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Challenges to Discipleship: The Role of Suffering

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1Peter 4:12-13)

One of the great barriers to entering into true discipleship with Christ is our problem in understanding the role that suffering plays in those who, through faith, have dedicated their lives to follow Jesus.

Shall we not suffer with Him?

I am Crucified with Christ ..

The first thing that hinders us about accepting the role of suffering in discipleship is that our natural selves cannot comprehend it. If Christ Suffered for us and took on our sufferings why then should believers still endure suffering as part of our calling? The second thing which hinders us is that, even upon beginning to understand the Lord’s calling for us to endure (certain types of) suffering, we cannot receive it because we lack sufficient faith to enter into and willingly receive the suffering to which we have been called.

After all, why would a good and loving God, insist that those He loves pass through the trials of suffering, especially when that suffering comes on us seemingly without cause or seeming justification. Wasn’t Jesus’s suffering sufficient?

This of course brings up the topic that the citation from Peter’s Epistle alludes to, that is, our participation in the sufferings of Christ. From this brief mention we begin to surmise that we, His Body, like the apostles, are destined to drink the same cup as he drank from, that is , the cup of suffering. That is, the suffering caused by His rejection and torture by the world and the establishment for the proclamation of the Good News of the Kingdom.

This then is the main theme of Peter’s Epistle to the suffering church at Rome. To encourage them to endure their persecution in Love, as Jesus endured His persecution in Love.

The Testing of our Faith

In the beginning of this first epistle, the Apostle Peter indicates that the primary reason that the father permits this type of suffering to enter into their lives (and therefore ours as well) is that, through their endurance, through faith, that same faith may be proven to be genuine, just as Gold in order to be assayed must be tested as if by fire.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:3-7)

Just as Jesus’ faith was tested through suffering so our faith also will be tested to determine if it is genuine. For there is such a thing as false faith and many have been deceived by their own human desires into presuming that their misdirected human zeal is the faith needed for discipleship. The Apostle Paul himself decries that, “ .. Demas has abandoned him for this present world” (2 Tim: 4:10), and in his first letter to Timothy he says: “… By rejecting conscience, certain persons have suffered shipwreck in the faith; among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have turned over to Satan, so that they may learn not to blaspheme” (1 Tim. 1:19-20).

In the Deuterocanonical literature we have the challenge for discipleship clearly stated :

“ My son when you come to serve the Lord prepare yourself for trials. Be sincere of heart and steadfast, undisturbed in time of adversity. Cling to Him, forsake Him not; thus will your future be great. Accept whatever befalls you, for in fire Gold is tested and worthy men in the crucible of humiliation”. (Sirach 2: 1-5)

Discerning the Types of Suffering We are to Endure

Peter makes it clear in his epistle that the type of suffering that he is exhorting us to endure is the unjust suffering imposed by others on us because of our faith or stand for righteousness. For this, he says, is consistent with our calling. Note that he does not include that suffering which comes to us because of our own unjust ways and sin.

“For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:19-23)

We also note that Illness or disease is not listed as the type of suffering we need to endure as Christians, In fact, he concludes the above paragraph as follows:

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1Peter 2:24-25)

Because of Jesus’ suffering and atoning work on the cross disease is not deemed a suffering that we Christians must endure as part of our path to discipleship. For this reason we attend to medical doctors and for this reason we are exhorted to pray for each other healing. Jesus did not have any sick disciples. It is not the Father’s will for us.

No! The types of trials we are to endure as disciples is how others treat us because we are outspoken disciples of Jesus. Not those who hide in a corner and are afraid to express their faith but those who openly confess Christ not only by their confession but also by the fruit of their confession – that is, the very lives they live!

Yes! They will revile us, persecute us, censor our prayers, expel us from their fellowship. We will lose many whom we formerly called “friends” but in being bold to proclaim Christ to the world we will be drawn into a new community, a new family of brothers and sisters in Christ who are not afraid of being called Christians and who live their lives in the truth of the Gospel, empowered by the Holy Spirit!

“Baruch haShem” – Praised be His Holy Name! Amen and Amen!

Bartimaeus

© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2016].

Related Links to this Article

Assessing our Discipleship

Discipleship: Accepting the Challenge

Prayer To Receive the Holy Spirit

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Our Father: It all begins with relationship

Our Father who art in Heaven

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

(Matt.6:7-13)

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My dear fellow pilgrims,

It all begins with relationship.

Only when we enter into the awareness that we are truly The Father’s Spiritual Children in Christ Jesus and enter into a personal relationship with the Divine can we begin to fully understand our inheritance in His Kingdom (cf., § Becoming Children of God). And that, through that understanding and the Divine Wisdom that comes with it, we may find our place and role in the here and now so that, through us, His Kingdom may indeed be manifested here on Earth as it is in Heaven.

For just like children of the flesh in this world who mature to fill distinct and varying roles and positions of responsibility, so too, we, God’s Spiritual Children, are purposed by Him to be His Arms of Love extended to the world – the world He created and redeemed so that He could manifest His Kingdom in their midst.

In His loving will He also has determined where and how are to serve Him and the spiritual gifts we will need to accomplish His will in this world.  That is why it is so important that we discern our individual calling and ask for His Holy Spirit to empower us to carry out that calling. But we cannot do this outside of a relationship with Jesus and the Father.

Lest we let this concept of being His instruments incorrectly exalt us, we must also be aware that this work is not to be accomplished by us, but by the Son of God who lives in us and works through us. He, and He alone, is the author and source of the work of the Kingdom. The only way we may participate in this work is through our complete surrender to Him and His Love. This surrender is not easy and is termed by Jesus as “ carrying your Cross”.  Believe me it is a difficult cup to drink from because requires us to die our own self-sufficient mentality and enter into a God-centered mentality – where we acknowledge to ourselves that, “without Him we can do nothing” (Jn.15:5)!

The Foundational Prayer for Discipleship  – The “Our Father”

That is why the prayer form that Jesus taught His disciples (cf., Matt.6:7-13) begins with the acknowledgement that God is “Our Father” and that we, as His Children, are totally dependent on Him and His Glory and power. A recognition that, although His Name, that is His Character and Person, is Holy and beyond the reach of any human rapprochement, He, through His Son, has breached the gap of holiness that separated us, so that we enter into a full and true relationship with him through His Son!

