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Denying One’s Self: The Cost of Discipleship

Return to Jerusalem

Go into all the world ...

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

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He paid for our sins and He is our healing

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

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

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

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

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives

and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,…”

( Luke 4:18)

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

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

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

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

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

“ I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom. 12:1-2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Brother in Christ ….. Bartimaeus

© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2011]

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

§ Husbands Love Your Wives

§ Loving Submission is aTwo-Way Process

§ Sweet Yoke of Love

§ Enter in By the Narrow Gate

§ Walking The Walk

§ Hearing God’s Voice … And Obeying it

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The Challenges of Discipleship: Husbands Love your Wives

The Ultimate Husband

The Ultimate Husband

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, …” (Eph5:25)

My Brothers in Christ and Fellow Christian Husbands,

Although I am addressing this post to Christian husbands I invite you Christian wives to listen in also, for what I am about to tell the men directly affects you and requires your cooperation so that the Lord may bless you both as a one-flesh unit before Him.

All Christians are called to be disciples because we are destined to be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom.8:29) – which is the divine purpose behind true discipleship. The primary distinctive of such discipleship is to “love one another as Jesus loves” (Jn. 13:34-35), that is through the same “agape”, self-denying Love that was in Jesus and has now been poured into our heart by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5).

For a Christian man, I can think of no better place to work out his calling to discipleship than through the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, for it is through this sacrament that we prophetically model Jesus’ love for his church! What better training ground for discipleship than this!

However, brethren, I have to admit that “discipleship” was the farthest thing from my mind when I proposed marriage. Oh, yes, I loved my bride-to-be dearly and I still do but the love I had then was not the “agape” kind of love that is at the core of being a disciple. Although it was god-given, it was a natural love, a romantic love, that brought me to the wedding altar. And, yes my love was sincere in that I had every desire to give myself totally to my bride, but in my spirit I retained my personal baggage, that part of my nature that drove me to self-centered fulfillment, essentially, my sin nature. It was a part of me that I unconsciously had not surrendered, not only to my wife but also to God.

Unfortunately, most of us men enter marriage in just such a state. Oh yes, we do respect the sacrament and the covenant it represents and we do firmly commit ourselves to our brides through the promises to “love and to cherish, until death do us part”. But unfortunately our training for marriage does not usually discuss the magnificent challenge of the spiritual discipleship that marriage involves. Nor does that training include understanding the scriptural basis and tools needed to live out such a calling within the marriage covenant.

This lack of preparation at the “spiritual” level ignores the fact that we are all tri-partite beings consisting of body, soul, and spirit.  Yes, we usually obtain some training at the “ body and soul level” that helps us to maintain a relationship to a certain degree. But since many of the problems in a marriage have their roots at the “spirit” level, we leave the newly married couple at the disadvantage of not knowing how to get to that level and the spiritual tools that are available to them to stand against the wiles of the devil and the vagaries of their own flesh that work against the marriage covenant.

For this reason, many Christian couples struggle through their marriages and usually are unable to obtain competent advice or counselors to help them get at the root of their problems. This is because the counselors themselves have not been trained at the spiritual level and thus limit their counsel to the “body and soul” aspect where their competency lies. It is also true today that spiritual advisors such as priests or ministers do not usually have the time or prayerful discernment needed to help these struggling marriages, because, although they have been instructed in the basics of spiritual growth, they are too consumed with just keeping their ministries or parishes going to dedicate prayer time to  individual cases and asking the Lord to guide them in providing help for these marriages at this deeper level.

Since the scripture lays the initiative on the husband to emulate Christ in marriage I am, today, exhorting all Christian husbands to discover how by surrendering yourself to Christ and yoking yourself to him in discipleship you can be God’s instrument of renewal for your marriage, and in walking the walk with Jesus, you, yourself, will grow spiritually closer and closer to Jesus. In that relationship He, Himself, not some intermediary will teach you, through His Word, all you need to know about Divine Love and how to let that Love encompass you and your bride just as He encompasses His bride, the church. You just have to learn to listen to His voice through His Word and through your spirit, in prayer, as the core part of your discipleship.

One of the reasons many of us Christians shy away from discipleship is because we have been given the wrong impressions of what it entails – usually as someone establishing some kind of strict religious discipline to which you have to adhere. Nothing is farther from the truth! As I said before, discipleship is merely the process that you enter into when you yield yourself to the Bridegroom and let Him teach you one-on-one, day-by day, how to be open to His Love and How to express that Love in all of the situations you encounter in marriage (and in life).  I call it the “Sweet Yoke of Love”. He also provides you the covering you need against the attacks of the devil brought on by your fleshly weaknesses. But you cannot come to this point unless you learn to listen to His Voice and Obey it out of Love for the Master.

True Divine Love can only be expressed inside of a relationship, That’s why the Holy Trinity, IS LOVE, because of the relationship of the godhead. It is the Father’s desire to bring us not only into the relationship He has with the Son but for us to share that living relationship with each other so that we truly become the Bride of Christ.  What better place, then, to learn about Divine Love, agape Love, than in a marriage relationship?

