How To Know If It's God Or Satan

How To Know If It’s God or Satan

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Well, we hear quite a change in what happens with Peter from last Sunday’s Gospel to today’s Gospel. And these are actually back to back when you put them together in scripture.

So, last Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus calls Peter “The rock on whom I will build my church.”  He says to Peter that, “Truly only God could have revealed this to Him that He is the Christ.” And then, this Sunday He says, “Get behind me Satan, you are speaking not as God does but as human beings do.”

How can that change happen where in one moment Jesus sees God the Father speaking through Peter and the very next moment, the very next passage, we hear Him say, “Get behind me Satan.”

How can that happen?

I want to talk to you a little bit about discernment of spirits.  How we can discern between God speaking to us and between Satan speaking to us. Because that what happened with Peter.  One moment he was listening to God the Father revealed to him that this truly was Christ; the second moment He’s listening to Satan telling him, “God forbid Lord no such thing shall happen to you” when Jesus says He’s going to embrace the cross.

The truth is that there is always different voices operating in us . . . the voice of God and the voice of enemy and sometimes it’s our own voice that’s speaking to us.

How do we discern the spirits? How do we discern what’s God’s voice and what’s the enemy’s voice?

Now it would seem pretty obvious today. It’s a pretty stark contrast but a lot of times Satan is more subtle than that and that’s why we hear in the second reading from St. Paul that he says, “that you may discern what is good, and pleasing and perfect.” So, ultimately discernment will lead us to God’s voice and for our lives it’s going to lead us to what is good, and pleasing and perfect.

So, it’s important that before I talk about discernment that there are a couple of principles you understand. St. Ignatius taught the rules for discernment and what he would teach is that there is really two ways of life that are so important for us to realize which one we’re in.

The first way of life is probably the one that applies to most of you.  The first way of life is the people that go to church every Sunday.  They lead a good holy and moral life and there’s not mortal sin and they’re striving from good to better.  They’re praying every day.  They’re really striving to grow in their prayer life.  That’s the first way of life.

The second way of life is a person who is not going to Sunday mass; sometimes misses Sunday mass and going from mortal sin to mortal sin and they’re not praying every day and they’re leading a life that’s taking them away from God.

These are varied two different life styles.  It’s important that we know which one we’re leading.  I think that’s why Jesus says at one time that He’d rather us be either hot or cold not lukewarm.  He would spit us out of His mouth if we were lukewarm because if we’re lukewarm it’s really hard to tell and discern the voice of God and the voice of the enemy and I’ll tell you why.

So, for this person probably most of you that are leading good, holy, moral lives and going to mass, praying every day striving to grow closer to God, the voice of God for this person because they’re on the right track, they’re on the path to heaven is always going to be a voice of encouragement.

It’s going to be a voice that increases our faith, our hope and our love.

So, anything that we hear in our hearts or souls that brings us peace, brings us any of the gifts of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is probably from God and we can listen to that voice.

Now, Satan is not happy that we’re on this path going straight to heaven like that so, he’s going to try to get you off the path and he’s going to come at you in a different way.

He’s going to discomfort you. He’s going to try to discourage you to try to do anything he can do to decrease your faith, hope and love. He’s going to cause fear and anxiety, doubt, shame and guilt. Anything coming from that is not of God, it’s of Satan.

So, as Christians, as faithful Christians, we can renounce the enemy.  We can renounce that voice. Here is the interesting thing, the voices switch.  So, if somebody is on this path and they are going the wrong way . . . they’re missing mass on Sunday, going from mortal sin to mortal sin, they’re not praying every day their life is definitely on the wrong path.

The voices will change because Satan has the person right where he wants them.  He’s going to be very soothing and very comforting. “You’re doing OK.  Don’t worry, there’s a lot of people worse off than you.”  This is probably one of my favorite lines of Satan for this person.  “You’re a good guy.  You don’t have to go to mass.  You’re a good guy.  Don’t worry about anything else.”

And God is going to speak opposite that He does to the person going to heaven.  He’s going to do anything He can to get the person off this path and that is where He will use guilt and shame and discomfort and disquietude and anything that He can to knock this person off this path and hopefully bring them back to the right path.

So, can you see that it’s very important you know which path you’re on?  If you don’t know which path you’re on, it’s going to be very hard to discern the voice of God from the voice of the enemy.

So, let’s presume you’re on the good path.  You’re trying your best, you’re going to mass on Sunday, you’re praying every day, you’re trying to grow in faith, hope and virtue, God will always speak to you in consoling words. And, that’s where we get to what discernment is.

So, discernment is not the choice really between good and bad, that’s pretty evident.  We know what’s good and what’s bad.  We don’t even have to discern that, you just do the good.

St. Paul tells us what true discernment is. It’s choosing that which is good and pleasing and perfect.

So discernment really comes when we have a choice between two goods. Think about someone that’s going off to college and they have to choose a college. Well we can actually discern which college God’s calling him to. Or maybe you’re about to make a life decision or sell your house or buy a new house, discern what God wants of us. That which brings the most good into our lives.

The other thing about discernment is that God does want us to live a wonderful, pleasurable life here on earth and ultimately in heaven and so discernment really will be which one, if it’s good, which one will bring us the most pleasure and satisfaction.  And, ultimately, finally that which is perfect.

Discernment helps us choose the perfect path.  Discernment helps us choose that path that will continue to lead us closer to God the Father.

It’s so important, first of all, that you realize which path you’re on.  If you’re on the path leading to God or are you on the path away from God. If you’re on the path away from God, you have to go to confession.

Return to Him and come back to the sacraments and if you’re on the path leading towards God discernment ultimately then is choosing what is good, and pleasant and perfect.  We can do this in every choice that we make.

I invite you this week just to think about that.

Whatever choices you make, try to discern with God whatever is good, whatever is pleasing, whatever is perfect.

 

About the Author Fr. Michael Denk

Fr. Michael was ordained into priesthood in the Diocese of Cleveland on May 12, 2007. He is dedicated to helping others encounter Christ through the celebration of the Eucharist, preaching, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, spiritual direction, and prayer.

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I'm Father Michael J. Denk, a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. I am a contributor of content to The Prodigal Father Productions, Inc., a non-profit corporation functioning in accord with the traditions and the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. The corporation and I are separate, it doesn't speak for me, the parish, or on behalf of the Diocese of Cleveland, and I do not speak for it.