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Jesus said “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower.

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Abide in Me to Bear Fruit

He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just 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. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:1-5)

My Fellow Pilgrims in Christ Jesus,

One of the basic spiritual principles we everyday Christians tend to misunderstand God is how we think He wants us to serve Him. In our human way of thinking we think that we ought to serve Him by exhibiting the utmost of our earthly zeal and talents under His Command so that we, through our efforts, can produce the Fruit He wants for His Kingdom.

Wrong!

We Must Act In Jesus’ Name – Not ours!
The Father’s desire is that all of His creative purpose for His Kingdom be manifested through His Beloved Son, Jesus His Anointed One! And that is why He in his Loving Kindness determined that those who believe in His Son are given a New Life in His Spirit, so that we, his creatures, can be formed into His image and be true channels of His Love and blessings to this world, in HIS Name! Not ours!

Understanding this, that Jesus alone in the source of God’s grace to form His Kingdom. By transforming each of us into the image of His Son, we become branches of the Vine, His Son, through whom the Fruit of His Kingdom will manifest. As branches we act as extensions of Jesus himself.

That is why It is the Father’s intent that we be formed into such a relational and spiritual unity with His Son so that He will dwell in us in such a way that all we do for His Kingdom flows from Him and For Him, and so that His and His Alone is the Glory and Power, Forever and Ever. Amen

We can see then why the Father’s driving purposes for us is not only that we be conformed to the image of His Son but, foremost, His main purpose is that He wants us to be His spiritual partners in manifesting His Kingdom through bearing forth fruit through Christ Jesus. That is why He created us and predestined us to be conformed to the image of his Son (cf., Rom. 8:28-30). All of what we call “Spiritual Growth” in our lives needs to be centered in this principle.

Becoming Fruitful Branches
Now, it is clear why most of us shy away from this understanding. We know we that although we are all sinners saved by grace, nonetheless we haven’t been taught too well what it takes to reach this ideal spiritual union with Christ so that we can become fruitful branches.

His Disciples did not understand this either. And that is why Jesus told them that in order to proceed to being a branch to the Vine you must reach a point in the heart-to heart relationship with Him that He terms “abiding in Him” in the same way that “He abides in you”.

Can you imagine the disciples really understanding what this meant. In fact, most of us today don’t either. Using the model of the vine we can begin to understand that we must have more than an earthly relationship with Him we must have a “spirit-to-spirit” relationship with Jesus in order to become as branch to Him. Also Jesus tells them that in order to enter into such a relationship you must be spiritually reborn and spiritually cleansed.

Here is what He told them:
“You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you.  Abide in me as I abide in you. Just 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. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:3-5)

Then, in order that it might be clear to them what the “mutual abiding” term meant He went further indicating that the intimate unity needed for the relationship must be based on “agape” Love (ie., a self denying, divinely inspired Love). A Love that was manifested through loving obedience to divine directives.

Here are His Words to them:
“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” (John 15:9-10)

So from this we understand the KEY virtue of “Loving Obedience” through which the Holy Spirit works in us to form our mutually abiding union with Christ , namely, if you obey His directives just as He obeyed the Father’s directives then you can consider yourself as “abiding” in Him.

Then He also gave them the ultimate directive that would affirm their “Abiding in Him” …
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12-13)

Of course this transforming process that the Holy Spirit uses to conform us to the image of the Son begins in this life and continues through eternity. But “entry” requires us to give ourselves to Him as an act of our free will – sacrificing ourselves totally to Him (cf.,Rom. 12:1-2) out of Love for what He has done for us! As our relationship and union with Jesus grows we also come to know Him spiritually more and more such that we become more and more like Him and our will is brought into harmony with His will in us and for us!

The following excerpt from a book by Brian O’Leary SJ indicates how this virtue of Mutual Knowing endows our formation into His image:

Growing In Christ is Knowing Each Other More
All relationships that have any depth involve mutuality. As we desire that Jesus reveal himself to us, so too we reveal ourselves to Jesus. We share with him our own lives, our struggles and successes, the darkness of our doubts and the brightness of our hopes. We allow him to get to know us, to have an interior knowledge of us at the same time as we receive an interior knowledge of him. Our human need to be known by the other – or the divine Other – lies very deeply within us. It complements our desire to know the other, or the divine Other. This mutuality brings a wholeness to the loving relationship that we long for with God in Christ. As Ignatius wrote towards the end of the Spiritual Exercises: Love consists in a mutual communication between the two persons. That is, the one who loves gives and communicates to the beloved what he or she has, or a part of what the person has or can have; and the beloved in return does the same to the lover… Each shares with the other.
Excerpted from a book By Brian O’Leary SJ: GOD EVER GREATER: Exploring Ignatian Spirituality (p.129. )

Then, Jesus tells His Disciples, and us, how we are to relate to Him in our transformed mutual relationship as His Friends. (c.f., Ephesians 1:4 and Romans 8:29)
You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. This I command you, to love one another.” (John 15:14-17)

From Friends to Disciples
From this you can see, all believers are called to be Jesus’ friends and not only friends but disciples as well. As lay person we sometimes do not fully comprehend is what the call to discipleship entails. In our diminished view of ourselves, we think that one can only be a “disciple” if one enters into a religious vocation like a priest, brother or nun. We don’t understand that there is nothing keeping us from being “lay disciples” except our lack of knowledge of what the term “discipleship” means.

In fact it only takes prayer of sincere consecration to enter into discipleship even if you are married and have a job. St. Paul tells his congregation about how marriage itself can be enters as a form of discipleship. Here is what Paul told the Ephesians, “… Husbands Love your wives as Jesus Loved His Church and gave himself for Her” (Eph. 5:25). Thus if, as a husband, you give yourself to Christ and let Him rule over your married Life through His Love, you can truly enter into a form of discipleship that will truly bring forth fruit.

Now Jesus indicated to His disciples that before they entered into any commitment as disciples they needed to wait in Jerusalem for the “promise of the Father” (the empowerment of the Holy Spirit) before acting on their calling (Acts 1:4-5) . He also told them, “… not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, said he, ye heard from me: For John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” (Acts 1:4-5)

So, also, if any desire to respond to our calling as “lay disciples” we need to first “wait” and meditate on the Word and pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit to affirm our calling before taking action. Since the Lord told us that without Him we can do Nothing, we must understand that without His Empowerment, through the Holy Spirit we dare not enter into any spiritual commitment.

However, since Pentecost is near, this would be an excellent time to pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit so that we might ask for His Consecration of our commitment at this time! Praised be His Holy Name!

Consecration
My Dear Pilgrims if in reading this posting you feel moved to make a commitment, I refer you first to another citation from the Apostle Paul that you should meditate on in order to affirm your call. In this exhortation Paul emphasizes the seriousness of our commitment, to offer our very life to the Father in loving response to the Sacrifice of His Son for our salvation, that he may anoint us as messengers of His Love to act in His Will and for His Glory, In Jesus Name!