The prayer further states that, it is only through this relationship of obedience and love with Him, as Father, our source of life, provider, and sustainer, that we can be His instruments in bringing His Reign (Kingdom) into full manifestation in this world.

But of course, before we can be channels of His Love, His Reign must begin in us through our full surrender to Him and His Holy Spirit so that He might begin the work of His Kingdom in us!  The work of His Kingdom in us begins by His Spirit working in our lives to conform us to the image of His Son! Blessed be His Holy Name!

Recognizing that it is His work that must be accomplished, we ask for His daily sustenance and provision.  Although most of us take this request to mean “food for the table”, the reality is, that it is a request for His continual and daily spiritual empowerment, the infilling of His Spirit, to be able to carry out His Will. For us today, it refers to the living spiritual strength that is derived from communion with Christ in the Eucharist.

In the prayer we also recognize that our human failings against Love are a major impediment to the fulfillment of His Will and therefore ask for His forgiveness, in accord with our forgiveness of those who trespass against us.  In doing this we clear out anything in us that would impede His Will from being accomplished.

Recognizing, also, that the enemy will come against us through temptations to impede the Father’s Will from being completed, we also petition that He not permit any testing that goes beyond our ability to resist.

The reason this prayer, which we term “The Our Father”, is so important is because it is foundational to establishing the appropriate spiritual attitude of faith which underlies our ability to serve Him as His Children and fully committed disciples. That is why many have stated that this prayer really ought to have been named “The Disciples Prayer”.

If the problems of your life situation are creating impediments to your progress as a disciple, always keep in mind the admonition Jesus gave His disciples,

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? … [S]eek first the Kingdom of Heaven and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you”.  (cf., Mat. t6:25,33)

Or, put in today’s modern dialect, “ Do not let the worries and concerns of everyday life deter you … your first priority must be to let God reign in your life so that you are always faithful to accomplish His Righteous Will, then you will find that the worldly concerns in your life will be resolved appropriately”.

The Necessity of Prayer

Once, when through faith in His Word and Prayer, you have entered into an intimate relationship with the Father through Jesus and deeply desire to follow Jesus in discipleship, you will find that your need for a deeper continuing prayer life increases.  Just as Jesus, spent most of his evenings or early mornings in prayer, so to we who are following Him, must do the same.  We will do so, not so much as an imposed devotional practice, but instead to fill our awareness of the increased spiritual need for His presence in our renewed lives.

As we go deeper into discipleship we will find that we will not be able to adequately deal with the events and situations which we are called to handle without our daily prayer encounters with Jesus and the Father. Once we begin our prayer encounters and see the results in our everyday lives, we will willingly seek out these payer times on our own – for we begin to understand that our continuous need to tap into the source of LIFE without which we cannot function spiritually.

First of all we need to remember, that it is only through the intimacy of prayer that we receive from Him the wisdom, knowledge, empowerment, and Love we will need in preparation for the next day’s events. Secondly, it is through meditative  prayer in union with His Inspired Word, that we continue to be taught by the Holy Spirit in order to be formed and grow spiritually and learn from our experiences. St. Ignatius of Loyola tells us that “…there are very few people who realize what God would make of them if they abandoned themselves into his hands, and let themselves be formed by his grace.”

Once we have entered into true discipleship we will find that we can no more do without daily prayer than we can do without food or water.

The Need for Discernment

One of the problems we face as Lay Disciples of Jesus, is that the modern church is not structured to properly assist lay people, who are not part of the “religious establishment”, to follow the personal path of discipleship the Lord is calling them to follow.  The modern church establishment does not expect lay people to enter into such individual callings.  The establishment expects that any one who has such a call to either enter a seminary to become a priest, deacon, or minister or to join some religious order. It is difficult to overcome the prejudices of the past that have placed lay Christians as passive , un-empowered, servants of the clergy, having no understanding of things spiritual.

As a result, until the Lord works to change the situation we must seek the Lord intensely for personal discernment and guidance for what the Lord wants of us each day– a discernment that goes beyond that of our calling – a discernment that leads us to hear the voice of the Head Shepherd, Jesus Our Lord! (Cf., § Hearing and Obeying His Voice)

It is only through hearing and living His Word, inspired by the Holy Spirit that we will be able to distinguish between our fleshly-driven instincts and the spiritual directives and revelations from Our Heavenly Shepherd. Praised be His Holy name!

Now, I don’t discount our need of our earthly shepherds because they are still the dispensers of the sacraments, especially those of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. It is just that some of them cannot fully comprehend where we Charismatics are, spiritually, making it difficult for them to provide in-depth spiritual guidance for us when they themselves have never experienced the fullness and spiritual gifts of the Spirit and, in many cases, even resist them.

I try to maintain good relations with all members of the clergy, but I usually feel them out before going into spiritual issues until I sense they are on the same page with me and with the Holy Spirit. I know its not their fault, its just that the depth of their spirituality varies depending on their seminary and life experiences especially if they have not been introduced to the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

By the way, I expect that this spiritual lethargy that is still evident with some of our clergy will all be changing in the church of the new era we are entering, where the Spirit of God will overwhelm all Christians with His Glory and many of those who are now holding back will be surprisingly renewed in the Spirit. It will be a very difficult era for Christians and He is preparing us for those times when we will need to draw upon His power and strength to manifest His Kingdom on this Earth!

I must also mention that If you are struggling with discerning the Lord’s Will in your life, obedience to the Father is of the essence. If you yoke yourself to the Lord He will bring you though the times when you are being tested because of the fleshly baggage we all have to contend with.

Even the very smallest thing that we allow in our lives that is not under the control of the Holy Spirit is completely sufficient to account for spiritual confusion, and spending all of our time thinking about it will still never make it clear. Spiritual confusion can only be conquered through obedience. As soon as we obey, we have discernment. This is humiliating; because when we are confused we know that the reason lies in the uncertain state of our mind. But when our natural power of sight is devoted and submitted in obedience to the Holy Spirit, it becomes the very power by which we perceive God’s will, and our entire life is kept in simplicity.

