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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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Hearing-Gods-Voice

He who has Ears … Let Him Hear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Testimony

Enter in By the Narrow gate

The Double Portion Anointing

I Stand at the Door and Knock …

Prayer to Receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit

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

Your Brother in Christ  ….  Bartimaeus

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

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Christ in Us is Our Hope of Glory  (… His Glory – Not ours)

CrossSt. Paul in exhorting the Colossians says: “I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. I became its servant according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 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 [complete] in Christ. For this I toil and struggle with all the energy that he powerfully inspires within me.”  (Colossians 1:24-29 )*

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,

true_repentanceOne of the obstacles we encounter within ourselves that hinders our spiritual growth is that of a spiritual inferiority complex – a weakness which derives from our lack of depth in truly understanding what God’s word tells us of what the Father has destined for us His adopted Children.  Namely, that He sent His Son not only to die for our sins and save us from eternal punishment, but foremost to recreate us spiritually so that each believer may be transformed inwardly into the likeness of Christ and act as His “agent” in our every day lives to bring forth the Glory of His Kingdom in this world.

It is as Paul says, that by Spirit-inspired preaching and teaching the Word of God he may present every man “complete in Christ’. This brethren, is what the Father desires for us, so that Jesus may be the first of many brethren, thus permitting us to act in His stead in bringing God’s Kingdom to manifestation in this world.

Here is what Jesus said regarding this matter:

“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:13-16 )*

mont20saint20michel20and20water

His Kingdom is Near

Is it not clear then,that we are envisioned by God to be a city on a hill and a light to the nations, that we are to be spiritually transformed beings only awaiting  the stirring of our faith in order to begin our transformation to be molded into the image of Christ. Should we not then, by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, rise to the occasion?  Why then do we hold back?

When I say we, I mean people like me, regular everyday “Lay People”. Now, it is my assumption that this topic is not news to those in religious orders or the priesthood. But knowing myself and other lay people like me, I can say that we have never been taught that all believers are included in Father’s desires to form us into the image of His Son, and that we all need to do is cooperate with God’s Spirit and surrender to Jesus completely, not only as savior, but as Lord, yielding our person completely to Him so the Spirit can begin conforming us into His image! Praised be His Holy Name!

Yes, I can understand why we are hindered, because I am in the same boat as all of you. I am a sinner and since encountering the Lord I have become extremely aware of my weaknesses and failures that move me to sin against God and my neighbor. It is this awareness that holds me back – with the question im my mind:”how can God use me”? Yet, because of Scripture, it is obvious that most of the people God Chose were certainly “not worthy”, nonetheless, because they yielded to Him and the Holy Spirit He not only used them but molded them to fulfill the assignments they were given. So it will be with me, as long as I obediently abide in Him in Faith and His Word abides in me! praised be His Holy Name!

In my case, because of my conversion experience and sincere repentance, I, by the grace of God have been strengthened in my will more and more to remove myself from my sinful responses and turn more and more of my life over to Jesus, my Lord and Savior, who intercedes with the Father for me and leads me along the path He desires for me. This happens because, as He told us, that since He overcame the World, when we surrender to His Spirit in us,we too, by his strength and inspiration can also overcome the World (if we remain in Him)!

One might ask, what is the scriptural basis for the assertion that “Christ in Us” is the doorway to “our “Hope of Glory”.

<> First of all, it is St. Paul that clarifies that out “hope” is in  God permitting our sharing in His Glory.

Results of Justification : Our Hope is in Sharing the Glory of God
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.
(Romans 5:1-2 )

<> It is  also clear that only through our becoming a New Creation in Christ that we can have access to that sharing.

We who believe are a New Creation
So if anyone is in Christ, [he/she] is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! (2 Corinthians 5:17 )

Being a New Creation is what matters in order to be conformed to Christ
For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything!  (Galatians 6:15 )

<> And how do we become a New Creation? – Through the Living and  Enduring Word God!

Obedience to God’s Word Brings you to the New Birth ( a New Creation)
Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart.  [ For] You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God. For
“All flesh is like grass
    and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
    and the flower falls,
 … but the word of the Lord endures forever.”
[and] That word is the good news that was announced to you.
(1 Peter 1:22-25)

<> As His new creation we are predetermined to be Conformed to our Redeemer.

