Contemplations On The Cross
When connecting with some of the thought out there these days among Christians, there seems to be the impression that being more virtuous, more moral, more victorious over sin and the like is through the hard work of self effort. Consequently these efforts, based in our human ideas and mind usually result in failure, just like new year’s “resolutions”.
This approach is like plugging appliances into a generator during a power failure. There’s only so much fuel in it before it runs out, and we wind up right back in the same old fix. Eventually, even if it works at first, the power runs out. Always. What’s needed is to plug into the greater and inexhaustible Holy Spirit Power that never runs out - the connection that was restored through Jesus Christ over 2000 years ago.
I would offer that self effort is based in human ego and is not necessarily the work of Grace. I’m not saying that we should not desire to be more godly or Christ like, but that the power to become whole again is based in the Holy Spirit, and nothing less. Godliness and being as He was in this world are always the goals, as a witness to the world that He is real, available, and offers powerful wholeness / holiness which the world cannot give and cannot take aways. However...
All our striving, all our righteousness, is as filthy rags the Scriptures tell us. “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (Isaiah 64:6).
Jesus answer to this is not in priming the pump of self effort but the seeking of God’s own righteousness. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33).
We surrender the self-will, a limited power source, to the Divine will, the infinite reservoir of Godly power and righteousness! That is the answer.
But then comes another question, “How do I seek first His kingdom and His righteousness?”
The answer is that we show up for work. Only we will not be the ones doing the work. God does this work of restoring us to His likeness through the Holy Spirit - we come in prayer, in the transformative act of surrender to Him and to His will - His righteousness.
“Prayer” means connecting to Divine Grace with the intention of being transformed. It is in personal prayer, praying with others, gathering for Divine Service, receiving the means of grace in the Lord’s Supper.
“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2). It is always about surrendering fully to our Heavenly Father’s will for us - His highest and best. Certainly we want to not be conformed to the world, but even the awareness, inclination, and power to make the break from that conformity needs to come from God via the Holy Spirit.
Prayer may come in the form of asking, seeking, and knocking in the usual sense that we understand prayer - as petition - as we are encouraged to do. “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” (Matthew 7:7,8). The promise is that when we petition God according to His will, in prayer, our requests will be answered. No one is turned away. Every one who asks receives - because this intention is so close to God’s own heart, that His children should be healed and restored - or transformed, a word that is very similar to transfiguration.
“By the renewing of your mind”. Renewing means renovation. We approach God in a variety of types of prayer, including also meditation on His word, praying the Scriptures and Scripture study.
The individual’s intention toward being transformed by God’s Grace through entering into His Presence is one thing; the “spiritual practice” may be different for each of us. It’s important not to rule out that what works for one person may not work for another. God’s way of relating with every one of His children is as unique as that Soul.
The important thing is to realize that we are not transformed by our own efforts of will, and then to find a way whereby each of can come into His presence, connect with His Grace, and find that His Holy Spirit is equal to the task. This does not happen overnight, so we need to be persistent with out asking, seeking, and knocking.
“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. (2 Peter 3:18).
My perspectives are just that, my perspectives. Hopefully what I offer may shed a little light to someone who reads it.
Male or female, black or white, employed or unemployed, Catholic or protestant, gay or straight, political or apolitical, own a gun or don’t own a gun, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Taoist, Pagan... The point is - we’re all in the same boat called the fallen Human Condition. These are only a few examples of how the three dominating systems - religion, corporatism, and politics - strategize to divide us one against the other and to keep us stirred up so they maintain control, so that we never embrace or finally reach any real freedom, our Divine Birthright, realize who we are, or experience unconditional love.
There is fabulous, potent, unlimited creativity buried deep within every one of us - as the Human children of God, created in His image! If we actualized this awareness, the Luciferian control game is over. And we then experience freedom from the massive programming which has gone on since the Fall. This is the goal. Some of us call it “salvation”. Salvation is not a religion; it is your birthright from your Heavenly Father restored through Jesus Christ.
The human condition results from this: that we’re all prisoners of an ancient Cosmic war, each in his or her own peculiar jail cell of sin, circumstances, and issues that beset us. All of us to one degree or another. No exceptions. Sin might not look the same in you as it does in me, but no human is free from it.
There are many social commentators bringing us to awareness of what the bad news looks like in the world scene. They keep us focused on it! They come as stand up comics with foul mouths, and news broadcasters and shows from the “alternative” camp and the mainstream.
