Discernment of Spirits. 1 John 4: 1-3 Testing the Spirits
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1 John 4: 1-3 Testing the Spirits
“Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can know the spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh belongs to God, and every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus does not belong to God. This is
the spirit of the antichrist that as you have
heard, is to come, but in fact is already in the
According to St. Ignatius of Loyola, the discernment of spirits is defined as that process by which we seek to distinguish between different kinds of spiritual stirrings in our hearts, identifying those that are from God and those that are not, in order to accept the former and to reject the latter.
*These affective stirrings include the likes of joy, sadness, hope, fear, peace, anxiety, and similar feelings – with their related thoughts, that influence our life of faith and our progress toward God.
*Mankind is making a multitude of decisions every day; many of which affect his spiritual life. Since our goal on this earth is to grow in holiness and advance in the spiritual life, it is imperative that we make good decisions which help us achieve this goal.
*When we are oblivious to those decisions which impact our spiritual life, we can choose poorly, so much so that it can cause much turmoil in our life and even jeopardize our salvation.
*According to Ignatius, the major obstacles faithful persons encounter in their efforts to grow spiritually are discouragement, fear, loss of hope, and other troubling movements of the heart.
*The basic message of Ignatius’ fourteen rules of discernment is liberation from captivity to discouragement and deception in the spiritual life.
*Luke 4:18 – “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives…to let the oppressed go free.”
“If we could lift the veil and if we watched with vigilant attention, God would endlessly reveal himself to us and we should see and rejoice in his active presence in all that befalls us. At every event we should exclaim: It is the Lord!”
Jean Pierre de Caussade
*Consists of a threefold process:
3) Taking action
*Step number one of the threefold process:
1) Awareness: this is the effort to notice what is happening in our inner spiritual experience, what is spiritually stirring in our hearts and thoughts.
*Without this step, no discernment of spirits of spirits is possible. “Becoming aware” is the gateway to all discernment.
*Why are we not good at being aware?
- Because the world stresses the importance of what is on the “outside” that we forget the importance and become oblivious to what is happening on the “inside” (introspection).
*What diminishes our interior awareness?
-Many times we are set on things here on earth rather than things from above
-We live fast, frenzy-paced lives
-We use electronic means to fill up any quiet time we have: cell phones, tv’s, internet, ipods, etc.
There are three kinds of awareness:
*Ignatius emphasizes two of these three, moral
Moral Awareness: allows us to grasp the moral quality of our lives so we can ask ourselves: How faithful or unfaithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ are our actions, words, choices, and relationships with others. It is born of a love for Christ that desires union with his life and teachings. Moral awareness is needed as the base for spiritual awareness. It also creates a solid base for the Christian life and helps us avoid blind spots that could diminish the clarity of spiritual awareness.
Spiritual Awareness: this is not limited to the psychological level alone, but has a religious dimension to it. It presupposes Christian faith and a Christian understanding of God. It is a kind of interior awareness that takes note of these spiritually significant affective movements with their related thoughts as they impact our life of faith and our pursuit of God’s will.
Understanding: this the reflection on the stirrings we have now noticed that allows us to recognize what in them is of God and what is not.
Taking Action – this is where we either accept and live according to what we have recognized as of God, and to reject and remove from our lives what we have recognized as not of God. Awareness and understanding do not constitute the discernment of spirits. Only when action is taken with respect to the interior movements has true discernment of spirits taken place.