The Spirit then uses all the circumstances of our lives to transform us.
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn of many brethren.” [… of those having His spiritual DNA]
(Romans 8:28-29 )

I don’t know how the Father’s purpose for us could be made clearer  than what is stated in the scriptures above, that is, that He plans for us to become spiritual descendants of His Son, and therefore also His Sons and Daughters in the the spirit.

When we commit ourselves to walk along the path of Discipleship to our Lord and Master, Jesus, we must always keep in mind that, as disciples, we are all predestined to be conformed unto Him so that He may be the Firstborn of many brethren. This means that in order to permit the Holy Spirit to continue His transforming work in us to form us into true, Spiritual “Brethren” of Jesus, we must willingly cooperate with God’s Grace by emptying ourselves of our self-willed approach to living for Christ and, instead, die to our own self-will and begin to permit the Spirit of Christ that is in us to operate sovereignly through us so that it is His Will and NOT ours is what is accomplished through us.  Or, as John the Baptist would say, the “I” in me must decrease so that the “HE” in me may increase.

Getting Started: Decide to Be His Disciple

The first step we must take in order to cooperate with God’s Grace is to “yoke” ourselves to Christ by making a free and sincere commitment of our will to take on his yoke by yielding to Him as “Lord” and “Master” of our lives. in so doing, we surrender our right to ourselves so that every aspect of our lives is placed under His Reign. This is the “cross” that Jesus said anyone who wishes to be His disciple must carry daily.

Of course, such a transition does not take place immediately, and without God’s Grace it would be a tortuous and seemingly impossible challenge. But, because of God’s mercy He provides us the Grace and strength to fulfill our commitment by being yoked to Jesus who submitted Himself to the Father. Remember what he told us, … “my yoke is easy and my burden light” (Matt, 11:30) .

In case you may have not understood scripture properly, this is the same commitment that Jesus asked His disciples to make when the taught them the “Disciple’s Prayer,” (or what we call the “Lord’s Prayer) where the commitment part of it may be understood as, “… may you as my King, Reign In Me and Through Me, so that Your Will May be done today in this Earth as it is In Heaven” (Matt. 6:10).

I pray, brethren, that the words I have shared with you may cause you pray about them and ask the Lord to  indicate you what action, if any, He would like of you that you may strengthen  you walk with Him. Praised be His Holy Name!!

Your Fellow Pilgrim In Christ Jesus … Bartimaeus.

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

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

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

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

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

<> Related Links                                                                                                                                                        Has Jesus Arisen in Your Heart?

Cast Your Net on the Other Side!

Jesus, The Source of Living Water and Us!

<>*Note: all scriptural quotes are taken from the “New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition”.

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Concerning Spiritual Gifts

Opened Your Gifts Yet?

Opened Your Gifts Yet?

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


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

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

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

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

The Empowerment Gifts: The Promise of the Father

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus receives the Anointing

Jesus Baptized in the Spirit

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

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

Peter Proclaims and Explains the Gifts

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

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

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

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

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

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

How The Sanctifying Gifts Relate to the Empowerment Gifts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Spiirt of the Lord is Upon Me...

The Spiirt of the Lord is Upon Me…

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

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

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

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

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

In Conclusion

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

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

Praised Be His Holy Name!     Amen and Amen!

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

Baruch Ha Shem! Blessed be the Name!

Your Brother in Christ … Bartimaeus

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

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Related and Pertinent Links

Has Jesus Arisen In your Heart ? (Part 2)

Has Jesus Arisen in Your Heart? (Part 3)

Prayer to Receive the Holy Spirit

Cast Your Net on the Other Side!

The Promise of the Father (Part 2)

Jesus, The Source of Living Water and Us!

