The Word Made Flesh

The Word Made Flesh
A Sermon by Rev. Eric H. Carswell

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“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we
beheld His glory” (John 1:14).

The Lord loves each of us and wants us to be as happy as we
can be to eternity. He loves us. He has loved every human being who
has lived in the past. He loves all the people who have yet to be born.
Love that is genuine has three qualities. We read in the Writings of
the New Church: “It is the essence of Love to love others outside of
one self, to desire to be one with them, and to render them blessed
from oneself.” (True Christian Religion 43)

God has this love in perfection at the very core of who He is. He
loves us so much that we’re told that no matter what we have done,
He cannot even look at us with a stern countenance. (True Christian
Religion 56e) There is a part of human nature that cannot possibly
believe that this is the case. Since it isn’t the way we react to people
when they’ve been destructive or just frustrating, it doesn’t make
sense to us that the Lord would have such a different reaction. The
only way we can easily imagine this perspective, before we’ve grown
spiritually to feel something of it ourselves, is to picture God as being
like a foolishly doting parent who will overlook or not recognize any
fault, forgive any transgression, and give in eventually to any request.
Such a parent is viewed by a child as a pushover and the child will
hold him or her in very low respect. A child who is unfortunate to grow
up with parenting like this will face a huge number of unnecessary
problems as he or she gets older. The child will tend to become adept
at being manipulative. He or she will tend to have trouble recognizing
that one’s own needs and wants need to be balanced or tempered by
those of people around oneself. If the child runs into an adult who
does present obstacles or boundaries to the child’s wishes, that child
can be furious or hurt by this intrusion. To the extent that the child
continues to believe that the foolish parent’s responses are the ways
things are supposed to be, he or she will be a danger to self and
others.

The Lord loves us perfectly and this love is expressed through
perfect wisdom. Wisdom is what gives form to love. A woman can
have a deep desire to bake a delicious meal for a friend, but if she is
too ignorant, too inexperienced in the kitchen she may instead
produce food that is nearly inedible. Desire or love by itself is blind.
The woman needs to know how to cook and what to cook if she
wants to achieve her goal of a delicious meal for a friend. When she
succeeds, at the core of her efforts will be her love, and this will be
guided each step of the way by an understanding of how to reach the
goal she seeks.

The opening sentences of the Gospel of John describe the
relationship of love and wisdom within the Lord, the infinite God from
eternity, the creator and sustainer of all life. These sentences use the
term “the Word.” It is a translation of the original Greek, logos. It
means the word by which inner thought is expressed or the inner
thought and reason itself. The Logos spoken of in the Gospel of John
is the infinite wisdom that gives form to the Divine Love. It is both one
with this love and can be thought of as a separate quality. All of
creation, whose goal is an expression of Divine love was guided by
this Logos or perfect wisdom.

So we read in the opening of this gospel: “In the beginning was
the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He
was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him,
and without Him nothing was made that was made.” (John1:1-3)
The goal of creation was and is the fulfillment of the Divine love.
The first quality of which is that true love must have another or others
outside of self to love. Concerning this quality of the Lord we are told:
The first essential, which is to love others outside of one’s self, is
recognized in God’s love for the whole human race; and for its sake
God loves all things that He has created because they are means; for
when the end is loved the means also are loved. All human beings
and things in the universe are outside of God, because they are finite
and God is infinite. The love of God goes forth and extends not only
to good people and good things, but also to evil people and evil
things; consequently not only to the people and things in heaven but
also in hell, thus not only to Michael and Gabriel but also to the devil
and satan; for God is everywhere, and is from eternity to eternity the
same. He says also that “He makes the sun to rise on the good and
on the evil, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew
5:45)

But the reason why evil people continue to be evil, and evil
things continue to be evil, lies in the subjects and objects themselves,
in that they do not receive the love of God as it is, and as it is in
mostly in them, but as they themselves are; in the same way as
thorns and thistles receive the heat of the sun and the rain of heaven.
(True Christian Religion 43)

