REMORSE

REMORSE

A Sermon by Rev Frederick M ChapinAugust 14, 1994

All of us have past regrets. If we could turn back the hands, we would do things very differently. There are probably many things we would do differently, if we had another opportunity to do them. Perhaps we said or did something that hurt someone else, and that hurt is still hampering our relationship with that person. Or perhaps something happened to us in the past, maybe as far back as to our childhood that left deep scars and still causes us great emotional pain. The fact that we can not go back and do things differently can cause us great pain and a great feeling of remorse.

While we are experiencing the pain of difficult past memories, we can identify with David over the lost of his child to Bathsheba. After David became king over Israel, he noticed Bathsheba, who was married to a man named Uriah, and he lusted after her. After David discovered that Bathsheba was expecting his child, he arranged to have Uriah killed in battle and then he took Bathsheba to be his wife. David thought he got away with his plan until Nathan the prophet publicly exposed David’s scheme. David repented, but Nathan said that the child that would be born would die. When the child was born, David prayed and fasted in an effort to save his child’s life. However, after seven days, the child died. Surprisingly, David reacted to the baby’s death with calmness and composure. He cleansed himself and went about performing his duties. In the end, David showed the perspective of focusing only on the things that he could control. When there was no longer any hope that the infant would live, he said, “text” and concentrated on the things that were under his control or domain.

David’s display of dealing with the great loss of his child can provide a great lesson for us today. The regret that he must have felt for the death of his child and the sense of responsibility he must have bore must have been great. But he was able to still perform the tasks that he could do something about and not be completely absorbed in things and regrets that he could do nothing about.

We also will experience many feelings of guilt. However, some of the guilt feelings will actually be good or positive in our spiritual growth. When we are remorseful towards something, that can be an indication that we are making a spiritual advancement in our lives. We are taught that as we learn more truths and have a better understanding of what a spiritual life is, we will recognize more evils within us. We will see faults within us that we did not see before. Even though the guilt we experience is not very pleasant to go through, yet it can lead to a more open reception of the Lord’s Holy Spirit within us.

This can be illustrated in the story of Peter denying the Lord three times. While Peter was denying the Lord, he gave no indication that he was aware of what he was doing. It wasn’t until he heard the rooster crowing that he realized what he had done. The rooster crowing represents the dawn of a new day or state. When we advance into a deeper awareness of the life we are to live, we at the same time will recognize shortcomings that we were not aware of before. Like Peter, they can cause us to go out and wept bitterly. But when we are able to put the evils aside, and advance forward, we will emerge stronger and more effective. This can be demonstrated in the Book of Acts where Peter many times acknowledged the Lord under very perilous conditions. We can only grow by recognizing faults that were before deeply hidden.

Also, we must keep in mind that we do not see our internal loves or thoughts as clearly as we do our external states. Our shortcomings may be more vividly seen than our good points and what we have to offer in the Lord’s creation. Therefore, our sense of guilt may come as a result of not seeing the entire picture of our lives. However, we are assured that our internals, even though they may not be vividly seen as our natural states are still influencing our lives and causing our shortcomings to be brought to view. Even though the guilt and the remorse are not pleasant, it is a necessary step for as to take if we are to have spiritual growth in our lives.

Also, another positive guilt that the Writings speak about is to make ourselves guilty as one of the steps of true repentance. We must search out and acknowledge specific evils that we come across and recognize. The Writings specifically state that we are to make ourselves guilty when we recognize an evil that is within us or that we have done. Only by accepting responsibility, which is done or meant by making ourselves guilty, will we have protection from excusing or justifying our faults. When we acknowledge them and take responsibility for them, then we are in a position to remove them. Part of the temptation in confronting our faults is to find excuses for them. But the more we can confess them for what they are, and accept responsibility for them, the more they can be actually dealt with and removed. When evils are justified, they linger with us. When they are openly confessed and we take responsibility for them, then they are easier to shun as sins against the Lord and for us to begin to live a new life.

SPIRITUAL NOURISHMENT

SPIRITUAL NOURISHMENT

A Sermon by Rev Frederick M ChapinJuly 24, 1994

Daniel and his friends were taken into Babylon as captives, through no fault of their own. Even though they were faithful and devote to the Lord’s commandments, they had to pay the price for Judah’s disobedience to the Lord’s commandments. Daniel was chosen to be specially trained to eventually serve as a counselor or advisor. Therefore, he and his friends were given special treatment and offered the fines food.

Daniel could have been bitter for being taken from his homeland through no direct fault of his own. Yet he remained faithful and obedient to the Lord’s law, despite the hardship and the adversity that he was called upon to do. When he was offered the king’s meat and wine, he requested that he would just eat vegetables and water. Many scholars believe that Daniel refused the king’s meat because it could have been forbidden food like swine, or it could have been dedicated to the Babylonian gods. Whatever the reason, we can see that Daniel remained faithful to the worship of Jehovah, even in a strange land like Babylon.

Daniel was in high esteem with the keeper of the eunuchs, whom Daniel was responsible for. He was afraid that if Daniel was weaker because he did not eat the king’s food, that it could cost the keeper’s life. Daniel showed compassion and understanding to the concern of the keeper. His devotion to the Law of Moses did not remove concern for others. Daniel suggested that they have a ten day trial period to see how he would look after eating vegetables for ten days. They tried this, and Daniel looked healthier and better than the others who ate the king’s food. Daniel also distinguished himself with the king as the wisest and most able of all his advisors.

In the same manner, we are to distinguish ourselves before others we come in contact with. We are to stand out for what we are capable of doing and that we will produce positive results. The wonderful thing is that we do not need to force distinguishing ourselves before others. As long as we have the simple devotion of simply obeying the Lord’s Word, we will stand out and distinguish ourselves for what we are able to accomplish. We will be regarded as honest and faithful in the performance of our duties. We will also show forth that from within we have a deeper and more orderly perspective on life that will leave an impression upon others. If we are honest, forthright, and productive we will stand out and be regarded in high esteem, just as Daniel was with the keeper of the eunuchs. Such was also the case with Joseph and the keeper of the prison.

