IN THE REAR VIEW (reflections): THE SPIRITUAL COMBAT, 6.

The Spiritual Combat

Chapter 6: Further directions how to attain Self
(text below) (click for full book)

This chapter has three main points, and these three points are exceedingly beautiful… and important!

Point 1: Everything is assisted by the GRACE of God.
Point 2: God’s STRENGTH is matchless and supreme.
Point 3: VICTORY is mine, as long as I don’t give up the fight.

GRACE – STRENGTH – VICTORY

The reflection on grace is fairly simple.  Imagine that you have done something well.  Let’s say you helped someone pick up some things that fell on the ground.  You can award yourself a point for doing a good deed.  That is true on the level of free-will and your response to the situation.  But that would be only seeing the tip of the iceberg.  That you decided to help actually was prompted to you by God’s grace.  That you had it in your mind to help was prompted by God’s grace.  That you have strength to walk is by God’s sustaining grace.  That you can see is by God’s creative and sustaining grace.  That your lungs are breathing and your heart is beating is by God’s creative and sustaining grace.  That you are alive and not dead is by God’s grace.  That you exist in the first place, at all, is by God’s gracious will.  So both proximately (near to the scene) and remotely (in the distance), grace is at work in you, by God’s choice and not yours.  And so it is with anything we come to face.  If what we see is so narrow that we think it comes from us solely, we would be considered legally blind.  God’s grace is at work!

The one sentence on the strength of God is really a breath of fresh air and a comfort to those in battle.  If God is for us, who can be against us!!!  He is strong; He is mighty; He is victor; He is supreme; The heavens are His throne and the earth is His footstool.  He is our big, strong Father!  And we are His children.

The third point is also hard, like the first point, for us to fully understand.  In a similar blindness, we narrow our vision in the midst of failure and think that all is lost.  All is not lost.  I fell.  Get up.  Continue.  If I get up and try again, even if I fall a million times, I win.  He who perseveres to the end will be saved!  God, in His mercy, loves to pardon us if we would humble ourselves after a fall and go to Him.  A devout soul once received in prayer the comforting words of Jesus say to her something like: If you would fall, I love to pardon you.  If you would fall, a million million times, I will love to pardon you.  And my Blood will wash your last sin just as fully as your first sin.So we do not give up!

Chapter 6 text:

Since our whole power to subdue our enemies arises principally from self-distrust and trust in God, I will give you some further directions to enable you, by the Divine Assistance, to acquire it. Know, then, for a certain truth, that neither all gifts, natural or acquired, nor all graces given gratis, nor the knowledge of all Scripture, nor long habitual exercise in the service of God, will enable us to do His will, unless in every good and acceptable work to be performed, in every temptation to be overcome, in every peril to be avoided, in every Cross to be borne in conformity to His will, our heart be sustained and up-borne by an especial aid from Him, and His hand be outstretched to help us. We must, then, bear this in mind all our life long, every day, every hour, every moment, that we may never indulge so much as a thought of self-confidence.

And as to confidence in God, know that it is as easy to Him to conquer many enemies as few; the old and experienced as the weak and young.

Therefore we will suppose a soul to be heavy-laden with sins, to have every possible fault and every imaginable defect, and to have tried, by every possible means and every kind of Spiritual Exercise, to forsake sin and to practice holiness. We will suppose this soul to have done all this, and yet to have failed in making the smallest advance in holiness, nay, on the contrary, to have been borne the more strongly towards evil.

For all this she must not lose her trust in God, nor give over her spiritual conflict and lay down her arms, but still fight on resolutely, knowing that none is vanquished in this spiritual combat but he who ceases to struggle and loses confidence in God, whose succor never fails His soldiers, though He sometimes permits them to be wounded. Fight on, then, valiantly; for on this depends the whole issue of the strife; for there is a ready and effectual remedy for the wounds of all combatants who look confidently to God and to His aid for help; and when they least expect it they shall see their enemies dead at their feet.

 

NEXT:

Chapter 7: Of Spiritual Exercises, and first of the Exercise of the Understanding, which must be kept guarded against ignorance and curiosity

Strength To Endure (Audio Sermon)

Excerpt from audio sermon “Strength to Endure”:
You’ve heard it before: There is no Easter Sunday without Good Friday
That is: There is no Resurrection without the Crucifixion.
That is: If you want to be in glory with Jesus, you must first suffer with Jesus.
That is: If you want to be serious about the feasting of Easter, you must first be serious about the fasting of Lent.

We want glory without suffering.
We want victory without battle.
We want perfection without practice.
We want Heaven’s reward, but we don’t want to travel the way of the Cross to get there.

Revisiting the Cafeteria (Audio Sermon)

Revisiting the Cafeteria

Cafeteria Christianity was a popular discussion a few years back. The 4th Chapter of Luke shows a people accepting Jesus when they like what He says, and the same people rejecting Jesus when they don’t like what He says. What He says is true, whether we like it or not.

