The growing apostasy of the church

The growing apostasy of the church

🕊❤🕊

We have nowadays around us a class of men who preach Christ, and even preach the gospel; but then they preach a great deal else which is not true, and thus they destroy the good of all that they deliver, and lure men to error.They would be styled “evangelical” and yet be of the school which is really anti-evangelical. Look well to these gentlemen. I have heard that a fox, when close hunted by the dogs, will pretend to be one of them, and run with the pack.That is what certain are aiming at just now: the foxes would seem to be dogs. But in the case of the fox, his strong scent betrays him, and the dogs soon find him out; and even so, the scent of false doctrine is not easily concealed, and the game does not answer for long.There are extant ministers of whom we scarce can tell whether they are dogs or foxes; but all men shall know our quality as long as we live, and they shall be in no doubt as to what we believe and teach.We shall not hesitate to speak in the strongest Saxon words we can find, and in the plainest sentences we can put together, that which we hold as fundamental truth.—Charles Spurgeon

Playing The Victim

The New Age - The Online Journal For The New Church in Australia and New Zealand

THE ONLINE JOURNAL FOR THE NEW CHURCH IN AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND

Playing The Victim

We all know that we live in a society of victims.

Everyone understands that rights go hand in hand with responsibilities. But as individuals, we are far more interested in our rights than we are in our responsibilities. We are happy to decry those who apparently impinge upon our rights, whilst ignoring our responsibilities. Litigation is a very real shadow over every form of useful endeavour in our world. The costs of insurance against such an event continues to become an ever-greater burden upon schools, churches, community groups, health providers, and businesses. And these are organisations who exist for our benefit.

If we are in circumstances that we can’t change and which we’ve had no influence over, then we really are victims. A few weeks ago I walked in on my daughter Ebony watching a real-life crime documentary about a double murder – husband and wife attacked and killed in their motel room, by another couple whom they did not know and had never met, who selected them at random for the pure pleasure of killing. They were victims in the truest sense.

But I’m not talking about them today. Neither am I talking about other people who play the blame game. I’m talking about me and you. I’m going to show that there are very few real victims among us. You may feel that you are, or have been, a victim at one time or another. You may feel challenged by some of this, and that is my intention. While I am not interested in what we can’t change, we often accept a great deal that we could influence and change, simply by believing ourselves victims. Let’s begin with …

Our Eternal Welfare.
In some Christian churches, there’s some cause for equivocation about our responsibility for our own salvation. After all, if one must verbally acknowledge the person of Jesus as Saviour in order to be saved, what happens with the countless number who never heard of Jesus, through being born on the wrong place at the wrong time?

But for the New Church, there is no such uncertainty. If we accept heaven and hell as the realities Swedenborg insists they are, no one can blame anyone else for their predicament. God does not condemn people to hell, people do that for themselves:

“Anyone who thinks rationally can realise that no one is born for hell – everyone is born for heaven. We ourselves are to blame if we arrive in hell …” (Heaven and Hell, paragraph 329)

In a very real way, I am master of my own destiny. Now, some might say that this is a denial of the power of God in an individual’s life, and a denial of our need of Him. But this is not the case. I am master of my own destiny only because He makes me so, as we read in Revelation:

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20)

The possibility of heaven is a free gift from God, without whom I would have no hope of salvation. But in Swedenborg’s work, I learn that I am not specially chosen or privileged by this hope, it is a hope that is on offer to every person on this planet. Thereby, I can only hold myself responsible if I do not take it.

“The Lord never sends anyone to hell, but wishes to lead all away from hell; less still does He bring anyone into torment. But since an evil spirit rushes into it himself the Lord turns all the punishment and torment to good and to some use.” (Heavenly Secrets, paragraph 696)

What about our thoughts?
In recent years, many people – of all faiths and none – have come to recognise that thoughts flow into us from a source outside of ourselves. The modern fascination with meditation, ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy), and other psychologies have brought this idea firmly into the mainstream of contemporary thought. But it’s not new to readers of Swedenborg. Of course, then, the question is whether I might be regarded a victim of my thoughts:

“… when some people were shown convincingly that we do not think on our own but receive thoughts from others, …, in their wonderment they claimed that it meant that they were not to blame for doing evil …” (Divine Providence, paragraph 294)

It’s a fairly straightforward conclusion to come to, isn’t it? But Swedenborg continues:

“… If indeed everything a person thinks flows in from others, the fault does seem to lie with those from whom the thought originates. But still the fault itself lies with him who receives, for he accepts the thought as his own, nor does he know anything to the contrary, or want to know anything to the contrary. …” (Divine Providence, paragraph 294)

No, we are neither helpless nor blameless in the face of our mental life. Whilst we certainly may experience unwelcome and disturbing thoughts, we are not compelled to carry them out in any way. We have a choice.

Are we responsible for our actions?
Well, we generally understand that we are responsible for our actions. But we’re not good at applying it to ourselves! Under the law, we are held accountable for our actions irrespective of the circumstances which we might claim either caused or justified them.

Pam and I have recently completed a marriage course, using material from Alpha Course. Session 4 (entitled, The Power of Forgiveness), asks: “At times of disagreement, what words and phrases are you aware that you use, if any, that hurt your partner?” Yes, it does give space to identify what your partner does and says to hurt you, but the primary focus is upon one’s own behaviours. The focus is on my responsibilities not my rights! You see, if my actions are merely the result of my circumstances, then the same must also be true of my marriage partner. But as my actions then become my partner’s circumstances, thus prompting their actions, we would quickly find ourselves in a disintegrating cycle of chaos! The only way to prevent such a trend lies in taking responsibility for one’s own actions.

