The Beloved Disciple’s Testimony and Your Testimony

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I would like to look at John, the beloved disciple, and reflect on a few seasons of his life.  I would like to connect them with your life, so that you can identify where you are in relation to his path.

Should we start at the end of his life or the beginning?  Let’s mention the end, so we know where we are going, but quickly return to the beginning, so we can walk with one foot in front of the other.

THE END:

Towards the end of John’s life, the skies opened up and he received THE revelation of Heaven’s glory.  That’s what happened towards the end of John’s life, and I want to connect it with your life.  OBJECTION NUMERO UNO: “That’s never gonna happen to me.”  With that kind of attitude, you are right!  Christians don’t seem to be receiving revelations of Heaven all that often.  One important impediment: the attitude of “not for me.”  I am here to tell you that it IS for you.  And we are going to look at John’s life to see how we can be ready to receive this kind of gift from God.  This revelation/ecstatic/rapturous state of John wasn’t only for him.  His was particular, in that it was designed by God to become one of the 27 New Testament letters, but that doesn’t mean that others don’t get to be in this kind of deep relationship.  One of the reasons given why John omits his name from the Gospel he wrote, replacing his name with “the beloved disciple,” is that you can insert your name into the story, that is, so that you can see that these things aren’t just for him, but for the many.  So, let’s go back to the beginning for John, and find there your beginning.

TRUTH SEEKER

John was a disciple of John the Baptist.  John was looking for truth.  You are looking for truth.  John was lucky enough to have a humble teacher, one who knew that he was not the fullest expression of the truth.  Is the truth you are seeking a humble teacher?  Will your teacher bow if a fuller expression of the truth comes forward?  Some people look to science.  Some people look to a political party or ideology.  Some people look to a philosophy.  Lots of people are looking to vague quasi-religious self-help principles that seem humble, but actually lead to a claim of superiority.  Some people only look to themselves, which is the most dangerous thing you can do.  John was seeking truth.  The Baptist was a great teacher of truth.  And the Baptist was humble, bowing when the Truth came along.  “Behold, the Lamb of God” (John 1:29ff.)  So John left his teacher to follow The Teacher.

GETTING TO KNOW JESUS

John spent three years getting to know Jesus.  He was witness to many things.  You have witnessed Jesus working in your life as well.  Let’s fast forward a bit.

RETURNING TO WHAT I KNOW

After seeing so many things, and most recently, the Death, Resurrection and appearance of Jesus, John (and company) go to Galilee according to the Lord’s command.  What do they do when they arrive there as they wait for Jesus?  Peter says “I am going fishing.”  And the disciples go fishing.  SCREECH TO A HALT… They just witnessed their leader rise from the dead, and they go fishing?!  WHAT?! And you have done that as well.  Having witnessed so many things of the Lord, on retreat, in prayer, in worship, through a bible study or a book, in peoples’ lives, you have often returned to what you know.  It is sometimes a straight-up backslide (bad deal). Other times it has been an “I didn’t know what to do, so I just did what I knew” kind of thing.  Other times it has been simply laziness (ouch).  Jesus showed up to John and He wants to show up to you:
‘I have come and have found you.
You returned to what you knew.
I want to show you something new.’

‘I have come and have found you. 
You returned to what you knew. 
I want to show you something new.’

BEARING WITNESS

Having moved on from witnessing so many things, and having been called out from what he knew to something new, John and company receive the power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  NOTE HERE: If John didn’t first seek truth, he wouldn’t have followed Jesus.  If he wouldn’t have followed Jesus, we wouldn’t have witnessed so many things.  If he didn’t witness so many things, he wouldn’t have been ready to cry out that day on the water “It is the LORD!” (John 21)  If he didn’t get called of that water, he wouldn’t have been ready for the Pentecostal Fire.  He was ready for the Pentecostal Fire because of all the steps already taken.  (Cough, cough)  Getting the drift?  For your life?  The end will come, but only by way of the beginning.  BEGIN!

John receives ‘power from on high’ with the brothers, and they go and preach in the name of Jesus.  They get in big trouble, and get told “Don’t preach in this name any longer.”  And they were glad to suffer abuse “for the sake of the Name” (Acts 5: 17ff).  Here comes the ever familiar excuse: “I don’t know how to speak of Jesus.  That’s not my gift.”  Have you not received the Holy Spirit?  Does not God call you His temple, a dwelling place of His Holy Spirit?  Is not the Holy Spirit the One who will do these things in you?  So what are you worried about you.  It’s not up to you to do great things.  It’s up to you to let the Lord do great things with you.  True humility isn’t me saying I can’t do it.  True humility let’s God do what He wants to do with me.

RAPTUROUS ECSTASY

Truth seeker.  Getting to know Jesus.  Returning to what I know.  Bearing witness.  All these steps are steps John took and steps you’ve taken, or are taking, or are looking to take, or are learning now that they are the steps of Christians, and you are a Christian.  This leads John to be in a place of preparedness for something outstanding.  John got exiled to an island called Patmos, which is between Greece and Turkey.  He was dwelling in a cave, having lived a faithful and persevering life.  God brought John into a vision that altered, I’m sure, everything for him once again.  Heaven opened up.  John saw God seated on a throne.  John saw the angels.  John saw the redeemed.  John saw the cosmic battles.  John saw it all.  What do you think he thought about after that vision?   Fishing???  The desire for total communion with those in Heaven and total union with God in Heaven must have been all that remained for him.  And this is for you.  Consumed longing is for you.  It REALLY is for you.  Maybe not today.
Maybe today you need to decide to seek truth.
Maybe today you need to get to know Jesus more.
Maybe today you need to realize that you have returned to what you know.
Maybe today you need to receive the Pentecostal Fire.
Maybe today you need to bear witness.
Maybe today you need to decide to be faithful each day.
Maybe today is your day for rapture.