Like Daniel, to distinguish ourselves in the right and positive way, we must properly nourish ourselves with the right food. We must desire that which will invigorate and refresh our minds. We will look for something to stimulate our mental and spiritual activities. If we hold to the belief that selfish pleasures will bringing refreshment, we will be like those who partook of the kings’s food. The king’s food, in the original language refers to delicacies or dainty dishes. This food was primarily designed just to please the sense of taste. The focus was not on the effects it would have on the health of the body. The taste was good, but it did not produce a healthy body. Likewise, if we indulge in just what pleases our senses, we will not have a healthy mind, but one that is unhealthy and being undernourished.

We must partake of spiritually healthy food if we are to have a healthy mind and a strong spiritual body. This requires that we focus on the Lord’s teachings about life. This is the thought and guidance that we receive from the Word that teaches us how we are to love, think, and act. Externally, this may not seem as stimulating as selfish pleasures are to the senses. But like the vegetables that Daniel ate, the spiritual food that is received and provided from the Lord, is designed to provide what our interior loves need to become spiritually strong. The vegetables that Daniel ate was not as tasty as the delicacies others feasted on, but Daniel’s food was designed to service the interiors of his natural body. Just for our natural bodies, healthy food like vegetables, are not as exciting to our sense of taste as is unhealthy food that can be sensually pleasing. But over time, if we have our main diet of the foods that are healthy, our natural bodies will be invigorated, strong, and energetic. The same holds true for our minds and spirits as well.

TRUE FREEDOM

TRUE FREEDOM

A Sermon by Rev Frederick M ChapinJuly 3, 1994

 

You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (JN 8:36)

This weekend, we are celebrating our nation’s independence. This is a time that we can remember and be grateful for our liberties of being a citizen of this country. We can decide for ourselves what occupation we will pursue. We as a society can choose our governmental leaders. We can also practice the religion of our choice. And we are guaranteed the right to freely express ourselves, and not fear imprisonment if we speak in opposition to our government leaders. When we compare our rights to the tyranny in many other countries, we should celebrate and treat these constitutional liberties with the utmost devotion.

However, our privileges do not allow us to do anything that we may desire. Our expressions can not go to the extent where others are harmed or put into jeopardy. Our liberties do not give us a license to kill, rob, or pillage when we may have the urge to do so. Anyone can see that without laws and restraints, the result would be anarchy and eventual self- destruction.

Just as we can enjoy freedom in our civil lives, we are promised freedom in our spiritual lives. We can be in a state of life where we can freely express our inner most loves without concern about the consequences. We can have a perception of not being under the control of someone else. We are all given the opportunity to have an awareness of being spiritually independent.

However, spiritual freedom does not mean that we will not be governed. There will be some spirit that will inspire us to do certain things. Still, we have the option to choose the type of spirits who guide our way of life.

When we examine spiritual freedom closely, we can see a great deal of discrepancy between what may appear to us and what the reality is. The appearance is that we are choosing good and figuring out how good affections can be applied to life. The reality is that the Lord alone leads us into a spiritual or heavenly freedom. If the Lord was not active, we would have no chance of living exclusively from our natural tendencies.

The wicked look upon a spiritual or Christian life as restrictive and stale. They can not conceive that there can be a more enjoyable happiness in being of service towards others than just living for pleasure and having others serve one’s self. They conceive of being free as doing whatever one pleases. All they see from a life of use is a great number of things that can not be done. A liar can not believe there can be a joy in being honest. A thief can not understand how it is better not to take possessions from others. An adulterer cannot conceive a delight in just one partner rather than a pernicious life. All they see are regulations that appear to restrict their ability to enjoy life.

However, the good and the angels in heaven do view things quite differently. They do not view the commandments as restrictions but as guidelines that enable us to receive internal joys from the Lord. An angel is not allowed to lie, cheat, steal, commit adultery, etc. But they do not desire to do these things anyway. The Writings explain that their will is in agreement with genuine good. This produces a heavenly attitude towards living that is united with the Lord’s will. This is the core of the freedom that the angels enjoy. The restrictions are ones they not only accept, but gladly abide by. When we no longer desire to experience merely sensual delights, we then experience true or heavenly delights. This is a delight that focuses on good things. One of the qualities of a person who enjoys heavenly delights is that nothing pleases them more than communicating happiness and blessedness to another from an inmost affection. It can easily be seen how much anxiety is reduced when there is an emphasis on sharing what one has with others. We are not concerned that someone will take away our possessions or that we can not get the maximum enjoyment from them. Instead, when there is the simple desire that whatever makes us happy, others are invited to share that happiness, life becomes more serene. And this serenity will be a major component in being in a state of heavenly freedom.

How can we obtain heavenly freedom in our personal lives. The Writings give two keys that enables us to enjoy the true freedom that comes from the Lord. First is to know the truth and secondly, we are to exercise self-compulsion.

Obviously, to know of the Lord’s freedom, we need to have a knowledge of what the Word teaches. The Word reveals to us what we are to believe in and what we are to accept in life. Without the Word, we would have absolutely no means of knowing about the Lord’s freedom. We would be hopelessly lost in our natural inclinations. But when we know the truth that is from the Lord, we are then aware of the process in which we can be led to a freedom of full expression without fear of embarrassment or humiliation. Heavenly freedom is impossible without some knowledge of what the Word teaches.

When we think about it, the wicked are constantly concerned that their interior motives will be exposed. They take great care to insure that their inner loves are concealed. They are constantly afraid that their true loves will be discovered.

The case is completely opposite with the good. Since they desire to share and make others happy, exposing their inner loves is not a threat to them. In fact, they want their intentions to be made known, so they can have a stronger and more uniting relationship with their neighbor. It is clearly seen that when there is no longer the fear of being exposed, life becomes more pleasant. This is the freedom that comes from the Lord and is taught only in the Word.