“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.” (Rom 12:1-2)

In Conclusion
As we have put on the New Man in Christ, let us then continue in St. Paul’s advice …

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. (Col. 3:1-4)

(But for Now ..)
“Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all! (Col. 3:5-11)

(In your new self …)
“As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

“And let the Peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col. 3:12-17)

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May the Holy Spirit guide you as you act on your faith in the Name of Jesus, so that all you do to is dedicated to bring forth the Kingdom for the Glory of the Father.
Praised be the Name of Jesus!

Your Fellow Pilgrim, in Christ… Bartimaeus
© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2019]

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Related Links…
Prayer of Commitment
Husbands Love Your Wives
Letter by Bishop Regarding Lay Missionary Discipleship                                                              Cast Your Net on the Other Side

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The Word of God Tells us that, “… they who wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Is 40:31)

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Col. 4:16-18)

Dear Fellow Pilgrims in Christ Jesus,
Sometimes we don’t fully understand the depth of Promises of God that are presented in scripture. For example the promise in the Word from Isaiah 40 quoted above includes the condition: “Those who wait upon the Lord…” that is sometimes misunderstood by casual readers to include everyone who has Faith in the Lord.

I wish that were true. I believe the Word that Isaiah proclaimed would be better understood if the translation were stated as…

“Those who rely totally in Faith upon the Lord…”

or, more fully expressed …

“Those who are spiritually sustained by faith in the Lord and place their total trust in His plans for their lives…”

Of course I am not a scripture scholar, I am just sharing with you how that scripture inspired me in after my conversion and yielding myself totally to the Lord. Yes, my life was transformed by Him entirely, but the circumstances of the world I was living in tried to overwhelm me and negate all that the Lord was doing in me. The charismatic community in which I was embedded came to my assistance immediately and supported me in prayer and the Word, through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

It was they that proclaimed the Word that Jesus used to raise the faith of His disciples, “…take courage; I have overcome the world!” (Jn. 14:33). Since He was in me, through conversion and baptism, I needed to stand in faith, in that Word of encouragement in order for me to see the results of His Victory in my life. That was what the Word “waiting on the Lord” meant to me!

By God’s Grace I stood in steadfast obedience in my relationship with Him and Faith in His Word, and by His empowerment and Grace, over time, I received the graces and strength to overcome the circumstances in my life that were threatening to overpower me. Praised be his Holy Name!

It was Just like the scriptures stated…
“He gives power to the faint,
    and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
    and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
    they shall walk and not faint.” (Is. 40: 29-31)

And that is why Paul’s word of exhortation to the Corinthians also means so much to me and why I recommend it to those, who like me, are also “waiting on the Lord” to bring His Victory into their lives!

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Col. 4:16-18)

In conclusion Brethren, I leave with you St. Paul’s blessing for his Colossian congregation… “May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:11-14)

May the Holy Spirit guide you as you act on your faith in the Name of Jesus, so that all you do to is dedicated to bring forth the Kingdom for the Glory of the Father.

Praised be the Name of Jesus! … Bartimaeus

© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2019]

Recommended Links
Responding to the Spirit’s Call
Regarding Spiritual Freedom
The Gospel of the Kingdom
The Cost of Discipleship
Putting on God’s Armor

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Jesus therefore said to them,  “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” They answered Him,  “No.”  And He said to them,  “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you will find a catch.” They cast therefore, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish. That disciple therefore whom Jesus loved said to Peter,  “It is the Lord.” And so when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea.  But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about one hundred yards away, dragging the net full of fish. (John 21:5-8)

My fellow Pilgrims,

Today Jesus is asking us, his aspiring disciples-in-training: “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?”.

Putting the question to ourselves in today’s vernacular:  “Do you consider that, as a follower of Christ, you are being successful in reaching people for Christ and bringing them nearer to Him?

And, like the disciples, your answer, like most of us aspiring disciples, is also probably “No”, or “Not many”.

Now, in the incident after Jesus’ crucifixion and death cited above,  Peter was still so distressed, that it took John to remind Him that it was the Lord who was hailing them from the shore. And when He realized that it was truly the Lord calling He jumped out of the boat in response to His call.

John, realized it was the Lord because he remembered that when they first met Jesus on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, he also told Peter, after a day of fruitless fishing, to do out to the deep and cast their nets on the other side and the net were so full of fish they could not draw them into the boat (Luke 5:4-11). When reminded by John, Peter came out of his depression and swam to shore to be with Jesus, whom he had denied, which is what was probably augmenting his state of depression.

So also for us today, we, who are attempting to serve the Lord with the intent of being His disciples, sometimes feel somewhat depressed when our wholehearted efforts are not producing results for His Kingdom and we don’t seem to understand why.  While in this state we also, like Peter, may not be listening to Jesus’ call and need to be nudged into hearing His call – His call, telling us to “fish on the other side of our boat”. “Our boat”  being our basic human nature.

About the Other Side of Our “Boat”

Yes, there are two sides to our human nature, our soulish, fleshly, self-centered side and our spiritual or God-centered side.  Before we are born of the Spirit, as mentioned in Chapter 3 of John’s Gospel, the only side we are aware of is our soulish or fleshly side. For, as Jesus tells Nicodemus (Jn.3), unless one is born again (spiritually revived), one cannot be sensitive to the Spirit of God. And I might add, from my own experience, even if you are born again, if you are not walking in the spirit, you will automatically revert back to the fleshly side of yourself.

For those of us in this state, the story cited gives a lesson that, because, when we are in service to the Lord, we always need be walking in the Spirit or be part of a discipleship team that will nudge us back to the Spirit side when we find ourselves drifting back to the fleshly side of our human boat.  When we attempt to serve the Lord from our fleshly side you may be sure that your efforts will not produce lasting spiritual results, no matter how well motivated you are. The Lord has told us that … “without Me you can do nothing [of spiritual value]” (John 15:5). Yes our self-willed service may produce earthly results that lift up our ego, but we cannot reach men’s hearts without the anointing of His Holy Spirit.

For this reason, as we begin our walk in discipleship, it is extremely important that we not only accept Christ as our Lord and Savior but also be Baptized in the Holy Spirit so that, through the Spirit and personal prayer we may learn to be fully sensitive to the leadings of the Holy Spirit and thus permit Jesus to work in us and through us as we minister in His Name. In fact, that is what it means to minister “in His Name”!

All too often we get so carried away by the drive to “do something for God” on our own human initiative that we forget what the Lord wants is for us to yield ourselves to Him and be empowered by His Spirit so that He can work in us and through us, even in our moments of weakness, to bring forth His Purposes from our efforts. That is what is meant by learning to “cast our nets on the other side”.  He wants us to be His partners in bringing forth His Kingdom, while we in our human pride, mainly want to provide our services for the exaltation of our own egos rather than for His Glory.