 

 

 

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From Repentance to a Renewed Life

The Word is a Double Edged Sword

The Word is a Double Edged Sword

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

 

 

 

My Dear Brothers  and Sisters in Christ Jesus,

Self assessment

Assessing Our Inner Self

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

<>  Confession and  Sincere Repentance Is Gateway to Reconciliation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

<> Our Practice of Repentance Needs to be Continuous

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

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

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

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

<> Our Continuous Repentance Reaffirms Our Continuing Transformation

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

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

<> Understanding Sincere Faith-Inspired Repentance

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

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

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

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

<> Carrying Out Our Commitment

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

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

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

Jesus-crucified

It is finished!

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

 

 

<>  Living out Our Renewed Life In Christ

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

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

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

Your Fellow Pilgrim In Christ Jesus … Bartimaeus.

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

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

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

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

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

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Overcoming the World: The Making of  a Disciple

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (Jn 1:1-5)

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ and Fellow Disciples,

The terms “Overcome … ” or “Overcoming …” are used in very important scriptures in the new Testament, but the Apostle John appears to me as really providing inspired insight into its meaning.  An understanding that carries great weight for the disciple, and especially for those of us who are just becoming aware of the Spirit’s call to discipleship and are in the process of opening our hearts to the challenge of following our master, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The terms, I have just mentioned, are used by St. John, in his Gospel and Epistles, in two primary senses: “Overcoming the World” and “Overcoming the Evil One” or, its equivalent, “Overcoming the Darkness”.  He even begins His Gospel with this theme – the tension between God’s Light and the Darkness of Evil. (cf., Jn.1:5).

John further indicates to us God’s eternal purpose – to bring us His Light, His Life, the Light of the Living Word, His Son!

“There was the true light which, [by] coming into the world, enlightens every man.” (Jn. 1:9)

In John’s revealed understanding of God’s intentions in redeeming His creation, the key dynamic behind His plan was the restoration of the Light of His Love into the darkness into which it had fallen due to the deception of the Evil One. In his Gospel, John clearly states that it is this light, the light of God’s Eternal Word that was still shining in the darkness and it was this true light that he was bringing to the world [system] to deliver man from the darkness that envelops us.

Now, the light He provides is the freedom of the light of life, but mankind is darkened to this by the Evil one so he can control us. Because of our fallen state and the deception of Satan, we prefer to live in the darkness of our sin rather than the light of God’s Love.

“And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil.” (Jn. 3:9)

In order to “Overcome” the darkness God sent his only Son, The Word of Life” to bring us to the Light of the Father’s Love. So that in bringing all creation under His Light the darkness that envelops us may be dissipated. Jesus tells His Disciples (and us) …

“I have come as light into the world, that everyone who believes in Me may not remain in darkness.” (Jn.12:46)

Knowing, however, that those who follow Him would be resisted by the world as He was resisted, He prepares His disciples for their calling by telling them…

“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.” (Jn.15:19)

He also encourages them by disclosing to them that, because He has “Overcome the World”, they are to be at “Peace” in this world  as long a they are “IN HIM”.

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16:33)

The Apostle John further exhorts those whom he has discipled (and thus us) to stand against the World [system] by informing them they also are covered by this same Peace Of God (THE SHALOM) that was promised also applies to them because the “Overcoming Spirit of Christ” dwells in them.

“You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” (1 Jn.4:4)

The apostle Paul, in a similar manner, tells his disciples that we are no longer to serve the Kingdom of darkness because …

“… He [the Father] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves…” (Col. 3:1-13)

From what has been said, brethren, it must be clear to us now, that if we aspire to follow Jesus as His Disciples, we must also overcome the World and the Evil one who controls it, as he overcame it. The first step we take in entering this “overcoming” state is to turn away from the world [system] and place our faith in Jesus, the anointed Son of the Living God.

Who is he that overcomes the world, but he that believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1Jn.5:5)

In the Book Of Revelation, John relates Jesus’ promises pertaining to those who “overcome”…

“… To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. (Rev.2:7)

“…  He that overcomes shall not be hurt of the second death.” (Rev. 2:11)

“… To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knows except he that receives it.” (Rev. 2:17)

Brethren, I truly believe that many right now are being called by the Spirit to enter into a true and overcoming discipleship under Our Lord and Teacher, Jesus, the Anointed of the Father. Are you one of these? If you are, then this article may give you some guidance. And, even if you do not sense a call right now, I feel the themes I will be touching on will greatly enhance your spiritual life, permitting you to go a step closer to hearing and understanding God’s call on your life – a leading to yoke yourself to Him in loving obedience to His Call.

