Over the centuries, demons and fallen angels continue to use similar strategies to torment their captives. Mental torment including blasphemous thoughts and irrational fears have been used by evil spirits throughout history to terrify those who have been religious. One such strategy in particular is inserting a fear into the captive of selling his soul, or even selling Christ so that he loses his salvation. Though both of these fears are not rooted in reality, and are simply torment in the realm of the mind, they serve as a way for demons to keep the captive in terror of committing a horrible sin.
One man who suffered intensely from blasphemous thoughts and a vivid fear of “selling Christ” was John Bunyan, who lived in England from 16281688. Bunyan eventually became a minister of the Gospel who has been famous throughout the centuries for his books including The Pilgrim’s Progress and Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners.Bunyan began worrying about sin and going to hell at the very young age of 9 or 10 years old. Once in his 20’s, Bunyan read the books The Plain Man’s Pathway to Heaven and The Practice of Pietyand he began to desire religion and started attending church twice a day.
Bunyan became more and more religious, attempting to keep the ten commandments in order to go to heaven.
Though appearing to have turned his life around from an outwardly sinful one to one that seemed holy, he was consumed with doubts and began to have disturbing obsessive thoughts. The thoughts that started plaguing Bunyan included the fear that he was a reprobate and that he was possessed by the devil. Blasphemous thoughts about God also tormented him. “Yea, then I was most distressed with blasphemies. If I had been hearing the word, then uncleanness, blasphemies and despair would hold me a captive there: if I have been reading, then sometimes I had sudden thoughts to question all I read…“ (Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners,paragraph 106).
In addition to blasphemous thoughts, Bunyan was also plagued by intrusive thoughts about worshipping the devil.
“Sometimes also he (the devil) would cast in such wicked thoughts as these; that I must pray to him, or for him: I have thought sometimes of that, Fall down; or, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Matt. iii. 9.” (Grace Abounding,paragraph 107).
A particularly distressing obsession that haunted Bunyan was “To sell and part with this most blessed Christ, to exchange Him for the things of this life, for any thing. The temptation lay upon me for the space of a year, and did follow me so continually, that I was not rid of it one day in a month: no, not sometimes one hour in many days together, unless when I was asleep.” (Grace Abounding,paragraph 133).
“But it was neither my dislike of the thought, nor yet any desire and endeavour to resist, that in the least did shake or abate the continuation or force and strength thereof; for it did always, in almost whatever I thought, intermix itself therewith, in such sort, that I could neither eat my food, stoop for a pin, chop a stick, or cast mine eye to look on this or that, but still the temptation would come, Sell Christ for this, or sell Christ for that; sell Him, sell Him.”(Grace Abounding,paragraph 135).
This particular tormenting thought about selling Christ bears many similarities to the case of one of my clients, who I will call Diane. Diane is an A student and an intelligent college grad. For months now she has been tormented with the intrusive thought of selling her soul to the devil. Since having a false conversion about 6 years ago, she began having obsessive intrusive thoughts characteristic of OCD. These unwanted thoughts included the fear of committing the unpardonable sin, selling her birthright like Esau, going to hell, selling her salvation, and most recently, the fear of selling her soul to the devil.
Diane is constantly besieged these thoughts, just like Bunyan was attacked constantly for at least a year with thoughts about selling Jesus Christ. Like Bunyan, despite the fact that these thoughts are unwanted and she fears them, they still return. Just like Bunyan was dealing with intrusive thoughts to sell Christ, this client is dealing with intrusive thoughts to sell her soul to the devil, which in essence would be selling out Christ as well.
So I noticed that the case of Diane and the case of John Bunyan have many similarities. The natures of Bunyan and Diane are to be selfabsorbed, easily lost in thought, and fearful. The strategy of the evil spirits in Bunyan’s case and her case has been to torment them with their worst fears. Both Bunyan and this woman were/are terrified to somehow “give in” or “consent to” the thoughts. Bunyan at one point believed that he consented to the thought to sell Christ, just by having the thought “Let Him go, if He will” pass through his heart. He truly believed that he had sold his savior by having this thought and that he was doomed to hell for all eternity, believing that he had committed an unpardonable sin. My client also felt at one point that she had consented to selling her soul by just having a thought/sensation that felt as if she had “given in” to the thoughts about selling her soul. After being convinced that in fact, she had not actually sold her soul, the thoughts still continued. At this point the thoughts are continual, just like Bunyan’s thoughts about selling Christ.
My hypothesis is this: the fact that these two cases which are CENTURIES apart are extremely similar and follow a similar pattern of fears and intrusive thoughts, with both people at one point being convinced that they had “sold their soul” or “sold Christ,” shows that the demonic strategy of tormenting people with blasphemous thoughts and fears of worshipping the devil or selling one’s soul or selling out Christ is nothing new. Demons know people’s personality types. It seems as if those who are particularly self-absorbed, fearful, and are prone to OCD are prime targets for demons to torment them with thoughts that scare the person the most.
The good news is this: there is hope for those who suffer with intrusive blasphemous thoughts, fears of committing the unpardonable sin, selling Christ, selling one’s soul, and other tormenting thoughts. Bunyan’s case shows that although he suffered with this particular fear of selling Christ for over a year, Bunyan had a born again experience in which he was convicted of sin, was brought to the cross and was reassured of Christ’s bodily resurrection, and received forgiveness and cleansing of his sins. (Grace Abounding,paragraph 229). At this point, all Bunyan’s torment stopped and he received peace and joy. My client Diane is still dealing with these thoughts on a moment-to-moment basis, which is extremely frustrating both to her and to myself as this has been a persistent issue for her. Although Diane presently is still dealing with the demonic intrusive thoughts and fears, if she is of the elect, she will be set free immediately upon her rebirth. For now, counseling helps Diane to manage and reduce the intensity of the torment.
Works cited: Bunyan, John. Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/654/654h/654h.htm#page147