CHRONOS AND KAIROS

A very dear friend and mentor of mine speaks of ‘chronos’ and ‘kairos’.  Chronos is chronological time.  Kairos is anointed time.  We’ve looked at John’s life in chronos.  You don’t have to live a long life and wait for rapture.  John followed the Baptist for a while in chronos.  John followed Jesus for 3 years in chronos.  John went and preached in chronos.  And in chronos, kairos happened, late in his life.  Chronos is no longer an impediment.  Jesus can work wonders in you in no time at all.  You can live the devoted life now.  You can live the Pentecostal life now.  You can live in deep union now.  Kairos doesn’t have to be in your future; it can be in your now.  You are the limiter, not time.  Let’s learn from the path of John, the beloved disciple.  TODAY IS THE DAY.

MORE PROOF

Still don’t believe me that this is for you, but was only for John… search some of these names.  A bunch of normal people who gave themselves over to Jesus and were invited into this kind of reality.  Gemma Galgani, Consolata Bertrone, Therese Neumann, Pere Lamy, Gabrielle Bossis, Josefa Menendez, Mary of the Holy Trinity, Padre Pio, Paul of the Cross, Bernard of Clairvaux, Hildegard of Bingen, Hugh of St. Victor, Bonaventure, Angela of Foligno, Gertrude of Saxony, Julian of Norwich, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Margaret Mary Alocoque, Faustina Kowalska.

BE YE STEADFAST! – The Spiritual Combat, 15.

The Spiritual Combat

The Spiritual Combat, Chapter 15

Warning!: The battle is not over… even if the war is won.

In chapter 15, our teacher shows us simply that if we win a battle against temptation, we ought not put away our weapons.  This battle may be done, but there is another one coming.  The words of Jesus are important here: “But whoever perseveres to the end, he shall be saved” Matthew 24:14.
Typically, the phrase goes like this: “You may have won the battle, but I will win the war.”  Well, it’s strange for the Christian.  Jesus has already won the war!, but there are still a lot of battles to be fought.

“The strife is o’er, the battle done;
The victory of life is won;
The song of triumph has begun: Alleluia!”

This great hymn of victory, proper to the Christian’s experience of Jesus’ conquering death, shows us the victory is already HIS!  BUT… as long as we are in the body, we must persevere.

BULLET POINTS FROM CHAPTER 15:

  • Be steadfast: even if your enemy seems asleep.
  • Be steadfast: even if your enemy is raging.
  • Be steadfast: the goodness and love of God is infinitely greater than your enemy.
  • Be steadfast: even if the battle comes up every single day of your life.
  • Be steadfast: God is in charge.
  • Be steadfast: God is fighting at your right side.
  • Be steadfast: victory will indeed be yours… even if delayed til the day of your death.
  • Be steadfast: there is no escape from this battle, and those who try to escape will be slain.
  • Be steadfast: hate your enemy with all of Heaven’s fury.

This alone is your concern, to fight manfully, and never, however numerous are your wounds, to lay down your arms or take to flight.

Be Steadfast

________________________________________________________________

The Spiritual Combat text: here.

___

NEXT:

Chapter 16: In what manner the soldier-of-Christ should take the field early in the morning

YOU DON’T HAVE TO GIVE IN! /// THE SPIRITUAL COMBAT, 14

The Spiritual Combat

The Spiritual Combat, Chapter 14: What must be done when the superior-will seems to be wholly stifled and overcome by the interim-will and by other enemies
(text below) (click for full book)
—–

YOU DON’T HAVE TO GIVE IN!!!

You don’t have to give in.  I don’t have to give in.  Give in to what?  Give in to anything.  I don’t have to give in to any temptation. Ever.  You and I have the power to choose.  We always have that power.  This is the absolute and enduring quality of the will that God has given to us.  Our will is always free.  We have to remember this.  We forget this all too easily.

“I had to do it.”  Wrong.  False.

“I had to have a piece of chocolate.” False.
“I had to watch another episode.” False.
“I had to buy it.” False.

“I had to lie.” False.
“I had to yell at him.” False.
“I had to look at her with lust.” False.

Our teacher: “For God [endowed] our will with such freedom and such strength, that were all the senses, all evil spirits, nay, the whole world itself, to arm and conspire to assault and oppress it with all their might, it could still, in spite of them, will or not will all that it wills or wills not.”

I have it in me to never sin.  Never sin.  And this is not from me (as so many people mistakenly believe that they themselves have given themselves this innate interior power of creating their own destiny, which is very and plainly false), but is placed in me by the One who made me.  “So do thou take refuge in the knowledge of yourself, the knowledge that you are nothing, and can do nothing, and with faith in God, Who can do all things, strike a blow at this hostile passion.”

We want to believe that we are our own master.  We want to believe that we can do anything that we choose to do.  While I might not be able to do anything that I choose to do (I will probably never be in the NBA even if I decide it will my whole heart), I must hold that I need not sin.  I need not give in to any temptation.  We must become convinced of this.

spiritual combat 14 meme

In this chapter, Dom Scupoli is reflecting on the cravings of the flesh that come to us and we feel overwhelmed by them and think that we must give in to them.  He does not bend.  He does not allow our justifications.  We wish he would.  But we are also glad that he doesn’t.  We know that it is in us to resist sin.

When we are afflicted or troubled or tempted, we tend to cry out in different ways.  Dom Scupoli gives us some meditations that strike those pity parties down.  If you don’t want to stop the pity party, don’t read any further.

1.

WHY ME!?

Have I ever done this unto another?  If so, then this is simply the reward of work from your own hand.

2.

I DON’T DESERVE THIS!

Have I ever done this unto another?  No? Well, what of all the other things I have done in my life.  If I am receiving payback now, why am I upset?  This is again fruit of my own labor.

3.

THIS IS TOO MUCH TO ASK OF ME!

Why is the burden so heavy?  I know I have done wrong, but isn’t this overkill?  We should never have this thought.  The slightest offense against God has eternal weight.  And the gate to life is narrow.

4.

I DON’T HAVE TO DO THIS!