Lay Discipleship  Today

The problem we, as lay disciples, have is that the Christian churches, as they are structured today, tend to ignore the need to train or make lay disciples at the spiritual depth needed for us to really function as disciples. It is my belief that the reason for this is that our modern Christian culture has downplayed the role of lay discipleship. The main emphasis for training has been placed on the education and training of clergy to minister and lead our churches and to send as missionaries to the world. Discipleship for the laity, if taught at all, is merely taught as an extension of the stewardship responsibilities and methods for “spiritualizing” our service to the community.

Yes, we lay people are taught about accountability to one another, and to live moral lives in accord with scripture and tradition but there is little training on spiritual discernment and how to totally yoke ourselves to Jesus so that we may faithfully follow Him in every situation in our lives. We also are lacking teaching on how to hear His Voice in our inner man, and how to sense and follow the leadings of the Spirit so that we can truly be obedient to the callings of God on our lives so that we may truly be His partners in bringing forth His Kingdom in this World.

In entering a path of discipleship, we the laity, need to follow the leadings of the Holy Spirit in order to move forward in our spiritual growth. We need to do this even if our churches and parishes are not providing instruction at the depth of spirituality needed to be continuously in touch with the Spirit of God whose guidance we need in order to function as a disciple.

Formation of Disciples

It is my belief the primary reason the formation of intentional lay disciples is not  usually supported at most parishes/churches is the lack of resources and trained personnel to get these programs started (see my addendum on such resources). However, once  a lay discipleship program is started it can usually sustain itself – for that is part of the discipleship mission.

Another factor, in this lack of discipleship formation amongst the laity in some communities, may be due to the structure of our modern Christian culture, which has created an imagined division between clergy and laity that blandly assumes that a deep spiritual intimacy with the Godhead is beyond the capacity or need of the un-ordained, thus, unwittingly relegating us, laity, to some kind of second-class citizenship in the Kingdom of God.

Paul, in His letters to the Corinthians asks the question, “Can the Body of Christ be divided? Yet, today, we are not only divided into denominations but also into the false distinctions between religious professionals (clergy) and laity.  We need to understand that, although we all have distinct roles within the Body, we are all attached to one another and to the Head of the Body Jesus Christ, our Lord and Master. We, each of us, has received through our conversion and Baptism, the same capacity to interact with the Head as any other part of the Body. And, with the Baptism in the Spirit we are all given the spiritual gifts needed for us individually and in groups to contribute to the building up of the Body of Christ in this world. Without the empowerment gifts (charisms) promised by the Father and provided to all the believers at Pentecost, we cannot fulfill the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) to make disciples until, we, like the apostles, are empowered to be His witnesses, wherever we are throughout the world (Acts 1:4-8).

In addition, our current modern intellectually-based Christian culture impedes the laity from truly being formed as deeply spiritual disciples because of its emphasis that all our thoughts and actions be solely based on our “natural” capabilities and with disregard to anything involving the “supernatural”, that is, anything beyond our ability to experience with our senses or rationally contemplate with our minds. This places a constraint on believers such that we look askance at anything in the practice of our “Faith” that is beyond our “normal” human traits and abilities. For that reason many churches avoid attempting to teach on the empowering spiritual gifts (cf.,1Cor. 12) or charisms received by believers at Pentecost and beyond. Spiritual Gifts, which go well beyond our “natural” capabilities and involve a direct interaction with the Persons of the Godhead.

Because of these attitudes, it also becomes difficult for the teachers in our Christian culture to teach on how the Holy Spirit communicates with us since the a majority of the culture does not recognize that we have been created with a “spirit” component as well as with a “soul” and “body”. Our “spirit” component being the channel by which we may interact with the Divine, not only to receive direction but also to receive the power of the Divine in our very selves to be used for His Glory. Now, since, it is difficult to deny that there are and have been persons who have exhibited such supernatural traits, it was only natural that the culture, again, creates a separation that “defines” such people as “mystics”, who have been given such traits because of their “holiness”, so that it is made clear that such traits are out of the scope of normal and should not be sought by the “unholy” laity.

Since we are all embedded in such a culture it is not difficult to understand why the reception of the “empowerment gifts” (cf. 1 Cor. 12)) is not promulgated or celebrated on the feast of Pentecost and why formation of lay intentional disciples, who require training in the use of these gifts in order to be fully effective, is something that our churches are not very anxious to take up.

What Can be Done?

As a result, we laity must also realize that we also have contributed to our own disenfranchisement by accepting and taking a passive role in acceding to our cultural impediments and not seeking the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and the spiritual charisms to which we are entitled, regardless of our ordained status or lack thereof. Once we begin to understand the Word of God that promises all believers the empowerment to be His witnesses and we yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38-39), then, and only then, will He begin to work in us to realize the true discipleship potential of every believer by fully conforming us to the image of Christ so that we can begin to truly be of service to the Father for the building up of His Kingdom. Praised  be His Holy Name!

So,  if you hear the Spirit calling you to follow Jesus as an intentional disciple, do not hesitate, commit yourself to Jesus right where you are and, in prayer,  ask Him to lead you along the narrow path. Pray that the Holy Spirit inspire the Word of God so that it will enter your heart and  open its meaning and its truth to your spirit. Do not let any of your circumstances or other persons prevent you. He is Knocking at the Door, open the door to your heart and let Him In to sup with you.  If you do this He will begin to work in your circumstances and your relationships so  that you can begin your discipleship right then and there.  He will lead you and  instruct you step by step and if you stumble he will pick you up and take you to the next step. Place yourself entirely in His Hands; He will mold you and take you to where He wants you, where you will partner with Him in bringing forth is Kingdom,. He is, after all not only your Teacher, but also your Master, your Shepherd, your Savior, Your King and your God … and, above all, your Friend! Praised be His Holy Name!

Initially, when we set out on our own private formation as intentional disciples, we may be loners, who in attempting to use our gifts in a community that has not yet experienced the power of the Spirit, will experience some form of rejection or distancing from the community – a rejection that may seem at first painful – but a rejection that, because we are acting in obedience to Jesus’ calling in our lives, our efforts will eventually be redeemed and bring forth fruit for the Glory of His Name!. Blessed be the Name!

Of course, I would hope we all have come to a personal encounter with Jesus, but how many of us have yet to encounter the person of the Holy Spirit and received His empowering charisms, without which we literally cannot fully function as God’s emissaries to our families, to our community, and to the world? And, even more important, how many of us have entered into the deep, intimate prayer relationship with the Father, that we need to really worship Him in Spirit and in Truth? In order to be true disciples of the Lord and walk in the spirit it essential that learn how to release the Holy Spiirt in us so that we may truly operate at these levels of intimacy with Our Shepherd and His Father.

Always keep in mind that a large part of our problems as laity stem from the fact that, to some degree or other, we are all afraid of yielding to the Holy Spirit in our lives.  A basically misplaced fear, that emanates from the fact that most of our churches do not place a high priority on teaching us about interacting with the person of the Holy Spirit, His desire to fill us with His Love, the Empowerment Gifts He provides to work through us, His gentle approach to working with us, and, how through our cooperation with His Grace we can bring His Blessings to the entire Body.

