Repentance

A Holy Supper Address by James P. Cooper
Toronto – September 11, 2011 – 8:00 PM

John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remissions of sins (Mark 1:4)

I.    The Lord never does anything without preparing us first.

A.    The histories and prophecies of the Old Testa-ment all point to His birth on earth.
B.    Much of what is recorded in the gospels is the Lord trying to tell the Disciples that He was about to leave to establish a spiritual kingdom (although they were so focused on the political issues of the day that they really didn’t get it until after it had happened).
C.    The book of Revelation is clearly pointing to a judgment in the spiritual world and the new revelation of truth about the Lord’s spiritual kingdom that we call the Writings.
D.    Our text for tonight from the Gospel of Mark, is an example of a more detailed, more personal preparation that John the Baptist provided.
1.    John the Baptist was not a Christian, the Christian Church did not exist yet because Jesus had not yet begun His public ministry.
2.    John taught no new doctrines.  There were no new doctrines for him to preach.
3.    John’s job was to prepare, to open the way so that when the time was right the Lord could enter.
4.    The thing that John was led to do to prepare the way for the Lord was to call people to simple repentance, to bring themselves back into the order provided by the Ten Commandments and the laws of Moses.  This shows us the importance of the act of repentance in opening the way to true, spir-itual communication with the Lord.
E.    Tonight we have come together especially for the celebration of the Holy Supper, a sacra-ment that the Lord created for the Christian Church, modifying and drawing elements from the Feast of Passover of the previous church.
1.    In our personal preparation for the Holy Supper, it is useful for us to reflect on the importance of repentance, genuine repent-ance, as the way to enter worthily into this sacrament and to draw from it the strength to go forth and live a better, more heavenly life.

II.    The Heavenly Doctrine tells us that repentance is the first essential of the church in a person.

A.    That repentance is the first essential of the church is plainly evident from the Word.  As we mentioned a moment ago, John the Baptist was sent to prepare mankind for the church which the Lord was to establish.  He baptized, and preached repentance.
1.    Washing, removal of sin, must come first.
a.    Sometimes we are led to think that you can just start doing good – but the Lord has revealed that it doesn’t work that way.  You have to remove the love of an evil before the love of the opposite good can be put in it’s place.
2.    The example the Word gives is that no one can introduce into a just and lawful admin-istration and set up a civil government in a city still held by the enemy.
a.    Remove the things that oppose, then you can put in new systems and rebuild.
B.    Contrition (feeling guilty) is not repentance.
C.    Oral Confession is not repentance.
D.    We are born into evils of every kind and unless we do something about them they remain with us.
1.    Inclination, not actual evils.
2.    Well, actually the Lord removes them, but it is said that we remove them because He cannot directly bring about their removal without our co-operation.
E.    Everyone knows what evil is.  Everyone is fa-miliar with the Ten Commandments (or some-thing similar from their own culture and re-gion).
1.    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone decid-ed to stop doing the things they knew were evil instead of figuring out ways to justify them?
F.    Just knowing what evil is does nothing for your spiritual life
1.    “…It is altogether different when a man ex-amines himself according to his rational conception of sin, and, coming upon some evil, says to himself, ‘This is a sin,’ and ab-stains from it through fear of eternal pun-ishment.  Then for the first time instruction heard in the church from sermon and pray-er, claims his attention and enters his heart; and the man from being a pagan becomes a Christian” (TCR 525).
2.    For example:
3.    On the other hand, those who know what sin is … And yet do not examine themselves and consequently see no sin in themselves, may be likened to those who scrape to-gether great wealth and store it up in boxes and chests, apply it to no useful purpose, but who gloat over it and count it…. (TCR 527:2)
a.    Like the farmer who fills his barn to bursting, what good is acquiring riches (of whatever kind) if all you do is hoard them.  These things are to be used for the good of others.
4.    Those who learn much from the Word about charity and repentance … But do not live according to them, may be compared to gluttons….  (TCR 527:3)
a.    A slightly different example for those things that relate to charity rather than faith.
G.    Actual repentance consists in examining one-self, recognizing and acknowledging his sins, praying to the Lord, and beginning a new life (TCR 528)
1.    Unless evils are removed by repentance, he cannot obey the command to love the neighbour and to love God; and yet on the-se two commandments hang all the law and the prophets, that is, the Word and conse-quently salvation (TCR 530).
a.    Your eternal salvation hangs in the bal-ance.
b.    So – what should you be doing?
H.    True repentance consists in examining not only the acts of life, but also the intentions of the will (TCR 532)
1.    There are two kinds of love which have long been deeply rooted in the human race, the love of ruling over all, and the love of pos-sessing the property of all.
a.    If restraints are removed, the former love inspires the desire to be God of heaven;
b.    And the latter the desire to be God of the world.
c.    All other loves, which are legion, are subordinate to these two.
d.    But to examine these is very difficult, for they are deep-seated and remain con-cealed (TCR 533).

