The God We Create

1/17/2022 Hebrews 11:17-23, 27-31

Here we find the names of various fathers of the faith and what that faith meant to their lives and the lives around them. This becomes a very powerful passage when we begin to look at it, far from merely a list of elders. It becomes powerful because so much of our teaching in this world tend to lend to this idea that through sheer mental acknowledgement of Jesus as God, we can attain to the Kingdom whilst still sating our earthly pleasures and desires. We give God our earthly shopping list, end with “in Jesus’ name,” and oftentimes turn away from the faith when our wishes aren’t granted.
By faith, Abraham offered up his son Isaac as a sacrifice, even though it had been prophesied that “in Isaac your seed shall be called.” At God’s command, Abraham was to build an altar on Mount Moriah to sacrifice Isaac. At the last moment, an angel of God prevented him from sacrificing Isaac, explaining to Abraham, “for now I know that you fear God, since for my sake, you have not spared your beloved son.” (Genesis 22:12).
By faith, Isaac in turn blessed each of his own sons, Jacob and Esau, knowing that the Lord’s will would be done and seeking to have them attain to the Kingdom of their own will and with his guidance, in much the same manner that any father would seek to baptize their own children.
By faith, Jacob blessed each of the sons of Joseph, prefiguring the coming Christ by bowing himself to thee top of the staff o Joseph (Genesis 17:31) and blessing them with hands crossed (Genesis 48:14). By faith Joseph shared his prophetic dreams of the children of Israel and, in dying, instructed them what to do with his bones.
By faith, Moses’ parents hid him, as Pharoah had decreed that all male children born to the Hebrews must be surrendered. After months of hiding,, they placed him on an ark, entrusting that God would be his guide.
By faith, when Moses had come of age, he refused to be called the son of Pharoah’s daughter, choosing to suffer in the affliction with God’s people rather than delighting with the sinful pleasures offered him as the grandchild of Pharoah.
By faith, Moses forsook Egypt, enduring the wrath of the king and keeping the Passover.
By faith, Moses passed the Red Sea as though it were dry land, even while the Egyptians who chased after him were flooded and drowned.
By faith, the walls of Jericho, thought impenetrable, simply fell. By faith, Rahab the harlot saved the lives of the men who were sent to spy on Jericho, in spite of the potential punishment for doing so.
It’s this whole idea that by they, each of them did something. Something happened in each case because of the faith that guided the situations and the people. Sheer action and will alone could never have accomplished these things, neither could faith alone. It was the conjunction of “by faith” with the actions that were led by that faith. Noah’s faith told him that the world was going to flood, however, it was the building of the Ark that saved the world. It was the action led by the faith. He goes on to list various other examples of those who again accomplished various things and were willing to face torture and death for the sake of their faith. Far removed from what we consider it to mean to be a Christian, the true faithful all throughout Scripture are those are willing to face torture, hatred, and death for the sake of the faith.
Ultimately, this is where it becomes so powerful for us. When we look at these lives, these situations, it was never about what they wanted, it was about God’s will for their lives, their purpose. And that becomes the disconnect with our generation. We want what we want, never seeking the actual purpose God has for our lives. And we are given this choice. We can either seek God’s will for us, our purpose; or we can choose to place our own earthly desires over His will. Remember, each of these had faith, they had faith in the will of God, and were willing to do that which He required of them.
May we each, filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit, choose the will of the God of all creation over the will of ourselves as a created god. Jesus alone has the power to save, and He is very descript about what He expects from those who would come after Him. “Many will say to Me Lord, Lord…and I will say to them, I never knew you.”

Christ is in our midst.

On Pleasing God

Galatians 1:3-10

St Paul is writing to the Church in Galatia. Before we even begin to look at the text, it’s important to understand the necessity of it, of what issues St Paul was addressing in this epistle. The churches in the are of Galatia, though they had received the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a gift of God, had begun to taper away from this faith that they had received. They had begun to accept the teachings of the Jewish legalizers who were teaching that only through the Law of the Old Covenant could they ever hope to achieve salvation. Thus, this epistle is an attempt to call them back to the grace of God. In fact, so strongly had they deviated from the teachings of the apostles that it is he begins the letter addressing it “To the churches of Galatia,” a stark contrast to every other epistle, wherein he began either with “the Church of God in…” or referred to them as “the beloved” or “the sanctified.” It is also the only epistle where he does not list names displaying respect or affection. This reveals immediately that he considered the churches in Galatia to be simply a community, a society, rather than a true Church of God. It displays this deep concern and sorrow at their turning away from the Gospel that he doesn’t even acknowledge their affiliation with God.

“Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ…who gave Himself for our sins.” This serves a twofold purpose, at once dispelling the heretical teaching that God and Jesus were not the same, and also displaying the truth that Jesus alone, through His grace, was able to give Himself for our sins. In this greeting, he manages to summarize the whole of the Gospel of Jesus. We see here that the Gospel comes from God Himself, and that He came down in the form of Christ for our sins, not only in His death and resurrection, but in every step of His incarnation, beginning with His conception and through His resurrection and ascension. And this delivery is from this present evil age to enter the age to come (Verse 4). And, this deliverance is all according to the Will of God the Father, who becomes the Son in His human nature, in fulfilling the Will of the Father. Therefore, as His followers who are called to be like Him, this fulfillment of the Will of God the Father is thus cast upon us to fill as well. “It is not I who live, but Christ who lives through me,” to quote the apostle. The Father’s will is done by Jesus, who calls us to become as He was, thus as it was done by Jesus, so too it is to be done by us, “On Earth, as it is in Heaven.”

See, there is a lot more to being a Christian that simply establishing this moral law that the Jewish legalizers were attempting to implement, or even the Law itself. The Law was given to us as a guide, knowing that we could never attain to it, but rather using it as inspiration. The Law itself could never save anyone, what it can be used to teach us what our true faith should look like. It is our faith in, and reliance on, the Holy Trinity that saves us, and the Law is intended to show us what that faith must look like. As a father, I can give my son certain rules to follow, which my son then has the right to either follow or not follow. Now, I can certainly offer punishment to him for not following those rules, but in so doing he would begin to miss the point. It is through his love and respect for me that he chooses to follow them because he trusts me, he trusts that those rules were given to him to protect him and keep him safe, preparing him for adulthood. And, when he inevitably deviates from those rules, he admits to it and asks for forgiveness. So too becomes our relationship with God. Following the rules simply because they are the rules will never save us, but if we trust Him and love Him, then we begin to see not only the Law itself, but also why the Law was given unto us. We were given the Law to help guide us to a true life in Christ, a true faith, and it is only at that point can we truly become as Christ was.

St Paul goes on to “marvel that you have turned away so soon from Him who called you to the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who want to pervert the Gospel of Christ.” In Galatia, this gospel was one that eradicated the gospel of grace. It was a gospel that claimed that only through strict conscious adherence to the Law could salvation be attained. That had inherited this teaching from the Judaizers that salvation was solely through the works of the Law. It became this sort of legalistic spiritual checklist which never took in to account the incarnation of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins. The Jews denied the Holy Trinity believing only in God the Father and thus strict adherence to the Torah as the only means by which salvation was possible. It was that spiritual checklist that you checked daily to see if you were worthy of the Kingdom. Unfortunately, in our generation, the paradigm has shifted completely from one extreme to the other. Our generation has sought to null and void the Law and the commands of God, choosing to appease the flesh and live our best life now regardless of the commands of God. It is not uncommon to find someone who claims Christianity and yet remains indistinguishable from the worldly man at the same party all while glorifying sinful behaviors in the name of freedom. There are two opposing mindsets which have all but destroyed the very foundation of the Church, one that merely following the Law is necessary unto salvation, and the other is the once saved always saved mentality that the sheer acknowledgment of God’s existence is all that is required, with no change to our lives whatsoever.