I can get around this, can I not?  Jesus Christ entered into the Father’s Kingdom via thorns and crosses.  And you are a member of His Body.

5.

THERE’S NO POINT!

What is the payoff?  The harder things are to bear, the more unreasonable, the disorder of the troubles being so chaotic, so much more pleasing will your act of love be to God.  It will be pure and beautiful, because He sees everything for what it really is.  He sees your desire and your love in the midst of suffering.

Here it is good to remember one of the main themes of Dom Scupoli’s masterpiece:
I AM VICTORIOUS UNTIL I GIVE UP.

I AM VICTORIOUS UNTIL I GIVE UP.

Chapter 14 text:

If at times the superior will should seem to you powerless to resist the inferior and its other enemies because you do not feel within you an effectual will opposed to them, yet stand firm, and do not quit the field; for you must always account yourself victorious until you can clearly perceive that you have yielded.

For inasmuch as our superior will has no need of the inferior for the production of its acts, without its own consent it can never be compelled to yield, however sorely assaulted.

For God endued our will with such freedom and such strength, that were all the senses, all evil spirits, nay, the whole world itself, to arm and conspire to assault and oppress it with all their might, it could still, in spite of them, will or not will all that it wills or wills not; and that how often so-ever, when-so-ever, how-so-ever, and to what end so-ever it should please.

And if at any time your foes should so violently assail and press upon you as almost to stifle your will, so that it seems to have no breath to produce any opposing act of volition, yet do not lose courage, nor throw down your arms, but make use of your tongue in your defense, saying, I yield not, I consent not;” like a man whose adversary is upon him and holds him down, and who, being unable to reach him with the point of his sword, strikes at him with the hilt; and as he tries to make a spring backwards to wound his enemy with the point, so do thou take refuge in the knowledge of yourself, the knowledge that you are nothing, and can do nothing, and with faith in God, Who can do all things, strike a blow at this hostile passion, saying: “Help me, Lord! help me, O my God! help me, Jesus, Mary! that I may not yield to this enemy.

You may also, when your enemy gives you time, call in your reason to assist the weakness of your will, by meditating upon various points, the consideration of which may give it strength and restore its breath to resist the enemy. For example: You are, perhaps, under some persecution or other trial, so sorely tempted to impatience, that your will, as it seems to you, cannot, or at least will not, endure it. Encourage it, then, by discussing with the reason such points as the following:

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes)Consider, first, whether you have given any occasion for the evil under which you are suffering and so have deserved it; for if you have done so, every rule of justice requires of you to bear patiently the wound which with your own hand you have inflicted on yourself.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes)Second – If blameless in this particular instance think of your other sins, for which God has not yet chastised you, and for which you have not, as you should have done, duly punished yourself. Seeing, then, that God’s mercy changes your deserved punishment, which should be eternal, into some light affliction which is but temporal, you should receive it, not willingly only, but thankfully.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes)Third – Should your offenses against the Divine Majesty seem to you to be light, and the penance you have endured for them heavy (a persuasion, however, which you should never allow yourself to entertain), you must remember that it is only through the straight gate of tribulation that you can enter into the kingdom of heaven.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes)Fourth – That even were it possible to enter there by any other way, the law of love forbids you so much as to think of it, seeing that the Son of God, with all His friends and all His members, entered into that kingdom by a path strewed with thorns and crosses.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes)Fifth – That which you have chiefly to consider, on this and all other occasions, is the will of God, Who, for the love He bears you, views with unspeakable complacency every act of virtue and mortification which, as His faithful and valiant soldier, you perform in requital of His love to you. And of this be assured, that the more unreasonable in itself the trial seems, and the more ignominious, by reason of the unworthiness of those from whom it comes, and so the more vexatious and the harder to be borne, so much the more pleasing will you be to the Lord, if in things so disordered in themselves, and therefore so bitter and repugnant to you, you can approve and love His Divine Will and Providence, in which all events, however adverse, are disposed after a most perfect rule and order.

NEXT:

Chapter 15: Some advice touching the manner of this warfare, and especially against whom, and with what resolution, it must be carried on

NAILING THE OLD NATURE TO THE CROSS! /// THE SPIRITUAL COMBAT, 13

The Spiritual Combat

The Spiritual Combat, Chapter 13: Of the way to resist the impulses of sense, and of the acts to be performed by the will in order to acquire Habits of Virtue
(text below) (click for full book)
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“True holiness and spirituality consists
not in exercises which are pleasing to us
and conformable to our nature, nor is it produced by these,
but by such only as nail that nature,
with all its works, to the cross.”
– The Spiritual Combat, 13.

Nailing the old nature to the Cross, to be united to our Crucified Saviour!  WOW!  This was the method of growing in holiness in the 16th century?  Would that it make a return in our 21st century USA!

“And even when you were dead in transgressions
and the uncircumcision  of your flesh,
he brought you to life along with him,
having forgiven us all our transgressions;
obliterating the bond against us, with its legal claims,
which was opposed to us, he also removed it from our midst,
nailing it to the cross;
despoiling the principalities and the powers,
he made a public spectacle of them,
leading them away in triumph by it”
Colossians 2:13-15.

Jesus nailed our sins to the cross once and for all.  And now we must choose to put on the new man.

“That you should put away the old man
of your former way of life,
corrupted through deceitful desires,
and be renewed in the spirit of your minds,
and put on the new man,
created in God’s way of righteousness
and holiness of truth”
Ephesians 4:22-24.

This ‘task’ of ours, nailing that nature to the Cross, is a daily task.  We must respond to God’s grace each day.  This response isn’t always easy.   Dom Scupoli teaches us that we must not simply ‘deny ourselves and take up our cross’ once, but we must actually destroy the weeds of the old man, which will try to creep into our lives.  His method is aggressive, and smart.  How many times in the movies are we led to believe that the foe is dead or out of the picture, but the hero didn’t finish the job.  The villain is knocked out and the hero goes on the way, only to have to face the villain again, and in a more drastic battle.  In this chapter we learn: Knock out your villain (whatever temptation this might be); revive the villain and try to get him to fight again, and knock him out again; and then bring him up once again and utterly kill him.