Here’s why I I think the forces of limitation [henceforth called the “FOL”] leave them alone, and why they’re allowed to tattle as they do. The reason is a rather metaphysical one. The FOL understand the power of suggestion and thought. It works something like this:
1] What you resist shall persist.
2] What you fear will appear.
3] Where the focus goes, the energy flows.
4] How you see is what shall be.
5] As you believe, so you shall receive.
The FOL don’t care that people are aware of the degree of corruption in the world. That is essentially irrelevant. Sign all the petitions you like - it won’t matter. They don’t bother to hide it anymore because they actually want you to focus on it!
Your anger and disdain empower them, enhancing their goals, making it easier and more effective. It’s an energy feast for energy vampires. Fearful creatures are easy pickings for predators and scavengers.
What’s important is to keep the people stirred up with negative mental pictures. This is a very clever method of generating propaganda - not even hiding it in plain sight, but letting people focus on it, support it, and spread it around, in particular through social media [which some perceive is created and funded for this purpose!].
Mind creates! It’s simple “science of mind 101”. If you are among the FOL, and you want to make it easy on yourself - with a diabolical intent for people to experience misery and destructiveness, or eliminate themselves entirely - then you let them create the conditions for themselves, beginning with negative mental constructs, which over time lead to behaviors producing destruction.
The strategy is flawless. Create a focus on negativity, disease, strife, conspiracy, doubt, controversy, conflicts, corruption, and so forth. Divide and conquer. Get them hating one another for their differences. Allow for a consciousness that creates turmoil and even disease and disaster.
Reality is intrinsically bound up in consciousness. Negative consciousness yields negative experiences. Stir up the banal-finite-false-ego self [create problem] and make it perceive its very survival is at stake [create reaction] bringing in alarm and fear, and then offer to be the savior and solve the problems by tightening down control emphasizing “safety” and “security”. [create solution]. And there you have it - the Hegelian Dialectic in action like you’ve never seen it in operation before: problem, reaction, solution.
What’s needed is not the world’s focus or solutions, but Divine intervention, The only mind over matter that matters is “God’s Mind over all matters”.
How do we get it?
We turn away from the problems and all the noise, and place ourselves daily in the Presence of God, with all our questions, concerns, wounds, fragmentation, neediness and yes, sin. We confess, “I’ve blown it; please help me stop doing that, and show me how to live!” We turn from the tempest and turbulence of the outer world to the Lord by asking Him, “What must I do to be saved?”
We ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking - until He opens the door. He withholds no good thing from the one who asks in faith without doubting. His Grace is sufficient. His strength is the perfect answer to our weakness. It is the One True Light to which all darkness - whether within us or outside of us - must surrender.
And as we first surrender ourselves to the One Who is omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, and infinitely full of transforming, unconditional love, the outer world is changed as each of us is transformed from within. One by one we show up for the work of His love within us, as the Holy Spirit makes us aware of everything that God has provided for us through His written word revealing the Word made flesh.
Dear Reader, where to from here? At this point in time we may be asking ourselves that question. Can directions personal or political be discerned and determined by way of real solutions or by making resolutions?
Solutions are actual ways of solving difficult problems, such as the breaking of bad habits. Thus might resolutions mean visiting and solving them yet again, these persistent things that will not go away in our life, such as bad habits, vices, addictions, and the like? Is there a permanent answer to dissolving these persistent and “permanent” issues, rather than a perpetual re-solving them time after time?
I would offer that there is a Way. However, my answer may not be the “formula” that will work for you. I only share it so that you may consider it, try it if you choose, or discard it and seek another way. But in all of it, always ask the Creator of all things, and answers shall be given - how shall I be delivered of this, Lord? Take it to the Lord directly in prayer!
It may not go away over night, but perhaps you’ll be shown a process which will work for you over time, not based on re-solutions operating from the ego, false self, old adam, flesh, lower nature... whatever you wish to call it, but rather your solution will be sourced in the Divine Mind! God is the Omniscient One. He has the solution to your pollution! You have been given redemption through Jesus Christ, but are you “working out” your salvation? (See Philippians 2:12.)
First of all I’m not so sure that making resolutions to change some bad habit is the approach to take. The focus is still on the habit and looking to fallen self to solve it. Bad habits are very much like children who are addicted to attention: the more they get, the more antics you will experience with them. My experience with my own bad habits has shown me that this is so often the case.