And yet, Paul warns about either of these teachings. “If we or even an angel from Heaven preach another Gospel, let him be accursed.” This is so important for us, anyone who teaches any Gospel other than the truth, let him be accursed. Any teaching that seems to contradict the words of the Scripture, and teaching that doesn’t require sacrifice on our part, any teaching that claims that either the Law is able to save or that the Law no longer applies, let those teachers be accursed. This is so important to our generation because there are literally thousands of denominations who teach this “best life now” approach that even the apostles themselves would look at and spawn another epistle of warning. We must be equally careful, however, not to bend back to the other extreme, a legalistic approach wherein we seek to earn our salvation through the works of the Law. The grace of God isn’t earned, it is a gift, and we must never discard this grace of God, likewise however, we must not pervert it to allow sin to become commonplace in our lives. “I’m not perfect, just forgiven” is such a true statement, however, it has been warped by our generation to mean that the struggle against sin isn’t necessary. No, we’re not perfect, we will sin, but we must struggle against it in our minds and in prayer, and trust that the Grace of God will help us overcome that sin. When we surrender the struggle, we are telling God that we are stronger than He is, that we can never overcome our sins, even with His help. And that is our decision for which we must be held accountable.

So, as Paul concludes this passage, so too just we contemplate in our own lives. The true Gospel message is not an easy message, it’s inclusive of many things that our fallen human nature will resist. Further, our pride will step in as well. People will slander us, they’ll turn us away, because the true Gospel never promises that we will have everything that we want and can do whatever we want. But those outside the Gospel, those chasing worldly pursuits and goals will never understand that, and thus never accept us because of it. The world teaches us that we should be able to do whatever we want to do. In the Wiccan religion, the mantra is “and it harm none, do what thou wilt.” And that’s become the mindset of the world, with many even leaving out the part of “and it harm none.” And there are Pastors across the world, across the Church even, who teach this same philosophy. They are afraid to offend people. On a human level, I even understand why they feel that way. We all want to be liked, we all want to have followers on social media and reactions to our posts. But Paul in his conclusion condemns this exact attitude. “Do I persuade men, or God? Or do I please men?” And that’s fully what it comes down to. It’s this reality that God’s will isn’t always what men desire. In fact, God’s will is normally the exact opposite of what our flesh desires, but we have to remember that our ways are not His ways. It can be very hard to persuade men of God’s will, which He has given us in the Holy Scriptures and through the teachings of the Church, but as hard as it is to convince men that they should change to align with God’s will, it is impossible to convince God to change His will in accordance with the desires of men. So, when given the choice between the two, who do you seek to persuade? Do you seek to persuade an adulterer to change his ways, or do you seek to change God’s will on adultery? Do you seek to changed an alcoholic’s will or God’s will? If you change the adulterer or the alcoholic, they won’t be pleased. But that leads to the second question St Paul poses here, do we seek to please men or God? To please fallen man by teaching God’s will is not possible. To teach them to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow God will not please them. But to teach them that they can continue in their sin, to give into their passions and desires, free from any penalty, to live this “best life now,” is not only hazardous to their lives on earth, but for all eternity. And that is not pleasing to God. May we all choose to right way with whom we seek to please.

Christ is in our midst.

On Idols in Our Generation

Not my normal Bible Study per se, however a blog that I felt very much needed to be shared.

All throughout the Holy Scriptures, we find warnings about accepting things as idols. And it’s really disconcerting to consider how this very warning has been pushed aside all throughout the ages, even unto our generation. The multitudes of people and things to which we look up to, seeking to accept and be accepted by so many of them. I think of the power that social media and all technology has over people, the desire to be accepted and acknowledged by those who happen to share our addictions with us. The power that we have given to government and mass media to control our very thoughts and actions. The advances in science that we have allowed to disprove our very faith.

The reading of Holy Scripture has warned us that our faith will not be accepted by the world at large, and in part that is because the world itself is under the rule of it’s prince, the evil one. Thus, this world has taught us that the Holy Scripture is nothing more than a rule book, and an outdated one at that. It has taught us that the words in the Scripture were a necessity at the time (sometimes, otherwise they completely dismiss it), but that we need to “get with the times,” that the rules and positions are outdated. And, while this is strictly the words of a man who has studied the Scripture, I feel as though this is a warning to all of us, myself included, against this advent of the age to turn away from anything that they don’t understand. And, as often happens, the world turns against itself when it is trying to offer these things. I consider the political views of those on either side of the political fence and think of the hatred that each side has been responsible for. The left states that we should trust the science, but only when it is advantageous for them to proclaim that, on the one hand stating that the science has deemed certain things to be stronger than our natural body’s capability, while at the same time denying the science that states that hormonally males and females are not equal and that a child in utero is not it’s own living being, two things which science itself contradict. The right, on the other hand, screams that we should go to war with everyone. It’s very hard to proclaim that you are pro-life and then threaten aggressors with a nuclear war. It’s very hard to use Jesus’ teachings as a backdrop while ignoring the poor and hungry.

And yet, this governmental system has become one of our idols. We look up to whichever side we choose to see how we should be, what our lives should look like. We find inspirational speakers who help us to see things that way that someone we idolize sees them, rather than looking to the Scriptures themselves. And I’m not merely talking about science or politics when I say this, neither am I speaking about strictly atheists. We have had over 400 years of people in the Church doing the same thing. They give leverage to that which they see in the news, and eventually the broadcaster becomes their priest, the channel becomes their Church, and the sponsors become their God. And it’s a sad affair when we allow this to happen. We read in the many epistles of St Paul about the dangers of letting any worldly influence into the Church. We read about churches allowing infidelity, homosexuality, theft, murder; and yet when wee look at those epistles, they were normally a warning to each of us about doing that. St Paul always praised what the believers were doing right, but ultimately, each of his epistles tended moreso to be a warning about what they were doing wrong. Warnings about allowing the traditions of man to overcome the traditions that the apostles had taught. And it was usually a very stern warning when he would write these things.

Our government, our media, even ourselves, can never be allowed to become our gods. And yet, that is exactly what we do. Though we begin with good intentions, eventually this sense of self always overcomes. Consider the tradition of fasting in the Church. Though we’re taught about it at length, we constantly seek to explain it away, to find “loopholes” in the fasting rules, to declare them to be “works” incapable of leading to salvation. And while this is true, following the fasting rules alone are not sufficient unto salvation, however it does keep us humble. It reminds us that we are not the ones in control, but rather Christ Himself. See, what we don’t realize is that when we argue against these traditions, what we are doing is saying that we value our comfort and desire more than we could ever desire Christ. When we write off sinful behavior because it’s hard, we are are saying that we are god. It’s a dangerous thing to place ourselves, fallible as we are, above the commands of God. When God warns us of the outcome of something, the world, which rejects God, begins to teach it as normal, as healthy. And there is a strong danger in that, because the world, thanks in part to media, begins to indoctrinate us into that very belief from the beginning. How often do we say or not say something on social media because we’re afraid of the response to it? Via social media, we have the ability to reach millions of people, and we’ve been commanded to reach all nations, and yet, how often do we use it to try to reach out to people about the techings of Christ? How often do we prioritize Christ over those who would censor His word? How often are we silent on the things which matter for fear of offending someone?

