Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Syriac Orthodox, Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Quad Centum (Issue 400) Souvenir Edition

Volume 7 No. 400 March 1, 2017
 

Chapter 4: The Triune God

Ten Names of God You Need to Know

There’s something intimate, exciting, and powerful about calling out the names of God in your prayers. There are many to explore but today I share 10 that will ignite a fire in your own walk! ...

Trinity - Family of Love

Today's readings illuminate how all God's words and works were meant to prepare for the revelation of the Trinity and God's blessing in Jesus Christ - the blessing we inherited in baptism, and renew in each Eucharist. ...

On God the Almighty Father

It is in the Lord Jesus that the benevolent face of the Father who is in heaven shows itself fully. It is in knowing Him that we can know the Father (cf. Jn 8:19; 14:7); it is by seeing Him that we can see the Father, because He is in the Father and the Father is in Him (cf. Jn 14:9.11). He is the "image of the invisible God" as the hymn of the Letter to the Colossians defines Him, "the firstborn of all creation ...

The Pre-existence and Deity of Christ

The story of Jesus begins long before He was born as a baby in Bethlehem. Because Jesus is and always has been God's Son, He existed before anyone or anything was created. John wrote that Jesus was with God "in the beginning" (John 1:2), which means before the world was created and before time began. ...

On the Holy Spirit

The true notion of the Spirit is, that it is some portion of, as well as preparation for, a life in God, which we are to enjoy hereafter. The gift of the Holy Spirit looks full to the resurrection; for then is the life of God completed in us. ...

Seven Threads of Evidence for God's Existence

Contrary to the straw men foisted on us by popular atheists, God has given ample evidence of his existence. The Created Word, Imprinted Word, Spoken Word, Written Word, Incarnate Word, Indwelling Word, and Corporate Word are interwoven threads in a divine tapestry that reveals the Weaver through the supra-natural narrative He has crafted. ...

The Whole Gospel - A Reflection on John 3:16

The fuller context has somewhat of a different tone. It sets forth a great drama in which our lives are cast. It amounts to sober assessment of the obtuseness of many human hearts and of the urgent need for us to decide well in life. ...

The God of The Bible

God is the same in both testaments. His true image becomes clear in his accompanying sinful humankind until they reach the point of abandoning sin. Some find fault with the existence of sinful people-- and what human is without sin?! ...

To Be Like Jesus!

Many people make the mistake of thinking all they need to grow spiritually is God's Word and prayer. But the truth is, we need people to help us grow. Christ-like character is built through relationships, not in isolation. ...

Chapter 4: The Triune God

Ten Names of God You Need to Know

by Brittany Rust

I once did a study on the names of God and it truly ushered a fresh wind into my spiritual walk. There’s something intimate, exciting, and powerful about calling out the names of God in your prayers. There are many to explore but today I share 10 that will ignite a fire in your own walk!

1. Elohim, "Creator" (Genesis 1:1)

It all started with a Creator--our God who pieced together the Universe with His hands and great attention to detail. When you acknowledge the name Elohim in your prayers, you are calling out to the One who holds all things together, brings beauty to the world, and structure out of nothing. You’re calling out to the God who knitted you together in your mother’s womb. Acknowledging His creative power and ability to hold all things together reveals your trust in His infinite ability.

2. Adonai, "Lord, Master" (Psalm 16:2)

It’s important to remember and acknowledge your place and His authority; to refer to God as your Master. You don’t have it all figured out and there will be times you try something on your own, only to fail. In these moments, call out to Adonai and recognize Him as your Master. Surrender to His will and care for your life.

3. Jehovah-M’Kaddesh, "The God Who Sanctifies" (Leviticus 20:7-8)

Our God is a holy God; set apart and unlike anyone. When you put your faith in Him, He extends that sanctification to you and makes you holy. This transformation changes your life and should be celebrated in acknowledging Jehovah-M’Kaddesh. Ask God to help you live in this new transformation extended to you and thank Him for this incredible gift.

4. Yahweh Roi, "The Lord is My Shepherd" (Psalm 23:1-3)

A shepherd is someone who watches over a flock, but more so, protects and cares for the ones in their charge. You have this great privilege of being in the care of Yahweh Roi who sacrifices His own life to watch over you. Shepherds would even sleep at the gates of where the flock slept in order to protect them. God watches over you, cares for you, protects you, and leads you by still waters. Pray for Him to always lead you and be willing to always follow.

5. El Roi, "The God Who Sees" (Genesis 16:13-14)

This is perhaps one of my favorite names; calling it out comforts me in my loneliest moments and hardest days. When Hagar fled and God called to her in the wilderness, she called Him El Roi--that moment has felt so familiar to me many times. When you feel alone, forgotten, hurt, or scared, call out to the God who sees you, no matter where you are or what you’ve done.

6. Yahweh Tsuri, "The Lord My Rock" (Psalm 144:1)

When the world seems to shake around you, you don’t have to be shaken either because you have a firm rock as your foundation. Calling out to Yahweh Tsuri is calling out to His faithfulness, strength, and stability. When times are uncertain, cry out to the Lord who is your rock and firm ground.

7. Yahweh Nissi, "The Lord My Banner" (Exodus 17:15-16)

This is the name you want to call out in your spiritual battles. A banner was carried in battle to be a sign to others of what you stood for and to rally the troops. When you go through your own trial, you can be confident that Yahweh Nissi is standing over you. He is the strong and powerful--undefeatable--God on your side when you’re up against any struggle or foe.

8. Jehovah Jireh, "The God Who Provides" (Genesis 22:13-14)

As Abram was about to sacrifice his son, an angel of the Lord appeared and provided a ram for the sacrifice. God knows all and sees the bigger picture; He knows what you need before you do. You can trust in Jehovah Jireh to provide for all your needs when you need them. If you’re in need of provision, cry out to Him and trust He has you covered.

9. Jehovah Rophe, "The God Who Heals" (Exodus 15:22-27)

When it comes to healing--physical, emotional, or spiritual--there’s no source worth putting your hope into besides Jehovah Rophe. He is the source of all healing and when you’re in search for it in any capacity, God is the One to turn to. If you’re battling a physical ailment or an emotional scar, cry out to the God who heals.

10. Abba, "Father" (Luke 15:20)

A child in the care of a loving father has a confidence about them; an assurance of their place as a child and in the unconditional love of their parent. As a child of God, you can be confident in your relationship with Him and the love He has for you. When the prodigal son returned, his father saw him coming from far off and ran to him. When you pray to Abba, you are praying to a Father who cares deeply for you and would go to great lengths for you. Rest in that relationship and love today.

About The Author:

Brittany Rust is a writer, speaker, and has the privilege of serving on staff at Red Rocks Church in Denver, CO. She and her husband Ryan make their home in the Rocky Mountains, pursuing outdoor adventures, great food, and memorable stories together. Her website brittanyrust.com aims to supply encouraging resources for the world-wearied believer.

Source: crosswalk.com

See Also:

150 Titles of Christ from the Scriptures

Trinity - Family of Love

by Scott Hahn, Ph.D.

Readings:

Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40
Psalm 33:4- 6, 9, 18-20, 22
Romans 8:14-17
Matthew 28:16-20

Last Sunday, we celebrated the sending of the Spirit, which sealed God's new covenant and made a new creation.

In this new creation, we live in the family of God, who has revealed himself as a Trinity of love. We share in His divine nature through His body and blood (see 2 Peter 1:4). This is the meaning of the three feasts that cap the Easter season - Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, and Corpus Christi.

These feasts should be intimate reminders of how deeply God loves us, how He chose us, from before the foundation of the world, to be His children (see Ephesians 1:4-5).

Today's readings illuminate how all God's words and works were meant to prepare for the revelation of the Trinity and God's blessing in Jesus Christ - the blessing we inherited in baptism, and renew in each Eucharist.

By God's word the heavens and earth were filled with His kindness, we sing in today's Psalm. Out of love, God called Abraham and chose his descendants to be His own people, Moses says in today's First Reading (see Deuteronomy 4:20,37). Through the Israelites, He revealed to the nations that He alone is Lord and there is no other.

In Jesus, God's word took flesh as a son of Abraham (see Matthew 1:1). And Jesus reveals in the Gospel today that the one God is Father, Son, and Spirit, and that He desires to make all peoples His own.

As He led Israel out of Egypt, God freed us from slavery, Paul says in today's Epistle. As He adopted Israel (see Romans 9:4), He gives us the Spirit by which we can know Him as “our Father.”

