May 02 2015

Part 22: The First Stage:The Baptizing Christ P.6, 4- New Life and Spiritual Struggle (Part 2)

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ORTHODOX SPIRITUALITY

Dr. Nos’hi Abdel-Shaheed

Part Twenty Two

CHAPTER 4

The first stage: The Baptizing Christ.

The stage of purification and

The beginning of the process of spiritual renewal for man

(Part 6)

4- New life and the spiritual Struggle (part 2)

A- (contd.)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, … etc. (Gal. 5:22-23).

It is noticeable that the greatest of these is love.  This is because love is the nature of God and it is the opposite of selfishness and self-love which are the bases of the works of the flesh.  And later, the Apostle says, “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Gal. 5:24)  It is the Spirit of God who creates the new man according to the life of Christ or the image of Christ which He starts creating in Baptism; this process should continue to be renewed as the Apostle says (in Colossians 3:10) “and have put on the new man, who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him”.  Here he describes the new man that is renewed, making it clear that the new man continues in the process of renewal.  You “put on the new man”, i.e. you put on the life of Christ, “which is renewed”, i.e. which increasingly becomes newer, or continues to put on Christ, or the life of Christ anew, “in knowledge”, i.e. grows in the knowledge of Christ and that Christ keeps growing inside him, reigning more with every day.  This renewal is “according to the image of Him who created him”, i.e. according to the image of “The Word” who originally created him.  We have previously mentioned that the “new man” is the return of man to the state in which he was created in paradise to be in the image of God, his creator.  The Holy Spirit teaches the new man and gives him the ability to do the will of the Father instead of his own will.  St. Paul, therefore, says: “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” (Galatians 5:16,17)  Here the Apostle is revealing that the new nature struggles, being moved by the Holy Spirit who craves against what the desires of the carnal body, i.e. the desires of man who lives for himself, according to his own thinking and his own goals.  He is telling the Galatians this: if you act according to the Spirit you will overcome the old man; Hence, without the Holy Spirit you will not be able to overcome the old desires, but will be overcome by them even if you maybe against doing it.  This is according to what he said in the Epistle to the Romans: “I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.” (Romans 7:21).  This is the situation before man obtains freedom and liberation from the dominion of sin through the power of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus as he said in chapter 8, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2), i.e. after he received the power of the Spirit of life he became able to fulfill the will of God.

Thus, the new life has struggle but man does not fight with his own power or will (although it is important to have the will and the desire to submit to the Spirit of God), but this fight is taken care of by the Holy Spirit inside us, and the person who entered into a relationship with life in Christ must submit his will and heart to Christ and pray with faith asking for the help of the Holy Spirit to overcome the old lusts. Thus man’s responsibility is to submit to God and to direct his attention to Christ living in him to receive power and life from Him, asking Him with all his heart to kill all his old nature and self desires.  The power of Christ’s love inside the believer is what kills the desires and lusts and releases him from submission to self desires.

B- The power of new life overcomes sin:

St. Paul says in his letter to the Romans chapter 6: “As many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death.  Therefore we were buried (or planted) with Him by baptism into death: that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.”  He also says, “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:3-6,11)  Also he says, “but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.  For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” (Romans 6:13,14)  Also, in his letter to the Colossians (2:12) he says: “Buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.”  From these sayings along with others we know that through baptism we participate in Christ’s death and resurrection, thus we receive the gift of newness of life, the life that appeared when Christ Jesus rose from the dead; i.e. the resurrection life comes to us through baptism.  On this ground, the Apostle says that we should consider ourselves dead to sin because our old nature was crucified with the crucified body of Christ, and we should consider ourselves alive through the Lord Jesus, i.e. we now receive inside us the life of the living Christ.  This is the meaning of “you are … under grace”, that through grace, Christ’s life rules over us and not the outside law or commandments.  Therefore sin is conquered inside us by the power of life in Christ.  When we are baptized in the name of Christ, He puts in us the power of His life which is the seed of the resurrection life inside us.  This is the seed of the new life that causes renovation of man again to its image until man is mature in Christ, having Christ’s image and likeness with the continuous inner renewal.

Thus Christ puts in us the power of His victorious life that appeared in resurrection.  This power is the power of the new life, or the power of resurrection which is more powerful than death, and it goes through the believing man overcoming in him the power of sin and death.  Man is in great need to believe that Christ has put in him new life, and that this life is what will cast away death and sin which are inside him.

We believe that we receive the foretaste of the resurrection of our bodies starting now.  We take Him inside us – this is the living Christ in the believers – and though the resurrection of our bodies   and their union with the coming glorious condition is yet to come, yet we have obtained now the assuredness of attaining the resurrection of our bodies through the Holy Spirit who makes us alive in Christ our God.

Depending on faith in the power of the resurrection that the believer receives from Christ, he may present himself willingly to be crucified.  And through faith in the strength of the new life, he fights the good fight of faith (1Tim. 6:12), believing in God’s great strength that Christ has granted him and that is always present in him.  In other words, as a baptized person, he has put on Christ (Gal. 3:27), and should continue to put on Christ with his own free will, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 13:14).  The believer continues to give himself to Christ so that the old man be continuously crucified and Christ be ruler of his heart.  Thus, he lives with the strength of Christ who is the living in him and struggles through faith, leaning on the divine power given to him, being enabled to kill the works of the flesh with the power of the Holy Spirit that is kindled by prayer.  As such, the life of the resurrection will overflow in him again and again, as saint Paul says, “But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Rom. 8:13)

For without faith in the power of Christ that conquers death and sin man cannot conquer sin.  What abolishes sin from the heart of man is a power stronger than sin and stronger than death, and there is none other than the living power of God who came to us in the flesh.  This power, the divine power, appeared in Christ’s resurrection, after it was hidden in the cross.  Christ, through His crucifixion and resurrection gives man, not only forgiveness for past sins, but also gives power to conquer death and sin.  Man must always have the assuredness of baptism, that he is wearing Christ, and has the power of the divine and victorious life of Christ.  In order for man to attain this, he has to give his heart to Jesus in faith and love, asking in prayer to have it overflow on his mind, emotions, will, and body, so that the life in Christ will free him from the law of sin and death, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2).                                                                                                                                                                  (To be continued)

To see all previous parts of this study of Orthodox Spirituality
Go to any of these two website addresses (Free and Public)
http://smofonline.org/category/spiritual-books/orthodox-spirituality

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