However, we must do more than just know what the Word teaches before we are actually in heavenly freedom. We must compel ourselves to comply with the truths that are in the Word. The irony is that while we are in the process of self-compulsion, we do not feel free. Instead, we feel restricted and in bonds. This is caused by temptations. While we are in the depths of temptations, we feel as if we are slaves, prevented to do what we really want to do. For example, a drug addict who is trying to break the habit of taking drugs does not enjoy the process of the withdrawal. It is more torture than any low that the person while on drugs encounters. But when the addiction is broken, and the person starts enjoying a more orderly way of life, it is then that the person recognizes that the former way of life was bondage and that now he or she enjoys a greater sense of freedom.

We all have had the experience of trying to break some habit and know the difficulty that is involved in it. However, if we are successful in removing some practice that is harmful to the quality of our lives, a new dimension of living is discovered and enjoyed. It is exactly the same on a spiritual level. When we are taught from the Word that we have a certain delight that we know is not according to Divine order, it is difficult not to indulge in that pleasure. While we are in the process of refusing to indulge in the delight, we are in the process of self-compulsion or temptation. While we are in this period, we will not feel free but in bondage. We are restrained to do what we want to do. Only when our former delights are regarded as abhorring, will we come to realize the enjoyments in the more orderly way of life. Before we can sense the Lord’s freedom, we must go through temptations that will appear like bondage. However, when we do emerge victorious, we will look at our former delights and recognize the confinement we were under while we were under their control.

There are three things that we can enjoy when we are in freedom that comes directly from the Lord. First, we will recognize a true sense of being independent. Secondly, we are free from the allurements and deceitful devices of the evil spirits. And thirdly, we are able to find delight in a state of contentment. These are the basics of the enjoyment that makes heaven to be heaven to the angels.

First, recognizing our independence. The Writings state that when we are in heavenly freedom, we will be able to think for ourselves what is true and what is good. We will have a strong dictate as to what is proper and what is improper. We are not dependent upon others to tell us what to do and not to do. The more we have an understanding of what the Word teaches about how we are to live, the more we will be able to judge for ourselves what is good and what is evil. The stronger our ability is to distinguish what is good from what is evil, the stronger we will have a sense of internal freedom.

Second, we are told that when we are guided by the Lord, we are free from evil spirits. As was mentioned before, we will be directed by some spirit. Creation was established in a way that we are directed by spirits in the spiritual world. Every affection and thought originates from the spiritual world. However, we can choose what affections and thoughts will control our lives. Therefore, we are responsible for what we choose to apply to life. If we choose a wicked way of life, we are under the control of evil spirits who actually burn with a hatred towards us. Much different is the case with the good. When we choose good, we are under the guidance of the angels in heaven. These do not look upon us as their subjects but they look upon us as their friends and companions. It is easily seen that the nature of the attitude of those directing us greatly determines the quality of freedom that we will experience.

And third, our delights will be one of a state of contentment. Freedom and contentment are closely related with other. In fact, we can not enjoy freedom unless we are content. When we are directed by the Lord, we will discover a satisfaction and happiness in what we are called upon to do. Contentment allows us to delight in what the Lord has given to us. An evil way of life forces us to always want more. We are never satisfied with what we have. This is why to be free, we must find contentment.

We can take action to develop a true and heavenly freedom within us. All that is required is a steady increase in understanding from the Word. This will bring us into greater light as to the life we are to lead that is more receptive of the Lord’s guidance. Also, there must be a commitment to have the required discipline to actually implement the Lord’s teachings in one’s life. If this is the case in our lives, we will enjoy a greater sense of freedom because we are able to stand on our own feet when it comes to recognizing what is proper and improper in life. Also, we will sense being lead and directed from those who desire our best welfare and happiness, not our destruction. And we will find contentment in life that will make life satisfying. When there is satisfaction, we feel more at ease and free. Only when we have a personal relationship with the Lord, can we understand His words, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

REMEMBER LOT’S WIFE

REMEMBER LOT’S WIFE

A Sermon by Rev Frederick M ChapinJune 26, 1994

 

In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. (Lk 17: 31&32)

Backsliding is a common word used throughout Christian circles. It usually refers to a person who made some progress in living a Christian life, only to resume an evil habit or way of life. Backsliding is not heard much in New Church circles, nor is the general subject of resuming a former way of life talked about a great deal. However, we must never be led into a false sense of security. It is very possible to re- enter into our former ways regardless of how much progress we may have made in our spiritual growth. This very real possibility prompted the Lord to issue the warning found in our text, “Remember Lot’s wife”. (Lk 17:32)

The incident the Lord referred to is very well known in the book of Genesis. In the story, Lot and his family were escaping from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. They were plainly warned not to look back upon the burning of the cities. However, as they were fleeing, Lot’s wife looked back and became a pillar of salt.

The Writings explain that Lot’s wife looking behind illustrates a person focusing upon truths and not upon the good. Such a person focuses upon doctrinal things and not upon the good itself. As a result, such a person is more in a state of obedience and not in a state of love. The emphasis is placed not upon the quality of life, but primarily upon the doctrinal beliefs. This is a step backwards. Instead of living a charitable life from a love

of the Lord and other people, it is done primarily to obey the doctrinal teachings of one’s faith.

Such a person than becomes “a pillar of salt”. The word for “pillar” in the Hebrew means to stand still or be stationary. This is the description of one’s understanding of truth that is said to be made empty. It does not move forward. It is said to be empty because there is no genuine love within it. There is no desire or intention of being conjoined with the Lord or of being of genuine service towards other people. The understanding of truth is just a fact known that may be complied with merely for self advantage or fear of the consequences.

The Writings explain that we can prevent such a spiritual retreat by renouncing all things of self and of the world, and especially by loving the Lord above all things. If there is anything that is loved more than the Lord, there is a vastation or emptying of life within an understanding of truth. This is what the Lord meant when He once said, “If the salt has lost its flavor with what shall it be salted? It is good for nothing but to be trampled under foot by men.” (Ref) Such is the representation of truth if there are not good loves within it.