So, since re-solutions don’t seem to work, back to our original question: where to from here? If re-solutions won’t work, then where are the solutions?
May I share what’s been provided to me in a fresh way, as a prescription by the Great Physician? It’s an affirmation and prayer that goes something like this:
Let me align with the Mind, O Heavenly Father, of my Lord Jesus Christ, in full and simple surrender of spirit, soul, mind, body, and strength - consecrated completely to Holy Scripture and the Holy Spirit, with my voice given entirely to Gratitude, Love, Truth, and Spiritual Songs! Lord have mercy. Your will not mine be done. Amen.
Resistance really is futile. Approaching an undesirable habit with the ego-will simply does not work. (At best it will result in self righteousness.) The “old Adam” has no abiding power over a bad habit, which is in fact a “child” conceived of itself that it will not easily surrender! There needs to be a Higher Power called into action which will indeed render once and for all the solution. What is needed is a miracle of Divine Intervention, a deliverance from evil, not a re-solution!
Foul language, for example, is one habit that is for the birds! Scripture reveals to us that the tongue is set on fire by hell itself and no man can tame it! (See James 3:2-10.) This presents us with a conundrum. Cussing, lying, put downs, dirty jokes, and all manner of perverse speech have infiltrated our world at every level. This is a more serious problem than we can imagine, and we all seem to participate in one level or another with it. If no human being can tame the tongue, then it must be surrendered to Divine intervention.
Moreover, life and death are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:6-8,21). Is it any wonder then - with this prevalent, profuse, and proliferating profanity - that the quality of life on this planet is deteriorating and seems more dizzying and delusional every day? Could that have to do with the fact that all the cursing and “f bombing” has opened the very gates of hell, causing massive discord and devolution?
If, according to Psalm 33:6, the heavens were made by the Word of the Lord and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth, then might perverted words on the part of we the people created in His image and likeness have a very darkly creative effect upon this world?
And let me address this idea, often vehemently defended, concerning the “right to free speech”. Certainly - if you think that freedom means being allowed to demean and denigrate yourself, others, and your world through the use of profanity, lies, deceit, and any other misuses of the vocal organs powered by thought and breath - you have the “right” to do so guaranteed by the US constitution. We’ve cursed ourselves, called our curses freedom, and then wonder where our freedoms went! All the minions of Hell must be doing some unholy rolling with laughter in the church aisles on this one!
if you are a Christian there is a higher Law which is in place to guide you. “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19.) This is the One Who must be called upon to curb an unruly tongue, to deliver us from its causes and effects. Have you asked Him about that lately?
Please be advised that although you have the “right” it may not be right, as in this world where evil is called good and good evil. (You also have the right to remain silent.)
You may be contributing to the downfall of the very thing you most desire - freedom - by abusive, profane, and unenlightened speech. These are reactions of fear, and given the current attitudes, what you fear will appear. There are better choices, effective because they are Divinely inspired and Divinely empowered! God’s “operative Grace” - Perfect Love - casts out ALL fear (See 1 John 4:18).
Perhaps it’s time to turn that loss of freedom around by participating in what supports it instead of what defeats it - at a most rudimentary level.
When we speak, we create. What are you creating by your speech? What does it reveal about the character of your heart ( See Matthew 12:34-37)? Are you taking responsibility for what you’re creating by your words, by the breath of your mouth? Have you ever considered it in this light before?
Moreover, are you intentionally, daily, and regularly “showing up for work” in the Divine Presence of God’s unfathomable transformative Grace - by prayer, study, and meditation on His Word - where the tongue can be tamed?
Life and death are in the power of the tongue! How can we use this knowledge to turn our world around? Here’s a starter: “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.” (Psalm 150:6) Praise instead of profanity!!!
In this 21st Century and beyond, where we consider ourselves to be oh so enlightened, perhaps it’s time to ask the Holy Spirit to light the candlestick inside of us instead of cursing the darkness around us.
There’s an undercurrent among some who may regard themselves as more “useful” than others whom they consider “useless”. This is the new “in crowd” – the we-do-wells versus those regarded as the ne’er-do-wells. The latter are considered by the former as “useless eaters” – the homeless, handicapped, elderly, chronically ill, mentally challenged, prisoners, welfare recipients, unemployed, unborn, or even “starving” artists, musicians, writers, and the like. Any who do not model the acceptable cog in the wheels of “society” are to be put in the Not OK Corral. They are inconvenient expendables in a world of convenient disposability.
