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Posts Tagged ‘Agape Love’

Being Conformed into Christ’s Image —  is how we come to Spiritual Maturity in our Walk with Christ

scroll2“Now before faith came, we were confined under the law, kept under restraint until faith should be revealed. So that the law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian; for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” (Gal. 3:23-29)

“And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “abba! Father! (Gal. 4:6)

”My little children, of whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you… (Gal. 4 :19)

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Rom. 8:29)

My Dear Brothers and sisters in Christ,

The Apostle Paul, in writing to the Galatian community begins with the statement indicating that, “ … in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God”, yet in the next part of his letter he indicates he is perplexed by their current behavior and that because of that behavior they indicate to him that, although sons, they are not yet fully formed into Christ. So much so that he is still in travailing prayer for them – for they are essentially still in the womb as far as understanding the graces, freedom and responsibility we have in Christ Jesus.

About the Transformation Process

This problem of a delay in maturing in Christ is still with us today. I know because was just like the Galatians. I was a baptized, confirmed and a compliant cradle Christian. But like the Galatians, was still in the spiritual womb of “mother” Church. I had not yet awakened to who I, as a person, was in Jesus Christ and had not yet come out of the womb crying “daddy” or “abba” to my Father in Heaven. And, I had not yet met with my brother, Jesus, although I knew about Him. I also did not know that it was the Father’s purpose in conceiving me in Christ to conform me into His image! It was just beyond my imagination!

Are you being Conformed to Christ's Image?

Are you being Conformed to Christ’s Image?

I now, by His Grace, understand it is the Father’s clearly stated purpose that all those who are baptized into Christ be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29). I now believe, in consequence, that our maturity in Christ and subsequent spiritual growth also needs be assessed in accordance to the progress we are making, after submitting our will to His, and in cooperating with His Transforming Spirit in us.

It should be expressly noted that our transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit in us – as Jesus says, “It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (John 6:63). Our only contribution to God’s work in us and through us is our cooperation, in faith, for He will not violate our free will. The Father always gives us the opportunity to yield ourselves to His will and purpose before He initiates any creative work of the Spirit in us.

Listen to how the Virgin Mary responded to the Angel Gabriel when told that she had been selected to conceive and bear a son by the Holy Spirit – a son that was to be the Father’s anointed Messiah, not only for Israel but also for the all humankind!

”And Mary said, Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1: 38)

That, my brothers and sisters is the manner in which He expects us to respond when the Good News of salvation is presented to us. The Good News that the Father not only wishes to save us but that He also wishes to birth His Son in us and conform us to His image us so that He might be the firstborn of many brethren. (Rom. 8:29)

Yes, the appropriate response, is an act of our will, inspired by faith, to repent, believe, and to open the door to our heart to His Person as Our Lord and Savior saying to Him, “Lord save me, let your Spirit, be born in me … be it done to me according to your Word”. It is only such a response that will bring us to a true spiritual birth in Jesus and subsequent transformation into His Image. Praised be His Holy Name!

With this said, let us, then, discuss this transforming process for this Conformation. For, indeed, it is through that process which we have initiated with our declaration whereby we begin to grow in spiritual maturity by the power of the Holy Spirit in us.

We are all aware of the demarcation points in our physical lives in this world, namely, our birth, our entering school, our graduations, our military service (if any), our wedding day, the birth of our children, our profession, etc. . As important as these events in our earthly lives are in indicating our maturity and progress in our earthly lives, we need to ask ourselves: what are the similar key events in our religious/spiritual lives and what is their value to us in assessing our growth and maturity in living for God?

Of course, our first attempt at listing these stages in our religious lives these events could possibly be like this: our birth, our baptism and confirmation, our first communion, our marriage, our ordination, our entry into service to the church, etc.

Today I am proposing that we take a distinct and more mystical view at assessing our progress in the spiritual life. I am thinking that maybe we should look at the metaphors used in the New Testament used by Jesus and the writers of the New Testament as a more spiritual way of understanding the stages of our spiritual growth to maturity in Christ Jesus. Some of these metaphors include, spiritual travail, spiritual rebirth, being as babes in Christ, and the subsequent process in coming to maturity in spiritual wisdom an knowledge in Him.

From Conception to a New Life

Let us consider, for instance, that when we are spiritually conceived in Christ at baptism we are held within a spiritual womb, within our parents and the church. While in this womb we are taught, nurtured and fed spiritual milk from the Word and Sacraments. Eventually, as our spiritual fetus matures on the Word, we act on that Word declaring Jesus as our Savior and thus reach out to the eternal life and relationship with Jesus that He offers us as a gift.

This act of cooperation with God’s grace brings us out of the womb and into a new awareness, a spiritual awareness of the presence on the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of Jesus in us! An awareness that tells us that we are out of the womb and that we are now Living Children of the Living God here in this world and we KNOW it, not theologically, but experientially, because the Holy Spirit confirms it in our spirits. This, being an awareness that we are a new Creation or, a re-born man as the Apostle Peter expresses it when he states:

“Forasmuch as ye KNOW that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which lives and abides for ever.“   (1 Peter 1:18-23)

Some call our coming to this stage where we know, that we know that we have a “daddy’ and have personally encountered our brother, Jesus, as an “encounter” with the Divine or as a “conversion”. The terms are somewhat irrelevant to those of us who enter into a new spiritual awareness of life in Christ, because, for us, there is NO DOUBT in our souls that we have entered into a new stage in our spiritual lives and it doesn’t matter to us what you call it! Now, we are able to live in this new life and are made aware by the Holy Spirit that we are, indeed, Sons of the Most High and able to commune with Him in the Spirit! Praised Be His Holy Name!