New Church doctrine teaches that a person spiritually grows in two ways. First, through obedience to truth. Secondly, through a love of doing good for the sake of what is good. The first way, which is obedience is designed to introduce one into a delight of living a life of charity from affection. At first, we must compel ourselves to do what is right. However, we are to reach a point that we do good from a genuine desire to be of service and benefit towards others. This is the second way, and one that is to be a permanent condition all throughout eternity.

Once we have reached a point in our spiritual development that we love what truth teaches, we are not to retreat into a state of merely obeying truth. Instead, we should seek a greater eagerness to do good and useful things and continually find less compulsion in doing them. The Writings explain that the key in not going backwards in spiritual development is to always hold evil things in aversion. The more we find evil intentions and practices abhorring, the less we need to compel ourselves not to do them. Once we abhor an evil, we must take care that we do not find it attractive again.

The Writings also give another important teaching about what happens to our evil affections and desires when they are put away. The appearance is that they are separated from us. It seems as if we can no longer be afflicted with them. They no longer have any communication with us. But we are clearly told that our past evils are still attached to us. As we refuse to indulge in evil affections because they are sins against the Lord, they are pushed to the sides of our minds. As they are removed to the outskirts, they are made more and more quiescent. As they are made more inactive, the appearance to us is that they are no longer with us. However, we must remind ourselves that these past evil states are still attached to us, despite the appearance.

Thankfully, the Writings also give us teachings that can insure that our former evil ways remain quiescent, and do not become active again. One passage in the Writings teaches that as evil loves are at the outskirts of our lives, they also must be looking downward. If they look upward, they are active and ready to resume their place in the center of our lives. The Writings explain that when we have a desire that we could still engage in our former way of life, than our evils may be towards the outside of our lives, but they are alert, because we still have a desire for them. But when we find them disgusting and recognize the harm that they can do, than they are doormat in the periphery of our spirits. This is why the Lord instills a conscience into us as we love what is good because it is good. Our conscience produces a remorse of guilt when we tend to resume our old practices. Nevertheless, if we do not heed this sense of remorse, and continue to engage in the practice, the sense of guilt will lessen, and we will find ourselves back to what we were doing before. This is why it is vitally important that we recognize that our past evils do remain with us, and that we can create the opportunity for them to return into an active life within us.

One of keys in keeping our former evils from griping us is to strive to always have an attraction for what is good. The Writings openly state that longing is the force behind love. If we think about it, when we love something or someone, there is usually a longing for something that motivates and inspires it. This longing is the force that keeps the love delightful and invigorating. However, if our love for what is good loses its longing, than the inspiration to do good gradually expires. If in our marriages, we would lose the longing to make our spouse happy, joy in our marriages would soon evaporate. If in our employments there was no longer the longing to be an honest and productive worker, our satisfaction with our jobs would quickly deteriorate. Likewise, in our spiritual development, if there was no longer a perpetual desire to perform a use from a love of good, our enjoyment to do that good would lessen, whereby we would tend to go back to our former way of life.

For the most part, we are not fully aware if we are complying with the dictates of our doctrine from obedience or from love. However, one key step that we can take to try to insure that we are living a life of charity from love is not to reason about the necessity of truth. If we reach a point in our spiritual lives where we do good things for others from a spontaneous desire to help other people, we must not retreat and go back to thinking and reasoning if this attitude of life is the right approach to have. If we find ourselves thinking about whether or not we should continue in trying to do good things for those around us, we are to remember Lot’s wife. We must strive to remain and have the commitment perpetually grow of worshipping the Lord in sincerity and being a truly charitable person to those we come in contact with. And if we are confronted with a resurgence of our past evils, we must remember the injustice and cruelty that will result if we engage in it. This reminder will insure that our attitude is always looking upward to heaven, and not downward toward the earth.

A state of obedience and self-compulsion does have a vital place in everyone’s spiritual growth. Every person must first go through a period of self- compulsion in obeying the Lord’s commandments before a love of the Lord’s teachings is developed. However, we are to emerge from the condition of compulsion in living a life of charity. We are not to remain steadfast within it on a permanent basis. We gradually must be in a state where we perform good and honorable deeds primarily for the good and the benefits that it can give to others. The Writings say one of the ways we can pass through the state of compulsion to do good is not to look for a reward for our charitable acts. The less personal reimbursement is a factor in living a life of charity, the more our good deeds and efforts are done in sincerity. The more we find the thought of reward creeping in as a condition to do what is good, the more we are to remember Lot’s wife.

Salt is given a negative representation when presented in the context of backsliding, or the vastation of truth. However, salt can also have a good representation when in the context of a life of good for the sake of good. Salt is known for its conjunctive abilities. Therefore, it illustrates the conjunction of good and truth. When this conjunction takes place in our lives, we are spiritually strong and effective. We must not go back and separate the two, whereby the Lord’s Word becomes empty and our spiritual lives becomes a pillar of salt. Instead, when a desire to do good is within our understanding of truth, we are healed. One definition that the Writings give for healing is the conjunction of good and truth in one’s life. If we remain steadfast, day by day, in the desire not to go back but continually move forward in life towards an ever greater conjunction with the Lord, we than are able to proclaim these words of the Psalmist “Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless His name; Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations. His wonders among all peoples. (Ps 96:1-3)

DRY BONES MADE ALIVE

DRY BONES MADE ALIVE

A Sermon by Rev Frederick M ChapinJune 5, 1994

 

I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it, says the Lord. (Ezk 37:14)

Self-examination is absolutely necessary for spiritual growth. Our spiritual lives will not advance, if we do not make the effort to periodically examine our delights, thoughts, and actions. We must penetrate beyond the excuses and justifications for our faults and give an honest assessment of ourselves. Our spiritual lives are more sound when we make the effort to take inventory of our spiritual condition. We can see the importance of the practice of self-examination from this passage in True Christian Religion:

 

… the will’s intentions must be examined; and when these have been examined and removed, man is lifted out of the natural will in which both inherited and actual evils have their seat, into the spiritual will through which the Lord reforms and regenerates the natural, and by means of this again, what is sensual and voluntary in the body, thus the whole man. (TCR 533)

However, when we focus on what we truly are, at times it can be rather unpleasant. It can be quite disturbing to see our evil enjoyments. It is not delightful to take note of the areas that are inwardly hideous. However, as unpleasant as it may be to deal with our shortcomings, it is a positive step towards being spiritually useful.