As God's heirs, we receive the commissions of Moses and Jesus today. We are to fix our hearts on Him, and to observe all that He has commanded. The Eucharist is His pledge - that He will be with us until the end, that He will deliver us from death to live forever in the promised land of His kingdom.

On God the Almighty Father

by Pope Benedict XVI

"Despite the Crisis of Fatherhood in Many Societies, the Scriptures Show us Clearly what it Means to Call God 'Father'"

Synopsis

In our continuing catechesis during this Year of Faith, we now reflect on the Creed's description of God as "the Father Almighty". Despite the crisis of fatherhood in many societies, the Scriptures show us clearly what it means to call God "Father". God is infinitely generous, faithful, and forgiving; He so loves the world that He has given us His only Son for our salvation.

As "the image of the invisible God" (Col 1:15), Jesus reveals God as a merciful Father who never abandons His children and whose loving concern for us embraces even the Cross. In Christ, God has made us His adopted sons and daughters. The Cross shows also us how God our Father is "almighty". His omnipotence transcends our limited human concepts of power; His might is that of a patient love expressed in the ultimate victory of goodness over evil, life over death, and freedom over the bondage of sin. As we contemplate the Cross of Christ, let us turn to God the almighty Father and implore the grace to abandon ourselves with confidence and trust to His merciful love and His saving power.

Full Text

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In last Wednesday's catechesis we focused on the words of the Creed: "I believe in God." But the profession of faith specifies this statement: God is the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. I should like to reflect with you now on the first, fundamental definition of God that the Creed gives us: He is Father.

It is not always easy today to talk about fatherhood. Especially in the West, the broken families, the increasingly absorbing work commitments, the worries and often the effort to balance the family budget, the distracting invasion of the media into daily life are some of the many factors that can prevent a peaceful and constructive relationship between fathers and their children. Communication becomes difficult at times, trust is weakened and the relationship with the father figure can become problematic; and thus it also becomes difficult to imagine God as a father, not having adequate models of reference. For those who have had the experience of a father who was too authoritarian and inflexible, or indifferent and lacking in affection, or even absent, it is not easy to think calmly of God as Father and surrender to Him with confidence.

But the biblical revelation helps to overcome these difficulties, telling us about a God who shows us what it means to truly be "father", and it is especially the Gospel which reveals the face of God as a Father who loves even to the giving of His own Son for the salvation [of] humanity. The reference to the father figure therefore helps to understand something of the love of God which however remains infinitely greater, more faithful, more total than that of any man. "Is there anyone among you", says Jesus, to show the disciples the Father's face, "who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!"(Mt 7:9-11; cf. Lk 11:11-13). God is our Father because He has blessed and chosen us before the foundation of the world (cf. Eph 1:3-6), He has truly made us His children in Jesus (cf. 1 Jn 3:1). And, as Father, God accompanies our lives with love, giving us His Word, His teachings, His grace, His Spirit.

He - as revealed in Jesus - is the Father who feeds the birds of the sky without them having to sow and reap, and bedecks the flowers of the field in wonderful colors, with clothes more beautiful than those of King Solomon (cf. Mt 6.26-32 and Lk 12:24-28); and we - adds Jesus - are worth far more than flowers and the birds of the sky! And if He is good enough to make "His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and ... send the rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous" (Mt 5:45), we can always, without fear and with total confidence, trust in the forgiveness of Father when we lose our way. God is a good Father who welcomes and embraces the lost and repentant son (cf. Lk 15:11ff), He gives himself freely to those who ask (cf. Mt 18:19, Mk 11:24, Jn 16:23) and offers the bread from heaven and the living water that gives life forever (cf. Jn 6:32.51.58).

Therefore, the one praying in Psalm 27, surrounded by enemies, besieged by evil and slanderers, while he seeks help from the Lord and calls upon Him, can give his testimony full of faith, saying: "My father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me up" (v. 10). God is a Father who never abandons His children, a loving Father who supports, helps, welcomes, forgives, saves, with a fidelity that immensely surpasses that of men, opening onto the dimensions of eternity. "For His steadfast love endures forever," as Psalm 136 continually repeats in every verse, as a litany, retracing the history of salvation. The love of God the Father never fails, He never tires of us; He is love that gives to the extreme, even to the sacrifice of His Son. Faith gives us this certainty, which becomes a secure rock in constructing our lives: we can face all the moments of difficulty and danger, the experience of the darkness of crisis and of times of pain, supported by our faith that God does not leave us alone and is always near, to save us and bring us to eternal life.

It is in the Lord Jesus that the benevolent face of the Father who is in heaven shows itself fully. It is in knowing Him that we can know the Father (cf. Jn 8:19; 14:7); it is by seeing Him that we can see the Father, because He is in the Father and the Father is in Him (cf. Jn 14:9.11). He is the "image of the invisible God" as the hymn of the Letter to the Colossians defines Him, "the firstborn of all creation ... the firstborn from the dead", "through whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" and reconciliation of all things, "whether in heaven or on earth, having made peace through the blood of His cross" (cf. Col 1:13-20).

Faith in God the Father asks us to believe in the Son, under the action of the Spirit, recognizing in the Cross that saves the final revelation of divine love. God is our Father by giving us his Son; God is our Father by forgiving our sins and bringing us to the joy of the risen life; God is our Father giving us the Spirit that makes us sons and allows us to call Him, in truth, "Abbà, Father "(cf. Rom 8:15). Therefore Jesus, teaching us to pray, invites us to say "our Father" (Mt 6:9-13; cf. Lk 11:2-4).

The fatherhood of God, then, is infinite love, tenderness that stoops over us, weak children, in need of everything. Psalm 103, the great hymn of divine mercy, proclaims: "As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear Him, for He knows how we were made, He remembers that we are dust" (vv. 13-14). It is precisely our littleness, our weak human nature, our fragility that becomes an appeal to the Lord's mercy for Him to manifest His greatness and tenderness as a Father by helping us, forgiving us and saving us.

And God responds to our appeal, sending His Son, who died and rose again for us; He enters our fragility and does that which man alone could never do: He takes upon Himself the sin of the world, as an innocent lamb, and re-opens the way for us to communion with God, He makes us true children of God. It is there, in the Paschal Mystery, where the definitive face of the Father is revealed in all its luminosity. And it is there, on the glorious Cross, where the full manifestation occurs of the greatness of God as "Father Almighty."

But we might ask: how is it possible to imagine an omnipotent God looking at the Cross of Christ? At this power of evil, that goes so far as to kill the Son of God? We would like an omnipotence of God according to our mental schemes and our desires: an "omnipotent" God who solves the problems, who intervenes to save us from every difficulty, who defeats all the harmful powers, changes the course of events and cancels out pain. Thus, today various theologians say that God cannot be omnipotent, otherwise there would not be so much suffering, so much evil in the world. In reality, in the face of evil and suffering, for many, for us, it becomes difficult to believe in God the Father and to believe Him to be almighty; some seek refuge in idols, yielding to the temptation to find an answer in an alleged "magical" omnipotence and its illusory promises.

But faith in the Almighty God takes us through very different paths: to learn to recognize that God's thoughts are different from our thoughts, that God's ways are different from our ways (cf. Is 55:8), and even His omnipotence is different: it is not expressed as an automatic or arbitrary force, but is marked by a loving and fatherly freedom. In reality, God, by creating free creatures, giving them freedom, has renounced a part of His power, empowering our freedom. In this way He loves and respects our free response of love to His call. Like a Father, God wants us to be His children and to live as such in His Son, in communion, in full intimacy with Him. His omnipotence is not expressed in violence, it is not expressed in the destruction of every adverse power as we would like, but is expressed in love, in mercy, in forgiveness, in accepting our freedom and in the untiring call to conversion of heart, in an attitude that is only apparently weak – God seems weak, if we think of Jesus Christ who prays, who lets Himself be killed. An apparently weak attitude, consisting of patience, gentleness and love, shows that this is the true way of being powerful! This is the power of God! And this power will win! The wise man of the Book of Wisdom addresses God in this way: "You are merciful to all, for you can do all things; you overlook people's sins, so that they may repent. For you love all things that exist ... You spare all things, for they are yours, O Lord, you who love the living"(11:23-24a.26).