See, when we’re afraid of speaking about Christ because it may offend others, then we have made them our idols instead. When we praise someone for the sins that they have fallen victim to, we have completely forsaken not only the commands of Christ as far as the sin itself, but we’ve also forsaken the command to love our neighbor. To love someone often means saying things that they don’t really want to hear, but rather need to hear. To accept and praise them in their sin is to not show love to them. It is to be the parent who lets their child play in the middle of the street. It is to let the child choose what they’re having for dinner every night, even when we know that those choices will not be that which is healthy for them. Every eight year old I’ve ever met would choose pizza or peanut butter and jelly for dinner over what will provide them the nutrients that they would need. And every eight year old will complain about the healthy meal that you are cooking. Does this mean that you don’t love them? Of course not, it means rather that you love them enough that you don’t want to see them do that to themselves. And yet, with sinful activity, we tend to take the opposite position. We allow the sinner to be the god, never even warning them. Or, on a personal level, we allow ourselves to be God. Usually under the justification that “if God loves me, then why would He give me this feeling, these urges?” not understanding that that feeling and those urges are the enemy trying to tempt us to go against what we know God wants and expects from us. When we give in, it’s not that God has abandoned us, it’s that we’ve abandoned God. We’ve chosen another god over Him. We’ve allowed something in our life to become our god instead of the one true God. The atheist would say “God doesn’t exist, these are manmade rules,” and the Christian would dispute that, and then effectively do the same thing, justifying it by saying “I’m not perfect, just forgiven.” And while it is true that we are forgiven, we are forgiven through repentance. We are forgiven through seeking forgiveness and turning our lives around. Think about it on a personal level. If your friend steals something from you, you would forgive them. If they continued to steal from you, that forgiveness would wane. Eventually, you would come to the realization that the apologies weren’t true because the friend was making no effort to change anything. And yet, we misinterpret Scripture to expect God to forgive us for everything, even when we make no effort to change anything. We create God in our own image and feel as though we can do nothing wrong. We collect money for the poor, but make sure that their is a photo of the giving so we can show everyone; or at least brag about it so everyone knows how “good” we are. We tend to place ourselves above God our entire lives and then when something bad happens, we blame Him for it, when that bad thing is normally the result of going against what God has told us. A husband cheats on his wife and gets caught. It’s not God’s fault that he got caught, it’s his fault for cheating. A man gets arrested for fighting in public and blames God for being arrested, but it’s his fault instead that he was fighting. It’s amazing to me how religious people become right after they’ve gotten caught doing something that God has warned us not to do. But, that’s what happens when we allow ourselves to become our idol, in the biblical sense. When we spend our lives chasing after our fleshly desires, we therefore make ourselves our gods, and place ourselves above Him.

Government becomes our idol when we place their demands above the faith. When we allow government to mandate what is taught in our churches, or how it is taught, then we have bowed down again to the enemy. I will not give in to the argument of “separation of Church and state” because that had literally nothing to do with government mandates as far as teaching goes. It was rather an assumed position since the American government was formed during the time of the Church of England, where the Church had overstepped it’s boundaries as well and had become involved as an organization in politics. Does the Church have the right to run a worldly country? No. To the contrary, it was the government during Biblical times which was responsible for the crucifixion. The separation of Church and state declared that the government would never declare one national Church for all of it’s inhabitants. However, the statement has been turned 180 degrees now. The nation which was formed as “one nation under God” has since become “one nation against God.” I’ve heard from many that “freedom of religion” has become “freedom from religion,” and while I’ll not argue the politics, I understand where they are coming from. So many who have chosen self as their idol have since gone on to try to instill mandates against Christian Law. And this is an area where we must be very careful, because while we are not the controlling legal system in America, and we must never become that, we also must always maintain obedience to our faith in spite of it. If Christian Law becomes civil law, we have a situation where people begin being taught that everyone will inherit the Kingdom, which is very far from what the Scripture tells us. Simultaneously, however, if we allow civil law to impede on our faith, then we place the government as our idol. And, while we can never allow this to happen, we must be very careful that we don’t attempt to legislate Christian morals either. Rather, what we must do is make sure that the civil laws never impede our ability to live out the Christian Law. And, the world doesn’t want to hear that. It will resist us, it will call us everything from a “flat-earther” to a “bigot” to a “sexist,” and not even because we’re trying to force our Law on them, which we’re not, but because we want the right to live in accordance with it ourselves.

And that’s where the last topic steps in, the media. Christians, true believing, obedient Christians, have been labelled in the media with all of those same titles, outdated, sexist, bigoted, homophobic, hateful. All because we seek to obey the Law of God. We don’t even have to speak out against sinful behavior, simply because we can’t endorse it, we will be hated. And this again is the enemy. If he can’t entice us with temptation to sin, then he will instead try to intimidate us into silence, knowing that if we can but plant the seed of the Word of God in someone, it may grow and he may lose another soul to Christ. He knows that he can easily become an idol to multitudes of people, simply by telling them what they want to hear, and oftentimes the media is the best outlet to do that. He uses the media to entice us with so many of our fleshly desires, and if that fails, then he uses the media to try to silence us. Or to turn us against one another, knowing that a kingdom divided against itself will fall. I think of even those in the Church who have turned away from one another because of their opinions based on their idolization of the media. And yet, this only works for those who idolize the media. Those who look to news outlets as their sole source of what’s happening in the world. And while there are many that he can’t reach that way, there are some who are weak who will give in to whatever the newscasters say. There are those who idolize the media in a sense that they believe whatever the media says, even when it contradicts their own knowledge or studies or even faith. At that point, the media becomes our god, and that is a very dangerous place to be. Remember, the media, like the government, always has an agenda, and it’s never the salvation of our souls.

These are the primary idols who have entered our lives in this generation, and we must be mindful of their presence there. I am not saying that we must revolt, or completely remove ourselves from these things, however, we must be mindful of how much we are allowing them to influence our thoughts and feelings. We must be mindful of how much control we are allowing any of them to have over our spiritual lives. If we are true Christians, we must love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, and might; never allowing any idol to overcome that love. Christ is very adamant about how we must live our lives, and we must strive to achieve that level, regardless of what the world would have us do. And that is a very hard level to attain, but it is possible, through thorough study of the Scriptures and the teachings of the Church and through a life lived through Christ, by the grace of the Holy Spirit. The first step to that, however, is identifying those idols that we’ve placed before Him.

Christ is in our midst.

On the Apostolic Tradition

12-9-2021 2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:5

It’s very important to recognize that the Church of the Thessalonians had begun to wane away from the faith that they had received. St Paul hadn’t been to the Church in almost a year, and they had begun to be shaken by speculation about the second coming of Christ, with some of them even stating that the day had already come (2:2). These false prophecies are very detrimental to the Church, leading many to either complete abandonment of the faith when these false prophecies fail to come to fruition, or even for those who do believe that they end has already happened feeling as though it is too late, so why even bother trying. And what we find happening at this point is that, because of these false teachings, many begin to grow despondent and give up hope, either in the second coming, or in the Church itself.

And, unfortunately, we find this happening so often in our time as well. I, in my 45 years alive, have lived through no less than three periods where I’d heard from very prominent people that “the end is here.” I’ve heard prominent national leaders referred to as “the Anti-Christ,” reducing the meaning of the word to nothing more than a derogatory term thrown in the direction of anyone whom people disagreed with. More importantly, I’ve seen it thrown at people who disagreed with the political positions of the Church. But, consider what this means to people who are outside of the Church. We’ve used these terms and these expressions so much, they no longer hold the foreboding power that they once did. If the “end is here,” then how do we explain that 20 years later? If “the Anti-Christ” is the president, how do we explain the world not ending after his presidency? In making these words and expressions cliche, and wrongly prophesying the end-times, we’ve destroyed many people’s faith in the Church; and not only the faith of unbelievers. So many Christians have turned away from the Church because they truly believed when some televangelist said that the world would end on New Years leading into the year 2000 (as an example).

And this is what St Paul is addressing to the Church of the Thessalonians, and therefore is a warning to all generations. “Stand fast and hold to the traditions you were taught, by word or epistle.” The epistles and the gospel give us signs and warnings, but they directly state that we will not know when the end-times are coming. It’s important to note here the differentiation between the apostolic tradition which was taught and handed down, versus the traditions created by man here. See, there are so many who read the Holy Scriptures, however, they go into it with an idea in their mind and just seek passages to justify (usually) sinful behavior. And unfortunately, it is very easy to do that. I’ve always said that if you choose a sin or a behavior, I can find a passage that could be taken to justify it. Just remove the tradition, the teachings of the Fathers, and the context and you can always find a sentence here or there to justify anything. And that’s the problem. Once you abandon the apostolic tradition which has been given to us, it’s very easy to pick and choose what verses will justify an opinion, a belief, sexuality, a lifestyle. Which is the exact reason that, yes, it’s imperative to read the Holy Scripture, but it is equally imperative to read it through the lens of the Holy Fathers, of the Church. Paul was specifically addressing the second coming and teaching them the true signs of it; however these lessons are fully relevant in our generation as we continue to divide the Church based on manmade decisions, traditions, doctrines.