From Conversion to Putting On the New Man

After this first stage in our transformation, the Holy Spirit leads us deeper into the Word, teaching us , Not in our minds but in our spirits, so that we might be led of the Spirit as Jesus was led. The events and circumstances of each day being provided our hearts and our spirits are brought into alignment with the thoughts and desires of Jesus Himself. We learn to pray as Jesus prayed, to Love as Jesus Loved, to as a means of testing the principles and spirit of faith that the Holy Spirit is infusing in us as we grow more and more closer to Christ!

We also pass through a phase of growth where we are essentially babes in Christ. Paul refers to this phase when writing to some of his early communities, such as the Corinthians to whom he exhorts as follows … Brothers, I couldn’t speak to you as to spiritual, but as to fleshly, as to babies in Christ. I fed you with milk, not with meat; for you weren’t yet ready. Indeed, not even now are you ready, for you are still fleshly. For insofar as there is jealousy, strife, and factions among you, aren’t you fleshly, and don’t you walk in the ways of men? For when one says, ‘I follow Paul’, and another, ‘I follow Apollos’, aren’t you fleshly? (1 Cor. 3:1-4)

In this phase of growth we can barely find evidence of spiritual growth, yet with continued persistence and teaching from the word we begin to produce fruit, and it is by this fruit that others will assess your progress. In his epistle to the Galatians Paul lists the characteristic fruit of living in divine, “agape”, Love. He clearly says … But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Gal. 5:22-23). Our growth in this area is gradual but constant as long as we maintain our fellowship with Christ.

If we do stumble and fall (as we all do), the results will also be plainly evident. “Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God”. (Gal. 5:19-21)

In exhorting the Galatians on this matter, Paul tells them “…. [Although,] you were called to freedom, brethren; … do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another take heed that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do 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 prevent you from doing what you would. But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law.” (Gal.5: 13-18)

Remember, that acknowledging and repenting of our sin is extremely important in maintaining our fellowship with Him, and, as the Apostle John tells us:

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; but if we walk in the light, as he 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 we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

“… write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”     

( 1 John 1:5-10; 2:1-2)

In entering the more mature stage, the Holy Spirit uses the circumstances of our lives to bring us the point where we dedicate ourselves to the Lord totally, renouncing the flesh and seeking only that God’s will and purpose be accomplished in our lives through the “New Man”, that is the “New Spiritual Nature” we have in Christ.

By faith, man completely submits his intellect and his will to God. With his whole being man gives his assent to God the revealer. Sacred Scripture calls this human response to God, the author of revelation, ‘the obedience of faith’ (CCC 143).” Obedience of faith is a willed act of love for God who loved us first.

Paul puts it in this way:

“If then 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 hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you once walked, when you lived in them. But now put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and foul talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old nature with its practices and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator”

(Col. 3:1-10).

Putting on the New Man Until our Conformance to Christ Is Complete

Now, putting to death our Old Man, that is, our old nature, is not something we accomplish by ourselves. Again, it is something we must do in cooperation with God’s Grace and the Holy Spirit. It begins when we place our old self on the altar as a living sacrifice. Here again we turn to Paul to explain it to us…

“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)

Yes, brethren, when we make a decision to dedicate ourselves totally to the service of God and we present our old self a s a sacrifice, the Lord Himself will work in our lives to burn out the old nature and begin the renewal of our minds so that all that we say, and do, and think will be renewed by the Spirit of Christ in us.

Do not think this will be easy. It will be painful because we are, in fact crucifying our old nature and severing our old attachments and desires will be difficult. But the Lord will help us in our weakness so that the nature of his Son may be manifested in us – not for our glory, but for His. Praised be His Holy Name!

This process will last a lifetime and will not be completed until we receive our new spiritual bodies at the Second Coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus, our King! Again, Paul summarizes this process with Spirit-inspired words …

“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

 We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose [i.e., to become His adopted Sons]. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified”

(Rom. 8:18-29).

Our “glorification” comes at Jesus’ Return when we receive our glorified bodies as the concluding act of God in conforming us to the image of His Son.

But even while we are here in this world, as incomplete as our conformation may be we still share in the inheritance of Christ and in the anointing He received to accomplish His appointed Role in bringing forth the Kingdom. For, after all we are not only His brethren, but also His chosen disciples to carry on His work.

What I am saying, brethren, is that our conformance to Christ also includes our share in His empowerment with the anointing of the Holy Spirit. For Just as we are baptized in water as He was, so also we need to be anointed with the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit, just as He was. For, in order to be like Him and minister the Gifts like Him, we also need to have the Holy Spirit come upon us so we can truly minister to the body of Christ in His Name.

Listen to what Jesus said about His empowerment …

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”

(Luke 4: 18-19)

In like manner it must be understood that we cannot truly carry out our roles of the “Great Commission” to “proclaim the gospel to the whole world” and “make disciples” without a commensurate anointing of God’s Spirit on us who believe.

That is why he said to his disciples to wait at Jerusalem before going out minster so they would also be anointed by the Holy Spirit, whom He termed … “The Promise” of the Father”. This “promise” is the baptism of the Holy Spirit that Peter also preached to the crowds at Pentecost saying …

Then Peter said unto them, repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and [then] ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For [this] the “promise” is [also] unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call.”

(Acts 2:38-39)

In continuing our walk to maturity in Christ in this world it is important that we also receive the “baptism in the Holy Spirit”. If we are to take our part in building up the body of Christ we need to be empowered by the Spirit because this is the way He has chosen to manifest himself through us is in spiritual service to His Body the Church. In the wisdom of God that come with your maturity, therefore, ask for the impartation of the Gifts that you need to partner with Him in bringing forth His Kingdom.