III.    The Loves of Self and the World have always re-ceived a lot of attention in the New Church.

A.    In the past the idea of “being selfish” was per-haps overemphasized.
1.    This is balanced today by the overemphasis on “self-esteem” and loving yourself first.
2.    There needs to be a balanced view.  It’s not selfish for you to eat a meal rather than give it to a beggar, if the meal gives you the en-ergy to work at a food bank and prepare 1000 meals for others.
3.    It’s not selfish to expect a fair wage for your work, and then use that to provide a home for your family and to feed and educate your children.
B.    When you are doing the work of self-examination and repentance in regard to your loves, you need to take time, reflect deeply, and try to see what it is you are really trying to accomplish.
1.    It’s okay to take time for yourself to rest and recreate, because you end up being both more useful and at the same time more pleasant to be around.
a.    Recreation is actually listed as one of the degrees of usefulness in the Doctrine of Use.
i.    It’s the lowest degree, but it’s still there.
2.    Only you really know why you do the things you do – and sometimes you aren’t even so sure.
a.    A useful strategy, therefore, is to take the long view.
i.    First, just examine your behaviour.  Ask yourself if this is something the Lord would approve of before you do something, and if you’re pretty sure He wouldn’t approve, the don’t do it.  In other words, listen to your con-science.
ii.    After you get into the habit of doing that, you can move on to the next level of thinking about the things you want to do in the future, and ask yourself if they fit into the Lord’s plans, or if they benefit only one’s self.  This is a more interior level of living according to a conscience from the Word.
iii.    Once you get the hang of these types of self-examination and repentance, you will begin to see with a new light provided by the Lord, and this light will show you the intentions of your heart in ways that you had not seen before.  Then from amending your acts, to amending your plans, you fi-nally begin to amend the intentions of your will.  This then is preparation for life in heaven with the Lord.
C.    Therefore, kind reader, look into yourself, search out one or more of the evils within you, and from a principle of religion, remove them; if you do so for any other reason or end, you only succeed in concealing them from the world (TCR 566).

First Lesson:  MAT 25:1-12

“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.  Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.
“And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, say-ing, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bride-groom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.
“Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’
“Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.

Second Lesson:  TCR 568

568. The second experience. Every pious and wise man wishes to know what will be his lot in the life af-ter death. He may learn this from the general account I will now give. Every man after death, when he finds that he is still alive, and that he is in another world, is informed that above him is heaven where are eternal joys, and that beneath him is hell where are eternal sorrows. At first he is permitted to return to his externals, in which he lived in the world; and in this state he believes that he will certainly go to heaven; and he talks intelligently and acts prudently. Some say, “We have lived moral lives, our pursuits have been honourable and we have not intentionally done evil.” Others say, “We have attended church, we have heard masses, we have adored sacred images and on our knees have poured forth prayers.” Others again say, “We have gives to the poor, we have assisted the needy and we have read books of devotion and also the Word;” with much more to the same purpose.
[2] After they have said these things, angels come to them and say: “All those things which you have mentioned you have done externally; but as yet you do not know what your internal character is. You are now spirits in substantial bodies, and the spirit is your internal man, which thinks according to its will, and wills according to its love, and to act thus is the de-light of its life. Every man from his infancy enters up-on life from externals, learning to act morally and to speak intelligently. When he acquires some idea of heaven and of the blessedness there, he begins to pray, to attend church and to perform the rites of worship. Nevertheless, when evils spring up from their native fountain he harbours them in the recess-es of his mind, and also ingeniously veils them over by reasoning from fallacies, until at length he does not know that evil is evil. After this, as his evils are veiled over and covered as it were by dust, he no longer thinks about them, only taking care to prevent them from appearing before the world. Thus he stud-ies only to lead a moral life in externals; and so he leads a double life, being a sheep in externals and in internals a wolf. He is like a golden casket with poison within; or like a person with a foul breath, keeping in his mouth a fragrant smelling substance to prevent those near from perceiving it, or like a perfumed mouse-skin.
[3] “You said that you have lived moral lives and followed pious pursuits; but,” continued the speaker, “have you ever examined your internal man and there perceived any desires prompting you to take vengeance even to the death, to indulge in lust even to adultery, to defraud even to theft, to lie even to bearing false witness? In four commandments of the Decalogue it is said, Thou shalt not do such things; and in the last two, Thou shalt not covet, etc. Do you believe that your internal man, with respect to these evils, is like your external? If you do, perhaps you are mistaken.”
[4] To this they replied: “What is the internal man? Is not this and the external man one and the same? We have heard from our ministers that the internal man is nothing but faith, and that pious discourse and a moral life are the signs of faith, being its operation.” The angels answered: “Saving faith is in the internal man, and so also is charity; and these are the source of Christian faithfulness and morality in the external man. If, however, the lusts which have just been mentioned remain in the internal man, thus in the will and thence in the thought, and so if you love them interiorly, and yet in externals act and speak otherwise, then evil in you is above good, and good is below evil. Therefore, whatever appearance of understanding there may be in your speech, and of love in your actions, evil is within, and in this way is concealed. Then you resemble cunning apes, which act like human beings; but their heart is far from hu-man.
[5] “But the nature of your internal man, of which you are entirely ignorant, because you have not ex-amined yourselves, and have not repented after ex-amination, you will see presently, when you are di-vested of the external man and enter into the life of the internal. When this happens, you will no longer be recognized by your companions, nor even by yourselves. We have seen moral persons, but wicked, in such circumstances become like wild beasts, glar-ing at their neighbour with ferocious glances, burning with deadly hatred and blaspheming God, whom in the external man they had worshiped.” As they de-parted on hearing this the angels declared: “You will see your lot in life hereafter; for presently your ex-ternal man will be taken from you, and you will enter into the internal, which is now your spirit.”

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