Relationship is Everything

Finally brethren, in order to make clear the importance of our relationship with Jesus and the Father, let us recall the words of  Our Teacher when he told His disciples to …

“Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’  “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’  “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’  (Luke 13:24)

Yes, we also may claim a mundane familiarity with Him through your religious practice and even have worked signs and wonders in His name, but unless you personally “KNOW” Him, He will tell you when you come to His door: “depart from me you workers of iniquity, I do not KNOW you”.

Relationship, then, is everything, and without it our works for God become meaningless for entry into the Kingdom.

I pray brethren that the preceding discussion has been of help in encouraging you to move through the “narrow door” into a personal and private discipleship relationship with the Father through Jesus.  If you have that desire in your heart then you can be sure that the Holy Spirit placed it there. Pay heed, then, to that desire and seek the face of the Lord in prayer. If He placed it there He will confirm it and bring you to the open door to the Kingdom!

Baruch Ha Shem! Blessed be the Name!

Your Brother In Christ Jesus …. Bartimaeus

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2016])

Related Links

<> Sweet Yoke of Love

<> Husbands Love your Wives

<> Walking the Walk

<> Discerning the Spirit’s Call 

<>  Hearing God’s Voice and Obeying It

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Hearing-Gods-Voice

He who has Ears … Let Him Hear

“He who is of God hears God’s words;” (John 8:47)

‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me. (Rev.3:20)

From the Gospel of John Chapter 10 we also read more about hearing His Voice and why hearing His Voice is essential to true discipleship…

[4]   When He has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep   follow him because they know his voice.

[5]     They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.”

[14-15]   I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.

[27]    My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.

 

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Perhaps the key characteristic of one who is a disciple to Christ is obedience, the Obedience of Love.  This level of obedience is an obedience that is not only given willingly but out of a sincere, self-denying, love for Christ. Such and obedience may only be derived through an intimate personal relationship with the Master, a relationship where our ability to listen to His word and His teaching is essential. For without an ability to clearly discern His voice we cannot faithfully follow His specific instructions for our lives.

It is unfortunate that most of us Christians, though sincerely desiring to respond to the call of discipleship that is placed on all who believe, are seriously hampered from fulfilling our call because we lack the spiritual discernment needed to hear the Voice of God, be it the Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit. Instead, we blindly stumble along life’s way using our human instincts and human guidance to guide us in what we hope is a walk that is pleasing to the master.

Of, course we have the Word of God and Church tradition to keep us from totally going out of bounds in general, but the specific guidance for our lives requires that those general guidelines be interpreted and directed to the specifics of each person’s life. This level of discernment may only be achieved through a personal revelation of the Holy Spirit that clearly tells us what the Lord is saying to us personally, regarding the conduct of our lives for His Glory.

The Lord may speak to us in any manner of ways, such as through prayer, praise and worship, prophecy, visions, dreams, spiritual direction, friends, relationships, circumstances, and of course, the Word of God. Of course, because we are humans and always susceptible to deception, we must, as St. John tells us, test every spirit to truly discern the voice of the Lord in all of these ways (see 1 Jn. 4:1).

One of the ancient traditions that helps in the discernment of  God’s voice speaking to us personally through the Word of God is that of “Lectio Divina” (click HERE to go to that section).

A more recent approach in listening to the Spirit of the Lord, is that expressed through prayer in His Word and community chanting as exemplified by the Taize Prayer Community (click HERE to go to that section).

The Baptism in the Holy Spirit, is, of course, essential if we are to activate the spiritual gifts needed to open our spiritual ears (click HERE to go to the section on Pentecost and the Promise of the Father).

It may surprise you but the Lord is eager for you to enter into intimate dialogue with Him! He, in fact told us in His word that He stands at the door to your heart asking to come in and Sup with you (Rev. 3:20)! All you have to do is open that door and ask him to Come in!

I know that making that decision is difficult because it also means surrendering to His Lordship over your life. Because once you hear His Voice, Obeying His call is essential! I urge you to read a summary of my testimony my as my witness to what happened to me.

In order to provide you, not only a link to an article about my own coming to dialogue with my Lord, but also links to other articles that will provide you further insight and instruction to assist you in your quest  for “Hearing God’s Voice .. and Obeying it”!

Here the related articles or posts that I believe will help you :

My Testimony

Enter in By the Narrow gate

The Double Portion Anointing

I Stand at the Door and Knock …

Prayer to Receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit

May the Holy Spirit Guide you in your desire to draw closer to Him in true discipleship!

Your Brother in Christ  ….  Bartimaeus

© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2016]

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Concerning Spiritual Gifts

Opened Your Gifts Yet?

Opened Your Gifts Yet?

“Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed …”       (1 Cor 12: 1-3)


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In order for us, as believers, to cooperate with God’s Grace it is important to be informed about the “Spiritual Gifts” because it is through His Gifts that we are conformed into His Image to be channels of His Love.

In order to be properly informed, it must be noted that the Spiritual Gifts mentioned  by St. Paul in the letter to the Corinthians cited at the beginning of this post were in reference to the “gifts” that were manifested at “Pentecost” and recorded in the Book of Acts,

Acts 2: 1 “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.”

The Empowerment Gifts: The Promise of the Father

These “gifts” which all 120 persons initially received at Pentecost are those which Jesus termed, “ the Promise of the Father”. A Promise that was made to Israel by the Prophet Joel … (cf., Joel 2:28-31).

This is the “Promise Of the Father” that Jesus referred to just before His Ascension, when He instructed His disciples as follows:

Acts 1: 4 “While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the Promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; “

The “Promise” manifested itself as spiritual gifts that could be observed and noted by the community and the outside world in which they were embedded.  It was the Lord’s purpose at the initiation of the Church to empower “all” its members to fulfill Jesus’ mission for evangelization of the world (ie.,the Great Commission) – a mission that could be accomplished only if each member received a share in the anointing  that was on Jesus.  That is the reason these gifts are sometimes termed “the Empowerment Gifts”.

Acts 1: “8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Jesus receives the Anointing

Jesus Baptized in the Spirit

The Gifts were basically the same spiritual gifts manifested by Jesus during His Ministry and they were the gifts passed on to His Church by Jesus, when, at His Ascension He told the disciples to return to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit whom He will send to empower them to continue to carry out His mission to evangelize the world through them as His empowered representatives.