As we go forth to serve the Lord, my brothers and sisters, let us take to heart the words that St. Ignatius of Loyola gave to his disciples, namely ….

“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”.

St. Ignatius’ Prayer Yielding Himself to the Lord 

(from Spiritual Exercises No. 234)

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,

my memory,

my understanding,

and my entire will,

all that I have and possess.

You gave it all to me;

to you, Lord, I give it all back.

All is yours,

dispose of it entirely according to your will.

Give me the grace to love you,

for that is enough for me.

May the Lord, in His Name, work in you and through you as you proceed onward to spiritual maturity, so that all that you think and say and do in this world may be for His Glory and NOT for yours. Amen

Your brother in Christ … Bartimaeus

© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2017])

<>Recommended Links to Related Posts …

Yielding to the Kingdom Anointing

Living in the Kingdom … NOW!

Cast Your Net on the Other Side

Living out the Word of God

Is Christ Really Living Through you?

Praying in the Spirit

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 Are you “Seeking First the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness” as He has indicated?

Sacred Heart

“O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” (Matthew 6:30-34)

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Sometimes when we read the Gospels a little too rapidly we go right past some very deeply important spiritual precepts that we need to live a truly Christian life, faithful to the Spirit of Christ in us.

For instance, when we read the introductory statement (cited above) that Jesus spoke to his disciples, we understand He was trying to warn them about being distracted from following the Holy Spirit’s directives as they walked “the narrow path” in the midst of what was going on in the world around them. This, of course, is a concern all we Christians should have and therefore, his exhortation to the disciples is also of utmost importance to us believers as well.

The essence of His directive to them, was that, in their walk with Him, it is essential that if they are to maintain themselves within the Holy Spirit’s guidance to fulfill God’s purposes for their lives, they must always follow the spiritual precept to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness”.

This statement, was probably clear to the his disciples, who as persons of that epoch and place, understood what the idiom of the “kingdom” meant. For us, in today’s world, however, the way the statement is worded becomes somewhat ambiguous.
For instance we might ask: what does it mean to “seek the Kingdom”? And how do I do that that? And, why would “seeking the Kingdom” be more important than looking for a boat that they needed to take them to their destination across the Sea of Galilee in the morning?

After thinking slowly about the term “the Kingdom” you begin to realize that Jesus is not talking about seeking some apocalyptic kingdom to come. No, the Kingdom that Jesus is referring to is the Reign of God that the Father has placed in the hearts of all believers. It is here, in us where, through our spiritual relationship with Him, we may determine His Will for us in all that we do. This permits us to trust that, as long as we are responding to His Will, He will provide everything that is needed to fulfill His purposes for us!
Of course this affirms the importance of having a personal relationship to the Father, through Jesus. For it is only through such a living, active relationship that we can discern the Father’s Will for us in our everyday circumstances and thus keep us under the cover of His Righteousness in all that we do in Jesus’ Name.

For, you see, His Kingdom, is the Kingdom of His Love, and it is only through a relationship with Him through Jesus that that true “agape” Love can manifest itself in our being.

Using the same analysis we see that it also helps us to better understand the phrase in the “our Father” prayer where it says, “… Thy Kingdom Come Thy Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven” (Matt. 6:9-10).

Here, again, the “Kingdom”. Jesus is referring to the Father’s reign in our hearts and thus the statement in the prayer might best be read as, “ … [Father, let] your Kingdom [of Love] come [to reign in me, so that ] your Will may be done on earth as to is in heaven.”  Understanding this, we can see why it is said that this prayer that was given to the Jesus’ disciples (and us) might be better called “the Disciples Prayer”. As it really is a prayer of commitment that is the key to entering in to Discipleship with Jesus.

Now, from all the thoughts presented, I think we can begin to see what “seeking the Kingdom” really means. It certainly begins by offering our lives totally to the Father so that our continuing desire is yield ourselves to be transformed to the Spirit of Christ in us and thus become channels of His Love here in this world!

Here is what the Apostle Paul has to say regarding this matter,
“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)

Well, brethren, I pray that after reading this article, I believe you should give the scripture cited some thought and prayer so you can begin to realize the concept Jesus was trying to convey to His Disciples and us about seeking the Kingdom. And, of course, if you decide to offer your self as a Living Sacrifice to Him you will also experience living in His Righteousness though Love, keeping in mind Paul’s continuing exhortation regarding Living out the Kingdom in our lives:

“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:9-19)

Praised Be His Holy Name, and May His Holy Spirit guide you in not only in seeking His Kingdom but entering it as well and thus become true disciple of Christ!

Your Brother in Christ Jesus …. Bartimaeus

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2017])

Related Links (if the Holy Spirit is leading you to go deeper) …

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Shall we then continue in sin that Grace may abound? (Rom. 6:15)

God forbid! (cf., Rom, 3:31; 6:2; 6:15; 7:7; KJV)

The King within us

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. (2Tim. 4:1-3)

Brothers and Sisters,

The signs of the times clearly indicate that we are indeed in the “Days of Noah” and the “Days of Lot” as indicated by Jesus in the Gospels (cf., Luke 17:16-28 ) and also in the “perilous times” as indicated by St. Paul to Timothy:

“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,  Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.  For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.  But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.” (2 Tim. 3:1-9)

false_prophets_2I am posting this article because we all need to be made aware of the many false teachers and preachers in our midst who are twisting the Word of God to peddle their “gospels” of permissiveness, self-indulgenece, and prosperity as being  “enlightened” forms of understanding scripture.