Our guide also teaches us to learn how to renounce our seemingly insatiable desire to have a good reputation.  Our pain at being offended, or belittled in whatever way, leads to all sorts of problems for us.  We must learn to accept, even love, the mockery and scorn that might come our way.  We can see in this our union with Jesus, who was mocked and scorned.

Scupoli also mentions that it is important to sometimes choose to abstain from things that are fine for us to choose.  If we learn how to avoid even those things that are fine for us, it helps us to avoid those things that are bad for us.  Self-mastery.

“Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win.
Every athlete exercises discipline in every way.  They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.
Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing.
No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.”
1 Corinthians 9:24-27.

Chapter 13 text:

Whenever your reasonable will is attacked by the will of sense on the one hand, and the Divine will on the other, each seeking to obtain the mastery over it, you must make use of various exercises, in order that the Divine will may always govern you.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes)First _ Whenever you are assailed and buffeted by the impulses of sense, oppose a valiant resistance to them, so that the superior will may not consent.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes)Secondly _ When the assaults have ceased, excite them anew, in order to repress them with greater force and vigor. Then challenge them again to a third conflict, wherein you may accustom yourself to repulse them with contempt and abhorrence.

These two challenges to battle should be made to every disorderly appetite, except in the case of temptations of the flesh, concerning which we shall speak in their place.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes)Lastly _ Make acts contrary to each evil passion which is to be resisted.

This will be made clear by the following example.

Suppose you are assailed by feelings of impatience. Look carefully into yourself, and you will find that these feelings are constantly directed against the superior will, in order to win its consent.

Now, then, begin the first exercise; and by repeated acts of the will, do all in your power to stifle each feeling as it arises, that your will may not consent to it. And never desist from this till, wearied unto death, your enemy yield himself vanquished.

But see here the malice of the devil. When he perceives that we resist the first movements of any passion, not only does he desist from exciting them, but when excited, he endeavors for the time to allay them, lest, by the exercise of resistance to the passion, we should acquire the habit of the opposite virtue. He would fain also betray us into the snares of pride and vainglory, by subtly insinuating to us that, like valiant soldiers, we have quickly trampled down our enemies.

Proceed, therefore, to the second conflict, recalling and exciting within yourself those thoughts which tempted you to impatience, until they sensibly affect you. Then set yourself to repress every such feeling with a stronger will and more earnest endeavor than before.

And because, however strenuously we have resisted our enemies, from a sense of duty and a desire to please God, we are still in danger, unless we hold them in perfect detestation, of being one day overcome, attack them again even a third time; and repel them, not with repugnance only, but with indignation, until they have become hateful and abominable in your sight.

Lastly _ to adorn and perfect your soul in the habit of all the virtues, exercise yourself in the inward sets directly opposed to all your disorderly passions.

Would you attain, for instance, to the perfection of patience? On receiving any insult which tempts you to impatience, it will not be enough to exercise yourself in the three modes of warfare above described, you must do more _ even willingly accept and love the indignity you have endured; desiring to submit to it again, from the same person, and in the same manner; expecting and disposing yourself to bear still harder things.

These contrary acts are needful to our perfection in all the virtues, because the exercises of which we have been speaking _ manifold and efficacious as they are _ will not suffice to eradicate the roots of sin.

Hence (to pursue the same example) although, when we receive an insult, we do not yield to the impulse of impatience, but, on the contrary, resist it by the three methods above described, yet, unless we accustom ourselves by many and repeated acts of the will to love contempt, and rejoice to be despised, we shall never overcome the sin of impatience, which springs from a regard for our own reputation and a shrinking from contempt.

And if the vicious root be left alive, it is ever springing up afresh; causing virtue to languish, and sometimes to perish utterly, and keeping us in continual danger of relapse upon the first opportunity which may present itself. Without these contrary acts, therefore, we shall never acquire a true habit of virtue.

And bear in mind also, that these acts should be so frequent and so numerous, as utterly to destroy the vicious habit, which, as it had obtained possession of our heart by repeated acts of sin, so by contrary acts must it be dislodged, to make way for the habit of virtue.

Again, a greater number of virtuous acts is requisite to form the habit of virtue than of evil ones to form the habit of vice; because the former are not, like the latter, assisted by our corrupt nature.

I would add to all that has been said, that if the virtue in which you are exercising yourself so require, you must also practice exterior acts conformable to the interior; as, for instance, words of love and meekness, and lowly services rendered to those who have in any way thwarted or slighted you.

And though all these acts, whether interior or exterior, should be, or should seem to you to be, feebly and faintly done, and, as it were, against your will, yet you must not on any account neglect them; for feeble as they may be, they will keep you safe and steadfast in the fight, and smooth before you the path to victory.

And stand always prepared and on your guard to resist the assaults of every passion, not only such as are violent and imperious, but the slightest and the gentlest; for these but open the way to the greater, by which habits of vice are gradually formed within us.

It has often happened, in consequence of the little care taken by some men to eradicate these lesser desires from their hearts, after they have overcome the more violent assaults of the same passion, that, when they have least expected it, their old enemies have fallen upon them again, and they have sustained a more complete and fatal defeat than had ever befallen them before.

Remember, again, to mortify and thwart your own wishes from time to time in lawful but not necessary things; for many benefits follow such discipline; it will prepare and dispose you more and more for self-mastery in other things; you will thus become expert and strong in the struggle with temptation; you will escape many a snare of the devil, and accomplish a work well pleasing to the Lord.

I speak plainly to you; if, in the way I have taught you, you will persevere faithfully in these holy exercises for self-reformation and self-mastery, I promise you that in a short time you will make great progress, and will become spiritual, not in name only, but in truth. But in no other manner do I bid you hope to attain to true holiness and spirituality, nor by any other exercises, however excellent in your estimation, though you should seem to be wholly absorbed in them, and to hold sweet colloquies with our Lord.