Here is what Peter told the crowd of 3000 regarding what had just happened at the Pentecost gathering, when they were amazed ay what was happening:

Peter Proclaims and Explains the Gifts

Beginning at Acts 2: 14 … “But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
    and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
    and your old men shall dream dreams.
18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
    in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
        and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show portents in the heaven above
    and signs on the earth below,
        blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20 The sun shall be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood,
        before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

This scripture then, refers to the foundational Spiritual Gifts that were manifested to 120 disciples, including the apostles and the initial 3000 converts at the Pentecost celebration described in the Book of Acts.

There are many levels of these gifts, but…
the foundational nine gifts of the Spirit are listed by Paul in the first letter to the Corinthians, Chapter Twelve…

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;
5 and there are varieties of ministries, but the same Lord;
6 and there are varieties of manifestations,
           but it is the same God who empowers all of them in everyone.
7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and
to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,
9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

Now, in the scripture cited in the preface to this article, Paul was exhorting the Corinthian Christians , who were recent baptized converts from paganism. to be informed about the nature of these gifts of the Spirit, in order that the community could grow and function appropriately to fulfill God’s purposes for them. It is for this same reason, we also need to be properly informed of these Spiritual Gifts today. That is why in our study of  Scripture we should put appropriate emphasis on St. Paul’s letters to the Corinthians as well as those to the Romans, Colossians, and Ephesians.

How The Sanctifying Gifts Relate to the Empowerment Gifts

Besides these foundational “Empowering Gifts” it must be emphasized that there are also another set of Spiritual Gifts that are termed, the “Sanctifying Gifts of the Spirit”. These gifts are the spiritual character and gifts of the Messiah as indicated by the verses in Isaiah 11…
1 A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
    and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
2 The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
    the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
    the spirit of counsel and might,
    the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
3 His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
    or decide by what his ears hear;
4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
    and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
    and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
5 Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
    and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

The gifts mentioned in this scripture are sometimes termed, the “Sanctifying Gifts”, because they are qualities of character and virtue to which we are called to attain as the Holy Spirit sets us apart to be conformed to the Image of Christ, that is to sanctify us as we progress in our spiritual life in this world.

As you might well imagine, these also are NOT our gifts but, rather the graces and spiritual character of Christ Himself. These are the character traits that characterize our progress in being conformed to His image by the Holy Spirit. These set of graces is in accord to the statement made by John the Baptist ,,, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30). That is, in order for “me” to grow spiritually into His image, the “I” in me must decrease through my “dying to self” so that His Inner Virtues and Character Traits may gradually grow and be manifested in me and through me.

Although the Sanctifying Gifts are not explicitly called out in the New Testament as “gifts”, they are alluded to indirectly as challenges we need to attain to in the growth of our inner man.  St. Paul does list some the “fruit” of these gifts on our personal character in his epistles, but one citation we remember especially is the one to the Galatians…

Gal 5:22 “By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.”

While the “Sanctifying Gifts” are clearly indicated by today’s church as being those gifts dealing with the spiritual growth of the individual person in the process of being conformed to the inner Spirit of Christ (cf., Rom 8:29) the “Empowerment Gifts” we described prior to this section are the gifts that are manifested by believers outwardly for the benefit of the community, and are those gifts which were received at Pentecost and termed, “the Promise of the Father”.

St. Thomas Aquinas, in his treatise, “Summa Theologica”, clarifies the distinction between these two categories of Grace, namely, Sanctifying Grace and Actual Grace. The Empowerment Gifts clearly pertaining to the latter. This distinction not only helps us to understand the Spiritual Gifts but also how they are to be manifested in our spiritually active Christian lives.

Another concept that helps us in our understanding is how these Gifts, which are really  Christ’s Gifts relate to the Image of “Christ in us, the Hope of Glory”.

In being conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29), the first thing that must happen is that, as we proceed in the process, His self increases in us in proportion as we die to “self”. This is the process of Sanctification that begins to form our inner self into His Inner Self.

Think of it this way, just as he identified Himself with us and our sins at His baptism, so also we are identified with His Spirit at our conversion and baptism and thus acquire access to His Inner Spiritual Gifts or Sanctifying Gifts to permit us to be conformed into His Image. For if we are NOT “in Christ” none of this applies and we are still in our sins.

Also note that after Jesus accepted His commission at water baptism and identified Himself with us to bear our sins, then the Holy Spirit came upon Him so that He could be anointed by the power of the Holy Spirit to carry out His calling. Here is what Jesus testified of that process when He returned to His home town of Nazareth  …

The Spiirt of the Lord is Upon Me...

The Spiirt of the Lord is Upon Me…

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free,  (Luke 4:18)

Thus in order for us who are baptized to share in His commission (ie., His Empowerment) with us, we must similarly receive our share of His anointing in order to carry out the role or purposes of the Father for us, who respond to His calling. This is why access to the Sacrament of Confirmation (ie., strengthening or empowerment) is provided us after our baptism. The only reason most of us don’t receive the Empowerment Gifts allocated to us, being that we are not properly informed about our access to them and thus our faith for these gifts remains dormant.

Before concluding, one of the final points that need to be clarified for us, as we proceed to enter into further study,  is that , in order for us to receive the Empowerment Gifts which are the gifts which enable us to function as envoys of Christ, under His anointing, the Sanctifying Gifts are a prerequisite.  And that satisfy that prerequisite, we must first identify spiritually with Christ and have His Spirit abide in us. For, as He told his disciples (and us), “… without me you can do Nothing”.

That Identification and New life by Abiding in Christ only comes when the Word of God leads us, through faith, to a sincere repentance and conversion leading to a reception of the Sacrament of Baptism, for as scripture says … “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.  … So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 6: 3,10 )

The reason we must be identified with Christ is that both sets of  Spiritual Gifts are NOT our gifts but a delegation of Christ’s spiritual gifts to us so that HE is the one that operates in us and through us bring us closer to His image, so that all the Glory is His and we are but channels of His Love and Mercy.

In Conclusion

I believe by now we have come to understand in distinguishing the two sets of gifts, that the Sanctifying Gifts are mainly demonstrated in our inner and personal character traits and the fruit of those traits, while the Empowerment gifts are designated to be manifested outwardly though us with the power of the Holy Spirit for the benefit and growth of the community.