Recognizing False “Gospels” Regarding Grace”

Amongst the many false deceptive messages being delivered today is that of a libertine form of “Grace” (a licentious grace) that teaches that, because of Christ’s atoning work on the Cross we are no longer under “law” and can live pretty much as we wish and be assured of our salvation. Since all of our sins have been paid for and since we have all been reconclled with God through Christ, the moral law, declared by God for all humanity is of no more consequence to us who consider ourselves to be “under Grace”.

This devious, anti-nomian concept (lawlessness) is attractive to many in today’s world because it is in line with the ego-centric, self-centered, free-wheeling spirit of the current generation, who abhors any constraint on their ability to live as they please and who are in the process of being conformed to the “world”.  It comes from a religious spirit that wants to put a fig leaf over their moral nakedness so that they may continue dabbling in the world system with it’s enticements, lusts, greed, and carnal excesses, without exacting any feelings of guilt. The intent of what is being taught is, of course, to attract uninstructed youth to fall into their snare by attempting to appease their consciences using selectively misinterpreted scriptures, out of context, telling them that “God’s Grace” has freed them to do whatever pleases them without losing their salvation – while all the while they are being used to satisfy the pride and greed of the false teachers, whose own spiritual lives are in tatters.

In the attempt to justify themselves the proponents of this deviation from the true purpose of Grace in our lives, teach that since God has reconciled us to himself in Christ it would be an act of unbelief to “repent” of our sins, since our sins have already been forgiven at the cross. In a previous post, “Be Reconciled to God” I provided a scriptural argument against this  erroneous position. In that article I point out that it is the apostle Paul, himself, who, after having proclaimed that God has “reconciled us to Himself”, is, in this same letter, he then exhorts the Colossian beleivers to “be reconciled to God” (Col.1: 21-23). Clearly indicating to us, that we, whom God has reconciled, also need to respond to His infinite act of Reconciling Love by an act of faith that activates in our renewed spirit the reconciliation He offers.  This act being our repentance.

Now that act of faith, is in effect, an act or word on our part, that acknowledges our godly sorrow, our need for reconciliation, and our willingness to receive God’s forgiveness – an act that, directly or indirectly, expresses repentance, on our part. Being keenly aware, that this act of faith is incited by God’s Grace and Love, as an act of gratitude and is NOT deemed by us as somehow earning a grace or favor that was freely provided to all humanity while we were yet sinners more than two millenia past.

Jesus:  Regarding the Gospel of Repentance

After His resurrection. Jesus gathered his disciples at an unscheduled prayer beakfast and tried to explain to them that what had happened in Jerusalem during His Passion was all contained in the scriptures, saying to them …

“…This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.  He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day,  and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:44-48)

Quickly bring  a robe and put it on him ...In the parable of the prodigal son (cf.,Luke 15:11-32), Jesus, portrays very clearly how  the Grace of Reconciliation is received through a sincere act of repentance. Namely, when the son who has left the father’s house to “do his own thing” in a far-off land finds himself in a famine with nothing to eat and feeding pigs instead of himself, he, because of his circumstances, “comes to his senses” and says to himself “I will return to my father’s house”. And the father, who, holding nothing against him, has been lovingly waiting for his son, such that when sees him approaching he runs to him and embraces him, telling his servants to provide the son with a family robe and sandals while he places the ring of family authority on his finger.

In this parable,Jesus paints  an allegorical picture about how grace and repentance relate to one another! It is provided to us through scripture for our instruction to let us know how we are loved by the Father, without condemnation, and how we, in returning to Him, should respond to the unmerited Grace he showers upon us by accepting his embrace and the symbols of His love for us: the Robe, the sandals and the ring he places upon us,as unworthy as we are. But the story also tells us that when the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, and, although sensitive of our own unworthiness, we need to freely turn to the Lord without fear of condemnation, because we know in our hearts that He loves us and  will accept us as we are. (see also my article on “The Prodigals Amongst Us”)

Branches Bearing FruitIn another allegory, Jesus tells us that our relationship (fellowship) with Him should be like the branches to the Vine, that is,   in our attachment to Jesus. And, just like the branches, if we are to function and bring forth fruit, we must remain attached to the Vine. Otherwise, if we become detached (lose our  fellowship with Him) we risk being like dried up branches that must be cut off and burned (John 15:1-8). Our fellowship with Jesus is, of course, is the outcome or the purpose for the Grace of Reconciliation and implies  that this Grace, that comes through the Vine, must continuously  flow in our lives in order for us to remain attached to the Vine and  bear fruit for the Kingdom and the Glory of the Father. (see also my article on “Bearing Fruit Through Prayer”)

Through Jesus parables like these and through the teaching of the apostles in scripture, the case can be clearly established that this Grace of Reconciliation through Repentance is freely provided to us believers, not only to enter into fellowship with the Divine, but also in order to continue in and maintain that fellowship throughout our lives so that we may bear fruit!

The Apostle John; Regarding Fellowship, Sin, and Confession

John the Evangelist affirms this thesis when he says in His first epistle…

“If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” (1John 1:6-10)

And, in order to ease our discomfort, when we do sin, he says…

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.  (1John 2:1-6)

The Apostle Paul: Regarding Putting on the New Self after our Justification

The apostle Paul also make some clear statements regarding how to carry out our responsibility to “walk as Jesus walked’, in our loving response to the Grace of Reconciliation and Fellowship which we freely receive at our justification. Now, it must be clearly  understood, that this ability to maintain fellowship also emanates from the Grace of Reconciliation and reflects the work of the Holy Spiirt in us in conforming us to the Image of Christ. (Rom. 8:29)

From all of this, It is should be clear to us that when we sin by living by the flesh rather than the Spirit we begin to break out of our fellowship relationship with the Divine and the Holy Spirit, who is in us, works in us to help us recognize our failings, so that through the on going Grace of Reconciliation, we may be brought back into full fellowship with the Divine.