It is sobering to realise the many well documented cases of physical and sexual abuse in which abusers routinely blame their victims for their crime. The guilty focus their attention not upon their own culpability, but upon the perceived provocation of this they harmed. Intellectually, they make themselves the victim, mentally reversing reality. But they don’t do this because they’re peculiarly evil, they do it because they’re human! It is a tendency we must all guard against.

Surely, we are not to blame for our external circumstances?
Well, … maybe. It’s not as cut and dried as we like to think.

When Pam and I lived in Sydney, during the early years of our marriage, Pam spent time regularly on the road, frequently driving long distances to coastal and country New South Wales. On one occasion, as Pam was travelling down a fast country road, an elderly woman turned left in front of her, leaving no time for Pam to brake, and the two cars collided. Thankfully no-one was injured. In the aftermath, I remember talking to a friend of ours, a lawyer, who was assisting us with the insurance claim. I remember his comment: that every driver is regarded as sharing some responsibility, just for being on the road!

While on holiday earlier this year, Pam indulged her penchant for opportunity shops, and I accompanied her on one of these trips. As I needed something to read, I went and happily browsed the shelves of the secondhand books. One of the books I found was entitled, What If? Military historians imagine what might have been. Although I’m not really much into history, and especially not the history of war, the premise is an interesting one: how would the world be different if Hitler had won the Second World War, for example. The first chapter is on the defeat of the Assyrian army recorded in the Second book of Kings, chapter 17 to 19.

But I want to talk about Napoleon: what if he had won the battle of Waterloo? After all, the Duke of Wellington described it as, “the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life.”

“Napoleon dominated European and global affairs for more than a decade while leading France against a series of coalitions in the Napoleonic Wars. He won most of these wars and the vast majority of his battles, building a large empire that ruled over continental Europe before its final collapse in 1815. One of the greatest commanders in history, his wars and campaigns are studied at military schools worldwide.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napoleon)

So, why did Napoleon fail? Was it pure chance? No. Granted, Napoleon may well have won at Waterloo, but it was only a matter of time before he had stretched his armies just that bit too thinly. Ambitious, and greedy for further conquests, the greatest obstacle to Napoleon’s success was his own character. Evil carries the seeds of its own destruction, and its own punishment.

“Every single thing in the next life is balanced in such a way that evil punishes itself. So evil carries its own punishment with it, as likewise does falsity which comes back on him in whom falsity dwells.” (Heavenly Secrets, paragraph 696)

We have far more influence upon our circumstances than most of us realise. A change in our circumstances may be as simple as a fresh outlook and attitude. I was reading over Pam’s shoulder the other day, as she read a book on finances. Redundancy is never a pleasant experience, but the author suggested a new view of the situation, perhaps as an opportunity to kick-start a new business venture, and becoming your own boss.

There might be other, unexpected ways to influence our circumstances. I find that my immune system is boosted by regular exercise, a consequence I would never have foreseen a few years ago.

“For every smallest fraction of a moment of a person’s life entails a chain of consequences extending into eternity. Indeed every one is like a new beginning to those that follow, and so every single moment of the life both of his understanding and of his will is a new beginning.” (Heavenly Secrets, paragraph 3854)

This teaching is both hopeful and convicting. It is hopeful because at any moment I can make a change for the better. It is convicting because I realise that I am living now with the consequences of my past.

At last, let me turn to our readings for today. They concern two kings of Israel, Saul and David. Both sin, and both are confronted by a prophet with the reality of their actions. But the contrast between their responses could’t be more different.

Saul (1 Samuel 13) is confronted by a vast Philistine army. He has waited seven days for Samuel to come and offer sacrifice before engaging in battle. But Samuel has not arrived, and the people are fearful and deserting. So, Saul panics, and performs the sacrifice himself, thus usurping the old priest’s place. No sooner is the deed done, than Samuel appears and almost without stopping for breathe, Saul is explaining himself: “… I felt compelled” (verses 11-12).

From his rooftop, David sees a woman bathing and initiates a long and tangled chain of events: an adulterous affair, a failed coverup, arranging the death of a man to take his wife. The prophet Nathan arrives and confronts the king, and his response is short and simple: “I have sinned”, and then he stands and faces the consequences (see 2 Samuel 11 & 12 [esp. 12:13]; Psalm 51). To our modern mind, Saul’s mistake was so much less serious than David’s. Saul has merely offered a sacrifice, whereas David has had a man killed. Yet the consequences are so much more serious for Saul – the loss of the kingdom! You see, the difference between a bad man and a good one is not that one sins and the other doesn’t. No, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The difference is whether we acknowledge that sin for what it is, and take responsibility for it, or whether we pretend to be victim of the circumstances in which we find ourselves, and seek to excuse our actions.

“Those who lead the life of faith repent daily. They pay attention to the evils present with them, acknowledge them, are on their guard against them, and implore the Lord for help. For by himself a person is constantly falling, but the Lord is constantly putting him on his feet again. By himself he falls whenever his mind desires something evil, but the Lord puts him on his feet again whenever he resists evil and therefore does not carry it out. This is the condition of all who are governed by good.” (Heavenly Secrets, paragraph 8391)

David Moffat

The Grace Of Our Lord Jesus Christ

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

Image result for The Grace Of Our Lord Jesus Christ

“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