He concludes this brief passage by seeking the prayers of the Church that the word of the Lord would run quickly and be glorified, reaching as many as possible with the true teachings. He also concludes with a warning, reminding that there are wicked and unreasonable people who, without faith, would seek to stop the word from spreading. Those in power who serve the evil one and seek to prevent the true teachings of Christ from being taught. And he have to remember that this letter was written to a Church, thus all of the warnings must be applied to the Church as well. Throughout our history, there have been people in the Church who have also done these same things. They reinterpret the teachings of Scripture to justify their own positions, rather than drawing from the Fathers and teaching the true lessons of Christ. They protest a lot of the teachings that were the foundation of the Church and have lead so many people astray.

There are actually two warnings in this passage that St Paul has imparted though. The first is that when you deviate from the apostolic tradition, it is unavoidable that you will end up with a thousandfold divided Church, with each interpretation claiming to be the true Church founded by Christ, and yet each pastor/priest/preacher interjecting their own personal opinions into that Church. We see this a lot in our culture. Just consider, if you don’t like the lessons of one Church, or it’s positions on things, you just ride down the street to the next Church and try that one on instead. If that doesn’t work, you can either continue searching or just go home and become your own Church. Which leads to the second dire warning. When the Church abandons these apostolic traditions, it divides itself to the point of inner conflict that drives away those who might come. Consider an unbeliever who is interested in attending a Church, newly discovering the faith. He goes to three different churches and hears three conflicting messages. This is often what happens when we abandon the traditions of the Church. And at that point with an unbeliever, we become the enemy of Christ rather than the Body of Christ. In seeking to find a Church, he instead finds three examples of why he shouldn’t turn to Christ. If we abandon the traditions then we have no foundation for our teaching aside from our own personal interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. We become the enemy of Christ because we have abandoned the teachings of the Apostles, handed down from Christ Himself and to the Church.

Let us instead join ourselves to Him, clinging to His teachings and warnings which we have received through His Church. Let us cling to the Holy Scriptures, to the traditions of the Church Fathers, to the teachings of the Body of Christ, which is the Church. Let us remember the important of the Apostolic traditions and discard the traditions of men which ultimately lead us away from union with Christ and with the Church. There is sacrifice, there is work, and there is suffering to be in this union, to be a true Christian; but through it all, we will persevere, we will be strengthened, and we will live in union with Christ, in accordance with the will of the Father, and by the grace of the Holy Spirit. “Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many, and because lawlessness will abound, many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” (Matthew 24:11-13). Let us be warned against those who deviate from the teachings of the Church, and the many false prophets.

Christ is in our midst.

On Death and the Resurrection

11-20-2021 2 Corinthians 5:1-10

I will die. You will die. All of us will one day die. This is in no way to try to set anyone off, or to depress anyone, it’s just sheer fact. The greatest scientists in the world have yet to overcome death. The greatest priests and saints have yet to overcome death. And this is worth bearing, because we so often think about how the scientist can overcome this fault in our programming. We often think about how the priest can over come this fault in our structure. And yet, in the end, we will all put off this mortal coil and remain no longer living in the physical sense of the world. No amount of medication shot into our bodies, no amount of proper dieting, no amount of friends or family, will ever change this fact. The fall of Adam is so often thought to have brought sin into the world, but the real travesty was that it brought death into our world.

I wanted to begin with that, because in today’s passage, St Paul is speaking about this exact fact. He begins with stating that though our earthly home may be destroyed, we should have no fear of that, because we have a home with God. And this is an amazing revelation to not only the Church in Corinth, but to us as well. This fear of death is overcome for the true Christian by hope in the Resurrection. The soul, Saint Paul says, is naked (v.3), unclothed (v.4) when it dies. The soul is clothed in our flesh, and once we fall asleep in the Lord, the soul leaves that clothing. And yet we groan because we long to be clothed in the Kingdom. We long to be embraced and welcomed into the Kingdom, clothed in the Spirit of Christ.

All together, we see that he is teaching that while we should never seek death, we should never long for it, neither however should we fear it. We should not long for the clothing of the flesh, but rather we should long to be clothed in the resurrection. God did not create us to die, it was the introduction of sin which begat the introduction of death, but rather He created us to be transformed from mortality into life everlasting. Thus, he speaks of not the bliss of the soul naked without a body, but rather the glory of the soul in union with the glorified body; that is in union with Christ in the resurrection. Again, when we contemplate the Cross, we should think less of it’s forgiveness of sins, and more about the fact that through Christ’s death and resurrection, He overcame the power of death, and thus the fear of it for His followers.

He goes on to say that we are always confident with the Lord. While we are present in the flesh, we are apart from the presence of God. Thus the time we spend at home in the flesh is spent drawing closer to the Lord, learning about Him, becoming more like Him, being taught those things which He expects. We walk not by sight, by those things which are visibly seen, by those things which seem so important to us in the world; but rather by faith, living in accordance with those things which Christ has deemed are truly important. It’s again this idea that in the flesh, we are fallen and therefore vulnerable to the temptations of the flesh; what feels good, what makes us feel good, what do we desire; to chase those temptations and pleasures. And yet, so long as we have faith in Christ, we have the power to refuse those carnal ways. Our bodies and our desires are not our god, our lord, Jesus is. And so long as we understand and adhere to that fact, death carries no fear for us. No, we should never seek to escape this gestational stage, but neither should we fear the full blooming of the soul into the Kingdom. Walking by sight becomes the spirit living according to the physicality of the flesh, the sinful nature which we have inherited from the world. And yes, Paul states that we are not only confident, but actually well pleased with the thought of being absent from the body and present in the Lord.

“Therefore, we make it our aim, whether absent or present, to be well pleasing to Him.” To be present with the Lord, we have learned, is to be absent from the body, thus whether we are living or dead, our goal must always be to be well pleasing to Him. To obey His commands and to stay as far as possible away from sinful thoughts and deeds. And this is far from an easy task, but is absolutely imperative for us. For all of us will appear before the judgment seat of Christ, believers and non-believers alike. And in this fact, we find that our time in the flesh is preparing us for that very day. It is preparing us for the day when we will stand before the Lord. And, St Paul explains to us that we will stand before Him so that “each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (Vs 10).

For Christians, right belief gives the power and motivation for right behavior. And we don’t like to hear this. Our generation has been given the power to cancel anyone that we don’t agree with, but we can’t overlook what Jesus and the apostles taught us just because we don’t like it. Here again, we see our faith tied to our works. We must believe in Him who alone is able to forgive, but we must believe in Him with a belief that can put behind us what we want or what we desire. We must believe with a belief that doesn’t please us, but change us. The true Christian in a world whose prince is the enemy should never be comfortable, our lives here should never be easy. Accepting the true faith means we walk away from the world, it’s decrees, it’s mandates; it means we recognize and never accept sinful behavior regardless of who endorses it. It means we walk away from our own sinful deeds, sinful thoughts. Not that these deeds will save us, it is our faith, but it is our faith that begets these deeds. It is this blending of faith and works which leads us to this eternal life. And nowhere in Scripture does it ever rebuke these facts, to the contrary, all through Scripture we find warnings against faith which doesn’t beget deeds and deeds that don’t beget behavior.

Our salvation in Christ is through our faith, which begets our obedience, which begets our deeds. Jesus loves us, and it is not His will that any sinner should perish, but all should have eternal life; and He tells us how we can accomplish that. He lays forth for us very strict morals, very strict guidelines, to inherit the Kingdom. And to those of us who follow Him, who take heed to these, there is no need to fear death. “Each of us will receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” True faith in Christ isn’t meant to please you, it’s meant to change you. To please you in this life is to make you a slave to the very death that He came to save you from in the resurrection.