I challenge you to take seriously, these statements from the apostle Paul, who is sometimes misunderstood or misquoted on the subject of being “under Grace and not under law”…

“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?

CrossBy no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Rom. 6:1-2)

Here also for your discernment, is  his exhortation to the Ephesians (Eph. 4:17-32) regarding the sin problem amongst (apparently) justified believers, and what Paul proposes they do …

“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.  Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.  You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds;  and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.  Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

To this, Paul, adds an important statement indicating that the intent of living a holy life after justifications is not to claim any gain on our part for His Magnificent and free provision of Grace, but to lovingly yield ourselves to Him in acknowledgment  and thanksgiving for the sacrifice of His Son for our salvation.

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.  For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person — such a man is an idolater — has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God”

“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Eph 5:1-14)

What then is to be our response?

In conclusion brethren, in light of what I have just presented and in light of the darkness that is coming over this world, I think we all need to pray and meditate on these scriptures and, in discerning God’s will, we should ask ourselves:

<>”Have I arisen with Christ?” or am I just sliding along in life with one foot in the “world’ and the other foot in “church”?

<>”Have I truly awakened to the light of Christ and the Resurrection Life He brings us, or am I still stumbling along in the spiritual darkness of the world and its enticements?

<>Let us then awake and rise up, understanding that the full intent Grace that God provides is not merely  to “justify” us so that we can go to heaven, but to also give us the opportunity to yield ourselves fully to the Holy Spirit so that He may initiate the process of conforming our lives to the image of our master, Jesus. So that, being under His anointing for service, we may be filled with His Light and become envoys of His Light to this fallen world in which we live, for the Glory of His Name and for His Kingdom!

May God, our Father who loves us, and His Son who saved us, be praised for ever and ever. Amen!

Your Brother In Christ and Fellow Pilgrim … Bartimaeus

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2017])

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“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’ ”. (1 peter 1: 13-16)

“We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.”  ( Romans 8:28-29)

My dear fellow Pilgrims,

Having trouble understanding and responding to our call to be Holy as He is Holy?

There are many challenges we lay Christians face if we want to grow spiritually
in our walk with Jesus. The first and foremost of these being, living out  the Holiness  to which we have been called. The only way given us is by yielding ourselves in obedience to the Holy Spirit and rendering Him our full cooperation so that “the Grace that is brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ” may be manifested in our lives.

Many of us, for instance, do not even understand what the “at revelation of Jesus Christ” refers to since most of us have never experienced such an occurrence. And if we do not comprehend this point how can we proceed to respond to our call to holiness?

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Do not be anxious ….

Let us begin by attempting to understand the term “at the revelation of Jesus Christ” by recounting the revelation that Peter experienced in His walk with Christ, when Jesus asked His disciples, including Peter, “ … who do men say that I am?”

“… they replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  “But what about you? Jesus asked. “Who do you say I am?”

… Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

… And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon  , because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.  (Matt. 16:14-17)

Note that Jesus’ asked first asked them what the people in their religious culture thought about who He was.  He did this because, all of us, even today, initially base our assessment of Jesus on human understanding and tradition about who Jesus is, and NOT on what the Spirit of God is revealing personally to us. That is why, by asking the first question, Jesus was opening  their spirits to answer the next question: “… but who do YOU say that I am”?

In order to bring us to the same point, He asks us the same question. He wants us to meditate on His Word and go into our inner selves and assess the nature of who WE really think Jesus is? He wants us to distinguish beyond what the world or our culture thinks and what the Father in the Spirit is revealing to us, through His Word, about the divinity of His Son. And not only that, He wants us to testify in faith to the revelation about Jesus we find He has placed in us.

Yes! That is why when Peter proclaimed  that Jesus was “the Anointed one of God”, that Jesus told Him that the only way he could honestly make this statement was if it had been divinely revealed to him by the Father. And yes, it is the Father’s desire for us also — to reveal the person of His Son to us so that we may not only know about Him but KNOW Him personally was Our Lord and Savior and manifest our faith by verbally testifying to His Divinity.

Remember, also, what happened when the Samaritan woman at the well testified to her village that she had encountered the Messiah (cf., John 4:4-42). They believed her witness and believed in Jesus, but not from their own personal experience, but by her testimony. That is where most of us laity are with regards to “knowing” Jesus – indirect believers based on the witness of true believers who have received the grace of His revelation.

Nonetheless, second-hand faith is very important as it initiates our entry into the Kingdom. But its importance rests on what we do with this faith we with which we initially believe..

Notice that the Samaritan believers took that initial faith and sought Jesus for themselves. So that when they found Him they told the woman …“It is no longer because of your words that we believe,  for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” (John 4-42)

or, in our modern idiom the villagers response to the Samaritan Woman might be something like this …

“… now that we have encountered Him personally, we believe in our hearts not just because of your testimony but, mainly,  because we have heard His Word directed to each of us personally and directly so that now I KNOW spiritually that Jesus is not only the Savior of the world but that He is MY savior and MY Lord!”

That is what the Father desires for each of us – that we take the initial faith in the Good News that has been proclaimed to us in the Church and seek out Jesus personally so that we meet our Shepherd and experience Him and His  Word directly revealed in our spirits to the Glory of His Name. Praised be His Holy Name!