Only one who is truly powerful can endure evil and show compassion; only one who is truly powerful can fully exercise the power of love. And God, to whom all things belong because all things were made by Him, reveals His strength by loving everyone and everything, in a patient waiting for the conversion of us men, whom He wants to have as children. God awaits our conversion. God's all-powerful love knows no bounds, so much so that "He did not withhold His own Son, but gave Him up for all of us" (Rom 8:32). The omnipotence of love is not that of the power of the world, but that of total gift, and Jesus, the Son of God, reveals to the world the true omnipotence of the Father, giving His life for us sinners. This is the real, authentic and perfect divine power: to respond to evil with good, to insults with forgiveness, to murderous hatred with the love that gives life. Then evil is really defeated, because washed by the love of God; then death is finally defeated, because transformed into the gift of life. God the Father raises the Son: death, the great enemy (cf. 1 Cor 15:26), is swallowed up and deprived of its poison (cf. 1 Cor 15.54-55), and we, freed from sin, can access our reality of being God's children.

So when we say "I believe in God the Father Almighty," we express our faith in the power of the love of God who in His Son dead and risen defeats hatred, evil, sin and opens us to eternal life, that of children who want to be always in the "Father's House". To say "I believe in God the Father Almighty", in His power, in His way of being Father, is always an act of faith, of conversion, of transformation of our mind, of all our affection, of our entire way of life.

Dear brothers and sisters, we ask the Lord to sustain our faith, to help us truly discover faith and to give us the strength to proclaim Christ crucified and risen and to bear witness to Him in the love of God and neighbor. And God grant that we may receive the gift of our "sonship", to live fully the reality of the Creed, in trusting abandonment to the love of the Father and His merciful omnipotence that saves. Thank you.

[Translation by Peter Waymel]

Source: General Audience on January 30, 2013 (Zenit.org)
© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

The Pre-existence and Deity of Christ
Gospel: John 1:1-3; 17:5, 24

The story of Jesus begins long before He was born as a baby in Bethlehem. Because Jesus is and always has been God's Son, He existed before anyone or anything was created. John wrote that Jesus was with God "in the beginning" (John 1:2), which means before the world was created and before time began. When Jesus was conceived in Mary's womb, He was not created---He just moved from heaven to earth and changed His form into a tiny human being inside Mary's belly. It would be something like shrinking and transforming yourself into an ant in order to visit an ant colony.

Not only was Jesus with God in the beginning, but John also said that Jesus was God. There are three persons who, according to the Bible, can be called God: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus) and God the Holy Spirit. Jesus is just as much God as God the Father is God. We learned today that Jesus helped create everything that exists (see John 1:3).

We also read that Jesus prayed to God the Father just before He died, "Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began" (John 17:5). Before the world was created, Jesus lived in heaven, a place filled with God's glory, with His Father. What is God's glory? It is something like sunshine, only much brighter. It radiates from God.

The best part is that everyone who is a follower of Jesus will one day see God's glory in heaven, because Jesus requested that we would. He prayed, "Father, I want these whom you've given me [that includes us] to be with me [in heaven], so they can see my glory" (John 17:24). When we see Jesus one day in heaven, He'll be brightly shining with God's glory. The Bible tells us that His face will shine like the sun (see Matthew 16:27-17:2)!

Q. Where did God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit come from?

A. The answer is that They have always existed. They have no beginning and no end. That is hard for us to understand, but that is the answer. The reason we have difficulty understanding it is because most everything we know has a beginning and an end.

Q. Why did John call Jesus "the Word"?

A. The word word sometimes means "a message." For example, your teacher might say, "I have a word from our principal," meaning a message from the principal. Or you might hear someone on a TV show say, "And now a word from our sponsor," which means a commercial is coming with a message from an advertiser. Jesus is given many symbolic titles in the Bible, such as "Lamb," "Cornerstone" and so on, which all describe something He has done for us. Perhaps He is called "the Word" (or "the Word of God"; see Rev. 19:13) because Jesus was God's message to all people of the world. Isn't it amazing that God had a message prepared for all the people of the world even before He even created anyone?

Application:

Because we will one day live with Jesus in heaven and see His glory, we should live "in a manner worthy of the God who calls [us] into His own kingdom and glory"(1 Thessalonians 2:12, NASB).

Source: Family Style Devotions

On the Holy Spirit

By John Wesley

Now the Lord is that Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:17

The Apostle had been showing how the gospel ministry was superior to that of the law: The time being now come when types and shadows should be laid aside, and we should be invited to our duty by the manly and ingenuous motives of a clear and full revelation, open and free on God's part, and not at all disguised by his ambassadors. But what he chiefly insists upon is, not the manner, but the subject of their ministry: "Who hath made us able ministers," saith he, "of the New Testament: Not of the letter, but of the Spirit: For the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life." Here lies the great difference between the two dispensations: That the law was indeed spiritual in its demands, requiring a life consecrated to God in the observance of many rules; but, not conveying spiritual assistance, its effect was only to kill and mortify man, by giving him to understand, that he must needs be in a state of great depravity, since he found it so difficult to obey God; and that, as particular deaths were by that institution inflicted for particular sins, so death, in general, was but the consequence of his universal sinfulness. But the ministration of the New Testament was that of a "Spirit which giveth life;" -- a Spirit, not only promised, but actually conferred; which should both enable Christians now to live unto God, and fulfill precepts even more spiritual than the former; and restore them hereafter to perfect life, after the ruins of sin and death. The incarnation, preaching, and death of Jesus Christ were designed to represent, proclaim, and purchase for us this gift of the Spirit; and therefore says the Apostle, "The Lord is that Spirit," or the Spirit.

This description of Christ was a proper inducement to Jews to believe on him; and it is still a necessary instruction to Christians, to regulate their expectations from him. But [we] think this age has made it particularly necessary to be well assured what Christ is to us: When that question is so differently resolved by the pious but weak accounts of some pretenders to faith on one hand, and by the clearer, but not perfectly Christian, accounts of some pretenders to reason on the other: While some derive from him a "righteousness of God," but in a sense somewhat improper and figurative; and others no more than a charter of pardon, and a system of morality: While some so interpret the gospel, as to place the holiness they are to be saved by in something divine, but exterior to themselves; and others, so as to place it in things really within themselves, but not more than human. Now, the proper cure of what indistinctness there is one way, and what infidelity in the other, seems to be contained in the doctrine of my text: "The Lord is that Spirit."

In treating of which words, I will consider,

I. The nature of our fall in Adam; by which it will appear, that if "the Lord" were not "that Spirit," he could not be said to save or redeem us from our fallen condition.

II. I will consider the person of Jesus Christ; by which it will appear that "the Lord is that Spirit." And,

III. I will inquire into the nature and operations of the Holy Spirit, as bestowed upon Christians.

I. The nature of our fall in Adam

I am to consider the nature of our fall in Adam.

Our first parents did enjoy the presence of the Holy Spirit; for they were created in the image and likeness of God, which was no other than his Spirit. By that he communicates himself to his creatures, and by that alone they can bear any likeness to him. It is, indeed, his life in them; and so properly divine, that, upon this ground, angels and regenerate men are called his children.

But when man would not be guided by the Holy Spirit, it left him. When be would be wise in his own way, and in his own strength, and did not depend in simplicity upon his heavenly Father, the seed of a superior life was recalled from him. For he was no longer fit to be formed into a heavenly condition, when he had so unworthy a longing for, or rather dependence upon, an earthly fruit, which he knew God would not bless to him; no longer fit to receive supernatural succours, when he could not be content with his happy state towards God, without an over-curious examination into it.

Then he found himself forsaken of God, and left to the poverty, weakness, and misery of his own proper nature. He was now a mere animal, like unto other creatures made of flesh and blood, but only possessed of a larger understanding; by means of which he should either be led into greater absurdities than they could be guilty of, or else be made sensible of his lost happiness, and put into the right course for regaining it; that is, if he continued a careless apostate, he should love and admire the goods of this world, the adequate happiness only of animals; and, to recommend them and dissemble their defects, add all the ornament to them that his superior wit could invent. Or else (which is indeed more above brutes, but no nearer the perfection of man as a partaker of God, than the other) he should frame a new world to himself in theory; sometimes by warm imaginations, and sometimes by cool reasonings, endeavour to aggrandize his condition and defend his practice, or at least divert himself from feeling his own meanness and disorder.