For, as I told you in the first chapter, true holiness and spirituality consists not in exercises which are pleasing to us and conformable to our nature, nor is it produced by these, but by such only as nail that nature, with all its works, to the cross, and, renewing the whole man by the practice of the evangelical virtues, unite him to his crucified Savior and Creator.

There can be no question that as habits of vice are formed by many and frequent acts of the superior will yielding itself to the sway of the sensual appetites, so, on the contrary, habits of evangelical virtue are acquired by the performance of frequent and repeated acts of conformity to the Divine Will, Which calls upon us to exercise ourselves now in one virtue, now in another.

For as our will, however fiercely assailed by sin or by the suggestions of our lower nature, can never become sinful or earthly unless it yield or incline itself to the temptation, so you will never attain to holiness and union with God, however powerfully called and mightily assailed by Divine grace and heavenly inspirations, unless by inward, and, if need be, by outward acts, your will be made conformable to His.

NEXT:

Chapter 14: What must be done when the superior-will seems to be wholly stifled and overcome by the interim-will and by other enemies.

WINNING NEW CHRISTIANS

WINNING NEW CHRISTIANS: 8 Excerpts from a Great Lecture

1) Be holy! – become absolutely convinced that this is what you exist to be: holy.

2) Love your neighbor!  – rather than talk about loving one’s neighbor.

3) Truth leads to my holiness! – rather than truth leading to winning arguments.

4) Admit your fault! – the reason that I am not holy is because I don’t wholly want to be.

5) Holiness isn’t for him or her, it’s for me!  If I’m not called to be a monk, I am called to be a saint!

6) Be a Christian who sacrifices like Jesus!

7) Holiness is about me, now!  It is not about past people in past ages.

8) Emulation rather than admiration! Don’t just admire holy people of the past – emulate them.

Holiness isn’t over there, it’s right here.
Holiness isn’t for him or her, it’s for me.
Holiness isn’t in the past, it’s for my present.
Holiness isn’t something I talk about, it’s something I live.
Holiness isn’t for the few who rise above the world,
it’s for all to transform the world.
Holiness isn’t a once in a while thing,
it’s a radical and personal commitment
which I must make
today and every day,
to become holy, as God is holy.

Harry Crocker, a writer and speaker, gave a lecture in 2003 entitled: WINNING CONVERTS THE ANCIENT WAY.  The above 8 points are bites from his very thoughtful and helpful lecture.  Here are some extended thoughts on the same 8 points. (The 8 points were not given as 8 points in the lecture, but are my own ordering of his presentation.)

1) “The Church will succeed by one thing and one thing only; by the success it has in inspiring an absolutely radical, personal commitment of the faithful to live as Saints.”  Crocker determines that the best way, the real way, to win people to Christ Jesus is to first become holy.  If I make a radical and personal commitment to become holy, as God is holy, I will become an infectious evangelizer.  I will not even need to try to evangelize.  The Spirit of Christ Jesus will exude from me and people will be drawn to want to know what my secret is.

2) “You don’t win hearts and minds by handing out books and tracts.  You win hearts and minds by loving your neighbor as yourself.”  Crocker goes on to say that this is not an either / or issue: either I persuade people through reason or I persuade people through my actions.  He simply states that while both are necessary, personal witness has always been the more effective way of winning converts.  I can tell people what they ought to do or I can do what I would tell people they ought to do.  I can talk about what a Christian is like, or I can demonstrate what it means to be a Christian.

3) “An authentic appropriation of the truth always leads to a striving for holiness.”  Crocker speaks about the tendency to grab a truth and ram it into someone.  When I learn a truth, I should ram it down my own throat, until it gets into my heart to change me, so that I want to live in this truth.  The best of intellectuals search for truth to fulfill themselves first, and then share what they have first learned and begun to live.

4) “If you look into your own heart in utter honesty, you must admit that there was one and only one reason why you are not even now as saintly as the primitive Christians: you do not wholly want to be.” Crocker quotes from William Law as found in Peter Kreeft’s How to Win the Culture WarIs my whole being convinced and ready to become holy, without making excuses?

5) “If we are not called to be monks, we are most certainly called to be saints.”  It does not matter what my occupation.  My vocation is to be holy.  We are all supposed to love without counting the cost.  We are all supposed to view people with unconditional love and respect and welcome.  We are all supposed to be patient, tolerant and kind.  We are all supposed to love the goodness of creation.  This is not for someone else, with a different life, in different circumstances.  It is for me.  It is for now.

6) “We have decided to give without counting the cost.”  Crocker continues this universal call to be holy by purifying our motivation for doing this or that.  I don’t do this because it’s what Christians have always done.  I don’t do this because natural law says to do this.  I don’t do this for any other reason or argument, as good as it may be.  I do this because I have decided to follow Jesus.  He speaks about the ancient Christians and how they convinced the pagans to become Christian by the way they lived and loved.  “Look how they love,” the pagans would comment.  Crocker goes on to share a story about a woman who was abandoned by her husband and needed to find a way to raise her children.  Christians filled her fridge with food, her wallet with cash.  She became a Christian because of the way they loved her.

7) “Sanctity is not just for the men and women of history that we look up to and see reflected in stained glass, it is for us.”  Our homes must be seedbeds, that our children will grow up with a convinced desire to be holy, in whatever profession they pursue.
My 1st job (reason for existence): holiness.
My 2nd job (occupation): not as important.

8) “We must remember not just to admire these saints, to pray for their intercession, but to emulate them.”  The same theme has been repeated over and over: holiness isn’t over there, it’s right here; holiness isn’t for him or her, it’s for me; holiness isn’t for the past, it’s for my present; holiness isn’t something I talk about, it’s something I live; holiness isn’t for the few who rise above the world, it’s for all to transform the world; holiness isn’t a once in a while thing, it’s a radical and personal commitment which I must make today and every day, to become holy, as God is holy.