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The Light Shone in the Darkness

Understanding this, we are then better able to understand that our Holiness comes from the transformation that comes from “knowing” Jesus personally and our yielding completely to Him and His Lordship. And, doing so thus permits the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us that we  may be conformed to His Image, the image of His Holiness (Rom. 8:28-29)

And, of course, this transformation is based from our union with the Spirit of Christ that is in us from our conversion and Baptism. “Christ in us the Hope of Glory!”

But knowing this, you might now ask, how then do we yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit so that He might work in us to bring us to this Holiness in Him?

The answer is simple …

<> First, seek to know the Spirit of Jesus that is in you – “Christ in us, the Hope of Glory”! (Colossians 1:26-28)

…’Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. ‘I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD… (Jeremiah 29:12-14)

‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.’  (Matt. 7:7)

“Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37)

“I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.” (John 10:9)

“Those I love, I rebuke and discipline. Therefore be earnest and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with Me.To the one who is victorious, I will grant the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne…”  (Revelation 3:19-21)

<> Then, you set yourself apart exclusively for the Father’s Work – that is, consecrate yourself, (offer yourself as a living Sacrifice) to the Father.

“I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service of worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2)

<> Finally, live out your life placing al your faith and trust in Him, and His Holiness will be made manifest in your lives for His Glory!

“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.

“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.” (Col. 3:1-10)

<> And do not be afraid that your load is too heavy, for He Himself will be your Help.

OXEN-YOKE

Sweet Yoke of Love

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30)

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painting-picture-image-jesus-christ-love copyI urge you brothers and sisters, that, especially, this Lenten season, you turn your heart to Jesus and seek a personal communion with Him asking to grow deeper in your relationship with Him. Open the door to your hearts and let Him sup with you – then yield yourself fully to the Grace that flows from Him, the Living Water that will bring you a holy, renewed, and empowered Life In  Him! Praised be His Holy Name!

May the Lord Bless You in all that you dedicate to do In His Name!

Your Brother  and Fellow Pilgrim In Christ … Bartimaeus

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(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2017])

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The Mystery of Christ In Us!
Letting Jesus Live in us and through us

Baptism-of-Christ-xx-Francesco-Alban“As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Galatians 3:27)

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?”(Rom.6:3)

“… the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” (Col. 1: 26-28)

Dear Fellow Pilgrims in Christ Jesus,

St. Paul tells us that one of the main themes he proclaims and teaches about the Kingdom of God is the hidden “mystery” of “Christ in us”, the hope of Glory. It is One of the mysteries of the “Good News” that we need to hear more of in order that to grow spiritually in Christ Jesus.

As a lifelong Catholic, I can attest about my need to hear more teaching on this subject. I certainly can confirm my need because I often heard the words above spoken in church but had never fully understood them sufficiently. I failed to realize that what God the Father was saying all along was, that the “Good News” that as preached by the Apostles not only to told us that Jesus, His anointed One, died to pay the penalty of our sins (atonement) to save us, but that He also died so that, Jesus His Son, might live anew in us, His Earthen Temple.

“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life (in Him)”. (Rom. 6:4)

“Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. (Col. 2:6-7)

Living in the Spirit is Letting Jesus Live through you.

Brethren, notice how Paul emphasizes the term “IN HIM”. He does this because our new life is “IN HIM” and “without HIM we can do nothing”. It is in this way that the Father determined to establish His Spiritual Kingdom in the spirit of all who believe, birthing us as brothers and sisters of Christ, with His Spiritual DNA in us, to enable us to act in His Name, literally, so that the Father’s will might be done on Earth as it is in Heaven! Conditioned , of course, on our receiving Him through repentance and Baptism — and through an additional act of faith and love (agape), giving up ourselves to Him so that He could continue living through us!

St. Paul, in fact, urges the Baptized Roman believers about the manner which this additional act of Love may be enacted, namely, by consecrating themselves just for this purpose — to give their living selves to Jesus so He could continue His life in theirs.

Here is how Paul exhorts them on how to let the Spirit of Christ live in them and through them:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)

So when Paul speaks of our “walking” or “living” in the Spirit, in his other writings, he is referring to letting Christ live in us and through us so that the Father’s will will be done here on this earth as it is in heaven. Here is some of  Paul’s exhortations in this regard…

“… so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Rom: 8:4)

pictures-of-jesus-baptism-holy-spirit“… and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells (lives) in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. …” Rom. 8:8-17

We, indeed may be truly Christian and Catholic, but without this consecration we cannot fully mature to the fullness of Christ to which the Father has called us so we can be His instruments on this earth. The Corinthians believers were indeed baptized but here is what Paul said to them …

“… brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.” (1 Cor. 3:1)

and
“ … for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations?” (1 Cor. 3:3)

It is implied by these scriptures, and others, that believers are to derive their holiness not of our works but out of the Spirit of Christ that abides (lives) in us and that it is only by consecrating ourselves to His Spirit in us, that we can be conformed into His Image, and to the renewal of our minds in Him! Works affirm the changes that are being made in us by the Spirit, but our works do not perform the changes. Praised be His Holy Name!

My Own Experience

After years of a spiritually fruitless life, I, by the Grace of God, came to this understanding. And when I yielded myself to His Holy Spirit and encountered Jesus personally, my personal relationship with Jesus grew, and I became more and more detached from the flesh and more and more in consonance with the Spirit of Jesus in me. This encounter and my subsequent conversion permitted me to truly let Jesus “live in me and through me” changing my life forever, and it is the reason, why today, I am able testify to His work in me on this cybernetic medium that the Lord provided.