As we enter into a New Year in Christ Jesus it is important to remember our call to discipleship and rededicate ourselves to make Jesus the very center of our lives.

Return to Jerusalem

In attempting to live our lives for our Master we will find that the closer we come to Him the more stress the world and the evil one puts on us. The tension between world system of darkness and Our Lord’s Kingdom of Light is becoming ever more stressful for us believers as we draw closer to His Coming.

We are the children of the Light and the forces of darkness are doing everything they can to prevent us from shining forth His Light into the darkness of this world. We must always remember that He has called us as beacons of His Light in this present darkness. In order to let our light shine before men, it is therefore our calling as disciples to overcome this world system just as He overcame. And, because we are in Him and He in us, we have every confidence that He is working in us and through us to overcome the World.

 “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith. Who is he that overcomes the world, but he that believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”  (1 John 5:4-5)

It is through this process of overcoming the world that we are strengthened and progress in our discipleship as the Holy Spirit is continuously forming us in His image.

In another article, I have already mentioned that the “renewal of our minds” is crucial to our overcoming the world. In this article, I wish to share with you some guidance I received in how to bring some of these concepts into practice in our lives.

One of the things I learned is that, once we have yielded ourselves fully to Christ,  we remove our “selves” from the throne of our lives and enthrone Jesus as Lord and King of our lives. We must begin to recognize Jesus is our LORD in all things and that we are merely stewards of every gift and ability The Father has placed in us. We are no longer acting on our own desires and plans, rather, we are literally acting in Jesus’ Name and, in this role, we must seek all of the Father’s desires that He places in us and, in accordance with His Grace, use our natural talents and gifts to fulfill or carry out those desires.

Except in specific situations, He does not normally dictate the details of what we are to do. He does not want robots for servants. No! What he desires is for us to freely use all our gifts creatively to bring His desires to fruition. When we seek His Spirit to work in us as we seek to manifest His will, the Spirit will augment our natural capabilities with His Spiritual Gifts so, that in this manner He enters into partnership with us in carrying out the work of the Kingdom!

A simple analogy to elucidate the manner with which we are to carry our His calling, would be to compare, God as the owner of a large piece of property in a large city, who wishes to build a hospital on that property. Think of yourself as acting for Jesus in accomplishing the Father’s desires, and as the architect whom He hires to design and build this facility and to whom He has delegated al the resources needed to build it as He desires. Yes, you have to check your plans with the owner every now and then to see if your design is compatible with His wishes, but other wise, He has given you free rein to design the best facility your creative and god-given talents can produce in accordance with His will and desires (think of this project as the particular “calling” the Lord has given you).

In this analogy, the world of darkness, however, is intent on keeping the hospital from being built and when the Prince of Darkness sees that you have been delivered from His control and have been appointed to this task, he will come up with every obstacle possible to keep you from building it. So besides the main task of designing and building the hospital you have to also deal with the politics, regulations, and pure stubbornness on the part of the city officials in order to bring the project to fruition. In effect, you will be opposed in carrying out your charge by the world and the Prince of Darkness.

One of the things that must definitely be avoided is to think of this as YOUR PROJECT or YOUR HOSPITAL. No! This Is the Father’s Project and Hospital and you are merely His steward at the service of the Father (just as Jesus was when He was on Earth). So when things get tough you go to the Father and ask Him to intervene to ensure its successful completion. That is, you use the authority and power that has been given you (in Jesus) to move the mountains that stand in the way and to keep the Devil away.

This is merely an allegorical example of how we, as disciples, are called to overcome the forces of darkness that intervene in our lives to keep us from bringing forth the Kingdom of God in our lives and the attitude to which we must take in responding to our calling.  I only bring this to you in this manner so that when you accept your calling and enter into the work of the Kingdom, you will draw on the power of God that has been allocated to you to fulfill your role as Jesus’ stand-in.