This is why Paul, with the intent of building up the community, exhorts the already baptized  Corinthians to continue their growth in Christ by striving for the Empowerment Gifts .…“Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts, and especially that you may prophesy. For those who speak in a tongue do not speak to other people but to God; for nobody understands them, since they are speaking mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, those who prophesy speak to other people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. Those who speak in a tongue build up themselves, but those who prophesy build up the up the church” (1 Cor.14: 1-4 )

Praised Be His Holy Name!     Amen and Amen!

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My Brothers and sisters NOW is the time to act on the WORD and receive all that the Lord has provided for those who believe! May He reveal His Presence in you and may His Word burn in your hearts forever!

Baruch Ha Shem! Blessed be the Name!

Your Brother in Christ … Bartimaeus

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2016])

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Related and Pertinent Links

Has Jesus Arisen In your Heart ? (Part 2)

Has Jesus Arisen in Your Heart? (Part 3)

Prayer to Receive the Holy Spirit

Cast Your Net on the Other Side!

The Promise of the Father (Part 2)

Jesus, The Source of Living Water and Us!

 

 

 

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From Repentance to a Renewed Life

The Word is a Double Edged Sword

The Word is a Double Edged Sword

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12)

 

 

 

My Dear Brothers  and Sisters in Christ Jesus,

Self assessment

Assessing Our Inner Self

Yes, God does make a distinction between “Soul” and “Spirit”, but it takes the inspired Word of God to help us discern between them.

The inspired Word of God is key to discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Without access to the inspired Word and prayer we cannot fully come to the sincere self-assessment appropriate to this season of Lent.

As we enter the season then, let us remember that the main objective of this liturgical season is to stir our minds and our hearts to look at ourselves in God’s spiritual mirror and, upon seeing what God sees in us, to turn to Him in sincere and deep repentance, asking not only His forgiveness, but also for His transforming grace to conform us to the image of His Son.

This is, a transformation that activates the Spirit of Christ in us so that His will, His thoughts, and His desires become one with our own. This transformation does not happen automatically – one must yield and permit the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us!

We must also remember that the traditional group or personal devotions we observe during lent are only meant to act as spiritually inspired  catalysts to enable us to go deeper into our very spirits and hear what His Word is telling us about where we need to change.

The Holy Spirit must also lead us to open ourselves for Him to work in us and through us, to effect the changes that will enable Him to fulfill His purpose in our lives – that is, to permit God to use the circumstances of our earthly lives to form us to His Image, thus fully becoming another of Jesus’ spiritual brothers and sisters.

<> This Season we need to Re-affirm Our On-Going Transformation

“For whom he foreknew, he also predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son; that he might be the firstborn amongst many brethren.”  (Rom.8:29)

As always we should never enter this season with fear and trepidation regarding our sins and failures for the Lord has already reconciled us to Himself through the sacrifice of His Son on the Cross. All we need to do to continue our progress is to sincerely repent and reaffirm our commitment for Him to continue our transformation.

Because of God’s Mercy at our sincere repentance, our sins and failures can no longer impede us. As St. Paul indicates to us, “Therefore there is no more condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” ( Rom. 8:1).

And again, we find words of encouragement in the Letter to the Hebrews:
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16)

<>  Confession and  Sincere Repentance Is Gateway to Reconciliation

In order to ensure our access to the reconciliation procured for us in Christ Jesus we must come before the Father in Faith and sincere repentance.

Listen to what scripture tells us about our ability to enter into fellowship with Him if our sin  get in the way: “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.”—Psalm 66:18

So it is that  without confession and repentance our sins impede God’s ability to hear our prayers and thus hinders us from cooperation with His Grace for His purposes.

“If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true;  but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 Jn 1: 6-10)

Thus Scripture makes it clear that Repentance is key to the  Good News of His Reconciliation that is feely offered through His Son’s sacrifice on the Cross and His Resurrection. As Jesus told His Apostles …

“…Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (Luke 24: 46-47)

Since our sins have already been forgiven by Him in eternity, All that the Father wants us to do receive His Reconciliation is to reach out to Him in sincere repentance, as an act of faith – to freely draw in His eternal forgiveness for the salvation of our souls to meet our present day need for justification through the Blood of Jesus.

<> Our Practice of Repentance Needs to be Continuous

Saint Paul, in order to help us cooperate with the Father’s Grace in conforming us to the image  of His Son, explains our need to continuously receive the Father’s Reconciliation …
“…namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  (2Cor. 5: 19-21)

And, at the same time he (Paul) exhorts them (and us), that because of the above we are to consider every day of continuous repentance as a day of “Salvation”…
“Working together [with the Spirit], we entreat also that you not receive the grace of God in vain, For he says, “At an acceptable time I listened to you, in a day of salvation I helped you.” Behold, now is the acceptable time. Behold, now is the day of salvation. ” (2 Cor. 6:1-2)

Our main challenge, then, to freely and continuously to receive this Grace of Reconciliation, is to remain in Christ, as branches on the Vine, so as to maintain our attachment to the Vine, through Faith, otherwise,unless we repent, we may fall from Grace and be be cut off and cast into the fire (cf., Jn. 15:5ff).

Now, even though the Father has eternally reconciled  us to Himself, we can only cooperate and receive that reconciliation in our present “today” through the continuous practice of sincere repentance. This is so because we can only “sincerely” repent of our past and present sins and, thus, we must also continue in our practice of repentance to receive our share in the “eternal” reconciliation until we come into the heavenly realm where day-to-day “time” no longer reigns.

<> Our Continuous Repentance Reaffirms Our Continuing Transformation

The Father cannot begin His process of conforming us to His Son as His adopted Children until we have first been reconciled to Him, and since it is beyond our ability to do so, He, through the death of His Son, has paid the price for all the sins of humanity, to reconcile us to Himself for all eternity. So, since in order to remain in the sanctifying Grace of Reconciliation, we must likewise practice continuous repentance in order for the Holy Spirit to continue His work of Conforming us to the Image of Christ, whose Spirit Lives in us.