What’s even more surprising is the sudden awareness that you’re tainted with that same attitude yourself! It may be subtle. You may be good at not saying anything condemning, but the attitudes and thoughts of self superiority are there nonetheless. At the moment of self awareness, all the scenes in your life flash before your eyes where you have aimed this condemnation at someone.
You discover yourself shut out as you have shut out others, once again being reminded by the Holy Spirit that what goes around comes around. You wake up to discover another layer of repentance that needs to go into effect – self to be reckoned dead and buried in the Passion of the Lord.
Yes, Virginia, there is a “life review”. In fact, there can be many life reviews giving us the insight to be able to walk out of death into new life… And you don’t have to be clinically dead to experience them. However, what the Holy Spirit discloses in such moments is that this self righteousness is more aligned with the mind of the Accuser than Christ’s Heart.
Philippians 2: 3-5 directs, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…”
We’re directed to allow the Mind of Jesus to become our mind! It’s a “no brainer” – finite, mortal mind must be supplanted by the immortal infinite Mind of Christ, the unconditionally compassionate Fullness of the Godhead walking about here in space and time as the Jesus in you and me.
What is His attitude toward those condemned by society and religious hypocrite alike as “useless”? [Or even that person who rubs us the wrong way.] I’m not fond of cliches, but “WWJD?” Check Matthew 25:40 and surrounding verses for clues. This bears real prayer, contemplation, and being faced with God’s Mind on the matter.
Our words, and consequently our effect on others and on life in general, begin in our attitudes and thoughts.
The following quote pertaining to this came across my desk earlier. No coincidence there!
“In speaking to our neighbor we have a powerful but dangerous instrument at our command. By speaking only truth we use it for our own and others’ blessedness. By speaking falsehood we hide ourselves from peace and happiness, for every word we speak goes forth only to come back with double the power with which we sent it forth. A true word is twice blessed: it blesses him who gives and him who receives, and more, for it returns to the giver with an added blessing.
“This instrument of health and disease is the tongue. A great deal has been said of it by scripture writers. James calls it “a little member, but a fire and world of iniquity: an unruly evil full of poison,” and says no man can tame it. He was speaking of mortal man and was quite right, for mortal man never has tamed the tongue. It has been and is a source of evil themselves” as David predicted. Solomon said, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”
[Hopkins, Emma Curtis (2011-09-04). Spiritual Law In The Natural World (pp. 94-95). ECH Theological Association, Inc.. Kindle Edition.]
(This writer is not a Christian Science practitioner. However what E.C. Hopkins says here is, in my opinion, scripturally sound principle.)
The truth we need to “speak” is the Mind of God about every Soul (the attitude of Christ), not our opinion. Our programmed opinions are a combination of self’s perspectives, that of the world’s systems’ programming [including family, peers, education, religion and the like], and even the Accuser himself.
“Speaking” can mean simply communication. It can be conveyed through thought, or a look in our eye, or body language. We can exclude others with a glance! We don’t always have to speak or write what we’re thinking to get the point across.
This is one of the dangers of the popular attitude, “I can do anything I want. As long as I’m on my property and minding my own business, I’m not hurting anyone.” This view only includes the physical and outer levels of reality. How false and conveniently limited this popular view is!
Are we “minding” our own business when we are thinking in the most unkind manner toward anyone else, judging, condemning, planning how to get even?
Here’s how Jesus addresses this in Matthew 5:21, 22. “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”
Jesus’ view was far stricter and all encompassing than the Law dealing with external realities. [See also Matthew 5:18-20 preceding these verses.]
The term “raca” is an Aramaic word meaning “empty head” or “good for nothing”. And how often do we allow ourselves the luxury of perceiving others this way, if “only” in thought or attitude?
In the New American Standard Bible “hell fire” is also referred to as the “fiery hell” or “Gehenna of fire” - referring to a place outside Jerusalem in which the people burned their sons and daughters in the fire as part of the worship of Moloch – human sacrifice in the days of “that ol’ time religion” to appease blood thirsty demigods.
There is a severity in consequences in terms of “burning” that goes with an attitude of being judgmental that is difficult to comprehend. What a frightening metaphor the Son of God chooses here!