If, on the other hand, he should be willing to find out the miseries of his fall, his understanding might furnish him with reasons for constant mourning, for despising and denying himself; might point out the sad effects of turning away from God and losing his Spirit, in the shame and anguish of a nature at variance with itself; thirsting after immortality, and yet subject to death; approving righteousness, and yet taking pleasure in things inconsistent with it; feeling an immense want of something to perfect and satisfy all its faculties, and yet neither able to know what that mighty thing is, otherwise than from its present defects, nor how to attain it, otherwise than by going contrary to its present inclinations.

Well might Adam now find himself naked; nothing less than God was departed from him. Till then he had experienced nothing but the goodness and sweetness of God; a heavenly life spread itself through his whole frame, as if he were not made of dust; his mind was filled with angelic wisdom; a direction from above took him by the hand; he walked and thought uprightly, and seemed not to be a child or novice in divine things. But now he had other things to experience; something in his soul that he did not find, nor need to fear, while he was carried on straight forward by the gentle gale of divine grace; something in his body that he could not see nor complain of; while that body was covered with glory. He feels there a self-displeasure, turbulence, and confusion; such as is common to other spirits who have lost God: He sees here causes of present shame and a future dissolution; and a strong engagement to that grovelling life which is common to animals that never enjoyed the divine nature.

The general character, therefore, of man's present state is death, -- a death from God, whereby we no longer enjoy any intercourse with him, or happiness in him; we no longer shine with his glory, or act with his powers. It is true, while we have a being, "in him we must live, and move, and have our being;" but this we do now, not in a filial way, but only in a servile one, as all, even the meanest creatures, exist in him. It is one thing to receive from God an ability to walk and speak, eat and digest, -- to be supported by his hand as a part of this earthly creation, and upon the same terms with it, for farther trial or vengeance; and another, to receive from him a life which is his own likeness, -- to have within us something which is not of this creation, and which is nourished by his own immediate word and power.

Yet this is not the whole that is implied in man's sin. For he is not only inclined himself to all the sottishness of appetite, and all the pride of reason, but he is fallen under the tutorage of the evil one, who mightily furthers him in both. The state he was at first placed in, was a state of the most simple subjection to God, and this entitled him to drink of his Spirit; but when he, not content to be actually in Paradise, under as full a light of God's countenance as he was capable of; must know good and evil, and be satisfied upon rational grounds whether it was best for him to be as he was, or not; when, disdaining to be directed as a child, he must weigh every thing himself; and seek better evidence than the voice of his Maker and the seal of the Spirit in his heart; then he not only obeyed, but became like to, that eldest son of pride, and was unhappily entitled to frequent visits, or rather a continued influence, from him. As life was annexed to his keeping the command, and, accordingly, that Spirit, which alone could form it unto true life, dwelt in his body; so, being sentenced to death for his transgression, he was now delivered unto "him who has the power of death, that, is, the devil," whose hostile and unkindly impressions promote death and sin at once.

This being the state of man, if God should send him a Redeemer, what must that Redeemer do for him? Will it be sufficient for him to be the promulgator of a new law, -- to give us a set of excellent precepts? No: If we could keep them, that alone would not make us happy. A good conscience brings a man the happiness of being consistent with himself; but not that of being raised above himself into God; which every person will find, after all, is the thing he wants. Shall he be the fountain of an imputed righteousness, and procure the tenderest favour to all his followers? This is also not enough. Though a man should be allowed to be righteous, and be exempt from all punishment, yet if he is as really enslaved to the corruptions of nature, as endued with these privileges of redemption, he can hardly make himself easy; and whatever favour he can receive from God, here or hereafter, without a communication of himself; it is neither the cure of a spirit fallen, nor the happiness of one reconciled. Must not then our Redeemer be (according to the character which St. John, his forerunner, gave of him) one that "baptizeth with the Holy Ghost," -- the Fountain and Restorer of that to mankind, whereby they are restored to their first estate, and the enjoyment of God? And this is a presumptive argument that "the Lord is that Spirit."

II. The Person of Jesus Christ

But it will appear more plainly that he is so, from the Second thing proposed; which was the consideration of the person of Jesus Christ.

He was one to whom "God gave not the Spirit by measure: but in him dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily; and of his fulness we have all received, and grace for grace." Indeed, all the communications of the Godhead, which any creatures could receive, were always from him as the Word of God; but all that mankind now in an earthly state were to receive, must be from him by means of that body, at first mortal, like unto theirs, and then glorious "in the likeness of God," which he took upon him for their sake.

In the beginning, the heavenly Word, -- being a Spirit that issued from the Father, and the Word of his power, -- made man an image of immortality, according to the likeness of the Father; but he who had been made in the image of God, afterwards became mortal, when the more powerful Spirit was separated from him. To remedy this, the Word became Man, that man by receiving the adoption might become a son of God once more; that the light of the Father might rest upon the flesh of our Lord, and come bright from thence unto us; and so man, being encompassed with the light of the Godhead, might be carried into immortality. When he was incarnate and became man, he recapitulated in himself all generations of mankind, making himself the centre of our salvation, that what we lost in Adam, even the image and likeness of God, we might receive in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Ghost coming upon Mary, and the power of the highest overshadowing her, the incarnation or Christ was wrought, and a new birth, whereby man should be born of God, was shown; that as by our first birth we did inherit death, so by this birth we might inherit life.

This is no other than what St. Paul teaches us: "The first man, Adam, was made a living soul, but the Second Adam was made a quickening spirit." All that the first man possessed of himself, all that he has transmitted to us, is "a living soul;" a nature endued with an animal life, and receptive of a spiritual. But the Second Adam is, and was made to us, "a quickening spirit;" by a strength from him as our Creator, we were at first raised above ourselves; by a strength from him as our Redeemer, we shall again live unto God.

In him is laid up for us that supplement to our nature, which we shall find the need of sooner or later; and that it cannot be countervailed by any assistance from the creatures, or any improvement of our own faculties: For we were made to be happy only in God; and all our labours and hopes, while we do not thirst after our deified state, -- to partake as truly of God as we do of flesh and blood, to be glorified in his nature, as we have been dishonoured in our own, -- are the labours and hopes of those who utterly mistake themselves.

The divine wisdom knew what was our proper consolation, though we did not. What does more obviously present itself in the Saviour of the world, than an union of man with God? -- an union attended with all the propriety of behaviour that we are called to, as candidates of the Spirit; such as walking with God in singleness of heart, perfect self-renunciation, and a life of sufferings, -- an union which submitted to the necessary stages of our progress; where the divine life was hid, for the most part, in the secret of the soul till death; in the state of separation, comforted the soul, but did not raise it above the intermediate region of Paradise; at the resurrection, clothed the body with heavenly qualities, and the powers of immortality; and at last raised it to the immediate presence and right hand of the Father.

Christ is not only God above us; which may keep us in awe, but cannot save; but he is Immanuel, God with us, and in us. As he is the Son of God, God must be where he is; and as he is the Son of man, he will be with mankind; the consequence of this is, that in the future age "the tabernacle of God will be with men," and he will show them his glory; and, at present, he will dwell in their hearts by faith in his Son.

I hope it sufficiently appears, that "the Lord is that Spirit." Considering what we are, and what we have been, nothing less than the receiving that Spirit again would be redemption to us; and considering who that heavenly person was that was sent to be our Redeemer, we can expect nothing less from him.

III. The Nature and Operations of The Holy Spirit

I proceed now to the Third thing proposed, viz., to inquire into the nature and operations of the Holy Spirit, as bestowed upon Christians.

And here I shall pass by the particular extraordinary gifts vouchsafed to the first ages for the edification of the Church and only consider what the Holy Spirit is to every believer, for his personal sanctification and salvation. It is not granted to every one to raise the dead, and heal the sick. What is most necessary is, to be sure, as to ourselves, that we are "passed from death unto life;" to keep our bodies pure and undefiled, and let them reap that health which flows from a magnanimous patience, and the serene joys of devotion. The Holy Spirit has enabled men to speak with tongues, and to prophesy; but the light that most necessarily attends it is a light to discern the fallacies of flesh and blood, to reject the irreligious maxims of the world, and to practice those degrees of trust in God and love to men, whose foundation is not so much in the present appearances of things, as in some that are yet to come. The object which this light brings us most immediately to know is ourselves; and by virtue of this, one that is born of God, and has a lively hope may indeed see far into the ways of Providence, and farther yet into the holy Scriptures; for the holy Scriptures, excepting some accidental and less necessary parts, are only a history of that new man which he himself is; and Providence is only a wise disposal of events for the awakening of particular persons, and ripening the world in general for the coming of Christ's kingdom.

