The Grace Of Our Lord Jesus Christ

The Grace Of Our Lord Jesus Christ
By the Rev. Eric H. Carswell

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“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen”
(Revelation 22:21).
At the end of many New Church services the minister’s final
words are the benediction, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be
with you all. Amen.” Other than this you would probably hear only
rare reference to the word “grace” within the New Church.
The terms, grace, mercy, and forgiveness are interconnected,
but not the same. One of the appealing ideas associated with the
Lord’s message in the New Testament is the concept of Divine
forgiveness. We don’t have to live a perfect life to make it to heaven,
and indeed we are incapable of being perfect. We all fall far short of
perfection. Even the most loving and wise angel doesn’t remotely
approach perfection. We are not perfect because our understanding
is always limited and our motivations are never completely pure.
Sometimes these qualities have only faint effects on our actions and
sometimes we, as human beings, knowingly, and with intention
choose to think, say, and do evil things. In the words of Revelation, all
that we do is written in our book of life. By the measure of perfect
truth, then each of our book of life would keep us from heaven. But
the Lord isn’t just perfect truth. He is perfect love and this love lifts all
to heaven, as it were overcoming the evil loves and false ideas that
we have attached to our lives.

The Lord as King governs each and all things in the universe
from Divine truth; and as Priest, from Divine good. Divine truth is the
very order of His universal kingdom, all the laws of which are truths,
or eternal verities Divine good is the very essential of order, all things
of which are of mercy. Both of these are predicated of the Lord. If
Divine truth alone were His, no mortal could be saved, for truths
condemn every one to hell; but Divine good, which is of mercy, uplifts
from hell to heaven (Arcana Caelestia 1728).

It is very important that each of us thinks of ourselves as being
capable of learning what is true and good and becoming better and
better able to do what is truly useful. Sometimes a person’s thoughts
can so focus on his flaws and ignorance that he feels incapable of
being useful or is encouraged into feeling irresponsible about even
trying to become a better person. But if we overcome these false
ideas, and become better and better at living a truly useful life, it is
important for us to know and acknowledge that we will always need
the Lord’s help.

Every one believes at the present day that the evil loves and
false ideas in a person are entirely separated and abolished during
regeneration, so that when he becomes regenerate, nothing of this
evil or falsity remains, but he is clean and righteous, like one washed
and purified with water. This notion is, however, utterly false; for not a
single evil love or false idea can be so shaken off as to be abolished;
but whatever has been hereditarily derived from infancy, and
acquired by act and deed, remains; so that a person, notwithstanding
his being regenerate, is nothing but evil and falsity, as is shown in a
living way to souls after death. The truth of this may be sufficiently
manifest from the consideration, that there is nothing of good and
nothing of truth in a person except from the Lord, and that all evil and
falsity are the person’s from those things that are his own; and that a
person, spirit, and even angel, if left in the least to himself, would rush
of himself into hell; wherefore also it is said in the Word that heaven
is not pure. This is acknowledged by angels, and he who does not
acknowledge it cannot be among angels. It is the Lord’s mercy alone
that frees them, and even draws them out of hell and keeps them
from rushing thither of themselves.

That they are kept by the Lord from rushing into hell, is clearly
perceived by the angels, and even in a measure by good spirits. Evil
spirits however, like people, do not believe this; but it has often been
shown them (Arcana Caelestia 868:1).

This passage states that it is the Lord’s mercy that frees us.
There are actually three distinct concepts of how the Lord’s
forgiveness is received by a person. The first is a dangerous falsity
that has led people away from following the Lord and trying to live a
good life. This is the belief that a person is forgiven and receives the
benefits of the Lord’s mercy purely by means of faith or an
acknowledgment of Christ’s death on the cross. This idea of
forgiveness and mercy, together with other supporting ideas, has led
some to assert that how a person lives his life makes no difference,
as is spoken of in the following passages:

“From this one error [that truth is the essential of the church, and so
essential that truth, which people call faith, has power to save without
the good which is of charity], very many other errors have been
derived, which have infected not only doctrine, but also life; as for
instance that no matter how a person lives, provided he has faith he
is saved; that even the most wicked are received into heaven if in the
hour of death they make profession of such things as are of faith; and
that every one can be received into heaven merely from grace,
whatever his life has been. In consequence of holding this doctrine
they at last do not know what charity is, nor do they care for it; and
finally they do not believe there is such a thing, nor consequently that
there is a heaven or a hell (Arcana Caelestia 4925:2).

“[A false principle of religion] is the doctrinal idea of a church
which acknowledges faith alone as a principle, as that a person is
justified by faith alone, that then all sins are wiped away from him,
that he may be saved by faith alone even in the last hour of his life,
that salvation is merely admission into heaven through grace, …
These and the like are the special things belonging to the principle of
faith alone. But if the church would acknowledge as its principle the
life of faith, it would acknowledge charity toward the neighbor and
love to the Lord, consequently the works of charity and of love, and
then all these special things would fall to pieces; and instead of
justification it would acknowledge regeneration” (Arcana Caelestia
4721).