In saying all this, I am not trying to place blame on our church leaders because I understand that they are in the same “human” boat as we are, and, that since many of them, though devoted to Christ, have not yet experienced the person and power of the Holy Spirit in their own lives, we should, therefore, not expect them to be able to teach us about the leading of the Spirit and the charisms. Instead, as part of our discipleship, we need to lift them and our churches in prayer to God for an all-encompassing spiritual revival among us all, and, at the same time, turn to our Head Shepherd, the Lord Jesus, to lead us and guide us until such a time as our churches catch up to where the Spirit is leading all those of us who have opened their hearts to “cast our nets on the other side” of our human boats.

Listen to what the Apostle John wrote regarding the inner anointing we have received through the Holy Spirit to teach us individually as we walk along the way of the Spirit:

“And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.”  (1 John 2:27)

In closing, let me conclude with this exhortation by our fellow pilgrim, St. Paul, regarding walking on “the other side”, that is, in the Spirit!

“Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”        (Gal 5: 24-25)

May the Holy Spirit guide you in all that you do to bring forth the Kingdom for the Glory of the Father.

Praised be the Name of Jesus! …   Bartimaeus

© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2019]

(For your benefit I have referenced a Siena Institiute Blog that will provide more information about Sherry Weddell, her books on “Intentional Discipleship” and the Siena Institute)

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Disciple-Making Resources For Catholics:

In order to inform you, I bring to your attention, a discipleship movement in the Catholic Church that I am sure will assist you in furthering your calling into a deeper discipleship relationship with Jesus and, as result receive the empowerment, you need to serve your local parish or diocese. Sherry Anne Weddel and Fr. Michael Sweeny, O.P. initiated this movement, represented by the Catherine of Siena Institute for the purpose of promoting the formation of “Intentional Disciples” within the parish structure. Their Mission Statement follows:

“The Catherine of Siena Institute (CSI) is an affiliated ministry of the Western Dominican Province dedicated to equipping parishes for the evangelization and formation of lay Catholics for the sake of their mission to the world. The Institute provides innovative resources and programming that are faithful to the teaching of the Church and will enable parishes to become lively and dynamic centers of evangelization and formation.   Since our founding in 1997, we have worked with over 65,000 lay, religious, and ordained Catholics in hundreds of parishes in 100 (arch)dioceses on 5 continents.

“The Church clearly teaches that all of the baptized are called by Christ to proclaim his Gospel in the world. Although the Church teaches that “Formation is not the privilege of a few, but a right and duty of all.” (Christifideles Laici, 63) parishes rarely attempt or are equipped to provide a formation that prepares Catholics for so great a mission. We seek to bridge the gap between the Church’s vision for the laity and the reality of the current evangelization and formation practices and structures in our parishes, which are the only contact that 98% of Catholics have with the Church.”    (http://www.centerforrenewal.org/Catherine_of_Siena.html)

Sherry Weddel’s Latest Book: Forming Intentional Disciples”

(see Our Sunday Visitor Books at:  https://search.catholiccompany.com/search?w=Sherry%20Weddel)

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Recommended Articles for Aspiring Disciples:

Releasing the Spirit 


Responding to the Spirit’s Call


The Kingdom of God: Our Spiritual Inheritance


Reclaiming Our Legacy In Christ


Hearing God’s Voice, and Obeying It


The Promise of the Father (Part 1)


The Promise of the Father (Part 2)


Sanctifying Gifts (Part 1)


Sanctifying Gifts (Part 2)


The Empowerment Gifts (Part 1)


The Empowerment Gifts (Part 2)

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Jesus_carrying_the_cross

The Way of True Discipleship

Losing Your Life for His sake…

Then Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?… (Matt:16:24-26)

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34).

My Fellow Pilgrims in Christ Jesus,

One of the greatest obstacles we christians face in living the true christian life is our own “persona” or “soul”. Yes, even the most dedicated and devoted believer has to struggle with his or her “persona” every day of their lives because our persona is essentially more responsive to our “flesh” than to the Spirit, and it is the “flesh” that keeps us from truly “walking” in the Spirit. This is the “cross” that we as disciples of Christ must carry daily. And especially during Lent.

With the help and graces of the Holy Spirit we can usually come to a level of self control that permits us to grow spiritually step by step in our walk with Jesus. This is the process of transformation the Holy Spirit uses to gradually conform us to the image of “Christ in us, the Hope of Glory”.

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

It must be said, however, that cooperating with the Holy Spirit in our transformation is a continuous struggle throughout or lives. Our main problem is that our fleshly persona is drawn completely to the ways of the world from our very beginnings. The Church attempts to provide us, through our priests and our parents, the ambience of holiness and grace, derived from the Word, the sacraments and devotions, needed by families to draw us away from the temptations of the “world, the flesh and the devil”. But alas not all of us are open to respond or receive the graces provided and thus become conformed to the world and NOT to Jesus, Our Lord!

The Season of Lent evolved in the Church specifically to provide its members with a structured approach to strengthening its members spiritually to not only resist the “World the Flesh and the Devil”, but to restore the integrity and union of our spirits with that of Christ himself. For without His Spirit empowering us to holiness we can accomplish nothing spiritual out of our own zeal and energy. (see John 15:4-6).

In order to fully cooperate with the Spirit of God in our spiritual renewal it must be based on a full free will offering of ourselves to Almighty God.

The Apostle Paul who also went through a severe struggle with his own persona exhorts us as to the type of consecration required of us to cooperate with the Spirit of God in His desire to conform us to the Spirit of His Divine Son, who already dwells in us through Baptism.

Seek the Spirtual Renewal of Our Minds

Finding our True Self

This is what Paul proclaims to the new Roman Christians the path to consecrating ourselves to God’s Plan for us:

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, 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 renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)

As you read about Paul’s life in the New Testament writings you see that, as Saul (Paul’s original name) pursued Jesus’ followers to Damascus the Lord took him off his “high” horse and brought him to conversion at the hands of Ananias in Damascus. Saul was so impacted by his encounter with Jesus that he immediately began to preach and proclaim the Gospel in the Damascus area. However, because of his own “persona” he was basically operating under his own religious zeal (now converted). As a result he caused such a tumult in Damascus that the Christians there had to rescue him and take him out of the city for his own safety! (see Acts 9:9-23).

For this reason, as Paul later explains the Lord took him on a long “retreat” to Arabia (see Gal.1:15-17) where the Holy Spirit brought his conversion to a conclusion and gave him the revelations he needed to wholly surrender his hyper-self to Jesus and let Him be His Lord and His God! That is why Paul was later able say: “It is no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me and through me” (Gal.2:20).

The same happens to some of us in order become fully Christian – we have to take retreat and empty ourselves of our old “persona” behind and let the Spirit fill us with the Spirit of Jesus through our consecration to Him.

It is as John the Baptist said, “I must decrease [so that] He may increase” (John 3:30). That is why in lent our main intent should be that through prayer and fasting we depose the control of our fleshly persona and ask the Spirit of Christ to take dominion of our hearts so that He may conform us to His Spirit.