Always remember that without abiding in Jesus you can do nothing. The greatest deception the Evil One will place in you way is to think that YOU are the one behind your calling.  NO, brethren, you must NEVER permit yourself to be tempted by pride in what you have been called to do. This is how Jesus was tempted in the wilderness and we see how Jesus resited the tempter through God’s Word. In the same way, Jesus will help you resist if you abide totally in Him and renounce your own self-interest by dying to your “self” and living for Christ only.

You must also be aware that these temptations come even when you are doing what you think are religious or spiritual tasks. In fact this type of temptation is even more deceptive because, since you think you are doing the Lord’s work, it will meet with His approval.  But if your inner motives are for your own self-gratification, these works will merit you nothing and, in fact, may nullify the work of the Kingdom in and through your life. Remember this principle: if you work for your own self promotion, you are not working for the KING and His Kingdom but for yourself and the Kingdom of Darkness!

I share all these reflections with you brethren to save you from stumbling along your path of discipleship. I tell you these things from the experience of my own failures and so that you may achieve union with Jesus in accordance with His Grace and thus fulfill the Father’s will in your lives to the Glory of His Name!

I conclude this message to you with Paul’s exhortation to the Church at Colossus ( and to us who are also being called into discipleship) …

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

May the Lord strengthen you with His Spirit as you progress along the narrow way of His Love.

Your Brother in Christ Jesus,

Bartimaeus

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

Related Links

The Crucified Life

The Cost of Discipleship

The Renewal of Our Minds

The Sweet yoke of Love

Husbands Love Your Wives

Enter in by the Narrow Gate

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Part 1 of : Awakening to the Father’s Love

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” (1 Jn. 3:1-3)

Sacred Heart“We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. Any one who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 Jn, 3:14-16)

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, and Fellow Pilgrims,

When Jesus instructed His disciples to “Love one another…” (Jn.13:34-35) He raised the level of that directive beyond that of the human love expressed by the Torah to “Love your Neighbor as yourselves”. He raised it by indicating that they were to “Love one another as I have Loved you”. In giving them this command He was implicitly imparting to them the power to Love with the same kind of Love as the Father Loved Him! For He also told them, “as the Father has loved me, so have I loved you”(Jn. 15:9). That is why the scripture tells us that it is for this purpose that “the Love of God has been poured into our Hearts” (Rom., 5:5)

Our problem is that while we can readily comprehend loving our neighbor as ourselves at the human level, we find ourselves at an impasse as to how to operate in the same Divine Love that transpires between the Father and the Son.

This article, in two parts, is my attempt at inciting us to understand and awaken that Divine Love that is in us, so that in activating this Love through Faith, we may be the Father’s partners in manifesting His Kingdom of Love through our relationships in this world.

Part One to my article on this theme follows…

Jesus’ Prayer for Impartation of the Divine Love

“Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17: 25-26 NRSV)

Synopsis : The common way we understand Jesus’ directive to “Love one another as I have Loved you” is to think we are to force or discipline the natural love with which we have been endowed to imitate Jesus’ love for his disciples. We take to this understanding because the real spiritual meaning is too hard for us to believe. For you see the Love which Jesus is asking us to place into action in our lives is the Divine Love that the Father has for the Son. This kind of love is the supernatural Divine Love that flowed from Jesus to His disciples through the Holy Spirit, who is the Divine Love. It is a Love that can only be experienced through a relationship with the Divine. It is such a Love that He is now asking to flow between each of us. This kind of Love cannot be forced through any natural discipline it can only come when we Christians enter into a personal relationship with the Father through the Son and surrender ourselves completely to the Holy Spirit so that we are totally free to be channels of this Divine Love to each other. This treatise deals with our coming to the awareness of this divine type of Love, surrendering to its embrace, and the dying to self that it entails.

What Manner of Love Is This?

Most of us who live on this planet are blessed to have experienced “love” before we even understood that there was a word for it. A mother’s pure, unconditional and unselfish love for her child is experienced and understood by her child by the loving care and tender concern a mother manifests toward her child through her relationship with that child. If this is this is about the closest we can get, in human experience, to help us understand the pure and unconditional love that God the Father has for his human creation can you imagine the deep, tender, and intimate love that He must have for His only begotten Son, Jesus? This is a love that transcends human experience. It is a supernatural love that can only be manifested in and through the Spirit of the Loving God!

