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What is the Necessary Step Toward a Genuine Life With God?

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June 11, 2018

What is the necessary step toward a genuine life with God?

Many of us go to church, pray and read our Bibles and theoretically do everything we were taught as necessary, yet, we still feel something is missing. We feel that our spiritual life is not genuine. We hear from others there is more to it than this, but we can’t put our hands on it. That issue has to do with the difference between a lukewarm prayer and a heartfelt one, the difference between being truly on fire for God versus going in and out of a prayer meeting without benefit.

Well, a genuine life with God absolutely requires this vital step: renunciation and consecration, more specifically, it is renunciation to the world and consecration to God. Both of these are synonymous in a sense. This is about taking an active decision of renouncing the world and consecrating ourselves to God. Therefore, consecration doesn’t mean leaving our work, but being a real Christian at work; not getting rid of money, but getting rid of avarice and greed, etc. In other words, we choose to be like Abraham when we could choose to be Lot who, in Genesis 13, chose the land of Sodom to live in for the sake of profit, regardless of the city’s filthiness. God’s creation is good, so we are not fleeing from God’s gifts, but we are fleeing from the corrupted use of the God-given gifts. This is the true means of attaining our ultimate objective, which is being in the likeness of God. As St. Paul says in Romans 12:9, “Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.” Remember that orthodox spirituality is not only focused on getting to heaven, or fleeing hell. Orthodox spirituality is about starting to live in heaven right here and now. To the best of our capabilities, being the perfect bride of Christ here and now. To reach this objective, we must say with Christ, “My Kingdom is not of this world.” Although we live in this world, we desire something much better, something that no eye has seen, nor ear has heard, nor has entered into the heart of man, the things God have prepared for those who love Him.

Renunciation of the world in this sense is crucial to our spiritual lives. There can be no true spirituality without willingness to break from evil and to commit to good. We have to declare, by our actions, to whom we belong. For instance, when an earthly parent has a good relationship with their child, we often see the child reflecting the parent. Not only could they physically look alike, but also more importantly, their behaviour is similar. As Christians, we need to imitate our Heavenly Father. We become His true sons and daughters when we act like Him. And by doing so, we find the true meaning of life. We find our virtues within God.

This idea is summarized beautifully in an important patristic text. The Epistle to Diognetus says the following: “For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity… But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities… and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life (He is saying Christians are people that outwardly look “normal”. They are clothed

like everyone else, eat like everyone else, speak the same languages and seem to be living “normal” lives. Yet they are different as the writer continues). They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners… They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring (People use to sacrifice their children long time ago). They have a common table, but not a common bed (meaning they are faithful to their spouses). They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives (Then he starts describing to what extent Christians are willing to surpass these natural laws and be faithful to their creator). They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers… yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.” In short, from an outwardly perspective, as Christians, we physically look like everyone else. However, when our hearts are revealed, we enlighten others, we show Christ Himself by our external behaviour even in the face of hardship. Nowadays, this ideology is reflected in our modern Coptic Iconography, where all the saints seem to resemble one another and more importantly, they resemble Christ Himself. This idea symbolizes the true theological understanding that Christians are in the likeness of Christ. We behave as He would behave.

In hindsight, we can understand the purpose of God’s commandments. Unfortunately, some people think that the commandments are laws randomly selected by a dictatorial God to deny humanity from having its fun. That is not the case at all. God puts the commandments as boundaries to keep us from falling, to keep us in His image, and to grow in His likeness. When we are like Him, we are one with Him. To be fully alive in God means being pure as He is pure, being truthful as He is truthful, loving as He loves. St. John Climacus says: “A friend of God is the one who lives in communion with all that is natural and free from sin and who does not neglect to do what good he can. The self-controlled man strives with all his might amidst the trials, the snares, and the noise of the world, to be like someone who rises above them.” The principal purpose of the commandments is therefore not only to be used by God as a means of judging, but ultimately it is to keep us within God—to enjoy His divine love. Thus, when Christ looks deep within us, He sees Himself. Consecration is hence a necessary active way of life. It is a continuous life of repentance. However, the decision to commit to God is to be taken immediately. Once this is done, the future sins committed are usually done out of weakness, not out of choice. This commitment is the beginning of a lifetime of holiness with Our Saviour. And only then can we fully enjoy the spiritual fruits of prayer and the Eucharist and start saying with St. Paul: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” So when we are looking into the mirror, what do we see? We see the glory of the Lord.

We are growing into His likeness from glory to glory—step by step. Although our spiritual practices were not in vain prior to our consecration, they have an entirely new and profound meaning after it. Consecration is a serious decision that needs to be taken. We have drunk enough from the water of this world and we are still thirsty, maybe it is time to try a different type of water—the pure water by which we will never thirst.

Remember know your faith, live your faith and teach your faith and glory be to God forever, amen.

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