Now some modernists place psychological objections to the terminology “denying our self” or losing our self”. What we believers need to understand is that we are NOT diminishing our mental health by denying our selves but, on the contrary, we are replacing our “old self” or “old man” with the “New Man” we are in Christ Jesus.

In Conclusion Brethren …

I leave you with the hope that this Lenten Season you heed St. Paul’s exhortation to the Romans to put on the Lord Jesus Christ and walk in His Spirit and with the strength of character which He alone can provide”!

“11 Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; 12 the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; 13 let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Romans 13: 11-14)

May the Lord Bless you as you turn to Him for wisdom and strength …

Your Fellow Pilgrim In Christ Jesus … Bartimaeus

© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2019]

Related Links that will assist you…
as you turn to Him in Repentance & Faith this Lent….

<> A Heart Rending Experience

<> A Litany of Humility

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Denying One’s Self: The Cost of Discipleship

Return to Jerusalem

Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? (Luke 14:25-28)

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Discipleship is the process the Holy Spirit uses to conform us to the image of Christ and, through the obedience of Love, brings our souls into full conformance into the image of our Master by delivering us from the dominion of sin in our lives.

Our entrance into a discipleship relationship with Jesus, however, is not automatic with Baptism and conversion; it requires a decision of our will to enter in. Some few of us may make this decision at conversion as adults but for most of us it usually comes later in life when the Holy Spirit has given us the maturity and awareness of the personal cost that true discipleship entails (cf., Luke 14:25-28).

Once we enter into such a relationship, the process progresses throughout our lives, because although our spirits have been instantly redeemed at our conversion and Baptism, the purification and transformation of our souls involves time and the cooperation of our wills so that the sin that dominates our lives may be overcome by the washing of the Blood and by the washing of the Word.

Because the issue of sin is so crucial to our decision let me first go over with you the reasons why overcoming the evil one and the sin nature which dominates our lives so essential to our entrance into discipleship.

The sin that Adam and Eve committed was to believe and act on the lie that through their own human understanding, judgment, and  self-will they could administer their own lives without any dependence on God, their creator. It is in this sense that Satan tempted them with the lie that they could be their own “gods” (cf.,Gen.3:5).

That is why the key principle to Discipleship must be the denial of this lie by the submission of our “selves”  and thus, our “self-will” to the One who created us. This is the sense in which the terms “self-denial” or “dying to self” as used in scripture must be taken.  This is why Jesus emphasized this in all his teaching and preaching, as for example when He tells His disciples that, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matt.16:24). Also, it is in this vein that He also told them to “… seek First the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness and all these things will be added to you”(Matt. 6:33). For, indeed, you cannot enter the Kingdom unless you submit to the King and do His Will (ie.,His Righteousness).

This principle of  “self denial”, then,  is not some sort of Nirvana where we blank out our minds to achieve some sort of inner peace. No! it is the act of surrendering and yielding our self-will to the Holy Spirit so He can renew our “self” in the image of Christ so that our renewed “self” and “self-will”  will always be in harmony with the Father’s will. It is effected by yoking ourselves to Christ.

At the risk of repeating myself, we must then understand that true discipleship is the process where we willingly submit out of agape Love to permit the working of the Holy Spirit, in us and through us for the restoration of our souls to the state of union and relationship with the Father for which we were created. This redemption that has been bought for us through Jesus’ blood not only cleanses us from Adam’s “original sin” but redeems us from the control of sin over our lives.  All we need to do is to receive it through Faith in Jesus the Son of the Living God!  Blessed be His Holy Name!

We can still see the effect this “original sin” has in us today and from this discussion I pray that you my see the reason why entering into discipleship is so important in living out the Christian Life.

As we grow into adulthood our fallen human nature always places our human judgment before that of our creator, thus affirming the sin that pervades our fallen humanity, an implicit attitude that we are the captains of our souls, exalting ourselves, in oblivion to our total dependence on the Father, an attitude that only increases the continuing separation between our creator and us and opens us to further transgressions against Him and His Holy Spirit.

It is this “original sin” which is the door to all our temptations and our other sins and lusts that bring us under the control of Satan and the spirit of the world that he uses to maintain us in bondage and eternal judgment.

However, God the Father, in His continuing Love for us, predestined from the beginning to save us from our sins and restore us to spiritual communion with Himself as His adopted Children through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, the Anointed Son of God. For, in fact, He is the only one who could take responsibility for our sins – the only one whose death could atone for every sin ever committed by mankind – that is, the one who created us – God Himself, incarnated as Jesus our Savior and Redeemer.

He further affirmed this incomprehensible act of Love by resurrecting His Son and giving Him the Name that is above every other Name – His own. Praised be The Holy Name! (cf., Acts, 4:12)

The Father’s generous and intense love for us did not culminate only in bringing us the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus, so that we could be in heaven with Him. No! He also created us as new creations in Christ to be His envoys in this world, so that we could continue the ministry of His Son to this fallen world, so that His saving Grace would continue to draw more and more of His children into His Kingdom of Light and away from Satan’s Kingdom of darkness.

For this reason we are all called to be disciples, because we are all called to become like Jesus in every aspect of our lives. And it is through the process of discipleship that we permit the Holy Spirit to work in our lives.  Not only to transform us in His Holiness but also to permit us to share in His empowerment and anointing so that we can be His partners in bringing to fulfillment His mission  in this world, namely,

“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)

Entering into discipleship, however, requires a decision by us – a decision that goes beyond our baptismal confession – a decision to yield ourselves completely to Jesus and His Holy Spirit – a decision to yoke ourselves to our Lord and Master and to follow Him and Him alone in the obedience of Love!  Praised be His Holy Name!

Before we can enter into such a relationship however, we must assess the personal cost involved (cf., Luke 14:28). For although the Lord calls all of us He does not force us to make the decision because it must be decision of agape Love where we give ourselves freely to our Savior. Being a free decision, we must be certain that we, in Faith, are willing to make the decision, fully understanding all that our choice entails.

For instance, we cannot call Him Lord and then attempt to pick and choose what we will do for Him and what we will not. We cannot call ourselves disciples and decide that we will not receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit to be empowered to do His work.  As disciples we place ourselves at His beck and call in obedience to His Word, not on what and how we think we ought to do or act. As His disciples we must open ourselves to hear the voice of the Spirit so we can respond to His Call. As disciples we must be continuously into His Word and in prayer consult Him regarding everything in our lives. And of course, as His Disciples we must yield ourselves to Him in all things: our emotions, our desires, our family relationships and our attachments to the things of the world and, indeed, our very lives. This, my brothers and sisters, is what the Cross of Self-denial is all about.

We must also fully understand that the commitment to discipleship entails not only maintaining an intimate relationship with The Master but also the taking up the cross of self-denial and to put aside our own desires and ambitions to fulfill only the direction and desires that He Himself places in our hearts. God in His compassion and grace does not compel us in making this decision and there is no condemnation regarding our salvation facing us if we decide not to enter into a full discipleship relationship. As Jesus told his disciples, “… many are called but few are chosen” (Matt.2o:16).   And as St. Francis de Sales stated in his motto, “All through love, nothing through constraint!”.