Christ is in our midst.

On Division

11-19-2021 Colossians 4:10-18

St Paul concludes his letter to the Church in Colossae by sending them greetings from those who are with him. And, it bears noting that of all of those who were with him, only three of them were of Jewish heritage. The remainder were Gentiles who had equally been accepted into the Church. This is worthy of note because, at the time that this letter was written, there was a great divide between the two, with the Jews claiming that those who believed in Jesus were errant.

So, when we look at those who were with St Paul at the time of this writing, we see many names. We see Aristarchus. In Acts, we learn that Aristarchus was a Macedonian from Thessalonica (Acts 20:4), and was amongst those seized alongside St Paul in Ephesus (Acts 19:29). There is Mark, who at this point for the first time is revealed as the cousin of Barnabas. And what we learn, sheerly from this reference alone, is that this previous animosity between Paul and Barnabas and Mark (Acts 15:36-40) had since been reconciled, as Mark was physically present with Paul to send his greetings. Their personal disputes had been cast aside. The grace of God had been working in Paul, changing him overtime, teaching him the love of Christ towards those who had otherwise offended him. Then there was Jesus, whose baptized name was Justis. Honestly, according to what is written in Scripture, we know nothing of him beyond his name and that he was of Jewish descent. But consider what this message says to the Church in Colossae. Consider, if you will, what we’ve already learned about the Colossian Church. There was heresy which had already combined Judaism and humanistic ritualism with Oriental Mysticism. And yet, greetings and prayers were offered on their behalf by three of Jewish heritage and others of Gentile heritage. And these three who were Jews providing great comfort who was an apostle of Jesus Himself. The lines between them were torn down by the grace of God.

And then there stands Epaphrus, who was “laboring fervently for you in prayer.” We have to remember that in their time prayer wasn’t something that they did in their free time. It wasn’t something that they do while they’re staring at phone screens or just kneeling down at the edge of their beds. Prayer, true Biblical prayer, is hard work. It requires time and dedication. It requires the ability to turn off the outside world and all of it’s distractions. There were no cellphone notifications impeding in their prayers, no television in the background, it was a sacrifice of time and energy. And it was also looked down strongly upon in Colossae. Knowing the dangers of false teaching (re: any teaching not accepted by this one Church), this work of prayer to Jesus became all the more dangerous. Again, it’s so easy to think about someone spending time in prayer in our time and age and think it to be no big deal, but in an era where saying the name of Jesus in public was punishable by death, in an era when the apostles themselves were imprisoned and publicly crucified, this was a major risk on his behalf.

But still, they prayed that the Colossians would stand perfect and complete in the Will of God, not bowing down to self-proclaimed leaders of some independent spirituality, not bowing down to false teaching, but rather standing strong in the true faith, regardless of what it cost them. There was neither political nor ecclesiastical amnesty offered to them, but they still needed to remain strong in the faith, regardless of any political or theological threats.

And then, he calls on the Colossians to greet others on his behalf. This is also a powerful statement, because it calls to mind the fact that others that they are allied with have already accepted the truth. The brethern in Laodicea, and Nymphas and the Church in his house. He also insures to include who should head the Church, the ministry. Archippus, “take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.” This is so important, St Paul names someone who should head the Church. Rather than allowing the Church to run rampant, he names the one who should lead it, the one who should organize it. He establishes something unheard of, a hierarchy. But, a hierarchy headed by one who has received the true faith. But, rather than address Archippus directly, he instead wrote it in the letter to the Church, thus Archippus assumes this role through the Church of the Colossians, and through Laodicea, as the epistle was to be shared with them as well.

See, we get this revelation here that there wasn’t one book of Scripture that only applies to one group of people, or one geographical location. It’s so easy to look at the Scriptures and think, “Oh, but this only applies to Colossae, or this only applies to Corinth, or to Philippi.” But, we see here, this letter to the Colossians was written not only to one church, but to all churches, because any of them could fall into the same heresies. And this covers the span of time. The same lessons that applied to the Colossians and the Corinthians and the Philippians applies to us as well. It is very easy to lose sight of that fact. It’s so easy for us to look at the commands set forth in Scripture and question whether this rule or that command actually applies to us or not. But, what we see here is that there was never meant to be a Colossian Church, or a Corinthian Church; there was only meant to be one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. And any logic behind division is contrived by the enemy and is usually rooted in pride. And this one Church is here manifest perfectly. Just consider the backgrounds of each person mentioned, consider the geography of each church. The letter was addressed to the Colossians, but the lessons were to be shared with all of the neighboring churches as well. And all of these people, with all of these backgrounds, put all of that aside to join together in corporate prayer on behalf of the Colossian Church. They were all, regardless of the differences, joined together in the body of Christ.

“If anyone adds to these things, God will add him to the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes way from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the book of life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:18-19). The Scriptures are complete. The traditions are established through the teachings of the Holy Fathers. God has told us what to do and what He expects from us. There will be no “Newer Testament” or revised edition. I can only pray that we are able to hear His words and quit allowing ourselves to be divided over matters and positions, especially over worldly concerns. Politics have no place in the Church, until they impede on the ability of the Church to be the Church and live by the commands and the morals set forth by God. At the point that politics control our churches, then politics become our god. Personal opinions about things have no place to divide the Church, unless those personal opinions go against the teachings of the Church as have been handed down for generations, at which time, that person, or that opinion becomes our God. So often I hear from someone who doesn’t study the Holy Fathers because “their teachings are outdated,” but those teachings are the foundation of the Church. All through the Scripture we read about those things that will separate us from God, and those things which will draw us closer. Attempting to manipulate the words of God based around our own desires or opinions are simply heresy. Each of us has our own decision of which path we will follow, for some it’s the truth that will lead to paradise, for others, it’s a lie that will lead to Hell. And this can happen inside the Church, or outside as well. The world will always be the world, no amount of arguing, no government or political positions will change that. It’s when the Church begins to be shaped by these policies, accepting sinful practices, allowing sinful relationships, that we should be concerned. It’s when we begin to view the commands of Christ as “outdated” or “unfair” or even “discriminatory” that we should become concerned. Look at all who greeted the Church in Colossea; Jews and Gentiles, free and slave, prisoners, men and women joined together as one family through the grace of Christ; and yet imprisoned together for their obedience to, and love of Christ. We are nearing the time in our world when such may once again be the case. The world is beginning more and more to vilify the Christian moral standard, and the Church, regretfully, is beginning to give in to that fact. Any stance for true Christian morality is deemed hate speech and uninclusive. Because the world has turned it’s back on God. They’ve deemed His commandments to be too closed minded to sate their desires, and, being the world, because of that, they’ve turned away from those commandments. And, a world without God is very frightening. A population of millions of people free to chase after their fleshly desires is absolutely horrifying. We’ve hit a time where the worst crime you can commit is to be a faithful, devout Christian, upholding the commands of He who died to give us eternal life.

Christ is in our midst. More and more, when I look at the world, I see that statement as a warning more than a promise. But He will overcome, and when He does, I pray that we are truly ready for it. Grounded in the Word of God, through the teachings of the Church Fathers, in the traditions of the Church, obedient to the will of God, not seeking to interpret away the many warnings in the Torah and the New Testament, but clinging to them, in the knowledge that God is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. His expectations never change, and likewise His promises never change. May we all find this truth to be inspiring, to be the cause of hope, the cause of love for all, and may we pray to God that the Holy Spirit will lead us in obedience to His Word.

Christ is in our midst.