If we just attempt to honestly look at our attitudes and intentions, we are viewing ourselves from the light of heaven. We are making judgments from reality, they are not based upon delusions or false appearances. The person of the world never desires to put his or her inner most life under scrutiny. He or she would rather just coast along and enjoy a life of strictly indulging in sensual pleasures. Such a person does not want to be bothered with his or hers spiritual condition. However, we grow spiritually, only by candidly examining our private delights and thoughts.

During times of self-examination, especially when we see our disorders, we are like the prophet Ezekiel in a valley surrounded by dry bones, which we read in our first lesson. We feel as if we are surrounded by death and despair. The thoughts of our spirits appear to us like dry bones. They are hard, inanimate, and scattered about. These disorderly loves and delights are not receptive of the Lord’s life, nor are they united into a unified whole.

It is important to note that the Lord brought Ezekiel to the valley of the dry bones. The Lord also leads us into the times of self-examinations. The Lord reveals to us the state of our spiritual lives. Yes, He even shows us the miserable condition of our evil tendencies. But it is important to keep in mind that the Lord reveals these things not to belittle us or just to make us feel remorseful and guilty. He reveals our internal states so we can become spiritually more alive. The Lord brought Ezekiel among the dry bones so he could experience the Lord’s life giving force. The Lord also leads us in confronting our disorders, so we can eventually perceive the Lord’s power and love in a personal way.

When Ezekiel saw the dry bones, he prayed that the Lord would bring life to them. Ezekiel recognized that he did not have the power to make the dry bones alive. We also need to recognize that we, from ourselves, do not have the ability to change the loves within us. When we examine ourselves and discover areas that need to be purified, we must recognize that only the Lord can cleanse our affections. Only the Lord can change our loves and give us spiritual life.

Even though Ezekiel confessed that only the Lord could bring life to the bones, he still had an active part in their rejuvenation. The Lord told Ezekiel to prophesy. The Hebrew word for “prophesy” means to “speak with inspiration”. We also are to take an active part in our regeneration. Yes, it is the Lord that actually removes our disorderly loves and replaces them with heavenly affections. But we are to prophesy. We are to strive to “speak with inspiration” in our lives. We do this by compelling ourselves to obey the Word. When this is done, the bones begin to have muscles and skin surrounding them. When we dedicate ourselves to put away our bad habits and live a life that is in full agreement with the Word, our understanding of truth begins to be motivated from an angelic perspective. We are creating ourselves to be able to receive the Lord’s guidance into our lives. We change our behavior to allow the Lord to instill heavenly loves within us. The cooperation between the Lord and the person is illustrated with Ezekiel prophesying and the Lord giving the breathe of life to the bones.

The breathe of life quite often is referred to as the Holy Spirit in the Writings. One way that the Writings describe the Holy Spirit is a process. It is eternal life from the Lord flowing to a person, and the person being willing to receive that life. Even though the Lord is the sole source of all life, we can choose to have Him guide our lives or we can choose to reject His guidance. When the Lord’s life is received, we are being regenerated. One definition that the Writings give of regeneration is “a life according to Divine truths from which is spiritual life.” We take an active part in receiving the Lord’s life in us. And our reception of the Lord’s guidance within us is part of the operation of the Holy Spirit. And when we put our lives into order, by obeying the Word in all aspects of our lives, we are prophesying whereby the Lord can breathe into us the breath of life.

When we obey the Word, our lives will display a certain order. We will appear human. But the story of the dry bones specifically states that no breath was in the bones. This had to be requested specifically from Ezekiel. The point here is we can put on a pretence of a good life or a life of caring from selfish motives. Many times it is in our best interest to appear good and even spiritual. But the Lord only operates in our lives when good acts are done in sincerity. When we do good things because they are good and that the Lord ‘s love may be displayed, the Lord has indeed breathed the breath of life in our external actions of charity. This state is described in this passage from Apocalypse Revealed:

 

Every man who is reformed, is first reformed as to the internal man, and afterwards as to the external. The internal man is not reformed by merely knowing and understanding the truths and goods by which a man is saved, but by willing and loving them; but the external man, by speaking and doing the things which the internal man wills and loves, and, in proportion as this takes place, in the same proportion man is regenerated. (AR 510)

When our external actions are guided and influenced by heavenly dictates, we are standing up, and we have received the breath of God.

Spiritual rejuvenation is also pictured in the story of the two witnesses, which we read in our second lesson from the book of Revelation. The witnesses represent our willingness to obey the Lord and our understanding as to how this is to be done. When they were killed, that pictured our selfish interests and cares of this world destroying the desire to be directed by the Lord. However, the two witnesses were eventually revived by the Lord, representing the loves of self and the world were no longer the principle loves that govern life. And they were said to be made alive when the breath of God was breathed into them and they stood upon their feet. We stand upon our feet when we have the sincere dedication to have the Lord seen in our lives, both internally and externally. We boldly stand and vividly display that we are spiritually alive from the Lord.

The whole purpose for Ezekiel being in the valley of dry bones was to have the promise that Israel would once again return to the Promise Land. Ezekiel was active during Israel’s captivity, when they were forced to leave the Promised Land. His main message was to provide the assurance that they would return once again to the land of Canaan. When we are surrounded by our frailties and vices, we have the same assurance that we can return, into a stronger reception of a heavenly state. The Promised Land represents a heaven. A heavenly state is the life that finds contentment in what we have and are called to do. We recognize our limitations and we strive to produce the greatest good within them. We find our highest delight in the good that benefits others and brings honor to the Lord. This is the whole reason for the Lord revealing to us our disorderly loves. They can only be put away when they are revealed.