Holiness Meme

Psalm 16 and What Jesus Knows /// A Deep Thought with a Simple Example

What was in the mind of Jesus, when He walked around Israel in our human flesh?
He was God before He came.
He is God after He ascends.
But what about when He came and walked around on earth?

Did He know everything that was going to happen for Him?  Did He know that He was going to suffer and die and rise on the 3rd day?

jesus praying

This huge question has been asked for centuries, since Jesus is a divine Person, with a divine nature and a human nature: Did Jesus possess divine knowledge, since He took on everything it means to be man, except sin.  “Therefore, he had to become like his brothers in every way, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people” Hebrews 2:17.  So, did He not know the things that God knows?

Did Jesus know what God knows, or only what man can know?

In the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 2, Peter gets up and speaks.  He quotes from Psalm 16 and talks about David.  This is a very profound, and very simple, place to dig up a lot of awesomeness.

Peter Preaching

Acts of the Apostles, chapter 2: A breathed upon text, inspired by the Holy Spirit, who with the Son and the Father is God.

Psalm 16, verses 8-11: A breathed upon text, inspired by the Holy Spirit, who with the Son and the Father is God.

Jesus: The 2nd Person of the Holy Trinity.  Before taking on Flesh and the name Jesus, He existed forever with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and who, after dying and rising, took this Flesh with Him back to the right of the Father, to exist with the Father and the Holy Spirit forever.

OK, let’s break this down more.  When using the name Jesus, which He received in time, I am referring to the 2nd Person of the Holy Trinity, even though He didn’t have the name Jesus before he took on Flesh.  He has always been and will always be the eternal Son of the Father, one with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

That means that Jesus was with the Father and the Holy Spirit before He took on flesh.  That means that Jesus is with the Father and the Holy Spirit while He is in the flesh.  That means that Jesus will always be with the Father and the Holy Spirit after ascending to Heaven.  That means that there is no time when Jesus is apart from the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Let’s break this down another way, using these Scriptures as an example.

Before Jesus took on Flesh, He breathed with the Father the Holy Spirit upon David, who wrote Psalm 16, verses 8-11.  So, Jesus knew this passage as He inspired David to write it.  “I keep the LORD always before me; with the LORD at my right, I shall never be shaken.  Therefore my heart is glad, my soul rejoices; my body also dwells secure, for you will not abandon me to Sheol, nor let your faithful servant see the pit.  You will show me the path of life, abounding joy in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever” Psalm 16: 8-11.

bible-open-on-psalms

After Jesus ascended to the Father, taking His seat at the right of the Father, He breathed with the Father the Holy Spirit upon Peter, who took again these same words from Psalm 16, and applied them explicitly to the resurrection of Jesus. cf. Acts 2:25-36.

Jesus knew what Psalm 16 was going to be about
when He breathed it through David.
Jesus knew what Psalm 16 was going to be applied to
when He breathed it through Peter.
Jesus has never not been united to
the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Jesus read the Psalms when He was in the Flesh.  Jesus read Psalm 16 when He was in the Flesh.  Is there any difficulty in thinking that since He had always known what that passage would mean from all eternity and that He would again in Acts refer to what that passage meant for all eternity, that Jesus knew what this passage meant when He read it in the Flesh?

Maybe this is a no-brainer for you.  But, for many who have reflected on what it means that Jesus became like His brothers in all things, they have been trying to figure out what Jesus knew in the Flesh.  Did He have Divine knowledge or only Human knowledge.

Jesus knew what Psalm 16 was going to mean from all eternity, all the way back, prior to creation.

Jesus knows what Psalm 16 means in reference to His resurrection, after He ascended to the Father, forward for all eternity.

Jesus knew, when He was in the Flesh, what Psalm 16 meant in reference to Him.  He inspired David and was going to inspire Peter.  He Himself is Inspired.

One passage: Psalm 16: 8-11.  A whole lot of realities.  Before, during, and after.  So much to absorb for us.  Thus it is with God and His Word!

“Who is and who was and who is to come” Revelation 1:4.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” Hebrews 13:8.

TWO CHOICES I HAVE: SUBMIT TO GOD OR SUBMIT TO MY FLESH /// THE SPIRITUAL COMBAT, 12

The Spiritual Combat

The Spiritual Combat, Chapter 12: Of the diverse wills in Man, and the Warfare between them
(text below) (click for full book)
—–

The ancient teaching on the “Two Ways” traces at least as far back as the Psalms of the Old Testament.  The 1st Psalm reads: “The LORD watches over the way of the just, but the way of the wicked leads to ruin” – Psalm 1:6.

The teaching is picked up in the New Covenant in a work called the DIDACHE, dating from the 1st or 2nd century A.D.  It begins:

There are two ways: one of life and one of death;
and the difference between the two ways is great.

(online here.)

Our author and master, Dom Scupoli, makes use of this same black and white tool.  Our will, the place of our decision making, is hanging in the balance between the Divine will above and the cravings of the flesh below.  We are able, at any point, to submit to either.  He makes no bones about it.  AT FIRST, TO SUBMIT TO THE DIVINE WILL IN ALL THINGS IS VERY HARD!!

“Much hard toil and trouble must, however, be undergone by the unpracticed, especially at the outset, when they resolve to amend their evil lives, and, renouncing the world and the flesh, to give themselves up to the love and service of Jesus Christ.”

Resolve to amend your evil life…
renounce the world and the flesh…
give yourself up to the love and service of Jesus Christ!

Main points from chapter 12:

1) My will is hanging in the balance.  Will I choose to surrender to God or will I surrender to my flesh?
2) For those who have resolved to serve Jesus, it is going to hurt.  The cravings of my flesh will try to win me to their way.
3) I am in danger if, having resolved to serve Jesus, cut out big vices but leave the smaller ones unconquered.  I must enter the battle to become perfect, as He is perfect.

If I do not completely die to myself and the desires of my flesh, I will find that I do not love Jesus; I love myself.