On Planting the Seeds

11-18-2021 Colossians 4:1-9

St Paul here begins his closure on his letter to the Church of Colossae. He begins by reminding those who have bondservants to treat them with what is just and fair, never forgetting that no matter what fortunes or conveniences they may have in this life, they still do in fact have a master to whom they must answer. And this is such a vital message for us today as well. Though bondservants are no longer in a literal sense existent, it serves to consider any who are worse off than you, or perhaps you may manage someone in your job. Though they are far from slaves in a literal sense, if they are receiving money from you to do what you tell them to, this would still apply. But, regardless of economic ranking or financial status, we are all one in the family of God. And thus, all deserve to be treated with what is “just and fair,” to be respected as one created in the image and likeness of God. And that fact transcends any worldly label, any financial level, any race. There is nothing that we could label someone as that would make them any less worthy of respect.

And he continues to teach them to be earnest in prayer, vigilant in thanksgiving. See, when we read the Scriptures, it’s so easy for us to read it as a personal letter to us individually. And more often than not, that’s okay. However, in this instance, we must remember that this epistle was addressed to the entire Church at Colossae. This is so important to remember, because here he instructs them, as a whole, to be earnest in prayer. He expects the Church to be in corporate prayer often, gathering together more than once a week, in this corporate prayer and thanksgiving. In true worship. It’s the expectation that, yes, we will receive instruction during the homily, but that homily should never be the focal point of coming together. The Church we see depicted in the Scriptures is a Church that gathers together regularly in prayer. And notice, this prayer isn’t focused on our needs or wants or desires, but rather is to be vigilant in thanksgiving and worship. We pray for the well-being of the our brethern, for those who are travelling, for the government, for the military, for the poor and suffering, for the Church as a whole. We get outside of our little box and pray for the whole world, that it would be saved by the grace of Christ.

But most of the service is focused solely on the acknowledgment of Christ as our Lord and God, and our thankfulness to Him for His grace. And we see this very thing in St Paul’s letter even. He seeks the prayers of the Church for the apostles. Yet, notice, even in asking for this prayer, it is not that they would gain financial benefits, or prestige, or anything of that nature. No, rather he asks them to pray that God would open the door for the Gospel to reach more people, regardless of the cost. And he writes this while reminding them that it is for this very reason that he is imprisoned. It is for speaking of the mystery of Christ that he is in chains.

And he concludes by offering them this teaching. “Walk in wisdom towards those who are outside…let your speech always be with grace.” This is vital. Not only the apostles are to speak the truth, but every member of the Church should have a voice to reach those outside the Church. Jesus died for the sins of all, therefore His message should be available to all. But, he also warns that when we so do, our speech must be filled with grace. We must spread the word, but never through arguments or debates. Let us never get caught up in those things. Rather, we must speak with love, neither teaching or accepting heresy, but also never fighting to make someone believe. Our job as Christians is to plant the seed, or perhaps water the seed that someone else has planted. We do not make the seed grow, that is the Holy Spirit within them. And this is important. I’ve seen so many people turn away from the Church because of the members of the Church, I can not stress this enough. No one will ever answer those who are truly seeking the true faith without this grace of God.

So, what do we do? We attend the liturgies, we pray unceasingly, and we never forget to give thank to God for all things. Even when things seem to be going miserably, we give thanks to God. And yes, we do spread the word of Jesus, and yet we do so with grace. We live lives that reflect His grace, His mercy, His love. We reject things that He would reject and love things that He would love. Our world has created internet warriors who constantly seek to “one up” each other, but we must go out of our way to never let that happen. When we offer the Gospel to people, we must be living lives that reflect the promises and commands of Jesus. No one will listen if they see someone drunkenly proclaiming that Jesus is Lord. No one will listen if they hear someone arguing incessantly about how Jesus is the Lord. We offer the Gospel message with grace and with love, and some will walk away, and we pray for them. Some will have questions, and we answer them. Some will even want to come to the Church, and we welcome them. We must never let the fear of rejection from the world silence us, but we must likewise be mindful to never let our words, our passions, our attitudes, be the reason that they don’t come either. And we have to be careful. There are many heresies and false teachings, just as there were in Colossae, and we must be careful not to embrace them. There are teachings which have been accepted which have declared multiple mortal sins to be not sins, and we must avoid them as well. Unfortunately, most of the opinions of those outside the Church are based on those heresies.

We must remember that the goal of the Church isn’t to please you, it’s to change you. The Church isn’t a playground, it’s a hospital, where we go to be cleansed of our sinful ways. And we have to remember that to someone who is outside of the Church, that can be a terrifying thought. But, for those who would come, we must be a bridge to the Truth, not a wall of self-righteousness standing in the way. Let us not fill either our heads or theirs with lies about “live your best life now,” as this is a guaranteed let down, but rather let us speak in grace the undisputed truth about everything that it means to be a true Christian. We must spread the word, but we must be mindful of the pride that often times ensues. We plant the seeds, but it is Christ who makes them grow.

Christ is in our midst.

On Family and Submission

11-17-2021 Colossians 3:17-4:1

Here we begin by receiving a stark reminder, “whatever you do in word or deed, do in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Now, I want to truly consider for a moment what exactly St Paul is implying here. Notice, there is no mention of crowds, no media reporting anything, no cameras getting video or photos here. It’s this knowledge that anything that you do, you must do in the name of Christ. It’s not only the things that you do when it’s convenient, or when it will win you “points.” No, it’s “whatever you do,” any actions that you partake of, even when you are the only one visibly present, it’s literally anything that you do. All of the “hidden things” that you think you can get away with. “In word or in deed.” Any thing that you do, anything that you say, even those things which you think, do all things in the name of the Lord.

Now, I’d like to posit a point to you. As Christians, we receive a great blessing. A great deal of hope in a fallen world. As such, we have all been joined into the family with the Lord Jesus Christ through His Bride the Church. But, as with any family, we have responsibilities to that family. Consider this fact, when we proclaim the title “Christian,” then all of our words, all of our actions, become reflective of the Church, the body of Christ. And not only within the Church itself, but even moreso to the outside world. When you are working, or hanging out with friends, or perusing through social media, any thing that you say or do reflects on the Church, and therefore on Christ Himself. I’ve always said, as a previously devout anti-theist, I was never driven away from the Church by God, I was driven away by the people in the Church. I never felt welcomed by the members of the Church, I always felt judged by them, and eventually I grew to despise the Church in America. I remember actually making the statement one time, “If they don’t even believe their own book, why should I?” And, I remember using this exact passage to disprove the Bible, to show the hypocrisy of “love one another” in a book that encouraged sexism and slavery.

And yet, now as someone who actually studies the Scriptures seeking understanding of our God, instead of using three minute searches to pick and choose which verses I could use to argue my point, I’ve become much more aware of what the Bible actually is. It’s not like song-lyrics where you can point to one line and say, “wow, I really like that.” And that has led me to a much better understanding of the Scriptures as a whole, and this verse in particular. This verse is, in a way, describing the life in the home, and in the family. And yet, what it refers to is actually that our life in the home is our life in the Lord. Our homes become as like a little Church, our families become our Church body. And, because of this fact, there must be order. Every family should live the life of the Church in their homes. All of the duties of the house, just like in the Church, are reciprocal. Everyone has the same responsibility to the same Master. Wives submit to your husbands, in the same manner that the altar servers would serve the priest. That is to say that they are there to aid in the service, although it is no less of a service to the true Master than the priest himself is performing. Without the altar servers, the priest would never be able to perform all of the duties, and without the priest, the altar servers would be useless. Husbands love your wives, as Christ loves us. What does this mean? How did Christ love us? He never took advantage of us, He never slandered us, He never talked about us behind our backs. He was willing to die for our sakes. Children, obey your parents. This is a reference to the parish, without whom neither the priest nor the altar servers would be needed. And then, throughout this unification, we all serve the One God, we all become the bondservants because all service is to God, not to men. We all have the same Master, therefore to claim to be a master over a person is to place ourselves in God’s position. In the Church family, there is no one person who is more important to God than another, all are welcomed to become children of God, all are welcomed into the family.