The vision of life being given to the dry bones of Ezekiel is demonstrated quite often in the New Testament. We read of many instances where the Lord made the dead alive. Each one represents the Lord’s power to transform our dead and hard states into one that is prepared to receive the breath of God and find spiritual life. One of the most vivid examples is seen when the Lord was crucified and many of the saints, which were dead, were seen going into Jerusalem. This represents the Lord being believed and raising us from a persuasion of falsity into a genuine belief in the Divine truth. This new way of life will change our attitudes and delights that are conjoined with angelic enjoyments. This final state, represented by the promise of a return to the Promised Land, is the sole purpose for the Lord showing to us affections and delights in us that we need to correct. Only by allowing the Lord to correct them can we find heavenly delights.

Not only can a regular practice of self- examination allow us to have a greater reception of the Lord’s life, we can also recognize the progress we have made in our spiritual lives. Self- examination can be a wonderful opportunity to monitor our spiritual growth. One of the five laws of Divine Providence is that we do not see the Lord changing us as it is happening, but we can see its effects by examining the past. When we examine ourselves, not only will we see our shortcomings, we could very well see encouraging signs of spiritual growth. We may see that we are not inclined towards a certain evil as we were once before. We can see our spiritual advancement by looking into past states and comparing them with the present. Self-examination can be a useful exercise for us to see spiritual progress.

When we do examine the interior loves within us, we should do so with the intent of having a stronger bond with the Lord as the final result. When we see areas that need correction and cleansing, let us remember the vision of the dry bones in Ezekiel, that the Lord can take our hard and inanimate understanding of truth and make it stand and give it life. And, we must try to look at disorders as the Lord sees them. He views them in His mercy that is united with His wisdom. He certainly is aware of each one of our evil tendencies and enjoyments. But He does not look with indignation at them and become condemnatory towards us. Instead, He graciously focuses upon what we can be when we are purified and with His wisdom, He knows how it can be done with certainty.

However, when we examine ourselves, we do not need to exclusively examine our weaknesses, we can also have a deeper recognition of our talents and abilities. Self-examination can be an effective tool to see how we can contribute to the advancement of our society, the church, and even the angelic heavens. Yes, it is important that we confront the areas that need improvements, but it is also important that we recognize our talents which the Lord has provided to us. It is just as critical that we recognize our strengths. When we see our abilities, we can develop them and make them useful towards the Lord’s creation. But whether we improve our weaknesses or develop our strengths, let this be our highest goal in looking deeply into ourselves,”I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it, says the Lord.” (Ezk 37:14)

PARABLE OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN

PARABLE OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN

A Sermon by Rev Frederick M ChapinMay 15, 1994

One of the most famous stories in the New Testament is the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Nearly everyone has heard of the Good Samaritan at some point in their life. All can recognize that the Lord was teaching about how we are to be a good neighbor to our fellow-man. In fact, this parable was given in response to the question, “Who is my neighbor?”

Just on the surface, we can see many important aspects of what is involved in doing good things towards other people by this narrative. We are taught to do good things even for our enemies, by the point that a Samaritan helped a Jew, who traditionally despised each other. There is an illustration of sacrifice in the Samaritan giving up his donkey for the wounded man. We are not to look or focus on a reward for our efforts of kindness. This principle can be seen in the Samaritan paying the innkeeper money for the man to be healed, without expecting any type of repayment. And we are to seek to have a good and sound reputation. This is shown in the trust and the confidence that the innkeeper had towards the Samaritan. There are many important details that stand out in this wonderful story of kindness towards another human being. Certainly, the people understood the Lord’s basic message when he told it. They realized that the Samaritan was the true neighbor, and not the Levite or the priest, who just passed by when they saw the man in need.

However, this parable can also be examined on a deeper and more personal level. We can penetrate beyond what we learn on the external degree. When we examine this story from a spiritual view, we can see important teachings of how we can love ourselves. The parable of the Good Samaritan can be turned inward and provide important considerations that will enable us to be effective in our dealings with other people. We must have a strong and positive self image. We can regard ourselves as useful without having conceit or feeling superior over others. The two basic principles of charity that we are to apply towards others are also to be applied towards ourselves: that we are to love that which is from the Lord in us and we are to love what can be united with the uses of others towards the establishment of the Lord’s Kingdom on earth. The Parable of the Good Samaritan can teach us how we can have a proper self-analysis

The parable begins with a man travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho. Jerusalem was a place of learning. The temple was located in Jerusalem and this was where the law was kept. Jerusalem represents our learning truth from the Word. Jericho represents the doing of good. Therefore, the journey from Jerusalem to Jericho pictures the application of truth in our everyday lives. The only way we can love ourselves in the right way is to have a sincere desire and effort to love a life that is in compliance with the Word.

However, along the way, the man was beaten and robbed. The man represents our conscious mind. He is the thoughts and affections that we are actually aware of. There were three specific things that happened to the man on his way to Jericho. These three things point out the traps that can prevent us from having a proper love of ourselves that is consistent with the teachings from the Word. He was stripped of his clothing. This refers to the disillusionment in truths that we sometimes experience. Evil spirits came and put doubts in our confidence that the Word really can work in our lives. When there is a doubt about truth, there is also a doubt that we are capable of living a spiritual life. This can lead to a negative impression bout ourselves. Secondly, the man was wounded. This pictures the infiltration of falsities of the world into our minds. Quite often, we may judge a situation or difficulty by the standards of the world. When things happen, it can cause us self doubt and guilt without seeing how we can be delivered. And the man was left half dead. This has reference to such a feeling of despair that there is the thought of giving up. Our desires to follow the Word are half dead. And when we feel like abandoning our efforts in doing what the Lord wants us to do, our self image will deteriorate.