If we break this process through our sinfulness, The Father has graciously provided provided us the necessary Graces through the sacraments of Confirmation, Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist. These sacraments restore us to the necessary state of Reconciliation and provide us the spiritual strength to overcome the World and the evil spirits that control the world system that surrounds us.

<> Understanding Sincere Faith-Inspired Repentance

From the above reasoning we understand why “repentance” is most certainly one of the Keys for entrance into the Kingdom.

The only condition placed on our repentance is that it must be a sincere act of faith on our part.  That is, it must be a result of the Holy Spirit working in our hearts through His Word to give us the awareness that we done something that is against God’s will for us and, at the same time, an awareness that by turning to The Father for mercy we immediately receive access to the “eternal forgiveness” which has already been obtained for us through Jesus’ death on the Cross.

“Repentance in faith”, then, is the manner which the Lord has ordained through which we humans are to access the eternal blessings of His eternal forgiveness for all humanity. This, without doubt qualifies, the grace of repentance, as a primary Key to the Kingdom.
Just remember that we can only sincerely repent of our past and present sins – we cannot sincerely repent of the sins we commit in our futures. Thus the Lord has ordained that through such a faith-inspired repentance we can continue to draw on His forgiveness as we live out the span of our lives.

Also, Remember that “True Repentance” includes a sincere commitment to turn to God and His grace to keep you from committing, not only the sin(s) you are confessing, but also all thoughts, words, and actions that are counter to God’s will for you. Without such a commitment your “repentance” cannot be considered  “sincere”.

<> Carrying Out Our Commitment

Since we as fallible human beings are not capable of living a transformed life out of our own effort, the way the scripture indicates for us to truly live a life surrendered to Christ is to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to Him so that the the Spirit of Christ that is in us  may live out His Life through us, in our submitted body and soul.

St. Paul expresses this commitment to a New Transformed Life in Christ as follows:
“ I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2))

He also tells us the effects such a commitment had on him and, through inference, the effect it will have on those of us, who commit ourselves to live a New Life In Christ.

Jesus-crucified

It is finished!

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  (Gal. 2:20)

 

 

<>  Living out Our Renewed Life In Christ

In conclusion. I add the exhortation Paul gave the Colossians about how to begin to live out this Renewed Life in our Communities:

“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus, the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in Him, who is the head of every ruler and authority.” (Col. 2:6-10)

May the Lord Bless You and Keep You and may the Holy Spirit inspire you, to not only make this commitment (see below), but also provide you the faith, strength and graces you need to carry out the Father’s purposes for you in your Renewed Life in Christ Jesus.
Praised Be His Holy Name!  Amen and Amen!

Your Fellow Pilgrim In Christ Jesus … Bartimaeus.

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2016])

PS:  The following are some additional items that may help you in making your decision:

<> A Quote from St.Ignatius:
“There are very few people
who realize what God would make of them 
if they abandoned themselves into his hands,
and let themselves be formed by his grace.”

<> A prayer of personal commitment:
“Lord Jesus, I am deeply aware that my sins have separated me from you and from the eternal life which you have promised to those who believe. I also acknowledge that these sins impede me from fulfilling the Father’s purposes for me. I, therefore, repent of my sins and turn to you in faith for the salvation and forgiveness you won for me on the cross through the shedding of your blood even when I was yet a sinner and without merit before God.

In addition, I abandon my life to you totally, body soul, and spirit as a Living Sacrifice So that Your Spirit in me may be the driving force to let your Love work through me.  Come into my heart, be the Lord of my Life, as well as my Savior and my King.  Live in me and through me so that I can truly represent you in my service to others in your Name.” Amen.

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Assessing our Discipleship / Forming Disciples

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.…” (Rom.8:28-30)

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Are you being Conformed to Christ's Image?

Are you being Conformed to Christ’s Image?

All believers are called to be conformed to the image of Christ! That is God’s purpose for us, and it is to this end we should be living out the fulness of His purpose for us.

One of the main problems we lay people have in living out our faith to its fullness is that most of us have left out one of the main facets of entering into a truly and complete living faith journey, namely, our personal relationship with Jesus and subsequent yielding ourselves to the Holy Spirit so He may conform us into the image of Christ that is in us (Rom.8:29).  Without this facet of our faith life we cannot be “true disciples” or what may be called  “Intentional Disciples”.

Sherry A.Waddell in her book “Forming Intentional Disciples – The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus” makes it clear that there are three concurrent spiritual journeys to what one might call “normative” Catholicism.  She lists these as:

1. The personal interior journey of a relationship with Christ resulting in intentional discipleship.

2. The ecclesial journey into through the Church through the sacraments of initiation.

3. The journey of active practice (as evidenced by attending mass, receiving the sacraments and participating in the life and mission of the Christian community).

She also makes it clear that in a study conducted by her and a Catholic Cleric indicated that the majority of Lay Catholic Christians basically assume that all that is needed to be “Catholic” are to be involved in paths 2 and 3 (the ecclesial journey and the practice of the religious tenets of the faith).

To complicate matters, most of the Catholic participants in the study did not even know or understand that without the personal interior journey of “Intentional” Discipleship (#1) the other two paths become essentially a self-driven religious journey that leaves out what should be our most essential journey, that is, the personal yoking ourselves to Christ so that He and He alone may empower the Living of our Christian Life to its fulness.

Counter to this lack of understanding in our laity, leaders in the Church have reiterated time and time again that “normative” Catholicism must begin with…

“… the proclamation of the Good News that is directed to a conversion of heart and and life and clinging to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior; to disposing a person to receive Baptism and Eucharist and to strengthen a person in the prospect and realization of new life according to the Spirit”

(see on-line at:  http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_exhortation/documents/hf_jp-11_exh_30121988_christifideles-laici_en.html as of May 8,2012)

Because of the lack of in-depth adequate faith formation teaching (catechesis) most Catholic Christians are not properly taught the scriptural foundations behind the essential need for all of us to participate in a personal spiritual relationship with Christ that directly leads us to commit ourselves as “intentional” disciples. Without our direct and intentional consent to becoming Jesus’ disciples the Holy Spirit will NOT force discipleship on us because He respects our free will. Thus unless we come to such a commitment in our lives we CANNOT consider ourselves as TRUE DISCIPLES of Christ no matter how well we practice our religion. Discipleship requires a commitment beyond believing in Jesus – it requires a decision to surrender our lives to the Father so that the Spirit of His Son may act in us and through us for the Glory of the Father.