As stated before, entering into discipleship is first and foremost, an act of agape Love, and such Love is not Love if it is coerced or forced. It is a sacrificial offering of yourselves as is well stated by the apostle Paul:

“ I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, 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 renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom. 12:1-2)

It is this transformation process, this renewal of our minds by the Holy Spirit at work in us that marks a true disciple.

The process of discipleship enables that transformation by yoking us to Christ, our Master who, through His Word, will lead us step by step through the events and circumstances of our lives. With Him at our side He will teach us how to listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and how to deal with the world around us so that we can be His envoys of love to those He places around us.  Once we have placed Jesus first in our lives He renews the relationships we had in our pre-discipleship life and adds more, because now, with His strength we can handle more.

Now, brethren, I wish to make clear that due to the cultural traditions of this world we have been conditioned to expect that the only manner we can enter into such a discipleship process is by making a commitment to enter the religious life either as a nun, monk , deacon or priest.

While not disparaging those callings, specifically, I must clearly state that ANY Christian is called to enter into a personal discipleship relationship with Jesus regardless of your state in life or connection to a religious order. Upon entering such a relationship, it will be Jesus who will direct you as how and where He wants you to be a disciple. It may be that he will want you to remain in the lay state where you presently are, or He may want you to start in the lay state and then move you into a religious order. Certainly, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Ignatius Loyola began in this manner.

However there is a lay state that, in my experience, is most suitable to enter into discipleship, and that is the Married State, for both men and women. Speaking as a man, it is in this state that the Lord has called me into discipleship. And it all began when the Holy Spirit inflamed my heart with St. Paul’s challenge to husbands – a challenge that eventually became my calling into a discipleship relationship with My Lord!

Here is the Word that ignited my Spirit to come to an understanding of true Love – and after all, that is the objective of discipleship!

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, because we are members of his body.  “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church. (Eph. 5:25-32).

After meditating and praying on this scripture the Lord led me to understand that it was in the framework of the married state within which He wanted me to follow Him and learn from Him. By God’s grace, once I committed myself to follow Him, I have received the greatest spiritual blessings in my life.  But it was an intimate decision between the Lord and I. Except for my wife, there was no need for any one to know. My only reason for sharing this with you because I feel led of His Spirit that many men need to know this because the Lord is calling them also to this type of discipleship. I believe that because of our cultural prejudices the Lord’s call to this mode of discipleship has been overlooked, as well as the blessings and graces that come with such a dedication of oneself.

It was in the married state, through the help of my wife, that I was born again spiritually. It was also through my wife’s assistance that I received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and, again, it is through my wife’s love, patience and understanding that I have learned to go beyond mere human love and learned to Love my wife as Jesus Loves His Church. I assure you that my wife can attest to what the Lord has done in me, with me, and how He is continuing to work in me! Praised Be His Holy Name!

In order not to be repetitive about “The Discipleship of Marriage” I refer you to a previous article titled, “Husbands Love Your Wives”.  However, I might add that it was in and through our marriage relationship that the Lord taught me (and continues to teach me) about what “dying to self” really means.

Speaking to my married brothers in Christ, who would like to make their marriage a school of discipleship, to consider praying to the Lord about it. Let Him guide you through His Word in making the decision. Please consider this even if you are currently experiencing some troubles in your marriage. In fact, the Lord, can use the circumstances of your situation and the discipleship process to heal and renew your marriage – only believe – all things are possible to them that believe! After all, isn’t He is the one who said, “…what God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matt. 19:6)and “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7).

So brethren, stand on His Promises and it will be done for you!

Your Brother in Christ ….. Bartimaeus

© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2019]

Recommended Links: Related prior posts dealing with Discipleship and Love that will help you!

§ Husbands Love Your Wives

§ Loving Submission is aTwo-Way Process

§ Sweet Yoke of Love

§ Enter in By the Narrow Gate

§ Walking The Walk

§ Hearing God’s Voice … And Obeying it

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Praying In the Spirit

From His Word the Lord is asking us:

“Do you not know that I am asking holiness of you?

“Do you not Know that I have made you to be temples of my Holy Spirit?”

“Do you not know that I am asking you to be conformed to the image of My son?”

My Fellow Pilgrims,

Do You Not Know …?  In his letter to the Corinthian community, which he founded, St. Paul reproached the Corinthian believers for not fully applying to their lives the basic Faith principles of the the New Covenant of the Kingdom under which they were converted. In chapter 6 of his letter he firmly rebukes them for giving sin an opening in the community by accepting as members persons who had not fully and truly turned/repented from the fallen world from which they had been delivered through Faith and Baptism in Christ Jesus.

He explicitly admonishes them by beginning each indictment with the terminology, “Do you not know …?”. (The implication being: “ how could you not know?”)

For instance, on being made aware of the difficulties the community was experiencing due to the faults of individual members, he calls to their attention that those involved in such activities shouldn’t have been admitted in the first place because of their insincere contrition and repentance they have not yet entered into “The Kingdom of God”.

He directly tells them how important it is to make that distinction in accepting members into a Christian community saying,“ … do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But [by repentance and Baptism] you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”(1Cor. 6: 9-11)

Here, Paul directly implies that only those whose who have sincerely repented and turned from the darkness of life in ancient Corinth could be considered true members of the nascent Christian community he founded. And that those who retained any of the evil and dark practices of the pagan world system were NOT part of the Kingdom of God and were to be avoided.

In case that they have confused the freedom we have in Christ as a liberty to continue in sin, Paul continues his rebuke as follows: “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined[d] to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. (1 Cor.6: 12-17)

Yes, the key point is that in accepting Christ Jesus as our Lord and Savior we have renounced the “darkness” of the world and committed our lives to live as “One Spirit” with Him! We cannot be sincere in our repentance and union with Him if we insist on continuing with the lifestyle of darkness in our lives!

Here is what Paul exhorts the Corinthians, and us who are living in today’s world, the actions we are to take… “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor. 6:18-20)

In another instance, He extended a similar exhortation to the Galatian community by telling them that in order to live as One Spirit with Christ we must also crucify “the Flesh” so that His Spirit may live in us and through us: “… But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Gal. 5: 16-24)

Just as Paul also admonishes the Corinthians not to let themselves be deceived in these matters, so also we must discern the truth as to what is being taught or purposed within our churches. Here is what the Apostle Peter says: “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” (2Peter 2:1-3)

I think we have all been made aware through various sources that there is an unspoken undercurrent in the church today  that tends to accept as brothers and sisters in Christ, those who wish to continue in a sexually disordered lifestyle and who do not accept any means the community provides to lead them to repentance and deliverance from that lifestyle. For this reason, I am concerned, that there are not only lay members of our communities that need to respond to what Paul is asking but also I also the certain members of our clergy that claim to be ministers of Christ who need to ask themselves “Do you not know…? . They who are involved in disordered sexual abuses with themselves and younger members of the laity, whose activities are destroying spiritual lives and bringing disorder and spiritual darkness into the church of today.