Each of us is a focus of the Lord’s love. He has created us with
the goal and intention of serving us and bringing us joy. When we
think of the billions of human beings alive today in this world, it is
almost impossible to envision that the Lord views each of us as
individuals. We look at a forest of trees and can say I love every one
of the leaves in this forest, but we are speaking abstractly. But the
Lord is very different. He is our loving heavenly Father. Just as an
attentive parent sees each of his children as wonderfully unique
individuals, beloved each in their own right, needing a special kind of
parenting and guidance, experiencing his or her own joys and
challenges, so the Lord loves each of us as individuals. In fact, He
knows infinitely more about each of us than the most attentive parent
could ever know about a child. It is His joy to share in our lives.
But just having created “others” in existence isn’t enough to
fulfill true Love. The second quality of this love is described with these
words:

The second essential of the love of God, which is a desire to be
one with others, is recognized in His conjunction with the angelic
heaven, with the church on earth, with every one there, and with
every thing good and true that enters into and constitutes each
person and the church. Moreover, love viewed in itself is nothing but
an endeavor towards conjunction; therefore that this aim of the
essence of love might be realized each and every human being was
created by God into His own image and likeness, with which a
conjunction is possible. That the Divine love continually seeks
conjunction is evident from the Lord’s own words: That He wishes
them to be one, He in them and they in Him, and that the love of God
might be in them. (John 17:21-23, 26 and True Christian Religion 43)

“Love viewed in itself is nothing but an endeavor towards
conjunction.” What do these words mean? Specifically, what does
“conjunction” mean? It is a desire to share in common goals and
common understandings. It is a desire for a deep relationship of trust
and mutual goodwill. Conjunction or a deep relationship of love is
impossible without freedom to choose that relationship. Imagine the
child of very wealthy parents who feels lonely and is told, “Don’t
worry, we’ll pay someone to be your friend.” Or consider the boss
who suspects that the only reason an employee is so solicitous of his
ideas and welfare is the fear of being fired if they expressed their real
opinion. What kind of relationships would these be? Would they be
anything more than very superficial? Would there be anything more
than a temporary “oneness of purpose” so long as there was
payment or continuing fear of consequences for not going along.
There could be no real love or real conjunction in these cases. So
likewise, it is essential to the Lord that we be free to choose to love
what He loves, to accept His wisdom, or to reject them both. We can
choose to be with Him or choose to distance ourselves from His life.
But for us to choose a relationship of love with the Lord we
have to know of Him, His goals, and His thoughts. Otherwise we
would not know what we were choosing and not choosing. For this
reason, the Lord has made sure that everyone has the essential
knowledge of His qualities. Concerning this we read the following
from the book the Divine Providence, “Everyone acknowledges God
and is conjoined to Him according to the good of his life. All can have
a knowledge of God who know anything from religion….The general
principles of all religions by which everyone can be saved are: To
acknowledge God; and to refrain from doing evil because it is against
God. These are the two things which make religion to be religion. If
one of them is wanting it cannot be called religion, since to
acknowledge God and to do evil is a contradiction; so also is to do
good and yet not acknowledge God, for one is not possible without
the other. It has been provided by the Lord that almost everywhere
there should be some form of religion, and that in every religion there
should be these two principles; and it has also been provided by the
Lord that everyone who acknowledges God and refrains from doing
evil because it is against God should have a place in heaven.” (Divine
Providence 326:6,9)