Full Text:
We find something very peculiar in the 4th chapter of Luke’s Gospel. Jesus picks up the scroll of Isaiah and reads from it: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me – he anointed me – I’m going to help out the poor – I’m going to set the captive free – I’m going to heal the blind – I’m going to bring freedom – it’s going to be great. And when He finishes reading, He says, in verse 21: Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. And this next verse is what we want to examine: verse 22: And all spoke highly of Him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.
But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He continues the sermon, prophesying how the people are going to respond, reading their souls and declaring what is hidden. And they hate it. Verse 22 had them loving Jesus, hanging on His every word. Now look at verse 28: When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. The drove him out of town, led him to the edge of the hill and wanted to throw him off.
What happened here? At the beginning of the sermon they loved him. By the end they wanted to kill him. What happened?
It’s here we need to pause and bring this home. Have I ever done that? Has it ever happened that I praised God in one breath, and with the next, I cursed Him? This is the radical reality of humanity: I have the capacity to bless and curse with the same breath. I had a professor in the seminary who told us that when he wakes up in the morning, his first reflection is this: By 2PM this afternoon I have the ability to do the worst act possible to humanity. Are you able to acknowledge that for yourself? In the human person is the potential for absolute greatness. In the same human person is the potential for absolute and utter destruction.

A few years ago there was a popular catchphrase going around, called Cafeteria Christianity. The basic principle is this: take a buffet. There are lots of options. There are lots of things that I really like, and possibly lots of things that I don’t really care for. I take what I want; I leave the rest.
For a buffet, that’s all good. That’s actually the point. Take as much as humanly possible of the stuff you love, and leave the rest.
That doesn’t work, however, for Christianity. Jesus, I like what you say here, I like what you did here, and I’m fine with that line over there. But, I don’t like this, I don’t like that, and I’m not a fan of that either. So, I’ll just take what I like, and leave the rest. You think that works with Jesus? Do you think that works as a Christian? Christianity is not a buffet of take its and leave its.
This is what happens in chapter 4 of Luke. The people were loving what Jesus was saying about healing and restoration and all these good tidings, and so they accepted Him. As soon as He started saying things that made them uncomfortable, things they didn’t like, they rejected Him. They rose up against Him. They tried to kill Him.

Let’s bring this into your lives a little more clearly. So we found that picking and choosing works well at a buffet; in fact, that is the point of the buffet.

Another image: sports fan. There are a few types here, fair-weather and die hard. Die hards wear the jersey everywhere they go. They talk about the team in the personal plural: We did this; we did that. They act like they are actually on the team. Then you got the fair-weather fans. They wear the jersey when the team is awesome; talk about the team when the team is great. But when the team falls down, loses games, the jersey comes off, the channel is changed, and the thought of them disappears almost altogether.
And guess what: that’s all fine, because it’s sports. You’re free to love them or leave them, according to your whim. But Christianity is not like that. You don’t get to put on your Jesus jersey when You like what He’s up to and hide it away when He’s gone too far. With Jesus, it’s all or nothing.

A closer example: dating. A young man finds a girl he likes. He’s totally into her, wanting to spend all the time with her. He loves her. He likes the way she dresses, he likes the way she looks at him, he likes the way other guys are jealous cuz she’s his girlfriend. What do you think she would say if he comes up to her and says: Hey, I’m really into you. I love the way you dress, I love the way you look at me, and I totally accept all this. But this stuff over here, these parts of you, I’m not into them. I don’t accept them. Actually, I reject that part of you. How do you think she reacts? Slap. Turn around, walks away. Silent treatment. Actually, what he just said was the classic break up speech, from end-this-thing-now 101. You don’t do that in a relationship that you want to continue. You would never speak like that. You gotta work that kind of stuff out in a very different way. Because real love says this: I’m yours. You’re mine. I’m all in. I choose all of you for me, and you’ve chosen all of me for you. For better or for worse, we are each other’s, and we aren’t going anywhere else. This is the gift of total love.

So what do you think it looks like in the relationship above all relationships, the relationship with the God who made you, redeemed you in Christ, and breathes life into you as often as you breathe? Do you think it would be any less than that of dating. Do you think it’s okay to accept parts of Jesus, and reject other parts of Jesus? Jesus, this arm of yours, this leg, this half of you I accept. But the rest, that has to go. Do you know what you end up with? A broken Jesus. It’s called the crucifixion. Our rejection leads to the crucifixion.

It works with a buffet. It can even work with sports. It doesn’t work with relationships and it definitely doesn’t work with the Person, the message, the teaching, the religion of Jesus.

If it was a manmade thing, you have all the rights you want. Take this, leave that. But my religion, the religion I’m trying to preach to you, is not manmade. It’s revealed. It came out of Heaven and has been given as a gift to humanity. And it’s a package. I either receive it all, or I reject it all. Because as much of it as I reject, that much has it become my own religion, and it can no longer save me.

Father, do we really need to receive the Holy Eucharist to go to Heaven? In John chapter six verse 53 Jesus says: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.
Father, do we really need to see a priest to have our sins forgiven? In John chapter 20 verse 23, speaking to the apostles, Jesus says: Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.
Father, I’ve got my own thoughts on marriage. Matthew, chapter 19, verses 4-6, Jesus says: Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female and said, for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together no human being must separate.

So often I hear someone say: “Well, of course I don’t agree with everything.” I hear this all the time. What don’t you agree with? What part of Jesus’ body are you trying to rip away? This is His teaching, not ours. It’s an all or nothing thing. I either defer to God or I don’t. I either trust in God or I trust myself. Whether it’s easy or not. Whether you like it or not.

No, there is no middle ground here. I am either a verse 22 person or a verse 28 and 29 person. I either accept Jesus, and everything that comes with Him, like in verse 22, or I reject Him, like in the 28th and 29th verse.

Real fans walk with their team, winning season or losing season.
Real love accepts the other, completely, fully.
Real Faith accepts all of Jesus, His teaching, His words, His ways, His worship, or it rejects it all.

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