So, in His prayer, Jesus asks the Father that it is His desire that those who believe in Him come to know the Father as He knows the Father so that the Holy Spirit through a relationship with Jesus may communicate this Divine Love directly to the believers!

To Truly Understand Divine Love, We must Experience it!

For many of us, this Divine Love, is merely a theological concept, which we accept intellectually but without any expectation of the affirmation or spiritual awareness of this Divine Love that clearly Jesus and the Father desire us to have. In our case, we have an understanding of the concept but, unlike the baby in our example, we have yet to enter into a spiritual awareness of that Love. The primary reason being, that like a mother’s love for her child, that awareness must come through an active, loving relationship.

The prophets and writers of the Old Testament attempted to convey the interpersonal and relational nature of the Divine Love for humanity and for Israel through metaphors, similes and allegories, such as comparing the

Love of Yahweh for Israel being compared to that of a bridegroom for his bride[1] and a mother for her child[2].

In spite of this, those who practiced of the Hebrew religion, instead of hearing and receiving the message of love the Lord was conveying to them through the Law and the Prophets, instead attempted to please God through dead religious legalism. That is why the prophet Hosea rebuked them in The Lord’s name saying, “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice and the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6 NRSV). Jesus, on several occasions when challenged by the Pharisees as to why he consorted with sinners and publicans, cited this same verse from Hosea (e.g.,Matt.9:13).

Amongst all the parables that Jesus used to convey the picture of the Father’s Love for humanity, perhaps none is perhaps more poignant and descriptive of this Divine Love than the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15: 11-32).

Not only does the Father desire that we come to experience His Love, like the prodigal son, but He also desires that we also be channels of His Love. Jesus’ directive to His disciples to “Love one another as I have loved you” was also intended for us. And since He was the express image of the Father, it was the Father’s Love that they experienced through Him and it was the Father’s Love they, and we, are commanded to express to each other. Only the Holy Spirit working in us to form a relationship with the Father through the Son can accomplish this!

Our Loving Father, manifests His magnificent and magnanimous Love to our desperately alienated humanity by entering into human history, and offering the gift of this Eternal Love, the Love for which we were created, by reconciling us to Himself through the sacrificial death of His Son on the cross. But this Eternal Love does not stop at just reconciliation. After Jesus’ resurrection, He empowers us, the body of His Son, with the Spirit anointing that was on Jesus when He was on earth. Thus permitting us to participate in His Divinity through faith in the One He sent, who is, in fact, the image of His Love. In this participation we enter into a deeper relationship that takes us from being just friends to being His Spiritual Sons and Daughters in Christ.

How tragic, then, was humanity’s initial response to this offer of Love, that the One He sends to communicate His Love is rejected, tortured and crucified. How can this be? How can anyone reject so great a Love as this? And yet, even today, though millions upon millions have accepted His Love, there are still those in the world who, because of ignorance and misunderstanding, have not really comprehended the Good News of the Father’s Love. Much of the reason for this rejection, unfortunately, lies in the perception that they do not see God’s Love demonstrated in the lives and relations of those who live in what they consider to be “Christian” nations.

Awakening to the Father’s Love In Us!

God, in His mercy and loving kindness, is not impeded by humanity’s desperate situation. For since He does not wish that any should perish He has predestined us, in His undying love for humanity, that, we believers, the body of Christ in this world, be the communicators of His message of Love and reconciliation to the world – not only through The Word of His Love, the Gospel of the Cross, but also through the Power of His Love, the Holy Spirit, the Dove of Pentecost, who empowers all believers to be channels of this Divine Love to all the world both individually and as a community. It is the Father’s will, therefore, to release the miraculous power of His Love through our living out our loving obedience to the Gospel of His Love. A Love that is not only confirmed by the works of power that accompany the anointed proclamation of His Word but also by the power to reach into the human heart and reveal His Love directly to those who hear and believe the Messenger of His Love, Jesus, His Son!.