It’s all intended to present this idea that, in the home, just as in the Church, there must be this structure, this sense of organization. Again, the family, like the Church, must be a body. There must be a head, a body, arms and legs, hands and feet, and if any of those is not working properly, then the whole of the creation suffers. No one part on your body is any more or less important, each part has it’s own role and each is imperative for the others to function properly. Consider a star footballer with a broken leg, or a body-builder with a dislocated shoulder, or a mathematician with brain damage. Each of these has the knowledge or the skill to perform these tasks, but because part of their body isn’t working according to it’s role, the entirety of the body is left crippled. And so it is in the family. If the father doesn’t love the wife unconditionally, then the submission of the wife to the husband becomes useless, and sometimes dangerous. If the wife doesn’t submit to the husband, then that love becomes for naught. If the children don’t obey the family, you end up with chaos with neither of the other commands being possible. It is only through the full union of each part, performing their roles effectively, that the family will work; that the body will function like it’s supposed to.

In no way does this passage imply that any one part of the body is more important than the other. Instead, it is intended to simply guide us to the roles that each part plays in the operation of the Body as a whole. All authority is humbling, it is all for the sake of loving service. The husband loves his wife so much that he will do anything for her, to serve her. The wife loves the husband so much that she will submit to him, to serve him. The children submit to the will of their parents because they love them, and understand that nothing will be commanded of them unless it is out of love. But, it’s very important to remember that this service in each part is not service to the husband, or the wife, or the children or parents, but rather it is submission to God. And this organization only works when each part of it is fully dedicated to the ways God has taught us. These family roles only work in the image of the family as a little Church. If any part of this body begins to seek after their own will instead, then the whole Church collapses, as you allow sin to enter in more and more.

Therefore, the fathers, the priests, the “masters” should never attempt to take advantage of this submission, they should never assume the role of God in this equation. They should love undyingly, they should teach God’s will according to God’s will, not some contrived interpretation of what God had commanded, never allowing the falleness of their being interfere. Their lives and attitudes should mirror that of Christ in the way that He always was and remains the Husband to the Church, the Master. And yes, during the time that St Paul wrote this, there was slavery. But, he notes that even the slave owners were to never take advantage of that fact, that they should give what is just and fair. And we have to strive to understand that from the perspective that he wrote it, not from our current standards. We understand slavery as a concept to be unjust and unfair, but when St Paul was writing this, it was commonplace for people to own slaves, historically speaking. And he commands even the owners of those to consider them as a part of the family.

The Church is the Bride of God, the Body of Christ. And we do submit to His will, out of His undying love for us. We are the children of God, and as we expect our own children to do, so to must we obey Him. We must stop looking for loopholes, stop searching for one verse out of context to prove Him wrong. We must stop blaming Him, stop behaving as children, and instead focus on growing into who He created us to be.

It is a hard time to be a Christian. It is. It is hard to stand strong in Christian values and morals. We constantly get attacked and sometimes tortured for clinging to the commands that Christ has passed down for us. Recently in our culture, Christianity began to be attacked by the world. And throughout those attacks, it has lost a lot of it’s worldly influence. Holding Christian values is nerely illegal at this point. But, thousands of years of history has proven this to always be the case, and the Church has never ceased to exist. We as children must strive to obey our Father in spite of all of this. And it means that we will be hated and resisted, ridiculed and reviled for so doing. But we must stand strong in the faith. And, in that obedience, in the submission to our Father, we will find the humility that we so need. We will truly be children of God, the true family of God with all of our brothers and sisters, and ultimately, through the guidance and grace of our Father, we will become the inheritors of the Kingdom.

Christ is in our midst.

On the Ways of the World

11-16-2021 Colossians 2:20-3:3

Paul here begins this passage with a simple question, if you have died to the world with Christ, why do you still follow it’s regulations? In our knowledge that the ways of the world are corrupt and hateful and that the enemy is the prince of this world, why would we compromise our spiritual health in it’s name? It serves to remind that the Church in Colossae was falling into heresy. It had already begun to accept sinful practices and beliefs. Worldly fears, worldly concerns, worldly beliefs, and Oriental mysticism had already begun to intermingle with Judaism and were leading the Church down this path of mysticism and human ritual. “Do not otuch, do not taste, do not handle,” as though these human rituals were able to superceed the decrees of God.

And, he proclaims, men have seemingly come up with this sort of “wisdom” to justify these decrees; he states that they have the “appearance of wisdom.” All of these leaders proclaiming that they are right and everyone else must fall in line with their demands. “False humility, neglect of the body.” And yet, he also states that each of these things are “of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.” As fallen human beings, we are susceptible to certain things. We tend to give too much power to the world in our lives. We allow them to dictate our lives, our health, our beliefs. We want to hear only what we want to hear, and anything else we decry as evil. And this was what was happening in Colossae. The Church was appealing to this longing for “true for you but not for me.” They were placating this acceptance, which is how the mysticism began to seep in to the Church. It was mysticism that we could control. They were being taught that pride, deception, passion, all of these were completely natural, and therefore not sinful. So, again, we go back to this control. No one can tell me what to do or what to believe. Further, in the Church of Colossae, they were being taught that the heirarchy of celestial beings were supreme, not Jesus. And through the power of the angels, they could do or achieve anything which they desired. Finally, they were being taught that there was this gnosis, this belief that sin came from a lack of knowledge and that the heretics teaching them were the only ones capable of understanding what these sins were. Basically, in teaching them that they could do and get anything they wanted, they were being taught not that they were one with God, but that they were gods. There was no discipline, no doctrine; it effectively turned into “my will be done” instead of Thy will. It was claiming the name of Christ while completely disregarding all of His teachings.

He goes on to explain to them, if you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above. Don’t seek fame or glory or riches, not only are those things strongly warned against, but the acquisition of them becomes for naught with the awareness that no one is eternal on the earth. No, rather, we are to seek that which is above, the Kingdom. Our goal in life should never be to die with the most toys, it should rather be to seek His will for our lives. We have received His resurrection through Holy Baptism, the Holy Spirit through Charismation, why would we ever return to the same life and goals that we once had? The same principles, the same ambitions? Shouldn’t we rather seek the ultimate spiritual glories of the age to come? If we’re instead seeking to live our best lives now, isn’t that a sad thing, knowing that this life will end? Paul tells us to set our minds on these things above, specifically not the things of the Earth. If we look deeply, are we truly doing that, or are we seeking the things of the Earth instead?

I ask this question because if we are truly living in His resurrection, if we are truly living our lives in Christ, then we should be fully devoted to His teachings and the teachings of His Church. It’s never enough to pick and choose one or two verses here and there that we can twist to mean what we desire. No, we have to truly seek His life, His truth. To truly live in Christ isn’t to seek loopholes in the traditions so that we can continue to please the flesh or the world. To truly follow Christ is to obey Him regardless of what the world says about it. It is to face the world strong in our faith and not be afraid to stand up for that faith. Remember, the world hated Jesus, to the point of putting Him to death. And the one reason that the world hated Him so much, He wasn’t afraid of it. And for that reason, they sentenced to death the One who came teaching to love one another. Because the love that He taught wasn’t this inclusive, everyone do what they want, love. It was the love that a father feels for his son.

May we all find this same courage, to stand up to the traditions and sinful ever-changing ways of the world, and cling closely to the cross of Christ. Not to intentionally cause trouble or war or anything else, but to not relent on living our true faith, which has been handed down to us throughout generations for thousands of years. Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.

Christ is in our midst.