But I think the true notion of the Spirit is, that it is some portion of, as well as preparation for, a life in God, which we are to enjoy hereafter. The gift of the Holy Spirit looks full to the resurrection; for then is the life of God completed in us.

Then, after man has passed through all the penalties of sin, the drudgery and vanity of human life, the painful reflections of an awakened mind, the infirmities and dissolution of the body, and all the sufferings and mortifications a just God shall lay in his way; when, by this means, he is come to know God and himself, he may safely be entrusted with true life, with the freedom and ornaments of a child of God; for he will no more arrogate anything to himself. Then shall the Holy Spirit be fully bestowed, when the flesh shall no longer resist it, but be itself changed into an angelical condition, being clothed upon with the incorruption of the Holy Spirit; when the body which, by being born with the soul, and living through it, could only be called an animal one, shall now become spiritual, whilst by the Spirit it rises into eternity.

Everything in Christianity is some kind of anticipation of something that is to be at the end of the world. If the Apostles were to preach by their Master's command, "that the kingdom of God drew nigh;" the meaning was, that from henceforth all men should fix their eyes on that happy time, foretold by the Prophets, when the Messiah should come and restore all things; that by renouncing their worldly conversation, and submitting to the gospel institution, they should fit themselves for, hasten, that blessing. "Now are we the sons of God," as St. John tells us; and yet what he imparts to us at present will hardly justify that title, without taking in that fulness of his image which shall then be displayed in us, when we shall be "the children of God, by being the children of the resurrection."

True believers, then, are entered upon a life, the sequel of which they know not; for it is "a life hid with Christ in God." He, the forerunner, hath attained the end of it, being gone unto the Father; but we can know no more of it than appeared in him while he was upon earth. And even that, we shall not know but by following his steps; which if we do, we shall be so strengthened and renewed day by day in the inner man, that we shall desire no comfort from the present world through a sense of "the joy set before us;" though, as to the outward man, we shall be subject to distresses and decays, and treated as the offscouring of all things.

Well may a man ask his own heart, whether it is able to admit the Spirit of God. For where that divine Guest enters, the laws of another world must be observed: The body must be given up to martyrdom, or spent in the Christian warfare, as unconcernedly as if the soul were already provided of its house from heaven; the goods of this world must be parted with as freely, as if the last fire were to seize them to-morrow; our neighbour must be loved as heartily as if he were washed from all his sins, and demonstrated to be a child of God by the resurrection from the dead. The fruits of this Spirit must not be mere moral virtues, calculated for the comfort and decency of the present life; but holy dispositions, suitable to the instincts of a superior life already begun.

Thus to press forward, whither the promise of life calls him, -- to turn his back upon the world, and comfort himself in God, -- every one that has faith perceives to be just and necessary, and forces himself to do it: Every one that has hope, does it gladly and eagerly, though not without difficulty; but he that has love does it with ease and singleness of heart.

The state of love, being attended with "joy unspeakable and full of glory," with rest from the passions and vanities of man, with the integrity of an unchangeable judgment, and an undivided will, is, in a great measure, its own reward; yet not so as to supersede the desire of another world. For though such a man, having a free and insatiable love of that which is good, may seldom have need formally to propose to himself the hopes of retribution, in order to overcome his unwillingness to his duty; yet surely he must long for that which is best of all; and feel a plain attraction towards that country in which he has his place and station already assigned him; and join in the earnest expectation of all creatures, which wait for the manifestation of the sons of God. For now we obtain but some part of his Spirit, to model and fit us for incorruption, that we may, by degrees, be accustomed to receive and carry God within us; and, therefore, the Apostle calls it, "the earnest of the Spirit;" that is, a part of that honour which is promised us by the Lord. If, therefore, the earnest, abiding in us, makes us spiritual even now, and that which is mortal is, as it were, swallowed up of immortality; how shall it be when, rising again, we shall see him face to face? When all our members shall break to forth into songs of triumph, and glorify Him who hath raised them from the dead, and granted them everlasting life? For if this earnest or pledge, embracing man into itself, makes him now cry, "Abba, Father;" what shall the whole grace of the Spirit do, when, being given at length to believers, it shall make us like unto God, and perfect us through the will of the Father?

And thus I have done what was at first proposed: I have considered the nature of our fall in Adam; the person of Jesus Christ; and the operations of the Holy Spirit in Christians.

The only inference I will draw from what has been said, and principally from the account of man's fall, shall be, the reasonableness of those precepts of self-denial, daily suffering, and renouncing the world, which are so peculiar to Christianity, and which are the only foundation whereon the other virtues, recommended in the New Testament, can be practised or attained, in the sense there intended.

This inference is so natural, that I could not help anticipating it in some measure all the while. One would think it should be no hard matter to persuade a creature to abhor the badges of his misery; to dislike a condition or mansion which only banishment and disgrace have assigned him; to trample on the grandeur, refuse the comforts, and suspect the wisdom of a life whose nature it is to separate him from his God.

Your Saviour bids you "hate your own life." If you ask the reason, enter into your heart, see whether it be holy, and full of God; or whether, on the other hand, many things that are contrary to him are wrought there, and it is become a plantation of the enemy. Or, if this is too nice an inquiry, look upon your body. Do you find there the brightness of an angel, all the vigour of immortality? If not, be sure your soul is in the same degree of poverty, nakedness, and absence from God. It is true, your soul may sooner be re-admitted to some rays of the light of God's countenance, than your body can; but if you would take any step at all towards it, to dislike your present self must be the first.

You want a reason why you should renounce the world. Indeed you cannot see the prince of it walking up and down, "seeking whom he may devour;" and you may be so far ignorant of his devices, as not to know that they take place, as well in the most specious measures of business and learning, as in the wildest pursuits of pleasure. But this, however, you cannot but see, that the world is not still a paradise of God, guarded and ennobled with the light of glory; it is, indeed, a place where God has determined he will not appear to you at best, but leave you in a state of hope, that you shall see his face when this world is dissolved.

However, there is a way to rescue ourselves, in great measure, from the ill consequences of our captivity; and our Saviour has taught us that way. It is by suffering. We must not only "suffer many things," as he did, and so enter into our glory; but we must also suffer many things, that we may get above our corruption at present, and enjoy the Holy Spirit.

The world has no longer any power over us, than we have a quick relish of its comforts; and suffering abates that. Suffering is, indeed, a direct confutation of the pretences which the flattering tempter gains us by: For I am in human life; and if that life contains such soft ease, ravishing pleasure, glorious eminence, as you promise, why am I thus? Is it because I have not yet purchased riches to make me easy, or the current accomplishments to make me considerable? Then I find that all the comfort you propose is by leading me off from myself; but I will rather enter deep into my own condition, bad as it is: Perhaps I shall be nearer to God, the Eternal Truth, in feeling sorrows and miseries that are personal and real, than in feeling comforts that are not so. I begin already to find that all my grievances centre in one point: There is always at the bottom one great loss or defect, which is not the want of friends or gold, of health or philosophy. And the abiding sense of this may possibly become a prayer in the ears of the Most High; -- a prayer not resulting from a set of speculative notions, but from the real, undissembled state of all that is within me; nor, indeed, so explicit a prayer as to describe the thing I want, but, considering how strange a want mine is, as explicit a one as I can make. Since, then, suffering opens me a door of hope, I will not put it from me as long as I live: It helps me to a true discovery of one period of my existence, though it is a low one; and bids fairer for having some connexion with a more glorious period that may follow, than the arts of indulgence, the amusements of pride and sloth, and all the dark policy of this world, which wage war with the whole truth, that man must know and feel, before he can look towards God. It may be, while I continue on the cross, I shall, like my Saviour, put off "principalities and powers;" recover myself more and more from the subjection I am indeed in (which he only seemed to be) to those wicked rulers, and to "triumph over them in it." At least, it shall appear, in the day when God shall visit, that my heart, though grown unworthy of his residence, was too big to be comforted by any of his creatures; and was kept for him, as a place originally sacred, though for the present unclean.