Many who aspire to the spiritual life, unconsciously love themselves far more than they ought to do;
and therefore practice for the most part those exercises which suit their taste, and neglect others.

This chapter, like all the chapters, instructs us that this is an ALL-OR-NOTHING kind of decision.  I am not the one who makes decisions about what is good and what I will do and what is good for me.  I submit to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, choosing everything that He has appointed for me.  I receive my orders from the commander of Heaven’s Army.  I am not this commander.

Chapter 12 text:

Although in this combat we may be said to have within us two wills, the one of the reason which is called rational and superior, the other of the senses, called sensual and inferior, and commonly described by the words appetite, flesh, sense, and passion; yet, as it is the reason which constitutes us men, we cannot be said to will anything which is willed by the senses unless we be also inclined thereto by the superior will. And herein does our spiritual conflict principally consist. The reasonable will being placed, as it were, midway between the Divine will, which is above it – and the inferior will, or will of the senses, which is beneath it, is continually assaulted by both; each seeking in turn to attract and subdue, and bring it into obedience.

Much hard toil and trouble must, however, be undergone by the unpracticed, especially at the outset, when they resolve to amend their evil lives, and, renouncing the world and the flesh, to give themselves up to the love and service of Jesus Christ. For the opposition encountered by the superior will, from the continual warfare between the Divine and sensual will, is sharp and severe, and accompanied by acute suffering.

It is not so with those who are well practiced in the way of virtue or of vice; they pursue without difficulty the path on which they have entered; the virtuous yielding readily to the Divine will, and the vicious yielding without resistance to the will of the senses.

But let no one imagine it possible to persevere in the exercise of true Christian virtues, or to serve God as He ought to be served, unless he will in good earnest do violence to himself, and endure the pain of parting with all pleasant things whatsoever, whether great or small, around which his earthly affections are entwined.

Hence it is that so few attain to perfection; for after having with much toil overcome the greater vices, they will not persevere in doing violence to themselves by struggling against the promptings of self-will, and an infinity of lesser desires. They grow weary of so unremitting a struggle; they suffer these insignificant enemies to prevail against them, and so to acquire an absolute mastery over their hearts.

To this class belong men who, if they do not take what belongs to others, cleave with inordinate affection to that which is lawfully their own. If they do not obtain honors by unlawful means, yet they do not, as they should, shun them; but, on the contrary, cease not to desire, and sometimes even to seek, them in various ways. If they observe fasts of obligation, yet they do not mortify their palate in the matter of superfluous eating, or the indulgence in delicate morsels. If they live continently, yet they do not renounce many indulgences which much impede union with God and the growth of the spiritual life; and which, as they are very dangerous even to the holiest persons, and most dangerous to those who fear them least, should be as much as possible avoided by all.

Hence all their good works are performed in a lukewarm spirit, and accompanied by much self-seeking, by many lurking imperfections, by a certain kind of self-esteem, and by a desire to be praised and valued by the world.

Such persons not only fail to make any progress in the way of salvation, but rather go back; and are therefore in danger of relapsing into their former sins, because they have no love of true holiness, and show little gratitude to their Lord, Who rescued them from the tyranny of the devil. They are moreover too blind and ignorant to see the peril in which they stand; and so falsely persuade themselves of their own security.

And here we discover a delusion, which is the more dangerous because it is little apprehended. Many who aspire to the spiritual life, unconsciously love themselves far more than they ought to do; and therefore practice for the most part those exercises which suit their taste, and neglect others, which touch to the quick those natural inclinations and sensual appetites against which they ought in all reason to direct the full strength of the battle.

Therefore I exhort and counsel you to be in love with pain and difficulty; for they will bring with them that which is the end and object of the whole struggle _ victory over-self. The more deeply you shall be in love with the difficulties encountered by beginners in virtue and in war, the surer and the speedier shall be the victory; and if your love be to the difficulty and the toilsome struggle, rather than to the victory and the virtue to be attained, you shall the more speedily obtain all you desire.

NEXT:

Chapter 13: Of the way to resist the impulses of sense, and of the acts to be performed by the will in order to acquire Habits of Virtue

JESUS CHRIST IS MY KING! IS HE YOURS?

Do you remember that scene in the Gospels where Jesus gathered in the disciples and asked them “Who do people say that I am?”who do you say I am

That same question has been posed down throughout the centuries.

Who do you say that Jesus is?

“I get my moral code from Him.” – oh, so He is a teacher.

“He told us about God.” – oh, so He is a prophet.

People of all religions can say these things about Jesus.

If someone walked up to you:

s: Who is Jesus?

me: He is a teacher of good things.

s: Who is Jesus?

me: He helps me know God.

That person is going to walk away unaffected and disinterested.  There are plenty of people teaching good things and helping to know God.

What does the book of Revelation say?

Jesus Christ, to Him who is a nice teacher and helpful to know about God, to Him be nice words and pathetic statements for ever and ever.

NO!

Revelation 1:5-6:

To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, making us into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father, to him be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen (Rev 1:5-6).

Let’s try again…

s: Who is Jesus?

me: Jesus is the one who has loved me and has freed me from my sins by His blood, and put me into a kingdom where He reigns!

A movie came out about a persecution of Christians in Mexico called “For Greater Glory.”

There is this 14 year old boy who had seen a priest get shot because the priest wouldn’t stop celebrating the Holy Mass.  The 14 year old boy gets arrested because he had been going around saying “Viva Cristo Rey” (Long live Christ the King).  Those who arrested him were trying to get him to renounce this statement.  “Just say ‘Muerte’ (death to Christ the King) and we will let you go.”  They were holding guns against him and forcing him, “just say ‘muerte’ and we will let you go.”  The 14 year old boy is faced with life and death for himself.  After abuse, and force, he must make a decision.  Those who arrested him even had his family come and they were pleading to him for his life, “just come to us.  Do what you need to do and come to us.”  I wonder what went through that boy’s mind.  I wonder if that priest who was shot came to his mind.  I wonder if a vision of Jesus enthroned in Heaven came to his mind.  The 14 year old boy looked at those who would take his life, looked at his family, smiled and said to them “I love you” and then simply said “Viva Cristo Rey.”  He was shot dead.  14.