After the man was beaten, a priest and a Levite passed by and ignored the man in need. These pictures the attitude of the natural tendencies. Just ignore living a good life. Let it die. Just do what is comfortable and the most convenient. This may sound very appealing approach to take in life, but when we are faced with deeper reflections upon ourselves, our internal condition will not be very enjoyable to look at.

However, a Samaritan came to the man and helped him. He had compassion upon him. The Samaritan represents the part of ourselves that we all have: the affection of truth. This is the genuine heavenly loves that have been established by the Lord in us since infancy. These states allow us to respond to and love the Lord and His teachings. This affection will come and strive to bring a healing to our wounded condition. It will seek to restore our joy and confidence that we can live a life that will bring the Lord’s presence to the earth.

The Samaritan bandaged the wounds of the man. This pictures the removal of the falsities that inflict us with a negative self attitude. The heavenly influence removes this false idea and shows what we can do to live a meaningful and spiritually productive life. Also, the Samaritan poured oil and wine upon the wounds of the man. These are the works of charity that brings healing as well. When we are active in performing the works of charity, that will bring a renewed confidence in ourselves. Doing good things will bring a healing to the image we have of ourselves.

Next, the Good Samaritan placed the man on his own animal and took him to an inn to recover from his wounds. The animal represents being instructed in truths from the Word. And the inn represents the place of instruction. We simply cannot have a strong self esteem without guidance from the Word. The Word gives us the proper standards that we are to measure our life according to. It also gives us guidance and direction on how to get rid of our faults and weaknesses that impede our spiritual progress and growth. Yes, the Word will show our bad affections and desires, which will be very disturbing to confront. But the Word will also give us a vision of the type of person we can become when our disorders are removed from us. If we have an extensive knowledge of the life we are to live from the Word, we can have to a firm awareness of our talents and what we can do that will make this world a better place. We can have a strong confidence in ourselves while confronting the things that we need remove from our lives. But we must be on the donkey and be placed in the inn. We must be willing to be instructed in order to be able to love and appreciate ourselves without having the attitude of being better than others. The more we know what the Word says, and more importantly, the more the Word is the foundation of our conduct, the more we are in a position to value our role for the Lord’s Church upon the earth.

Finally, the Samaritan left some money with the innkeeper for the man’s recovery and he promised to come back to make sure his healing was provided for. This shows that we are provided with the means to deal with our difficulties and that we will not be deserted from the influences of the heavens. Everyone has the necessary ingredients to love the Lord and the neighbor unselfishly. Those same ingredients allow us to regard ourselves as worthwhile human beings. The heavenly affections that have been stored up by the Lord since infancy allows us to look at ourselves from a spiritual perspective. When we have a vivid sense of our spiritual value, we will love what the Lord is able to accomplish by our own inviduality.

The love of self is not necessarily a bad love. In fact, it is a necessary and a vital love to have in order to perform spiritual uses. It is only destructive when it is out of order. But when the love of self is subordinated to a love of the Lord and a love to serve others, it can motivate us to live our lives according to Divine order. We can insure that we have a positive and orderly love of self when we focus on what is from the Lord in us. We are to look upon our talents and gifts as blessings from the Lord that can be used to spread the Lord’s message of love and wisdom. If we are focusing on the orderly affections and delights within us, the Lord is creating a new self awareness which is called in the Writings a new or heavenly proprium. This means that we regard ourselves differently than we did before. We now look upon ourselves as a means to help promote the Lord’s teachings upon the earth. From time to time, we will enter periods of self doubt that we can accomplish anything towards the establishment of the Lord’s kingdom. The barriers, physical, mental, and spiritual seem to strong to overcome. It is during these times that we can remember the internal message of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. We can always be instructed in the genuine truths that are contained in the Word. And the Lord has created affections within us that can respond affirmatively to the Lord’s guidance. If we recognize what if from the Lord in us and love that, we will have a positive self image whereby we will be able to enjoy eternal life. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

SIMPLICITY

SIMPLICITY

A Sermon by Rev Frederick M ChapinMay 8, 1994

 

But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. (Mt 5:37)

There is a famous Shaker hymn which goes:

 

It’s a gift to be simple,
It’s a gift to be free,
It’s a gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we see ourselves in a way that’s right,
We will live in a valley of love and delight!
When true simplicity is gained,
To live and to love we will not be ashamed,
To turn and to turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning
We turn ’round right.

Life is more enjoyable and free when there is simplicity. The more things are clear for us, the more we are at peace. The more complex things are, the less confident we will be about our situations. For example, we may face a problem. The more we understand the nature of the problem, the greater confidence we have of coming up with a solution. The less we understand the nature of the problem, the more anxious and uncertain we will be about it. The Lord wills that all of us be in simplicity. Only by being simple people can the Lord make heaven known to us.

This does not mean that we are to be simple- minded. We are not to permanently have just a general knowledge of what the Lord teaches. Nor are we to have a blind faith that is dependant upon others for what we are to believe in and how we are to live. We are to continually have a deeper understanding about the Lord and we are to be able to make decisions about what we regard as spiritually true. We certainly can always learn from others, but we are to be able to make our own judgments about what is right and wrong. Proper simplicity does not invalidate a study and reflection of the Word. We are encouraged to examine truths from the Word in greater detail. The more we study the Word, the more we can see the Lord as a God of mercy. The Lord once said,

 

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Mt 11:28-30)

We are to try to resolve apparent contradictions between passages in the Word and we are to gather passages together so they form a unified doctrine to live by.

We learn truth in two ways. First, by reading, memorizing, and studying the Word. The second way is through the application of what the Word teaches. When we seek to comply with what the Word instructs, we will understand the Lord’s teachings in greater depth. We have greater insights into what is involved in a true worship of the Lord and in charity towards the neighbor. The application of truths from the Word requires simplicity. Simplicity is the fundamental determination to obey the Lord in every area of our lives.