If we by attitude, thought, word, or deed are also in essence throwing the “little ones” – judged as useless or good for nothing – into the fire of burning thought, then what kind of crop shall we reap by such sowing, especially if we claim the Holy Name that has forgiven, redeemed, and restored us to walk as He walked, and to be as He was in this world?
Being a Christian does not stop with easy belief, ritual substituted for reality, or Grace taken for granted. It means “being Jesus” in the here and now through the power of the Holy Spirit.
In this discussion, let us start at the intended end result, the outcome, of suffering - to be made into a new creation.
Consider these passages for example:
John 16:33. “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
Acts 14:22. “Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”
Romans 5:3. “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience.”
Romans 8:18. “ For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
Romans 8:35. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?”
Suffering refers to the experience of physical, mental, or emotional pain, or more to any unpleasant feeling, emotion or sensation. The word tribulation is also a good synonym; however, tribulation is more intense and means a state of great trouble or suffering.
It would seem that there are numerous Christians of a good many persuasions who believe and teach that to be in an experience of any kind of suffering or tribulation means that a Soul is somehow separated from the Love of God and His Goodness, and that it means they are outside God’s will.
For this I would direct them to the above passages, and especially the one from Acts 14:22 as well as Romans 8:35.
It seems that this view may be that of a good many people living in a “soft society” such as we mostly experience in the West. People might like to believe that it’s that simplistic. But it isn’t. This is a completely polarized view. The West has no understanding real “rights of passage” or initiations where young people actually embrace some sort of ordeal, in order to be considered as adults in their tribe or community.
No, “confirmation” when you are fourteen does not count. In most cases that amounts to lip service and little else. Neither does passing driver’s ed and acquiring your license constitute a genuine right of passage. There is no proof of depth of understanding or mastery in any respect in either of these. I would suggest that this “urge” to be challenged is, however, still present in young people. Consequently it may contribute to their joining a gang or embracing some daredevil stunt in order to feel they have passed into some space of acceptance, or proven themselves in some way. There’s something written into the fabric of our being which almost tells us that hardship is a required “test”.
I would offer that, for the spiritual Christian, suffering and its cousin tribulation have their place along the path, as is clearly evidenced by the foregoing passages. They are neither “good” nor “bad”. Certainly they have their purpose. Certainly God does not expect us to go out looking for suffering, or taking the lash to our own backs in order to bring it on, as the monastics of old used to do.
First of all Jesus simply states a fact of life especially for true disciples - that “ye shall have tribulation”. Personally I don’t know anyone who’s exempt from this. We live on this Earth in a fallen Cosmic Reality, outside of the perfect Celestial Reality which is our true home. “Difficulty” in all its forms is the natural outcome of, shall we say, getting into the car with the candy man, when you’ve been told not to even talk to strangers!
Secondly, per the Scriptures, it is through much tribulation that we enter the Kingdom of Heaven! Might this be God’s own rite of passage for His fallen ones, to cleanse and purify us from sin? Could we look at suffering then as a method of Grace, a sort of gateway where we’re challenged? It’s something we go through to either bring us to a greater wisdom and knowledge in God, or to help us realize how badly we’d really like to go Home. Or both.
Many people are miserable when they first come to the Lord. It’s the driving force that brings them to the feet of Jesus. [Some afterwards.] These things may indeed be like the hammer and chisel of the Divine Sculptor to bring His work - us - to completion, to unearth more joy, healing, fulfillment, love, life, fruits of the Spirit, His likeness... by burning away all the worldly entanglements and attachments which make people miserable, living outside the Kingdom of Heaven, as they march to the beat of their own conundrums. Could this be part of how we are made into a new creation?
Here we see ourself with Jesus in the cross - the quintessential example of the suffering, the fiery ordeal of God’s Son! We see Jesus suffering abysmally in His body, and yet we must ask, what must His greater spiritual burden have been like - experienced in space, time, and physicality as the Son of man, but also as the Son of God? Unimaginable! He knew what awaited Him in the Garden, as He asked the Father to please make some other way for redemption to happen, that if it were possible, to let this cup pass.
But it could not be otherwise.
If prayer is anything in most cases, it is a cry to be relieved of some sort of discomfort, which may not always be for the highest good. It is a tough mystery to grasp that God might use suffering as a tool in His hand... Thy will, not mine…
It is a tough matter - not always hearts and flowers - to be “re-formed”, transformed, restored, and thus to be conformed to His glorious likeness!