I ask then, the same question of them that Paul asked in his epistles: Why is it that “You do not know …” the gravity and seriousness of what you are doing in bringing the shadow of “darkness” to the Body of Christ? Why do you not repent and receive God’s Mercy so as to return to unity with Christ and His Body?

Why is it that the Word of God has no meaning to you in this regard? And why is it the that our earthly shepherds are not being held to account for the atrocities that have been and still are being committed within the flock in this regard?

My Fellow pilgrims,  I believe that one of the major actions that needs to be taken is that of re-evangelization, a restructuring of the faith formation process to make it clear that the Good News of Salvation is not that we have been released to go about sinning as our flesh desires, but that we have been freed from the control of the sin and darkness of this world to become instruments of God’s Love in this world (and the next).

~+~  Please Check out our first two RELATED LINKS (below) ~+~

The apostle Paul clarifies the effects of sin in Romans 2:12, stating “All who sin apart from the law will perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law.” All men stand condemned before God, whether they are Jews or not, or to put it another way, whether they have the Law of God or not. Paul also states “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Paul also made it clear that we believers have been predestined to holiness by being conformed to the image of Christ (see Rom. 8:28-29). That is why he pleads with the Roman believers 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 renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom. 12:1-2)

Not only do we need to intercede for the church in this crisis that we face, but we also need to turn from our sinful ways and yield ourselves His Holy Spirit so that he may begin the work of transformation and renewal in us. In this way we will be able to assess ourselves and be sensitive to the Lord’s will in our lives and be transformed to act as the Lord calls us to be channels of His Love and Mercy in this time of need. Always keeping in mind Paul’s exhortation to himself… “For through the Law I died to the Law so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not set aside the grace of God. For if righteousness comes through the Law, Christ died for nothing.”(Gal. 2:19-20)

Your Brother in Christ Jesus … Bartimaeus

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2018])

RELATED LINKS

•  National Catholic Reporter Article on Abuse Crisis

Link to Msgr. Chas. Pope’s Blog ( A Cry to our Bishops)

Shall we continue in Sin?

Prayer to Receive the Holy Spirit

The Double Portion Anointing

The Kingdom of God: Our Inheritance

St. Theresa: Regarding Prayer

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About Coming into the Fullness of the Spirit

“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4)

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit

My dear fellow pilgrims in Christ Jesus,

Just recently we celebrated Pentecost Sunday, the birthday of the Church, that is, the day when those who first believed in Christ came together as an anointed community to form the Body of Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit to act as His witnesses to the world. Today, we continue in community through the anointing that is imparted to us through the sacraments of baptism and confirmation bringing us to life in Christ so that we, His Body, may continue to be His witnesses to the world until He comes to reign as King of Kings and Lord of lords.

However, for some of us, our celebration of Pentecost tends to be that of half-hearted traditional routines that honors the tradition and spirit of the historical event of Pentecost but not a celebration of something that should be an integral part of our lives in that it is something we have personally experienced – that is, the personal outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our own lives. It is in this sense that the “fullness” of Pentecost has not yet “fully come” for many of us today.

Yes, we all, in faith, have come to a new birth in Christ and have received the Holy Spirit in the inward man”, but for many of us Pentecost remains merely a historic event because we have not fully come to a realization of what that “fullness” really means. We have not fully yielded ourselves to the Holy Spirit and His Gifts so that He may truly take His place in our lives and thus have not released Him to complete the work in us for which He was sent, that is, to bring us into full conformity to the image of Christ – both through an inward transformation and an outward empowerment to preach and live the Gospel with His power working in us and through us. Instead we have taken our consecration as merely being a signal for us to use our own self-willed energies to attempt to please God with our own works and ambitions.

Yes, we are taught and believe that we are recipients of the seven sanctifying gifts that the Spirit of God uses to form the Character of Christ in us. We likewise expect the fruit of the Spirit to be manifest in our lives through the indwelling Spirit of Love that has been poured in us by the Holy Spirit. But, in many of our lives the fruit of the Spirit is unable to come to maturity, mainly because, through ignorance and the gut-wrenching circumstances of our daily lives, our thinking and our behavior is being conformed to the world rather than to Christ. This conformance includes an attitude of pride and self-sufficiency that thinks we can do everything on our own, not understanding that the desire of the Father is that He wants to work through us and in us by the Spirit of His Grace which he so generously places in us. This attitude of conformance to the world also looks to the world for acceptance rather than to the Gracious God who created us.

You can sense this even in how we moderns define the graces received at Pentecost. Note that only the “socially acceptable” gifts of the Spirit (cf., Is. 11, Gal. 6;22) are mentioned in our churches. Whereas, the nine foundational or empowerment Gifts of the Spirit (cf.,1 Cor. 12) which were referred to by Jesus as the “Promise of the Father” and  which were actually the gifts manifested at Pentecost, are hardly ever mentioned in polite religious society. Why do you think this is? I suspect that the main reason is that we don’t want to look or be different from the world. We want to be accepted in the world and so we compromise the Word of God to match the world’s expectations.

This attitude weakens our faith and without faith we cannot please God – thereby hindering us from activating the actual release of the Holy Spirit into our lives and into the lives of those around us.

In this post it is my desire to discuss three of the most common problems (aside from plain ignorance) facing us Christians in exercising the spiritual gifts in the modern world – problems that hinder us in realizing the fullness of the Spirit in our lives. These three problems being: 1) grieving the Spirit, 2) quenching the Spirit, and 3) unbelief or “hardening of our hearts”. It is my hope that by bringing the awareness of these problems to the surface we may take action to repent and ask the Holy Spirit to renew us and restore us to the place in our walk with Christ so that we may truly be fruitful workers in the Kingdom of God! Praised be His Holy Name!

Grieving the Spirit

Grieving the Spirit of God

The Holy Spirit is “grieved” or “saddened” when we turn aside from His leadings in our lives and we instead begin to form attachment to the world and its lifestyles. He is grieved with us just as Jesus was grieved over Jerusalem because their unwillingness to receive Him at the time of His visitation (Matt. 23:37-39).  Let us then not grieve the Spirit by distancing ourselves from the world and welcoming Him and His Gifts into our lives.

Perhaps no one other than other St. Paul is better able to express the need for the Christian community to align itself with Christ and detach itself from the world. Listen to what he says to the church in Ephesus:

“Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart. They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. That is not the way you learned Christ! For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. 

Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 4:17-32; 5:1-2)

You may be sure my brethren that, because God is Love, He, in His compassion for us, will lovingly intervene in our lives to confront us with our sin in this regard, because it is a sin. Indeed, a sin that Paul refers to as “grieving the Spirit of God”. A sin that usually leads to another sin, that of “Quenching of the Holy Spirit”.