Being FormedTrue Discipleship is the process the Holy Spirit uses to conform us to the image of Christ during our lives (Rom.8:29). Discipleship is not a process that we perform. It is a divine process of Grace in our inner being that molds us and forms us to become more and more like Christ each day that we live. It is a process that works in every aspect of our being, body, soul and spirit as long as we cooperate with the Holy Spirit in His work of Grace. It is a process that leads to what is called a state of Holiness. That is, a state  where every part of our being is set apart for God’s use and direction to accomplish His purposes, not ours.

In order to facilitate our meditation on assessing our discipleship. I will list below several scriptures and my commentaries so that my readers may pray over this theme and let the Holy Spirit guide them in discerning where they stand as disciples.

One of the first themes I propose we consider for meditation is that of the Good Shepherd. If we are to be truly His disciples then we must truly be one of His sheep.

<1>    Jesus spoke of the relationship between Himself and His Sheep: “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.…” (John 10:14-15)

Point:  Jesus is declaring that to be one of His Sheep you need to have a “knowing, living” relationship with Jesus that emulates His relationship to the Father. Are you in your inner spiritual life living out and experiencing such a relationship? If not. Why Not?

<2>    “The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”  (John 10:2-5)

Point: Jesus leads His sheep through a personal interaction by speaking directly to them so they can recognize His Voice and not follow a stranger’s voice. Do you have a daily dialogue with Jesus in prayer so that you hear and know His Voice and thus are able to follow Him and learn from Him?  If not. Why Not?

<3>    Jesus answered [the Pharisees], “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all ; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:34-38)

Point: Those who are called to be disciples “know” who Jesus is in their hearts and thus have spiritual ears to hear and listen to His Voice and follow Him. If you have heard His Voice, then all you have to do to enter into discipleship is decide to follow Him and act on your decision by making a commitment in faith to Him directly!

Comment: In the above discussion we may be faced with a dilemma. We have a strong desire to act on our desire to follow Jesus but we have never experienced a dialogue with Jesus or really understood what the Kingdom of God that He preaches is about.

Well you are not alone. Nicodemus, a ranking member of the Sanhedrin was in the same situation that you are. So what did He do? He went looking for Jesus to ask Him directly. Of course he came by night because, like you, because it was a little embarrassing. Here is what  happened:

<4> “Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”  Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again ” (John 3:1-3)

Comment: Notice that Jesus equates the effects of God working through His ministry, that Nicodemus is referencing, as the evidence of the “Kingdom of Heaven” at work. Nicodemus, a cleric with standing, was shocked at Jesus’ response. How could this lay person say such a thing to a member of the Sanhedrin? And what is this thing about being “born again”?

Regarding the term “born again”, note how St. Peter comments on this in his first epistle: “ Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for…

“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord remains forever.”

And this word is the good news that was preached to you.” (1 Peter 1:22-25)

<5> Nicodemus, in trying to understand this saying, asks Jesus: “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:4-8)

Point: Jesus indicates that a person’s spirit must be “brought to life” or “activated” in order to be sensitive to the work of the Holy Spirit. Only the Holy Spirit can revive a person’s spirit by Grace, through The Word. Jesus refers to those who have received such sensitivity to the Spirit as having spiritual ears so they can her His Voice.

He also tells Nicodemus that although he has been granted the grace of this sensitivity and has responded to it by coming to Him,  yet in order to be a disciple and participate in His ministry (ie., enter the service of the Kingdom of Heaven) he must take a further step and make a commitment to Jesus to follow Him.

Jesus, is also telling Nicodemus the action he now needs to take to enter the Kingdom, that is become a disciple in His Ministry is two fold:

1) repent of his sins and accept Jesus for who He is (water Baptism),
and
2) yield himself to be empowered by the Holy Spirit (commissioned) to carry out the role he has been called to fill in the Kingdom.

Have you been moved by the Spirit to renounce yourself and your own goals and objectives, as noble as they may be, and turn towards God for the change of life He wants for you. And…, if you have done this, are you willing to freely and openly offer your self as living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1-2) so that the Spirit of Christ that is in you can work in you and through you to achieve the purpose for which the Father has called you?”

If your answer is “yes” to these latter two questions, then you should seriously consider making a declared commitment to follow Jesus. This is what being an “intentional” disciple is about.

Comment: Note that Nicodemus did not take up Jesus’ offer of full discipleship at the time of his encounter with the Master. He did continue as a “discreet” or “undeclared” disciple which is the role most of us lay Christians, in our passive ignorance, inadvertently choose.

Brethren in Christ …

I now implore you to meditate and pray on the themes and Scriptures I have presented to you andask the Holy Spirt to Guide you to discerning your calling.  Then…act on whatever He tells you!  Praised Be His Holy Name, Forever and Ever, Amen!

There are very few people
who realise what God would make of them
if they abandoned themselves into his hands,
and let themselves be formed by his grace. (Saint Ignatius of Loyola)

Your Brother in Christ Jesus … Bartimaeus

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2015])

Important Links Relevant to the Current Article

Hearing God’s Voice and Obeying It

Prayer to Receive the Holy Spirit

The Cost Of Discipleship

Cast Your Net On the Other Side

Blog Comments On Sherry Weddell’s Book

http://www.focus.org/blog/posts/forming-intentional-disciples.html

Contacts Regarding Discipleship

The Catherine of Siena Institute
PO Box 26440
Colorado Springs, CO 80936
Web Site: www,siena.org
(719) 219-0056
(888) 878-6789 (toll free US)
(719) 219-0097 (fax)

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Are you Living God’s Love?

<>   Letting God’s Divine Love work in us and through us.

Spirit-Of-Love -by B.R.Timeo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

My fellow pilgrims …

In walking the narrow path of discipleship with our Savior and Master, Jesus the Son of the Living God, we must remember that the utmost characteristic of a disciple is “Love”. Not just a brotherly type of love, but a God-ordained type of Love, “agape” or selfless Love. This type of love is the “Love” that characterized Jesus; it is the Divine Love of the Father Himself that is in us through our immersion in His Spirit, through baptism (cf., Rom. 5:5).