It is through such a loving and living relationship that true discipleship occurs, where we, through the Divine Love that has been poured into us, are conformed day-by-day into the image of His Son.  A Christian marriage relationship is designed by God to model the relationship between the Son and His Bride so don’t you think that God will provide you all the help you need to be the husband He wants you to be and all the graces you need to follow the path of discipleship He asks you to follow within the marriage covenant?

What then keeps us from opening ourselves to Him in discipleship and inviting Him into our marriage? I believe that, for us men, there are four main problems:

1)    Pride, plain and simple, pride. We want to retain control of everything  in our lives – even when everything is going wrong;

2)    We are afraid of the Holy Spirit, we are afraid to yield to Him and to the spiritual gifts He offers – the very gifts we need to help us in our situation;

3)    We are not open to the Word of God and the spiritual guidance and wisdom He has embedded in it!   It is this very Word that the Lord usesto conform us to the image and likeness of His Son;

4) We don’t know how to pray, that is, how to have a one-on-one dialogue with Jesus so He can communicate with you, where you can tell him your problems and concerns, and where He can respond to you and teach you! (click on:  Hearing God’s Voice and Obeying it!)

I have touched on some aspects of these concerns in my other posts but unfortunately right now I do not have a comprehensive teaching guide to give you – maybe in the future.  However, you don’t really need me, or any one else, to get started all you need is Jesus!  And He is always available through prayer – the prayer of dialogue, and through meditation on His Word.

I pray, brethren, that what I have just told you has touched a few sensitive places in your hearts. That is why I am proposing to you, my brothers in Christ, if you really and honestly desire to grow closer to Christ and your bride in and through Divine Love, that you sincerely meditate on the challenge posed to us husbands by the apostle Paul and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to a decision to enter into a discipleship relationship with Jesus:

The Ultimate Bride

The Ultimate Bride

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish.

“In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, because we are members of his body.

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church.” (Eph. 5:25-32)

Of Course, this challenge is really a variant on the challenging command that Jesus gave his disciples (and us): “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. (John 13:34)

It is, however, a more specific variant that raises the bar on what the Lord expects of Christian husbands in their marriages.  Paul’s exhortation challenges us husbands because the love that is requested includes, but goes beyond the human level of love that asks us to “love others as we love ourselves”.  The challenge posed for us husbands is to reach for a much higher goal – the spiritual level of Jesus’ Love for His church – a love that demands a dying to self.

This is an “agape” type of divine, unconditional, Love between husband and wife that reaches the mystical level where it is a prophetic living out of the Love of Christ for His Church!  It is a Love, where we husbands are called to die to ourselves on behalf of our wives in consummation of that love and thus be partakers of  Jesus’ Love for His church.

We cannot achieve such a divine type of love on our own!  This type of love is a  Holy-Spirit-inspired Love, it is a spiritual gift that is activated by faith –  a faith that, Jesus Himself, working spiritually through the Sacrament of Matrimony, will manifest that Love in us and through us as we live out our conjugal covenant. A faith that can only be activated by an act of our will –  a spiritual  act of surrender to Jesus Himself inviting Him to walk with us in our marriage, empowering our love with His, so that we may live out our marriage covenant in the spirit and not in the flesh!

When we willingly surrender to Jesus to let His Love be manifest in us and through us so that we die to ourselves in giving ourselves to our brides, we will find that our brides will respond to that love in the manner that the church responds to Jesus’ sacrifice, namely, by submitting themselves, in turn, to the leadership of love they see in us.

If you truly desire to be a husband thus empowered by the Holy Spirit, I suggest something like the following prayer to get you started in your intent to love your bride as Jesus Loves His Church:

A Husband’s Prayer

Lord Jesus, I believe that you, the Son of the Living God came down from heaven to reveal the Father’s Love to me by suffering and dying for my sins. I believe that through your death and resurrection you have brought redemption and life not only to me but also all else who believe in you. I further believe that it is only through knowing you in a loving personal relationship that I can know the Father and His Love.

It is because I have a burning desire to know you and abide in you that I now yield myself completely to you and your love. I open the door to my heart so you can come in and sup with me and thus begin the special relationship with you for which you died and for which I hunger. At this moment I yield myself to your love. Enter in and activate my spirit with your Holy Spirit so that I can go beyond just mere intellectual belief in you to a personal spiritual knowledge of you and the Father.

Lord, cleanse me from my sins and make me a fit vessel for your presence. Permeate my entire being with your life and your love so that I can truly be an instrument of your Love in this world.

As an act of surrender to your Love,  I especially ask that you send your Holy Spirit to empower me to Love My wife as You Love your Church so that we may both be united in your Love and your blessings in our marriage.

I invite you into our marriage and ask that you permit me to live out that Holy Covenant in your Spirit and your Love. In faith and by your grace I receive You and Your word. Abide in me just as you abide in the Father and the Father in you!  Thank you for giving yourself for me in Love. Amen

May the Lord richly bless you as you enter the “Narrow Gate” of the discipleship of Love!

Your Brother In Christ,

B.R. Timeo, AMDG

© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2010]

Recommended Link

RE: Book on marriage spirituality

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

§ Sweet Yoke of Love

§ Enter in By the Narrow Gat

§ Walking The Walk

§ Hearing God’s Voice … And Obeying it


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