Quenching the Spirit

Quenching the Spirit

Scripture commands us not to “quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19). To “quench” is to extinguish something, like throwing water on a campfire as you are preparing to break camp. The sin of quenching the Holy Spirit is when God’s Spirit is prompting us to say or do a certain thing and we refuse. Quenching the Spirit could also be failing to discover and use the gifts that God has given us.

The reason this is important is because we are ignoring or not using the charismatic gifts mentioned by St. Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthians (cf.,1 Cor. 12). It is through these nine foundational or empowerment gifts that the members of the church are empowered to carry out the church’s ministry of taking the Good News to the world, making disciples, and manifesting the power of Father’s Kingdom to the world. The Sanctifying Gifts (cf., Is.11) permit the Spirit to bring us in conformity to the character and spirit of Christ but it is the endowment with the charismatic gifts, however, that permits us to share in the empowerment of the Holy Spirit that was on Christ so that His ministry of manifesting or enforcing the Kingdom of God in this world may continue through us, His Body!

The World, the Flesh, and the Devil

Because this ministry dethrones the power of the Evil One and the dominance he holds over the world and fallen humanity, he will do everything in his power to extinguish the Holy Fire of the Holy Spirit that has been placed in us, the Body of Christ. He does this on three main battle-fronts: the world, the flesh, and the devil.  We have already spoken of how the world conforms us to its thinking and behavior. This conformity to the world also acts in us to extinguish the fire or leadings of the Holy Spirit in carrying out His purposes for us in this world.

Remember the warning of preparation that Jesus gave His disciples:

“You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you. “This I command you, that you love one another.  “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.  “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 15:16-19)

Thus, you should not be surprised that the world will not accept you if you deviate from what it expects and demands of you. This, of course, includes the “politically correct” suppression of the spiritual gifts that have been distributed to us by the Holy Spirit to accomplish His purposes in us and through us.

In attempting to hinder us, the Ruler of this world takes advantage of our fallacious human reasoning, our weaknesses and our lustful desires (the flesh) so that we might succumb to the lures and demands of this world. And, to our dismay, he sometimes even uses the voice of misguided religious authority to attempt to shut the door to our exercise of the gifts by telling us that they are not needed today or that they (ironically enough) are of the “devil”.

The devil also tempts us by presenting us with counterfeit “gifts” that are really witchcraft under his control rather than from God. He also hinders the use of the actual gifts by presenting skepticism or doubts as to our worthiness or the appropriateness of our exercise of the gifts.

All of the above briefly summarize the means by which we may fall into the sin of quenching the Spirit. For this reason, brethren, it is very important in walking the walk of exercising the spiritual gifts that you keep in mind St. Paul’s exhortation and admonition to the church of Thessalonica:

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.” (1 Th. 5:16-22)

Hardening of the Heart

Regarding hardness of heart I refer you again brethren to St. Paul’s admonition to the church at Ephesus:

The Hardened Heart

“…. you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness [blindness] of heart. (Eph. 4:17-18)

In this citation Paul makes it clear that the condition he terms “hardness of the heart” (the term “blindness” is used in some translations) alienates us from the life of God. This alienation comes because the “hardness of heart” condition blinds our spiritual understanding, making us ignorant of God, His Grace, and His purposes for us in this world.  In other words it is an attitude of heart that leads to unbelief.

What we sometimes miss in Paul’s exhortation is that he is directing it to baptized Christians with the implication that these Christians, although converted are still living within their un-renewed worldly mindset – that Paul terms the “futility of their minds”. The reason we miss this point is that we modern Christians don’t realize that we are pretty much subject to the same condition, that is, we too are affected by a “hardening of the heart” or “unbelief”, the cure for which involves the “renewing of our minds”.

The main reason we miss this point that Paul makes is, because we consider ourselves faithful Christians, supposedly operating in faith, we find it difficult to understand how there could be unbelief in our lives.

This failure to understand is, in itself a sign of a certain level of unbelief. You see brethren what we don’t understand is that we, as fallible human beings can harbor both faith and unbelief within us at the same time.  The vestiges of our fallen self, although crucified with Christ are still with us, even though we are in the process of transformation into the image of Christ. But we are not there yet and never will we be completely there until we are united with Him in the life to come.

These vestiges of the flesh still mould our thinking into the ways of the world and place a veil over our minds when it comes to understanding the Spirit of God and walking in the Spirit.  Although we may see our spiritual path clearly in some areas of our lives there are some areas where the old way of thinking still holds sway.

For instance, supposing that upon your yearly medical checkup you doctor discovers some shadows in your x-rays and, upon more testing, informs you that you have a variant form, of lymphatic cancer.  The first anxious thoughts and fears you encounter within yourself are those of your old nature. Yes, you believe in healing and Jesus’ promises regarding healing, but you find your heart placed in a test between your faith and your anxieties and fears. If you place more value on your anxieties based on what the doctor said than your faith in what the word of God says, then you have entered the realm of “hardening of your heart” and this places a veil over your faith in the promises of God.

The more our mind is “renewed” in Christ the less influence the world and our “old man” will have on our thinking and judgments because Jesus and His Word will be the center of our focus in life. When our focus is on Him and His Word our faith will overcome the world just as He overcame the world (John 16:33).

There are many instances in the New Testament where Jesus admonishes his disciples for their “weak (or ‘little’) faith” caused by their hardness of heart. This is not because they did not have faith in Jesus it is because their own faith was still linked to what they observed in the world and was thus diluted by the circumstances they were facing, as in the multiplication of the loaves (Matt.14:13-20 and the healing of the demon possessed boy (Cf., Matt. 17). In this latter case, when the father came to Jesus saying that he had taken the child to His disciples and they could not heal the boy, Jesus said, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him here to me.” ( Matt. 17:17)

After delivering and healing the boy, the disciples asked, “why could we not heal him?”  Jesus answered them saying, “Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matt. 17:20).

So clearly, if we are to exercise our spiritual gifts fruitfully, as Jesus tells us from the citation above, we cannot afford to have this veil of unbelief or “hardness of heart” be a hindrance to us. That is why it is so urgent that we cooperate with God’s grace not only in discerning and exercising the gifts that have been allocated to us, but also in continuing to grow in the Spirit through the renewal of our minds, so as to minimize the hindrances that so easily disable us from carrying out God’s purposes for us in this world. Praised be His Holy Name!

In conclusion, brothers and sisters in Christ, I urge you to take everything I have relayed to you here, that has touched your heart, and present it sincerely, in prayer, to the Holy Spirit for confirmation and impartation so that you may be fully enabled by Him to enforce the Father’s will here on earth as it is in Heaven!

Baruch ha Shem!

Your Brother In Christ Jesus … Bartimaeus

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2018])

Links to Related Articles

<>  Sweet Yoke of Love

<>  Releasing the Spirit

<>  Prayer to Receive the Holy Spirit

<> The Renewal of Our Minds

<>  Hearing His Voice…. and Obeying it!
<> Praying In the Spirit
<>  Responding To the Spirit’s Call
<>  The Kingdom of God Our Spiritual Inheritance

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