The Lord has worked to make sure that the essential
knowledge for salvation has been available to all people. But He also
wants more than just the essential. He has provided that there be
specific revelation to form a church of human beings that could know
Him more clearly and worship Him as He truly is. For this reason the
Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Writings of the New
Church have been revealed. By itself written revelation describing
what we are to do would not have been enough. It was essential that
the Lord, the infinite God and Creator, be born into this world and
make His essential Humanity visible and knowable to us. Mere words
would not have done it. And so we read in the Gospel of John: “And
the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His
glory.” (John 1:14) The Advent of the otherwise invisible and
unknowable Infinite Creator into this world is the event that we will
celebrate on December 25th. Christmas is the celebration of the
Lord’s birth into this world as a human being who we can see in our
mind’s eye. We can read of how He taught, healed, lived, allowed
Himself to be put to death, and rose as our Savior and Redeemer.
Without this clear example we would not be able to freely follow Him
and freely love Him. He would be too distant and unknowable to us.
The final fulfillment of true love is shown in its third quality.
The third essential of the love of God, which is to render others
blessed from Himself, is recognized in eternal life, which Is the
endless blessedness, happiness, and joy that God gives to those who
receive into themselves His love. For as God is love itself, so is He
blessedness itself; for all love breathes forth delight from itself, and
the Divine love breathes forth blessedness itself, happiness, and joy
to eternity. Thus God from Himself renders the angels blessed, and
people after death; and this He does by conjunction with them. (True
Christian Religion 43)

If we are to receive these blessings of happiness and peace,
we must be joined in a deep relationship of love with the Lord. We
must freely choose to turn to His Word, learn what it teaches, and
consciously compel ourselves to think, speak, and live better than we
naturally incline to. We must turn to the Lord in prayer asking for His
help and guidance. Gradually He will help us to recognize His love
and His order more and more clearly. Gradually He will help us to
think and will more and more as He does. Gradually He will bring us
into a oneness with Him. If we cooperate with the Lord He will conjoin
us in heart, mind, and life with Him and from this conjunction comes
true happiness for us and for Him. This is the most wonderful gift
anyone could ever receive.
Amen.
Lessons: Isaiah 40:9-11, John 1:1-5, 14, 13:15, True Christian
Religion 339:1-2

https://newchurch.org/

DAILY INSPIRATION

“Loving the truth is intending and doing it.”

Heaven and Hell 15 

Love and Judgment

Love and Judgment

A Sermon By Rev. Mike Gladish

A Big Spiritual Dilemma

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As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ each year we are confronted with the age old problem of reconciling two apparently contradictory principles: love and judgment. “For God so loved the world,” we read, “that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Yet Jesus Himself said “For judgment I have come into the world…” (John 9:39). “For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth” (John 18:37).

What a curious fact. We normally think of God Himself as somehow requiring judgment, and Jesus as the loving Savior. But truth is the standard of judgment, and it does tend to condemn, since no one is perfect, indeed “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). So if Jesus came to teach the truth and to judge, how are we saved?

Most Christians say that we are saved by faith in the “fact” that He suffered and died on our behalf, offering Himself as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of the whole human race (past, present and future). The idea is that in confronting the evils and falsities of the world He became a “lightning rod” for all the hatred of the world, and that by suffering on our behalf He relieved us of any need to suffer. In classic Christian theology this is called the “vicarious atonement.”

But this makes the love of God rather demanding, don’t you think? – that He should require a Divinely human sacrifice to move Him to pity and forgiveness? Indeed, it seems rather pagan, doesn’t it? One gets the sense of an angry, jealous God demanding payment for the sins of the world and being appeased only by the brutal murder of His own Son. What kind of love is this, and what kind of judgment?

Unconditional Love?

What a contrast this is from all the talk we hear today about “unconditional love,” that is, love that requires nothing but accepts all

people without qualification. We hear it everywhere! “God loves me just as I am.” And it’s TRUE! But does He love the WAY we are? Note the Gospel is ALL about the need to change, beginning with the first words of Jesus’ public ministry, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17).

So how can we understand God’s love? And how can we reconcile that love with what He does require?

Here’s a simple answer: God’s love is such that He wants to make us happy to eternity (True Christian Religion 43). You can’t ask for much more than that.

But in order to be happy we have to live in harmony and co-operation with the laws of order. Who could possibly imagine that God would love our misery or our mistakes, our selfishness or our stupidity? No, it is because He loves us that He wants us NOT to be miserable, selfish or stupid. And this love is unconditional, but it requires wisdom, or judgment to be effective.