For this reason, it is even more urgent that we who are called by His Name be more and more resolved to not only live the life of holiness to which we are called but also to manifest and demonstrate the Father’s Love to all with whom we come in contact. For we, indeed, are His hands of Love extended to the world and to our own communities.

But, as with all things spiritual, we cannot demonstrate or manifest that which we ourselves have not experienced. How can we convince others of the intimacy of the Father’s Love when we ourselves have yet not come to know our creator in a personal way? For some of us, because of the spiritual lethargy inherent in our human nature, this personal encounter with the Lover of our souls does not always come immediately upon our intellectual assent to the faith. There is usually a gradual transition where the Holy Spirit takes us from learning about the Father’s Love, through His Word and Sacraments, to spiritually experiencing this Love through a deepening personal relationship with Jesus, who is the incarnation of the Father’s Love. Then, as we continue our walk with Him, we become truly aware of His personal embrace of Love, which gathers us to Himself in spite of our own unworthiness. Then, and only then, can it be said that we begin to experience the true and redeeming Love that flows through a relationship with the Father through the Son.

Such a spiritual epiphany is the necessary door to our continued spiritual growth. In fact, without a personal encounter with Christ our spiritual growth is held in abeyance[3]. Yes, we may know and give intellectual assent to all the basic doctrines of the Christian faith, but without the personal experience of “knowing” Christ intimately, our spiritual growth will be deprived of the very sustenance needed to keep from being conformed to the world instead of to Christ.

One of the impediments most of us have to entering into a personal and intimate relationship with our Father is that we have been taught to have such a reverence and awe for God that it is inconceivable to us, who are so painfully aware of our own sinfulness, to imagine how this holy all-powerful supernatural and holy being would even permit us to come before Him. While it is absolutely necessary that we not lose this sense of awe and reverence it does not mean that we cannot approach him or enter into a personal relationship with Him. For we, who abide in the Son, come before His throne garbed in Jesus’ robes of righteousness and not the filthy rags of our fallen nature.

What we tend to forget is that He first loved us and took the necessary action to remove the obstacle of sin that separated us from Him, namely, through the atoning and sacrificial death of His Son on the Cross and His subsequent resurrection. Through His Word He also us provided the faith we needed to believe in His Son and thus become His Children In Him. And it is through the Son, and In Him alone, that we have access to this intimate relationship with the Father. This is the reason for which we were created. For God Is Love and Love requires an object to be Loved. He created us so He could pour out His Love on us through the Holy Spirit [4].

Through our conversion, baptism, confirmation and the other sacraments of the church the Holy Spirit provides us the means to enter into and maintain this intimate relationship with the Lover of our souls. Only one thing is necessary, and that is, that we open the door to the One who stands at the Door of our Hearts, knocking and earnestly waiting for us to open our hearts to Him, who deeply desires that we activate that relationship for which He created us. When with all sincerity we proclaim, “Yes, Lord. come into my heart and abide therein”, He enters in and sups with us and we with Him.

Maintaining this abiding relationship is a constant challenge to us for the world, the flesh and the devil are constantly attempting to distract us from the heavenly fellowship. So as we read this brief reminder of this Heritage of The Father’s Love let us all reaffirm our YES and rededicate our hearts to be receptive and obedient to the Father’s Love by asking Jesus to renew His life in us. And, if at all possible, do so by receiving the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist, the Sacrament of His Love.

<><><> To Be Continued in Part 2 ====> Click Here

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

If this article has touched your hearts, reach out to Jesus now and ask Him to manifest Himself to you so that you may become fully aware of the Father’s Love and be empowered to manifest that Love to whomever the Father brings into your life.

May you so be blessed in His Name! Amen!

Your Brother In Christ … Bartimaeus

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

Footnotes:

[1] “For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you..” (Is. 62:5 NRSV)

[2] “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” (Is. 49:15)

[3]“There is no Christianity without an encounter with Christ. Christianity is not simply a doctrine; it is a meeting, in faith, with God, present in our history with the incarnation of Jesus.” ( Pope John Paul II-World Youth Day 2004)

[4] And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Rom.5:5 NRSV)

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