The problem we all face in growing spiritually is two-fold. First we fail to understand the spiritual meaning and power of the Word of God, and the Father’s desire to activate the Spirit of Jesus in us through His Word. So that in activating the mind of Jesus in us, we may become His instruments to bring His Love into the world in which we live. Secondly, because of our spiritual insensitivity to the dynamics of His Kingdom we fail to make the critical decision we need to offer ourselves to His Spirit as a “living sacrifice” so that His Holy Spirit can begin to transform us into the image of The Son!  “Baruch ha Shem Adonai – Blessed Be His Holy Name!

Why would the Father do it this way? If the Spirit of Christ in us at Baptism why is there need of a special commitment?

The answer is simple, He wants our commitment as a living sacrifice to be an act of Agape Love, an act of the will that has to be freely given. If it were a condition for our salvation, then it would be conditional on us and Not on Jesus’ sacrifice the cross. When we repent, concert and are baptized we freely accept the gift of salvation that is offered without any sacrifice or conditions on our part.

Now, because we have accepted the gift of salvation without any conditions, we are free to give ourselves to the Father without any obligation – this is what makes our commitment a “Living Sacrifice” on our part.

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This Christmas, Let Christ Live in You

What I recommend we all do this Advent Season is that each time we receive the Eucharist we meditate on the Spirit of Jesus in us, in our cleaned up inner “human stable”, and praise and thank Him for the sacrifice of His very self (body, soul, and spirit) to the Father, taking on the guilt of all humanity thus paying the price for every sin ever continued by man – including my own, so that we could all be reconciled with the Father as His adopted sons and daughters.

In thanking Him tell Him that, on Christmas Day, as an act of Agape Love, in gratitude for His sacrifice, you will be offering your very self, to the Father, so that He, Jesus, can live and act in you and through you for the Glory of the Father! All you ask is that through the Eucharist, He prepare you to be be conformed by the Holy Spirit to reflect His Image in your Life.

Then, on Christmas Day formalize your commitment and sacrifice of your self so that you set yourself apart to be His forever!

When you hear the Call, all you have to do is say as Mary said, ” I am the servant of the Lord, be it done to me according to your Word” (Luke 1:31))

You can be sure this is the best present you could give Jesus on His Birthday!

Praised be His Holy Name!

“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.” (Saint Ignatius)

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed …continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” (Phil. 2:12-15)

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
<> Discipleship: Accepting the Challenge

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The Essence of true Discipleship …

jesus-washing-feet-14
True Discipleship begins in Imitating Christ’s Humility

“If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross …” (Phil.2: 1-8)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Just as Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, emptied Himself of His divinity to fulfill the Father’s purpose for Him (Phil.2:5-8) — So also we Christians, as His clay vessels that He created, need to empty ourselves, out of Loving response to His sacrifice (agape), so that in abandoning our self-centered and self-driven egocentric approach to living religiously, we may be filled and activated with the very Life of Jesus to bring forth His Kingdom in us for the Glory of the Father!

Paraphrasing this principle as John the Baptist expressed it: “ the “I” in me must decrease so that “His Life” in me may Increase …” (John 3: 30, my translation)

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The Way of True Discipleship

That, in brief, is the founding precept behind discipleship – releasing our very selves to be conformed to Jesus. Or, as St. Paul reiterated  the goal for the true disciple: “ … I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ (who) lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Gal. 2:20)

Of course, this intrinsic principle and essence of discipleship stated above seems impossible for any human to achieve. And that is exactly the point. Only the Holy Spirit working in us and through us can conform us to this image of Christ. And any attempt by us to “be His disciples” through human effort or discipline alone will utterly fail. It is only when we willingly surrender the right to ourselves that the Spirit will begin His work of conformance in us, But it must be His Work in us, NOT our human zeal to “do something” for Christ. It is ONLY “Having the mind of Christ” that permits us to cooperate fully in Faith with the Spirit of God in His work of transformation in us.

All believers are called to be disciples but it is not a condition for our salvation. In order that our conformance to His image be a work of Love, the Lord has designated becoming a disciple as free choice made willingly with no consequences on our salvation. He specifically stated that “many are called but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14).  There is no condemnation, if we do not choose to enter into full discipleship, it is really just up to us if we wish, out of pure love, to offer our total self to Jesus or not. We can still be fully fulfilled believers as Lay people serving the Lord.

Yielding Ourselves to The Spirit to be “Disciples”

The Apostle Paul, whose own yielding to discipleship is well documented in the New Testament, exhorts us regarding yielding ourselves to our formation as disciples as follows:

“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.” (Rom12:1-2)

This work of transformation in us begins when we “intentionally” offer ourselves up as a “living sacrifice” to the Father so that so that His Holy Spirit will begin His work of transformation in us, beginning with the renewal  of our mind so that we, indeed will have “the mind of Christ” throughout our spiritual formation.

We also begin to understand that this work of transformation is also the “Cross” that Jesus said we, that we “intentional disciples” must bear daily.  Once we begin, it encompasses all the instances in our lives where we must divest ourselves of all our self-willed desires and thus be conformed to the Father’s very specific will in every aspect of our lives in Christ.

Now it is true, that as our transformation progresses, and we are more and more conformed to Christ, our own will and desires become more and more like His, then our main responsibility will be to carefully discern those areas in our life where our human will and desires still rule in our lives and where the weight of our cross still has its impact.

Discipleship is Sometimes Misunderstood

One of the things that saddens me most about we lay Catholics in our modern western culture is the extent to which we misinterpret our call to discipleship as merely using our human talents in complying with the demand for stewardship we all have in our Christian communities.