But supposing that our state does require of us to "die daily," -- to sacrifice all that this present life can boast of, or is delighted with, before we give up life itself; supposing also, that in the hour we do somewhat of this kind, we receive light and strength from God, to grow superior to our infirmities, and are carried smoothly towards him in the joy of the Holy Ghost; yet how can a man have such frequent opportunities of suffering? Indeed, martyrdoms do not happen in every age, and some days of our lives may pass without reproaches from men; we may be in health, and not want food to eat and raiment to put on; (though health itself, and nutrition itself, oblige us to the pain of a constant correction of them) yet still, the love of God and heavenly hope will not want something to oppress them in this world.

Let a man descend calmly into his heart, and see if there be no root of bitterness springing up; whether, at least, his thoughts, which are ever in motion, do not sometimes sally out into projects suggested by pride, or sink into indolent trifling, or be entangled in mean anxiety. Does not he find a motion of anger, or of gaiety, leavening him in an instant throughout; depriving him of the meekness and steady discernment he laboured after? Or, let him but conceive at any time, that unfeigned obedience, and watchful zeal, and dignity of behaviour, which, is suitable, I do not say to an angel, but to a sinner that has "a good hope through grace," and endeavour to work himself up to it; and if he find no sort of obstacle to this within him, he has indeed then no opportunity of suffering. In short, if he is such an abject sort of creature, as will, unless grace should do him a perpetual violence, relapse frequently into a course of thinking and acting entirely without God; then he can never want occasions of suffering, but will find his own nature to he the same burden to him, as that "faithless and perverse generation" was to our Saviour, of whom he said, "How long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you?"

I will conclude all with that excellent Collect of our Church:

"O God, who in all ages hast taught the hearts of thy faithful people, by sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit; grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort, through the merits of Jesus Christ our Saviour; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen."

Preached at St. Mary's, Oxford, on Whitsunday, 1736.
(text from the 1872 edition - Thomas Jackson, editor)

Seven Threads of Evidence for God's Existence

by Regis Nicoll

"He has not left himself without testimony." (Acts 14:17)

GOD AND FAIRIES

Belief in God. Sigmund Freud called it a childish fantasy. Bertrand Russell compared it with believing that a celestial teapot was orbiting the earth. Richard Dawkins is fond to say that there are many things he disbelieves: woodland fairies, fire-breathing dragons, and Flying Spaghetti Monsters. God is just one more imaginary being he adds to the list.

Instead of tackling time-tested theological arguments for God, atheist popularizers dismiss Him to the realm of elves, trolls, and the Easter Bunny. It's an evasive maneuver that plays well to those inclined to disbelief.

Russell's teapot and Santa's elves are on the long list of things that lack objective evidence, but cannot be emphatically disproved (to do so would require the omniscient perspective under assault). Nevertheless, no clear-headed person accepts them as real. So, the argument goes, the same should hold for God: Even though his non-existence cannot be proved, the absence of physical data demands that rational folk place Him alongside other childish myths and imaginary figures.

It's a clever argument; but flawed for two reasons.

First, the orbiting teapot and the Flying Spaghetti Monster are admitted inventions that, like fairies, elves, and Santa Claus, are not necessary beings. That is to say, the universe, life, and the fulfillment of man's transcendent yearnings are not contingent upon the existence of such beings. So, while simple and great thinkers, alike, have been entertained by the exploits of Odysseus and Peter Pan, they have been transformed by the story of God.

Next, contrary to the things of fantasy and fancy, God is not silent. From creation onward, God's word has been broadcast in multimedia, communicating to all who would hear.

THE WORD OF GOD

The apostle Paul wrote that "faith comes from hearing the message." To a first-century audience, hearing meant more than audile reception; it meant to understand. Paul went on to explain that hearing was accomplished "through the word of Christ."

We tend to think of the "Word" as the 66 books of the Bible. But the term, as used in Scripture, more generally refers to the expression of God; whether directly by Him or indirectly through some aspect of his creation. We also tend to limit its application to the "teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training" that Paul mentions to Timothy. But, again, the scriptures reveal something far more encompassing.

The psalmist says that by God's word "were the heavens made." The author of Hebrews writes that the word of God judges, discerns, and sustains all things. Jesus says His word is life-giving. When the apostle John refers the "Word," he uses a Greek concept (logos) for the ultimate source of rational order and knowledge. These attributes suggest something that cannot be fully communicated within the limitations of human language. (In A Footnote to All Prayers, C.S. Lewis wrote that all prayers blaspheme because they are symbols for things that are inexpressible.)

While God's word is contained in Scripture, it is not bounded by the material matrix of ink and paper or fully comprehensible through human linguistic conventions. Paul's testimony that "the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express," reveals that pure divine thought transcends physical expression.

That is probably why Scripture attests to seven aspects of God's word, accessed through the physical, rational, social, and spiritual domains of the human experience. They are like the threads of a tapestry that come together to tell a story that engages the heart, soul, mind, and body of our humanness. A brief introduction of each follows.

THE CREATED WORD

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge." (Psalm 19:1-2)

The psalmist speaks of the "Created Word"—the four-dimensional fabric of the sensible world breathed into existence by the utterance of God. From the infinitesimal to the infinite, God's "voice" reverberates throughout His creation. Its design, in integrated and irreducibly complexity, bears evidence of the Designer. Its grandeur and expanse give testimony to his eternality and omnipotence. Its rational order and exquisite beauty attest to his omniscience and benevolence. The Created Word stands as an obdurate witness to the Creator.

THE IMPRINTED WORD

"[He is] the true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world." (John 1:9)

In the gospel of John, we learn that the Creator was the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ, and that His creative work included a maker's-mark on human nature. As Solomon wrote a thousand years earlier, "[he] had set eternity in the hearts of men." C.S. Lewis referred to it as our "God-shaped hole." The "Imprinted Word" is the spiritual impulse stamped on every person—the irrepressible drive to fill a longing that can only be filled by God. It includes the light of reason that enables us to apprehend the universe and our place in it, and the light of conscience—our internal sense of oughtness that alternately defends and accuses us. The universality of the Imprinted Word across time and culture is evidence of its transcendent origin.

THE SPOKEN WORD

"This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom, but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words."
(1 Corinthians 2:13)

Divine thought is also communicated in the prophetic voice. God speaks through the tongues of human agents that we might "hear and understand." The prophet receives a word from God and proclaims it in order to prompt a life-changing response. The "Spoken Word" also includes prediction. The hundreds of predictions recorded in the biblical record centuries before their fulfillment evince divine inspiration. In foretelling and "forth"-telling, the Spoken Word reveals the God who is.

THE WRITTEN WORD

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." (2 Timothy 3:16)

God's activity in and beyond time is recorded in the "Written Word" of Scripture. In 66 books penned by 44 authors over 1,600 years, the Written Word is a narrative told in two parts. The first part deals with a nation and God's relationship with it; the second part centers on a Person and the church He established. In preview and review, the "Written Word" tells of God's redemption of the human race through Jesus Christ. In so doing, it lays out the only belief system that is logically coherent, corresponds to reality, and has proven capable of filling our "God-shaped hole."

THE INCARNATE WORD

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us . . . No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known." (John 1:14-18)

Jesus Christ is the fullest revelation of God and the highest example of holy living. As opposed to the remote, indifferent deities of paganism, the "Incarnate Word" is a personal God who takes great interest in His creation. So much so, that He entered the world in human form to walk in our shoes and experience temptation, hunger, and rejection before suffering the penalty for our guilt. He is an Advocate who, because He took on human flesh, empathizes with our failings and sufferings. The "Incarnate Word" is the most compelling evidence of God's limitless love.

THE INDWELLING WORD

"But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you."
 (John 14:26)

There is perhaps no Christian doctrine less understood than the Holy Spirit. And yet, as Paul tells us, it is exclusively by Him that a person comes to confess "Jesus is Lord." At that point, the Spirit takes up residence in the heart and mind of the believer. The "Indwelling Word" is the ever-present Comforter and Counselor, who launches a life-long process of transformation in the citizens of the Kingdom. The otherworldly change in the lives of Christians has caused even their critics to wonder, "Look how they love one another."

THE CORPORATE WORD

"His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms."
(Ephesians 3:9-10)

The invisible body of individuals who profess Jesus as Lord is the Church. As the incarnation of Christ between the cross and second coming, the "Corporate Word" advances God's kingdom by shaping culture and leading people to saving faith and holy living. The transformational impact of Christ's image-bearers on society, and their care for the "least" and the "last," is a testimony to the world-changing message of God.