Both of these passages mention the word “grace” and it might
be concluded from its association with a clearly false idea, that it
perhaps makes one with a false idea of forgiveness and salvation, but
this is not the case.

The Writings of the New Church distinguish a fundamental
difference between grace and mercy that has to do with the
recognition a person has of his or her need for the Lord’s help. Those
people whose approach to the Lord is more dominated by what they
know and acknowledge to be true are called spiritual. Those people
approach to the Lord is more dominated by what they love and
acknowledge to good are called are called heavenly, or “celestial.”
Those who, at the core of their life, are led by their understanding (or
I believe by simple obedience) acknowledge in their thoughts that
they are not perfect and that they need the Lord’s help. They
nevertheless are not so aware of their faults and flaws other than
intellectually. Consequently their humility is affected by the fact that
they sense that they see their faults and flaws with their own
intellectual ability.

A person can acknowledge, from his own reflection that he has
trouble telling the truth and the whole truth about a situation, can
acknowledge that this evil, feel remorse for this fault, and still have it
all be significantly a matter of thought. Such a person may have a
genuine humility in his approach to the Lord, but it is limited. Such a
person knows that he needs the Lord’s help in fighting this evil
tendency, knows that he needs the Lord’s forgiveness for the times
that he has lied to himself and others, and knows that as he fights this
tendency he will receive the Lord’s help and forgiveness. This state of
mind seeks what the Writings would call the Lord’s grace.

But if a person, at the core of his life, is led by a love of what is
good, he will sense the presence of evil loves and false ideas in his
life with a horrifying and saddening clarity. He will sense at a very
deep level of his life that he is absolutely dependent on the Lord’s
help. His humility before the Lord will be from his heart and far, far
surpass that of the person who is led more by his understanding.
Such people are the ones that the Writings state really understand
the Lord’s mercy.

This distinction is indicated in the following passages: “The
mercy of the Lord involves and looks to the salvation of the human
race; and so does His grace. In the Word however a distinction is
made between mercy and grace, a distinction which depends in fact
on the difference in those who are their recipients. Mercy applies to
those who are heavenly, but grace to those who are spiritual, for
heavenly people acknowledge nothing other than mercy, while
spiritual people acknowledge hardly anything other than grace.
Heavenly people do not know that grace is, while the spiritual
scarcely know what mercy is, for they make mercy and grace to be
one and the same. The reason for the difference springs from each
one’s humility. People in whom there is humility of heart plead for the
Lord’s mercy, but those in whom there is humility of mind seek His
grace. Or if the latter do plead for mercy they do so in a state of
temptation or with the lips only and not with the heart”
(Arcana Caelestia 598:2).

“People governed by an affection for truth are not able to
humble themselves sufficiently so as to acknowledge from the heart
that all things are attributable to mercy; and this being so, instead of
mercy they speak of grace. Indeed the less affection for truth is in
them, the less humility there is within their speaking of grace. On the
other hand the more affection for good exists with someone the more
humility there is within his speaking of mercy” (Arcana Caelestia
2423).

The Holy Supper is the act of worship that most clearly reflects
our need for the Lord’s help. In it we turn to the Lord, seeking to
receive more of His life within our own. The bread represents the
Lord’s love that we need within our own hearts, fundamentally
changing what we care about and make most important. The wine
represents the Lord’s wisdom that we need in our thoughts,
fundamentally changing how we see ourselves, others, and the life
we are to lead. Each of us, if we are to approach the Holy Supper
worthily, need to be actively acknowledging that we have specific
faults and flaws that harm us, others, and the uses we seek to
achieve. We need to acknowledge these evil loves and false
ideas to ourselves and to the Lord. We are to pray for His help in
fighting their influence and we are to be doing the best we can to
change the quality of the thoughts, words, and deeds that have been
tainted by them in the past.

To begin with this effort will be more a matter of intellectual
acknowledgment and we will in reality be seeking the Lord’s grace.
As the miracle of regeneration occurs we will come more and more to
recognize and acknowledge on a progressively deeper level that we
can not be the person we want to be or accomplish the things we
hope to without the Lord’s constant presence and help. From an ever
greater humility we will turn to the Lord for this help. More and more
we will truly know what His mercy is.

We cannot instantly change who we are. In fact, by ourselves,
we cannot change at all. With the Lord’s help we can gradually
become better and better human beings. Where ever we are in
spiritual growth, may we turn to the Lord, acknowledging as best we
can our need for His help. May we do our part to receive His life, His
love and wisdom more and more within our lives. And from this we
will become more and more useful human beings, all who our lives
touch will be blessed by this growing ability, and we ourselves will
grow in fulfillment and blessedness.
AMEN.
Lessons: Revelation 22:12-21, Arcana Caelestia 598:2, Arcana
Caelestia 242

https://newchurch.org/

DAILY INSPIRATION

“To acquire a heavenly selfhood a person needs to do good from themself and to think truth from themself, but still must know that all the good and all the truth are from the Lord. ”

Arcana Coelestia 2883

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