When we have the simple attitude to obey the Lord, and take steps to conform our lives to His teachings, a perception of good will develop in us. This perception gives us a greater confidence that the principles we are living by are truths from the Lord. They also bring an added depth as to how the Lord wants us to conduct our lives. We would not have this recognition if we just knew what the Word said but did not seek to apply the teachings to life. Our knowledge of the Lord advances significantly when we simply strive to obey the Word.

The man who was born blind is an example of the perception of good that comes from a simple belief and commitment to the Lord. After this man was miraculously healed of his blindness, he was severely interrogated by the Lord’s enemies. Despite their threats, he would not renounce Him. Eventually, he bravely spoke:

 

Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see. Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him. Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing. (Jn 9:25,32,33)

This particular man knew very little about the Lord. Yet, his desire to be fair and good enabled him to recognize that the Lord was not a sinner but sent from God. This is the perception that is developed when we dedicate ourselves to do what is truly right.

It is interesting to note that this perception of good that comes from within grows without us being aware of it. We do not notice that our understanding of good is continually increasing. It seems that our awareness remains the same. The reason why we do not fully recognize our progress in perceiving what is good is so we can remain in humility and not have the tendency of plunging into self-conceit. However, this perception is indeed growing and from it we are becoming wise. One definition that the Writings give of wisdom is not a great measure of intellectual knowledge, but rather, the doing of good from a good intention. The more our desires to obey the Lord are simple, the more we are open for the Lord to make us wise. Simplicity enables us to be wise.

There are steps we can take to be in the proper simplicity that brings wisdom to life. In fact, there are four things to keep in mind to have the proper simplicity in life. First, there must be a lack of pride. Secondly, we must not make any assumptions of what is true. Thirdly, we are to desire to see truth from the Lord, not from self. And fourthly, we are to have as our highest love a love to the Lord. This love must be the source of our love of our neighbor. If these four ingredients are active within us, we are in the proper simplicity that will enable us to be receptive of the Lord’s will.

First, we are to avoid any type of pride within ourselves. This point is rather obvious. If we feel that we ourselves can determine what is good, than there is no willingness to be taught from the Lord. We must constantly recognize that knowing and perceiving what is good is from the Lord operating within us. If we regularly remind ourselves that we are dependent upon the Lord to know and perform what is good, that reminder will be enough to keep us in humility towards Him. The more we are in humility, the more we are willing to be led by the Lord. This willingness is a vital ingredient to be in the simplicity that leads to genuine wisdom.

Secondly, we are not to make assumptions of what is true. The Writings explain that we are to always have an open mind in determining what is good. There must always be a willingness to change our assessment of what is proper when shown or taught. When we have an open mind, that does not mean that our foundation in doctrine is damaged or destroyed. We will not drift from one sweet sounding theory to another. Our doctrine of truth, especially if it presents the Lord as the one God, will keep us from being seduced into going astray towards some belief that will distract us from worshipping the Lord alone. But we are never to have the opinion that our particular beliefs will never change, no matter what we are presented with. If something better and more accurate were to come before us, we must be receptive of it. We are to be devoted to what we believe, but we are to always be prepared to alter our beliefs if it enables us to worship the Lord more directly and allows us to love and serve our neighbor more effectively.

Third, we are to desire to recognize truths from the Lord, not from ourselves. This means that once we recognize what we are to do we must immediately do it. We must not wait until we feel it is the proper time to apply it. From time to time we will know that a certain discipline is required to promote spiritual good. Quite often, the action required is not what we instinctively would prefer. In those situations, we must not wait to comply with what is necessary to be done. Once we see that it brings greater honor to the Lord and enhances our services towards our neighbor we must spontaneously do it. If we only do what is good only if we feel like it, invariably, we will make excuses for not doing it or altering it in some way. Once we recognize what the Lord wants us to do, we must do it immediately. Simplicity allows us to do what is right spontaneously when we sense it.

And fourth, we are to have a love of the Lord as the central desire in our love of our neighbor. And this in turn must be the central focus in our actions of charity. We are not in simplicity if love towards the Lord is not our most primary love. The Lord stated what our simple approach to life should be: “To love the Lord above all things and our neighbor as ourselves.” This command is not complicated to understand. Yet, if this is our main goal in life, then the Lord is able to lead us into His Kingdom.

When these four avenues are applied to our lives, we are simple people. We are receptive of the Lord’s love and guidance. We will therefrom enjoy the benefits of being in simplicity. We will have a clear vision for our purpose of life. We will have a clearer understanding what we can accomplish and who we can have a positive influence upon for their benefit. We will be protected from being led astray into harmful practices. We will not be impressed with the craftiness of the wicked in getting away with their evil desires. Yes, the simple good can be deceived and temporally influenced by hypocrites, but they have to put on a pretense of being genuinely good to do so. They can not stimulate their natural desires and appetites to have influence over them. And eventually, their deceptions are brought to view. And finally, when we are simple, the Word becomes alive. We are able to see deeper meanings and instructions in the Word that would not be seen if we only read the Word just to know what it says. We see deeper things in the Word because the Word is being applied to life spontaneously. This is how wisdom is contained in simplicity.

Simplicity is not just a discipline that is to be applied in our worship or what we regard as the principles of life. Simplicity is applicable in our marriages. If something presents itself to us that will harm our spouse, we are simply not to do it. In our employments, we are simply to be an honest and faithful worker. Simplicity even is applied in the partaking of the Holy Supper. The Writings state that the angels can respond to the person who is simply thinking about the bread being the Lord’s body and the wine being His blood. When there is the simple approach to our lives that we will do what is right, regardless of the sacrifice required, we will indeed increase our awareness of what is good, and we will be a positive influence upon those we have contact with.

The Word is full of wonders that we are to pursue. We should always be active in having a greater knowledge of what the Word says and teaches about life. But the manner in which we live should be very simple and basic: “If it is right I will do it, if it is wrong I will not do it”. Our studies of the Word should have the primary intent of better defining what we are to accept and what we are to reject. Let this Psalm be our prayer, “Create in me a heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Ps 51:10)