On Grace Through Faith


Colossians 2:13-20

In this passage, Paul continues to rebuke those of Colossae who still cling to the Law as the sole means of salvation, as well as those who have taken the faith and intermingled it with Eastern mysticism. However, we have to remember that Paul has stated that the Law was never abolished, he here goes on to explain that mere secular adherence to the Law alone is likewise not sufficient either. We also must remember the crowd to whom this letter was written. The Colossian heresy was a blend of Jewish and Oriental beliefs, who felt that they were supplementing Christianity with new and innovative ideologies. They felt that the angels were supreme and that Christ was not God, but rather was merely a mediator and that sin resulted from a lack of knowledge in which they alone were experts. Lastly, they taught that salvation was obtained through ritualistic and ascetic practices. This resulted in an organizational and works based theology, wherein you could obtain salvation solely through the performance of these rituals and works. While it is imperative to remember importance of the Law, however, as this passage is so often used to justify the teaching of the heresy of faith alone. Are we saved by works alone, then? Of course not. Are we saved by mentally acknowledging that Christ is God? Of course not. What we must remember is that God has given us the Law to teach us what it truly loks like to follow Him and Christ has taught us that to follow Him is to gain eternal life. However to have faith in Him, to truly follow Him, is to actually obey Him and do what is expected. And that is why the Law was given to us. And yet, it is not these works themselves which save us, but rather the faith in Him which begat those works.

He touches on the law of circumcision here to begin with. Remember that the audience was those Jews who had allowed other teachings to seep in. And he touches on this topic only inasmuch as it is no longer necessary unto salvation. In the Torah, the circumcision required the removal of a small portion of flesh. In the circumcision of Christ, however, we die completely to the flesh and dedicate our whole lives to Christ, to the Christian way of life, and to the Church. Just consider the statement made here, “and you, being dead in the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him.” See, only the Jews were circumcised, thus in their time, only the Jews could be saved. They were “God’s chosen people.” And yet, Paul here addresses this by noting that the Gospel message is open to any who come to the true faith in Christ, the true faith that Jesus commands. Thus, circumcision, which was exclusive to the Jews, was no longer a requirement for salvation, and Jesus had come to save any who would lift up their cross and follow Him. But consider, He never abolished the law, He amplified it. It is no longer one small amount of flesh required to be saved, it is now dying entirely to the flesh and being reborn in Christ. Jesus never abolished the Law because He was the only person in the flesh who could actually fulfill it. And He did so to become a model for us of what a true Christian should be, and calls us to be like Him. It is not for nothing that Paul calls us to be “imitators of Christ.” But, knowing that we will never fulfill this Law, God has in turn given us the opportunity for the remission of our sins through the sacrifice of Jesus. He suffered for us all what each one of us would deserve to individually suffer combined. Will we ever fulfill all of His commands? No, even the most devout monastic will fall into sin. St John tells us that “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). But, this is not to say that we should ever embrace our sins. While we will never be perfect or sin-free, it must remain our goal. As His followers, we must always seek to obey and follow our leader, who is Christ Himself.

And it is through this faith in Christ that we can begin to achieve these goal, through His grace. It is through this obedient faith in Christ that we are washed of these sins. Once we die to ourselves in Holy Baptism and begin living as He calls us to, these “principalities and powers,” the angels who are the hidden powers behind our fallen existence, cease to have the power to control us. When we have fully surrendered to Christ, the flesh no longer controls us, we begin to control it. I think of so many people who celebrate their freedom, their free will, their ability to do whatever they want; in alcohol, in drugs, in the many addictions which plague our society. But when we give in to those things, we begin to give the flesh that control over us. And as the flesh begins to gain control, as the addictions take hold, we begin to realize that we can no longer control those addictions, we become slaves to them. We become slaves to the very freedoms that we were so apt to celebrate. And this same thing happens when we begin to embrace sin. Even in the Church. What begins as rebellious freedom with a free ticket to Heaven because we “believe” quickly becomes the renouncing of the Law in the name of this “freedom” and ends with the utter denial of any authority of God to tell us what we can and cannot do. I see this so often in the Church, where someone is baptized in the name of the Lord and then quickly returns to their sin filled life, feeling as though they get the free pass to the Kingdom because they once signed a form guaranteeing them membership in the Church, and therefore forgiveness of the sins that they continue to revel in.

Again, I will state, all of us will sin. This is in no way a judgment of people who fall into sin, it’s a warning to those who continue in sin with no attempt to overcome it. It’s a warning to any who claim that the Law of the Old Testament and the commands of Jesus in the New Testament were only for that one era in our history. When we renounce the Law, when we teach that it has been abolished, we begin the slide into slavery to sin; but likewise, when we renounce the grace of God, we begin the same slide. When Jesus fulfilled the Law, He did not abolish it, He accomplished what you and I could never do. He fulfilled it, meaning that He was able to actually follow it. Which is something that none of us could ever do. He came to serve as an example of what He expects of us. The Law, by human nature, can never be fulfilled, but it must be continually striven for. It is by faith in Him that we can begin that trek, and it is by His grace that we are forgiven when we fail, so long as we seek His grace and repent. Remember His warning, “many will say to Me Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name.” And Jesus replied, “I never knew you, depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:22-23). See, while it is through His grace that we are forgiven, that in no way implies that we can continue in sin, and that sin is outlined in the Law, else He would never have referenced their lives as being “lawless.” He alone fulfilled the Law, obeyed the Law, and He alone can forgive us when we transgress the Law; and yet we make a mockery of that sacrifice when we continue in those transgressions. Remember, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God…you shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, His testimonies and His statutes, which He has commanded you.” (Deuteronomy 6:16-17).

Paul concludes with by asking a simple question of the people of Colossae, and therefore of us as well. If we who died with Christ died to the basic principles of the world, why do we subject ourselves to these same principles? According to the commandments and doctrines of the world. In verse 8, we saw these principalities; philosophies, deceit. Consider science trying to disprove God, consider the principles of the world, lust, beauty, anger, greed, comfort, being able to do whatever you want, hatred, pride. Why would we ever want to give into these very principles which we died to? Through Christ those things have no power over us aside from that which we willfully give them. So, St Paul is asking us, why would we ever willingly give those things power over us again? Again, in relative terms for the sake of simplicity, an alcoholic who lost everything because of their drinking, who has since recovered, why would he ever return to that which had cost him so much in this world?

Paul tells us that we do not live by the shadow, which is the law, but we live by the substance which produces the shadow, which is the Body of Christ, the Church. He writes this to the Church in Colossae because they have intermingled so many things, the Law with Eastern mysticism and it has all become this man-centered ritualism which is very dangerous. When we begin to take another person, or even our own opinions, as God, we begin down this slope of falleness, which has very dangerous repercussions. When we start to believe in man over God, we create our own God, and, owing back to the Commandments, “Thou shalt have no God besides Me.” We have to be careful of accepting the divinity of the world and it’s mysticism. Mystical experiences are often filled with deception, pride, greed, and minds that are controlled by the body. There is a reason that so much of the New Age movement is filled with fully endorsing sin, it’s because those things are mystical experiences not rooted in God. He does warn that ascetic principles can also lead equally as much to pride, thus these should also be blessed by the Church as well. How many people do you know that strictly keep the fasts of the Church? How many people know if you do? If you know of people who do, or if people know that you do, then there’s the question of how those people know. We have to be careful of talking about those things, because it often comes from or leads to pride.

See, it’s so easy for us to fall into these patterns. No, the Law does not guarantee salvation. No, the Law was never abolished. No, acknowledging Jesus is God does not guarantee entry into the Kingdom. Yes, it is faith in Him through which we are saved. But, in this passage, Paul describes what this faith is, what it looks like. It is a faith that leads to dying to one’s self, dying to all of our pride and hatred and anger, our self-indulgence and greed. It is a faith wherein we die to ourselves and put on Christ, imitating Christ. And the Law is our guide to so do. It tells us what Jesus expects from His followers. And when we fail, which we will, we ask His forgiveness and begin anew. But we’re not alone in any of this. We have family in the Body of Christ that we can turn to for help, for guidance, to learn what the Church has taught for centuries. We have the family as well as the saints that we can seek intercession from through their prayers. And, we have the grace of the Holy Spirit to empower us to live the life that Christ calls us to live. And while this life is never easy, it is fully possible through the intercessions of our brothers and sisters, through the prayers of the holy saints, through the prayers of our lady the Theotokos, and the grace of the Holy Spirit.

Christ is in our midst.