the evil side of society by simply reading about horrific crimes, ongoing wars, and seemingly normal people who snap and allow their demonic rage to overwhelm them in moments of passion.
Demons, evil, the dark side, or however we name the forces of Satan, seem very evident in our society. But what about in our own lives? Do we actually believe in demons, in demonic possession, in the force of evil active in our own lives?
When we’re talking about demons, we’re not talking about the devil dressed in a red suit with a pitch fork and horns. The devil, the father of lies, disguises himself in subtle, deceptive, and devious ways. His demons enter and dwell within us in the form of our pride, vanity, lust, greed, gluttony, anger, rage, impatience, hatred, and other such vices. His demons have a feast within us through our daily habits, certain obsessions, and other manners of addictive behavior. The Bible describes the devil as a “lion ready to devour us,” and his demons attack us constantly in multifarious and ingenious ways. Demons are very real and dwell within each of us! This is why Alexander Solzenitsyn once said, “The line between good and evil runs right through the heart of everyone.” The demons are within! Even the saints concur when they describe how both heaven and hell dwell within us.
Do you realize that the very first thing we do in the Sacrament of Baptism, which is our entrance into the Christian way of life, is to renounce Satan and all his works and all his worship and all his angels and all his pride? In other words, we begin our Christian life by acknowledging the reality of the devil and his demons, and then declaring an all out war upon them by renouncing them. Even by spitting upon them! We totally and absolutely reject Satan’s demonic side of life!
Our Orthodox Christian faith teaches very specifically that the devil, his demons, and this force of evil constantly try to attack, overwhelm and eventually control our lives. In fact, the Good News which our Lord Jesus Christ proclaims is that He is greater than the forces of evil, and that He is pushing back the Kingdom of Satan in this world. Thank God that the influence and force of evil no longer need to hold sway over those of us who follow Christ. Even Satan’s greatest fruit, death itself, no longer has authority or the last say in a Christian’s life!
Christianity, when authentically practiced and lived, frees us from our demons! We see this clearly in Christ’s command to his disciples: “Go and preach that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, and cast out demons.”
Jesus came to liberate us from whatever evil controls us – whether our anger or rage, our pride or greed, our lust or gluttony or impurity, our hard heart or unforgiving spirit, our impatience or irritations, our depression or despair, our habits and obsessions - whatever demons with which we struggle, Jesus came to set us free!
We concretely see this power to liberate the enslaved in today’s Gospel story. Jesus confronts two exceedingly fierce, demon-possessed men. These men had long ago forgotten their true identity, living among the tombs, with no clothes, with no self dignity, and with no hope to cast out the demons which enslaved them in utter darkness and despair. The men could only see themselves in relation to the countless demonic forces holding them in bondage. They listened to the deception of Satan and forgot the most basic principle of human life – that they were children of God, created in the image of the Holy Trinity, and thus, uniquely special in the eyes of their Creator. Regardless of any evil sin or dark acts these men had given into, they forgot the words of our loving Lord: “Even if a mother may forget her child, I can never forget you, for I have created you in the palm of my hands.”
Here lies Christianity’s Good News to the world – news about who we are and what we are; a message about the creative and divine love that lives within us! No demons, whether in the form of evil vices, bad habits or distorted obsessions or addictions, can ever change the essence of who we are – beloved children created in God’s image! And when we recall who we are, and who our heavenly Father watching over us is, we can than unleash the power needed to reclaim our original identity and to defeat the demonic powers wrestling for our souls.
Think a moment about the demons with which we wrestle. What obsessions or habits do we struggle with which lead us away from a joyous, Christ-empowered life? The demons may include an ongoing negative and pessimistic spirit, which includes much gossiping and tearing down of others; they may be forces which lead us to overeat and overindulge ourselves; they may be filling our minds with impurities on the internet; they may be our desire to participate in forms of entertainment that do nothing to nourish our soul; they may be certain addictions; they may be demons leading us to live materialistic and consumeristic lives or guiding us to embrace false and superficial ideologies. And what about our habitual demons and ingrained vices? Our pride? Our anger? Our self-centeredness? Our unwillingness to forgive? Our insecurities? And the list could go on.
Christ came to cast out these demons from our lives! Our Lord longs to fill His followers with an abundance of His Holy Spirit’s fruit – with authentic and divine love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control. He desires to dwell richly in each one of us, and to help us become more Christ-like with each passing day.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” In Christ, “I have overcome the world.” “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.” “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, who is, who was, who is to come, the Almighty.” Our Lord is Lord of all creation, and Lord of our lives. Nothing – no demon, or demonic influence, or legion of demons can stand in His way.
When our Lord Jesus truly abides richly in us, we discover a Power greater than any demon or vice, habit or obsession or addiction that may seem so overwhelming. Christ, the Almighty One, is ready to cast out whatever demons assail us. And even those ingrained demonic forces which have controlled us for years, or even all our lives, these demons also our Lord can cast out!
Remember the encouraging words of St. Paul to his disciple Timothy: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind.” Each one of us can access this power of God within our own lives and begin a process of healing and renewal! Demons in whatever form no longer need to control our lives! Here lies the essence of Christ’s Good News - a promise to liberate us from all that controls us! May we all open up our hearts and accept this freedom in our lives!
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