So getting back to Christmas, we can think of it this way: – God in His Infinite love says to Himself, “My people are miserable, what can I do to make them happy?” And from His infinite wisdom He replies, “I must go down there and show them how to find happiness; I must not force them, but teach them, and show them, so that they have a choice and can turn their lives around.”

The Real Nature of Judgment, or Conditions for Salvation

There are two words in the Gospels for judgment. One refers to condemnation and the other to the concept of discernment, or prudence. The Lord in the Gospels clearly spoke of both, but when He taught He did not do so with any intention to condemn but rather “that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). And here’s the key: – not saved by His sacrificial death on the cross, but saved by the freedom that His teaching and a proper discernment of the truth provides (John 8:32) so that we can enjoy an orderly, fulfilling spiritual life.

And this freedom implies decisions, judgments that we must make. For example, there is no doubt that we should love all people, even as our heavenly Father loves all people, “making His sun to shine on the evil and on the good… sending rain on the just and on the unjust”

(Matthew 5:45), but we cannot love their evil or their falsity or their confusion or their grief. We cannot love it and we cannot confirm it or support it. Thus we cannot show our love for all people in the same way. Neither could the Lord, which is why He condemned the scribes and Pharisees even though presumably He loved them too.

And He said, “If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17:3-4). Note, “If he repents.” The same message is clear in the parable of the prodigal son: his father had compassion on him when he repented and came home (Luke 15:11-32). To do otherwise would be to support the disorder, and that is NOT truly loving. So we have the teaching that “Christian prudence demands that a person’s life should be carefully checked, and charity exercised accordingly” (New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 85).

But again, back to Christmas.

There is an appearance in the literal stories in the Gospels that God sent His Son as someone separate from Himself into the world, “that the world through Him [not the Father] might be saved.” But the truth is that God, being pure, unconditional love in its very essence, provided for the salvation of the world by clothing HIMSELF in the human form AS Jesus Christ so that He could teach the truth with love and so remove all the obstacles to a life of faith.

This is why, in perhaps the most famous Advent prophecy of all, we read, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given… and His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Note, He is all of these in ONE person.

This is why Jesus Himself said, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30); “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

But how could the Infinite be contained in a finite body? And who looked after the rest of the universe while it was so contained? We might as well ask how the mind can look after the body while its thoughts are focused on one small thing. The fact is, the infinite is not contained or limited in any way, but it does manifest itself in a focused way in the love and wisdom of Christ.

The Dilemma Solved

So we see that the story of Christmas is not the story of God demanding any thing, least of all a human sacrifice. It is the story of love providing the wisdom necessary for us to take responsibility, to make good judgments, and to keep His commandments for our own sake, indeed, for our eternal welfare.

So it is the story of love and wisdom working together, as they always do, and working in this case in a human form for all to see and understand.

“I have come,” Jesus said, “as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness” (John 12:46). And “He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12).

So, may this and “all your Christmases be bright” with the light of His love and wisdom!

https://newchurch.org/

Daily Inspiration

“A person is entirely the same character as their love.”

Arcana Coelestia 6872

The Lord God Jesus Christ

The Lord God Jesus Christ
A Sermon by Rev. Grant R. Schnarr

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Our idea of God is the most important concept we can have.
Our spiritual lives are based on this concept. Our spiritual destiny,
including our homes in the other world, are formed by our view of
God. Every aspect of our eternal life revolves around our
understanding and our relationship with our Maker.
Developing a true and working concept of God, though, can be
a challenge. We bring our own conceptions and misconceptions to
this image. Historically humans have perverted or destroyed the
picture of God over and over again, and used a twisted
understanding of God and His will to do many twisted things. The
Spanish Inquisition, Hitler, and others claimed to worship the Lord,
and performed hurtful deeds in the name of the Lord. People can
make up their own God to suit their own bias rather than worship the
true God.