When we comply with the demand for stewardship that is placed upon us, not out of our love and dedication to Jesus, but out of our own self-will and need for recognition, zeal and ambition within the parish, then we are not acting out of true “agape” discipleship but rather out what might be considered as good human intent but lacking a surrender of our self will and yielding to the Holy Spirit so that what our efforts are directly due to God’s Grace working in us and through us.

If you sense this is happening to you, use this opportunity to repent and change your intent to give of yourself totally out of “agape” Love and truly make it a part of your commitment to discipleship.

Also, we tend to give ourselves to, piety and religious services, mainly where we feel more comfortable among our peers and neglecting God’s calling you to ministries where you feel out of place with respect to how others may view you. In fact, sometimes we go to extremes to avoid entering into a true and deep spirituality. A spirituality that results from being filled with the Holy Spirit and manifesting His Gifts in our communities. This is especially true of  the Charismatic Ministries within the Parish.

That is why we need to continuously examine our walk with Christ to be sure we are being faithful to what He desires of us and NOT what we desire for ourselves.

If you fall into any of these categories, it may be that the Lord is testing your call to discipleship so that you may discern where He wants you to be. All  you have to do is ask the Father in prayer as to where He wants you and, by responding, remain a faithful disciple. That is why having a personal relationship with the Shepherd is indispensable if you truly wish to be a disciple.

Yes, in our religious practice we have all the major doorways to let the Spirit of God enter into our hearts (ie., the Sacraments) but somehow we fail to release the Holy Spirit into our lives so that He will manifest himself in us and through us in everything we do!  We just expect that the Holy Spirit will automatically work in us without any faith underlying our beliefs.

While it is true that through the sacraments the Holy Spirit works in our lives to forgive us our sins and maintain our fellowship with Christ through the circumstances of our lives, nonetheless, we do not seem to realize that without our yielding our very selves to His Spirit He will NOT enter the spiritual tabernacle of our spirit and the door of our will to do the works of Christ in us and through us as He desires!

The Spirit of God respects our personal FREE WILL to the ultimate,even to the degree that He will NOT force us to do anything IN US or THROUGH US without our FULL cooperation.  He will work around us and through our circumstances and our labor but He will not force Himself on our will and our spirits because He desires that we yield ourselves to Him solely out of love and NOT from obligation..

The Father Desires that we Yield Ourselves Freely to His Spiritual Formation

The Father’s greatest desire for us, indeed, His predestined will for us, is that we, our of our own free will , offer ourselves to His Spirit (cf., Rom. 12:1,2) so that we may be conformed to the Spirit of His Son ( cf., Rom.8:28-29) and thus become His partners in manifesting His Kingdom in today’s world! . He will not do this unless we willingly open the door of our spirit man to Him so that He can carry out His deepest spiritual calling on our lives. Praised be His Holy name!

Now, I also do not want you feel any condemnation. For there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Rather it is my hope that through my message and the inspiration His Word and of His Holy Spirit you will turn to God in prayer, in Jesus’ Name, and ask for the understanding and wisdom you need to have Him activate your spirit so that you may hear His Voice and Understand His Word so that you may become aware of your need to enter into His “Spiritual Kingdom”.

For, without  incurring any guilt, the problem with all of us humans is that our human senses are so overwhelmed by the world and cosmos around us that we are essentially blinded to the reality of the spiritual in which our existence is embedded. Only through by yielding ourselves to the Holy Spirit can He reactivate and empower our abilities to see and hear Jesus Voice as He speaks to us from the spirit realm.

It only natural to be cautious in seeking to enter into the realm of the spiritual, since satan is also a spiritual being and he relishes in beguiling us through false and deceptive experiences. This is also the reason that we should NOT attempt to enter into this realm unless we are truly dedicated in Faith to Christ through Baptism and filled with His Holy Spirit.

Then, and only then, when we have given ourselves to Christ and are truly His, the enemy cannot deceive us. For we are His Sheep and are Called to Hear His Voice — and ONLY His Voice.  Jesus tells us that, when we are in Him and in His Flock we will not listen to the voice of a stranger.

So do not be afraid my brethren, go to Him in prayer so that He may confirm through His Word all that I am now telling you. And having the Spirit’s confirmation in your hearts surrender your very “Self” to  Him and let Him baptize you in the Spirit so that you may truly begin to experience your relationship with Him and be able to worship Him in the Spirit and in Truth! praised be His Holy Name!  (cf., Prayer of Commitment)

When your spiritual ears are opened as we’ll as your spiritual eyes, then the Lord will  permit you to experience snapshots of His spiritual Kingdom – a reality that is beyond the natural realm in which we live. And indeed, it is the eternal reality that awaits us when we  we are separated from our bodies to be with Him Forever!

In Conclusion …

By now Brethren, if you feel the Holy Spirit has nudged you regarding “discipleship”, I recommend that, after praying for the Holy Spirits advise, you look into reading Sherry Waddell’s book: “Forming Intentional Disciples – The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus” *

May the Lord Richly Bless you and Lead You Into The Kingdom!
Your Brother in Christ Jesus …. Bartimaeus
(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2016])

[* Note:  In her book “Forming Intentional Disciples – The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus” Sherry 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).  ]

Relevant Links for Those Interested in Continuing in this Topic…

The Transforming Work of the Cross

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

http://www.amazon.com/Forming-Intentional-Disciples-Knowing-Following/dp/1612785905
Catherine of Sienna Institute
http://www.siena.org/Article/who-we-are

CDM Discipleship Resources
http://www.navigators.org/us/ministries/cdm/about/

CDM Intentional Discipleship Ministry
http://www.navigators.org/us/ministries/cdm/idc/

Prayer to Receive the Holy Spirit

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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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