A DIVINE TAPESTRY

Contrary to the straw men foisted on us by popular atheists, God has given ample evidence of his existence. The Created Word, Imprinted Word, Spoken Word, Written Word, Incarnate Word, Indwelling Word, and Corporate Word are interwoven threads in a divine tapestry that reveals the Weaver through the supra-natural narrative He has crafted. Knitted in that masterwork is man, who is invited to explore each thread so that he may encounter and know his Creator.

"And this is eternal life, to know you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you sent." (John 17:3)

Source: BreakPoint.org

The Whole Gospel - A Reflection on John 3:16

by Msgr. Charles Pope

The Gospel proclaimed on Wednesday of this week included the familiar John 3:16. So familiar is this verse, that many hold up signs or have bumper stickers that simply say, "John 3:16."

For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
(John 3:16).

It is indeed a beautiful verse, but I would argue that many use it inauthentically by pulling it out from its place within a longer passage. The fuller segment is John 3:16-21, which is as much a passage of warning as it is of consolation and assurance.

Here it is again, along with the remainder of that longer passage:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned,
because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.

And this is the verdict,
that the light came into the world,
but people preferred darkness to light,
because their works were evil.

For everyone who does wicked things hates the light
and does not come toward the light,
so that his works might not be exposed.
But whoever lives the truth comes to the light,
so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God

(John 3:16-21).

This fuller context has somewhat of a different tone. It sets forth a great drama in which our lives are cast. It amounts to sober assessment of the obtuseness of many human hearts and of the urgent need for us to decide well in life.

Those who merely quote the first verse run the risk of presenting this text as a kind of a freewheeling assurance that all is well and that salvation is largely in the bag, that judgment and condemnation are not a significant factor since "God so loved the world." And while the concept of faith is included in this first verse, without the larger context the tendency is to soft-pedal the need for repentance and for the obedience of faith. In so doing, the true drama and sober teaching of the fuller text are lost.

The longer passage fleshes the message out and has a balance that the shortened text does not. Here is what Jesus is in effect saying, expressed in more modern language:

As I live, I and my Father do not desire that any should die in their sins or be lost. I have not currently come as your judge but as your savior. I will come one day as the judge of all, but now is a time of grace and mercy extended to you.

But you need to know that you have a decision to make, a decision that will determine where you will spend eternity.

So please listen to me! Open the door to me and let me draw you to the obedience of faith and the beauty of holiness. If you do this, light will dawn for you, for I am the Light and your life will grow ever brighter.

But if you will not repent and come to a lifesaving obedience of faith, your heart will begin to despise me and the light of my glory. You will become accustomed to the darkness and begin to consider the Light (which I am) to be obnoxious, harsh, judgmental, and even cruel. Yes, you will begin to hate me, for I am the Light. You will prefer the darkness because you love your sins more.

Come to your senses and don't let this happen. You have a decision to make: for the light or for the darkness, for me or for the prince of this world, Satan. Be sober and understand the dramatic choice before you. Your salvation depends on your choice to come to obedient faith in me or to reject me.

And know this: on the day of your judgment, the verdict will not be rendered by me so much as by you. For by then, you will either love the Light or hate it. And I will not force you to live in a light you detest. You will be free to go your own way. It will not be I who reject you. It will be you who reject me.

Be sober. Don't let this happen. Don't marginalize or ignore me. Don't prefer the world and its twisted values and passing pleasures. Your sins will make you hate the light and prefer the darkness. You have a decision to make.

This message is much more complex than that contained in the popular, abbreviated text known as John 3:16. God's mercy is offered, but the final verdict will center on whether or not we accept it. This message may be less consoling but it is true nonetheless, and only the truth can set us free.

There is a tendency by many to pull out certain verses and isolate them from their context and from the fuller message of the Gospel. The full and authentic Gospel echoes the opening call of the Lord Jesus: "Repent and believe the Good News."

So yes, John 3:16! But please continue reading. The whole Gospel, please!

Source: Archdiocese of Washington Blog

The God of The Bible

by Metropolitan Saba (Esber)

There are certain erroneous or distorted beliefs that are widespread among the faithful. In this brief note, I am concerned with the one that starts out from the basis of the Bible to erroneously state that the face of God in the Old Testament is not the same as in the New Testament. Some believe that God in the Old Testament is only a god of war, cruelty, violence and racism, while in the New Testament, He is only a god of love, forgiveness, mercy and kindness.

This erroneous belief is the result either out of ignorance of the Old Testament, its interpretation and its structure or under the influence of misconceptions similar to the approach of those critics of the Bible who attack it for reasons too numerous to refute here. In each case, the approach to the bible is wrong because it is not a theological approach to a religious book. Many also arrive at erroneous conclusions because they do not understand the essence of inspiration in Christianity or because they take a merely historical approach to the Bible.

In Christianity, divine inspiration has taken place over the course of a long pedagogical relationship of about eighteen and a half centuries. God inspired humankind with what He wanted to say through the historical events that they experienced, speaking to them in their language and according to their understanding, gradually bringing them toward Him. The Bible is not a book of history, even though it uses history to speak theology.

By way of example and not exclusively, I will cite some verses of the Old Testament where God's face appears merciful, loving and forgiving:

"And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, 'The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin...'" (Exodus 34:6-7, see also Numbers 14:18, Deuteronomy 4:31, Psalm 86:5 and 108:4, Joel 2:13).

God says, "I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love... I will not execute the fierceness of My anger... For I am God, and not man, the Holy One in your midst; and I will not come with terror" (Hosea 11:4 and 9).

"... But You are God, ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in kindness, and did not forsake them" (Nehemiah 9:17).

"The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy. The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works" (Psalm 145:8-9).

And some verses of the New Testament show another face:

"Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God" (Revelation 19:13-15).

"Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’" (Matthew 22:13).

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness" (Romans 1:18).

Christ says, "Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels..." (Matthew 25:41).

"But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites" (Matthew 23:13).

These verses, and many others besides in both testaments, show us that relying on an individual verse in isolation from its context leads to misunderstanding, very often completely contrary to its intended meaning. Scriptural inspiration was first of all inspiration in action and not in writing. God intervened in the lives of people and then a group first of all. He set their life straight. He educated them. He disciplined them. He changed their way of thinking, revealing Himself to them to the degree that they could bear His light until inspiration reached its apex with total divine disclosure in the person of Jesus Christ. "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us..." (John 1:14).

God incarnate spent around thirty-three years on our earth teaching, preaching, guiding, saving and fulfilling the dispensation of salvation completely. He did not leave us a single sheet of paper written by His hand. Rather, He sent the Holy Spirit to His apostles and His Church. He inspired some of them to preserve in writing what He taught them by word and deed.

The writers of the Bible in both its testaments read their experience with God and came to understand it by the Holy Spirit not at the time of its happening, but afterwards, then they learned God's intent and transmitted it to the faithful people.

How many times did Christ rebuke His disciples with harsh words because they did not understand what He meant?

God is the same in both testaments. His true image becomes clear in his accompanying sinful humankind until they reach the point of abandoning sin. Some find fault with the existence of sinful people-- and what human is without sin?!-- who played an important role in the history of salvation but they forget that God accompanies sinners in order to save them from their sin and has mercy on them with longsuffering until they repent and change. Dwelling on the sins that appear in the stories of people in the Bible is not important. The important thing is focusing on the grace that changes and transforms these sinners.

God has undertaken -- and continues to undertake -- the task of saving humankind. The Bible came into existence for their salvation because they languished under sin and were enslaved to the devil.

It is also necessary to pay active attention to reading the texts, especially the Old Testament, in a manner consonant with its genre. That is, not reading narratives, poetry, stories, proverbs and wisdom literature all in the same way. Rather, give each genre its due. Poetry is not direct speech like explicit commandments are.

It is likewise very necessary to know that in the Old Testament especially, history was the theater that God used to discipline humankind and to show them gradually through its events His pure divine image until it was completed in their eyes. The Bible very often uses historical events to give a religious-- that is, theological-- lesson.

Here is an example. The Book of Judges speaks of people playing an important role in trying times. It magnifies some of them, such as Samson, and attributes superhuman characteristics to them. All of this is with the intent of making it clear that God's hand, when it intervenes, reigns over all other powers. As for the theology intended by the recounting of events and wars that the judges waged, whether they really waged them as it appears or as it was preserved in the popular memory, it is the following:

When the people sins toward God, they break the covenant and God abandons them, handing them over to their enemies. The people become aware of their error and cry out to God, repenting and confessing, so God sends them a judge to save them from the oppression that has befallen them.