This is the “Love” defined by Jesus: “As the Father has loved me so I have loved you” (John 15:9) and “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34). It is the manifestation of this type of love, in us and through us, that distinguishes us as true disciples. It is NOT a love that we can release out of our own human efforts. It is a love that must flow from the Spirit of God that is in all baptized believers. But the problem being, that not all believers have come to the point in their faith-lives where they have released that spirit of God’s love into their everyday lives.

Unless we can place the love of our brothers and sisters in Christ above our own lives we cannot lay claim to that kind of love as guiding our everyday lives. As an aspiring disciple, the most I can say is that, on certain special occasions, the Spirit of God working in me has unexpectedly brought me to that point, but upon realizing it I become aware that it was not me, so much as the Spirit of Christ working in me and through me, that manifested in a particular instance. I constantly struggle against my flesh to bring Christ into every moment of my everyday life so that His Kingdom of Love may manifest itself continuously through me.

It helps me to understand that Peter, the apostle, had to struggle with this as well. Before Jesus’ Passion and Crucifixion, Peter, out of his inflated ego and pride, attempted to stake out his love for Jesus by saying that he would defend Him to the end. To which Jesus, knowing Peter full well, responded, “… Jesus said to him, “Truly, I say to you, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” (Mark 14:30)

Later, after Jesus’ resurrection when he appeared to the disciples as they were fishing, He took Peter aside, to help him overcome his self-guilt, and asked him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”(John 21: 15). Note that here, Jesus addresses Peter as, “Simon”, and uses a verb derived from the Greek word “agape” for “love”.

Peter, now humbled from His prior denials and recognizing that Jesus was inviting him to restore fellowship, responded … “Lord, you know that I love you”, but using a derivative of the Greek word “phileo” (ie., brotherly love) for the word “love”. Thus now indicating that he could not, at this point, overextend himself by stating that he, in his human weakness, was able to commit himself to the divine level of “agape love”.

Jesus, after asking again, then asked the third time “… do you love me?”(John 21”17), but this last time He used the verb “phileo” for ‘love” thus indicating to Peter that He was accepting His response at the level he could offer because he was being sincere and placing the level of love he could genuinely muster. However, Jesus also, at the end of that conversation, told Peter that at the end of His Life his “love” for Jesus would, by the Spirit be brought to the ‘agape” level because he also would be crucified as a manifestation of that “Love”.

As it was for Peter so it shall be for us, if we also respond sincerely to begin our walk with Jesus at the level of love that we are confident we can offer. It is with that level of love, then, that we begin our consecration to our master, with the door of our spirit open to the work of the Holy Spirit in us to conform us to the image of Christ and move us into the “agape” level of love.

The Way of  True Discipleship

The Way of True Discipleship

Yes, just as in Peter’s case, personal suffering will ensue. Because ‘agape” love always means carrying our cross of denying our own self-will and ripping off our attachments to the “world” and to “self”. This is part of the cost of discipleship. For as Jesus said…

 “If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”  (Luke 14:26-27)

and …

“If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:19)

<> If we abide not in His Love we can do nothing

 Jesus made it clear that if we do not abide in Him and His Love we will not be able to bear fruit for His Kingdom …

 “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:4-8)

Of course the inherent interpretation is that without the empowerment of His Spirit of Love abiding within us, and obedience to His Word, nothing of spiritual value for His Kingdom can be accomplished. We may be very pious an religious, but if we are not acting out of selfless Love they will not be of service to the Lord and His Kingdom. In other words, in order to serve the Lord, our will must be submitted to Him and not our own ambitions and purposes.

But the saying may also be understood to indicate that we, as believers, are only branches of His Vine of His Love, and, if we do not maintain an intimate relationship with Jesus, who is the Vine, nothing of spiritual value for His Kingdom can be accomplished since He alone is the source of Divine Love.

St. Paul reiterates this principle of the need for a disciple to abide in “agape Love” in his first letter to the Corinthians (Chap. 1 vs.1-3) …

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Cor. 13: 1-3)

Since it is clear that agape Love is essential to discipleship, the question remains as to how is this type of Love manifested in a believer that distinguishes him/her from those in the “world” ?.

Again, Paul tells is how the fruit of true Love is manifested through those who maintain their attachment to the Vine…

“Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude.

Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

 For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.

 So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor. 13:4-13)

<> Activating the Divine Love that is in us

Now, being made aware of the Father’s purpose regarding abiding His Love, we come to the challenge of assessing whether we are living our lives in accord with His purpose for us.

First of all, we must ask ourselves if we are in an intimate personal relationship with Jesus and are we submitting ourselves in love to His Love so that the Father’s will may be done in our lives as it is in Heaven. Are we walking in such a spiritual commitment and are we involved with a constant dialogue with Jesus as we perform our daily activities in this world. If not, then the first thing we must do is enter into such a consecration.

The consecration that I refer to is termed by St. Paul as that of dedicating ourselves as a “living sacrifice” to the Father, we do this by a total surrender of ourselves to the Spirit of God in us. Paul describes this consecration as follows:

 “I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I bid every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith which God has assigned him.” (Rom. 12:1-3)

If we are already walking in such a relationship, then we need to test ourselves daily regarding these virtues, so that we can, through repentance and communion, maintain our connection to the Vine and thus bear fruit for the Kingdom.

However, if we are unsure of exactly where we stand in our relationship and commitment then I would recommend that you click on the following link for instructions as to how to make such a commitment to Christ.

# PRAYER OF COMMITMENT

Above all Brethren, please ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in all that I have been saying and obey His guidance – for it is only through Him and the inspired Word of God that your spirit may be activated to interact and dialogue with the Divine! As you pray, keep in mind this Word about knowing Love …

“We have come to know love by this: that Jesus laid down his life for us; thus we ought to lay down our lives for our fellow Christians.” (1John 3:16)

Above all Brethren, please ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in all that I have been saying and obey His guidance – for it is only through Him and the inspired Word of God that your spirit may be activated to interact and dialogue with the Divine!

May the Lord bless you and guide you, and may His Face Shine upon you, and bring you into His Peace!

Your servant in Christ … Bartimaeus

© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-20014]

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