DSC_5678.NEF

VIVA CRISTO REY!

Jesus Christ is the King of the universe.  He is the crucified King of the Church.

There is no benefit for you if he is the King of the universe and the King of the Church, if He is not King enthroned on your heart.

He is the King of the Heavens.

He is the King of the Earth.

He needs to be the King of your heart.

I love the scene from the Avengers, when Loki scares all the people onto a front lawn of some fancy building.  Loki is this crazy warmonger with an insatiable appetite for power and glory.  After scaring all these people outside, he brings them all to silence.

“KNEEL BEFORE ME!”  Nobody moves; they are terrified.

“I SAID KNEEL!” And he forces them to kneel with the scepter in his hand.

“IS NOT THIS SIMPLER?  IS THIS NOT YOUR NATURAL STATE? YOU WERE MADE TO BE RULED.  IN THE END, YOU WILL ALWAYS KNEEL.”avengers kneel before me

He is so right, but with all the wrong intentions.  God made you for Himself, that He may be your King.  Not for domination; not for fear; not for slavery.

“To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, making us into a kingdom.”

LOVE – MERCY – FREEDOM – KINGDOM

But Loki was right: every knee will bow, in Heaven, on earth, and under the earth – whether they want to or not.  All people will kneel.  Some will kneel in adoration and praise.  Others will kneel in pain, and in shame, and in eternal torment.

All people will kneel.  Some will kneel in adoration and praise.
Others will kneel in pain, and in shame, and in eternal torment.

Is Jesus the King of your heart, individually?

I know He is the King of the Church as a whole, but what about each individual?

3 PRACTICAL APPLICATION

Test it out.  What do you say when someone asks you who Jesus is to you?  What do you say?

A teacher? A prophet? KING?

Test it out.  Pray for 10 minutes every day.  Will you?  If someone told you to kneel down at you bed for 10 minutes every day and pray, would you?  If someone told you to kneel down at your bed for 10 minutes every day and pray, and then they would give you 1000 dollars in 100 dollar bills each day, would you?  WHO WOULDN’T?!  We do it for money, but will we do it because Jesus is our King?  All of the world’s answers are found in the Heart of Jesus, in prayer!

Test it out.  Have you spoken against someone?  Have you spoken in anger?  Have your cursed?  Have you lied? Have you been selfish?  He is not yet King as He wants to be King.  He is not yet King as He needs to be King.

Declare Him King, then depend on Him as King.  Submit yourself to His rule, so He can change you, and make you into His kingdom.

king_jesus020508_01

To Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the Kings of the earth.  To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, who has made us into a kingdom, priests for His God and Father, to Him be glory and power forever and ever! Amen! – Rev 1:5-6

THREE REALITIES WE NEED TO THINK ABOUT EACH DAY /// THE SPIRITUAL COMBAT, 11.

The Spiritual Combat

The Spiritual Combat, Chapter 11: Of some considerations which may incline the Will to seek to please God in all things
(text below) (click for full book)
—–

What do we think about?  Typically, the things right in front of us.  We get blinded by the mad rush of tasks and chores that ‘need’ to get done today.  We get blindsided.

Our teacher, Dom Scupoli, knows that if we only think about the things right in front of us, we are bound to get knocked down and strangled.  His suggestion: Think about foundational reality.

What is foundational?

What is foundational is this: God created me out of nothing because He wants to show His love to me. AND, on top of this, He created everything for ME!  Think about that for a bit, instead of that car that is nicer than yours, or that person who got that thing you wanted and you didn’t get it.  You have the whole world at your service, because God created you and created the world for you.  You are not a slave to the world.  All of creation is at your service!

What is foundational is this: God sent His only Son to die on the Cross to deliver you from death.  GOD DIED FOR YOU, SO THAT YOU MIGHT LIVE!  Try thinking about that for a bit, instead of what people are posting on their walls, or what is on t.v. tonight.  I deserve Hell, and Jesus is giving me Heaven!

And on top of that, what is foundational is this: God is worthy to be loved not because of what He has done for me, but simply because He is God, and I am not.  This is praise.

Our teacher points out a one, two, three combination for having an ordinary day become an extraordinary, and supernatural, day.

1) God created me for Himself and He created everything else for me.
2) God sent His Son Jesus to die for me so that I can go to Heaven instead of Hell.
3) God is worthy of praise, apart from all the supernatural gifts He gives to me.

Biblical Worldview, take over my worldview!

Chapter 11 text:

Furthermore, to incline the will more readily to seek God’s honor and glory in all things, always remember that, in many and various ways, He has first loved and honored you.

In creation, by creating you out of nothing after His likeness, and all other creatures for your service.

In Redemption, by sending, not an angel, but His only-begotten Son, to redeem you, not with the corruptible price of silver and gold, but with His Precious Blood, and by His most painful and ignominious death. Remember, that every hour, nay, every moment, He protects you from your enemies, fights for you by His grace, offers you continually, in the Sacrament of the Altar, His well-beloved Son, to be your food and your defense; are not all these tokens of the inestimable regard and love borne to you by the Infinite God? It is not in man to conceive, on the one hand, how great is the value which so great a Lord sets upon us poor creatures in our loneliness and misery; and, on the other, how great the return we are bound to make to His Supreme Majesty, Who has done so many and such great things for us.

For if earthly lords, when honored even by poor and lowly men, feel bound to honor them in return, how should our vile nature demean itself towards the Supreme King of heaven and earth, by Whom we are so dearly loved and so highly prized?

And besides all this, and before all things, keep ever vividly in mind that the Divine Majesty is infinitely worthy to be loved for Himself alone, and to be served purely for His own good pleasure.

 

NEXT:

Chapter 12: Of the diverse will in man, and the warfare between them.

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