God is a father and a pedagogue. He is a lover and a judge. He is just and forgiving. He is kind and disciplines. He is powerful and tender. Does education not requires firmness and intensity, suppleness and tenderness? To the degree that a person is course and crude and cruel, he benefits from firmness, just as he benefits from sternness. Love is God's essence. His power is the power of love.

As for the superficial teaching that is popular among us, which focuses only on mercy, love and forgiveness, it is incomplete because it does away with the teaching and rebuking face of God who accompanies humankind until they reach the desired ideal.

Education's reliance in the past on fear, violence and punishment and its excessive use of this style does not mean that the correct manner of education today should ignore other aspects, such as judgment, justice and good or evil deeds casting man and all creation into heaven or hell.

May he who realizes his sins, is pained by them and sincerely walks in the way of repentance understand the meaning of the Bible and the essence of God's word and may he have constant nourishment.

Source: Notes on Arab Orthodoxy by Metropolitan Saba (Esber)
pravoslavie.ru

To Be Like Jesus!

by Pastor Linton Smith

Today we face a challenge. How to grow together.

In what ways are we to grow?
When I was reflecting on this, a song from the 1970's came to mind.

To be like Jesus
To be like Jesus
All I ask to be like Him

All thru life's journey
From earth to glory
All I ask to be like Him

That says it all. It simplifies a mass of ideas into one big idea – growing to be like Jesus.

TO BE LIKE JESUS..
IS GOD'S GREAT PURPOSE FOR US.

In Romans 8:28,29 the Apostle Paul writes.. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son..

God is at work in all things for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Is that us?

He is at work in all things for our good. What does Paul mean by 'our good'? He goes straight on to tell us – 'our good' is to be conformed to the likeness of His Son – to be like Jesus.

One day we will be just like Him. We will even have a glorious resurrection body like His. Right now.. in this life.. God's purpose is that we grow more and more like Him in character and behaviour!

And what is Jesus like? Consider these words..

1 Corinthians 13:4,5.. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Take the word, 'love' out and replace it with Jesus. How does it read?

Jesus is patient. Jesus is kind. Jesus does not envy. Jesus does not boast. Jesus is not proud. Jesus is not rude. Jesus is not self-seeking. Jesus is not easily angered. Jesus keeps no record of wrongs.

Sounds right doesn't it?

How does it sound when you put your name in there?

Still some work to be done? Some challenge isn't it

TO BE LIKE JESUS..
WE NEED GOD'S HELP.

And we have His help. Paul writes..

Philippians 2:12,13.. Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

You have been saved. Now work out your salvation.. become the people God intends you to be. And you can! Because God is at work in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.

How does he work in us? He works in us by His Spirit. We believe in Jesus. We are forgiven. We are given the Holy Spirit. He comes to live within us.. and to work in us.. to transform us.. to sanctify us.. to make us more and more like Jesus.

In Galatians 5:22,23 we are told.. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

This is the fruit the Spirit produces.. the fruit of Christ-like character and behaviour. It is not the result of human effort. It is the result of the Holy Spirit working in us to will and to act according to God's good purpose.

Do we have anything to do? Yes. Our role is to recognise that the Spirit lives in us. We have believed in Jesus.. and God has given His Spirit to us. Believe that. Recognise that. Then we need to respect Him. He is God. He deserves our utmost respect.. our reverence. Give Him respect.. and then rely on Him. Consciously rely on Him. Say to Him.. Holy Spirit, I cannot show love to this person.. I cannot be patient with this person.. please love him.. be patient with him.. through me. And He will.

Can we grow to be like Jesus in isolation? No. We need others to love.. others with whom to be patient and gentle.. and we need the help of others.

In the 40 Days of Community Work book, p96, we read,

Many people make the mistake of thinking all they need to grow spiritually is God's Word and prayer. But the truth is, we need people to help us grow. Christ-like character is built through relationships, not in isolation.

TO BE LIKE JESUS..
WE NEED THE HELP OF FELLOW BELIEVERS.

I invite you to turn to Romans 15. Here we learn of some of the ways we can help one another..

We help one another when we..

VALUE ONE ANOTHER.

Paul writes.. Romans 15:1-3.. We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself..

Be mindful of others.. mindful of how your behavior affects them.. and do not do just what you like.. do not please yourself.. think of them.. and behave in a way that does them good.. that builds them up. Be like Jesus. He did not please Himself. Far from it! He sacrificed Himself.. went to the cross and died.. for us.. for our good.. to save us.. to build us up. And why did He do that? He did it because He loved us. He did it because He valued us.

When we value others as He valued us.. we will think of them and how what we are about to say or do will affect them.. before we do just as we like!

ACCEPT ONE ANOTHER.

In Romans 15:7 we are told.. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

Jesus died for us on the cross.. and when we came to Him seeking forgiveness He did not say to us, Go away and shape up into a better person.. and then come. No. He accepted us just as we were. Now He expects us to accept one another.. just as we are.. imperfect people.. but forgiven people!

And when we accept others like that.. we encourage them to change. There is great power in acceptance. Accept someone and he will change and grow. Criticize him.. and he will very likely lose heart!

Ben Hooper was born outside of marriage. It was a time in history when people born outside of marriage were looked down on. In school his classmates had a nasty name for him.. and on Saturday afternoons when he went down the street he felt every eye on him.. wondering who his father was.

Ben went to church each Sunday but he would slip in late and get out early. When he was about 12 years old.. a new preacher came to the church.. and one day he beat Ben to the door. As he got to the door he felt a big hand on him.. looked up.. there was the preacher looking right at him. 'Who are you, son? Whose boy are you?' Ben felt the old weight come down on him. Even the new preacher was putting him down. But then, with a big smile, the preacher said, 'Wait a minute. I know who you are. I see the family resemblance. You are a son of God.'

Ben Hooper said later, 'That was the most important sentence ever said to me.'

When we accept people like that preacher did we empower them to change!

COACH ONE ANOTHER.

In Romans 15:14,15 Paul says.. I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another. I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again..

These believers were doing very well.. and were quite able to instruct each other.. but Paul wrote to them quite boldly on some things.. for their good.. to coach them.

Two examples: Some of them were saying, If we are freely forgiven let's just go and sin and we will get more forgiveness. Paul showed them how wrong they were and pointed them to the way of victory over sin. Some of them were living selfishly and Paul exhorted them to live for others as Jesus did!

The Bible tells us to teach and admonish one another [Colossians 3:16].

I like to think of that as coaching one another. At three quarter time the team is being beaten. They huddle with the coach.. and then out they come, and with new vigor and a new strategy run away with the game. I would like to know what the coach said??

We can coach each other like that. More then 30 years ago I was preaching at the opening of a new church building and got a little carried away.. and announced.. now we are going to call a youth pastor. The Deacons did not like that and gave me a hard time. I had not discussed it with them or the church. I went to a good friend and carried on about how they were treating me. My good friend just looked at me.. and said, 'You deserve it!' As you can see I have never forgotten it.. and ever since I have been careful to process all major decisions through the right people. Only a good friend.. someone you know is committed to you and your well being.. can say something like that with positive effect. Let's not go around finding fault with others but rather build friendships and when needed say what needs to be said.

PRAY FOR ONE ANOTHER.

In Romans 15:30 Paul writes.. I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.

My struggle. How many times have you heard the Christian life and Christian service described as a struggle? But that is just what it is. If we are committed to Christ.. and eager to bring glory to Him.. to obey Him fully.. there will be times when we struggle.

And we can help one another in our struggle.. by praying for one another.

God answers prayer. I do not know why.. but I know He does.

Almost 30 years ago an associate pastor came to me very concerned about a person who had only recently believed in Jesus. He came with the news that he had heard she had moved in with a lover.. and wanted to act immediately to discipline her. I suggested.. yes.. we could do that.. but first of all let's pray for her.. and give God a chance to win her away from this situation. Just a day or two later I was blown away when the lass herself phoned me.. confessed and asked for help.

God answers prayer! Pray for one another.

To be like Jesus
To be like Jesus
All I ask to be like Him

All thru life's journey
From earth to glory
All I ask to be like Him

God's great purpose is to grow us into people like Jesus.
We need His help.. and we have it.. the help of the Holy Spirit.
And we need the help of fellow believers. Let's be humble enough to admit that..
and let's offer help to others.. value them.. accept them.. coach them.. pray for them.

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