Culture and times can be biased against a true picture of God.
For instance, God the judge might be popular at times, the punisher,
the warrior, or a remote and uncaring Ruler. Or the opposite kind of
God can be held up as an ideal: the ineffective, permissive, enabling,
anything goes God, weak and unable to lead or effect change in the
world. The discussion of gender in relation to God is a good example
of the struggle between cultural bias on every side of the issue and a
struggle to understand Revelation.

In the past history of the Christian church, truth has certainly
taken precedence over good. The Writings tell us that a faith alone
world developed, where good did not count for much, if anything. A
natural outcome was that the world became perceived as a male’s
world, and even as good was suppressed and put down as nothing,
so were women treated the same. In a faith alone culture, male
attributes have been held up as an ideal, and it can be argued that
even much of the feminist movement in the western world in the past
quarter century has made the mistake of joining that illusion rather
than dispersing it. This has caused deep wounds in many, not to be
taken lightly or overlooked as an oddity. When love, perception,
gentleness, nurturing are looked upon as second rate feelings, many
of them to be shunned, those who excel in these areas receive the
constant message that they are not good enough, that they do not
count. From a truth dominated culture a false concept of God is
created, a static God firmly entrenched in a groundwork of rules
seemingly unconnected to life. God becomes a judge whose favor
limits the variety of the human race to those few who hold the correct
set of ideas, and punishes those who do not. God can seem to
become a distant Father who is never home, or who arrives home on
Sundays to lecture and scold, only to disappear again Monday
morning. What would it be like to have nothing at all in common with
this God and be told that this is the true God and you must worship
Him?

Cultural bias not only affects our view of God, but our lives, and
the wounds caused by false doctrines presenting false gods are real.
And so it is that the Heavenly Doctrines come into the world to bring
back the balance between truth and good, to honor both sexes in
their own right, and to offer everyone with an open mind a visible
image of God in a Divinely Human form for what actually is the first
time in religious history. (Read True Christian Religion #787 and
following.) The Writings call upon society to rethink the entire picture
of religion, the entire concept of God. They present a radically
different concept where love and wisdom both reign in the Divine and
in life. The Writings say no to a truth alone world and firmly present
the marriage of truth and good in use as the essence of perfection
(DLW 28-33).

However, while acknowledging the wounds created by false
doctrines of the past, how do we form a true picture of the Lord,
which reflects all of humanity, without bias from past or present
cultures? How do we begin to heal the wounds that many have felt by
cultural misconceptions of God, and at the same time not create more
wounds by creating more misconceptions? We want to see God
through our own eyes, but how do we do this without creating God
with our own hands, in our own image?

Wounds heal over time, and there is no quick solution, but there
are answers to all of life’s questions that can help heal. The Writings
are called the leaves of the Tree of Life, for the healing of the nations.
Revelation from God is the source of healing, if one can approach it
and accept it. Revelation was given to guide us to an ever growing
understanding of the Lord. Revelation presents a picture of the Lord,
a living picture, and through this Window into eternity we can behold
the face of our Creator, and see our own face reflected therein.

What does Revelation teach us? More than we can learn in a lifetime.
Truth from the Word is infinite, but we can take a few principles and
apply them to this issue, to begin to build a healthy and genuine
concept of God. First, the Heavenly Doctrines teach us to look to our
Maker from essence to person, and not from person to essence. This
is an important teaching to help us approach our Maker.
“Everyone who thinks of God from person only,” the Writings
say, “and not essence is thinking materially. For instance, a person
who thinks of the neighbor from the form only and not the quality is
thinking materially…

Think of God from essence, and from that of His person, and do
not think of His person and from that of His essence. For to think of
His essence from person is to think materially of the essence also;
but to think of His person from essence is to think spiritually of His
person” (Apocalypse Revealed 611:7).

Thinking of God from person to essence is not helpful to us.
Looking at the Lord’s material body from a corporeal point of view,
and translating that into the essence of God, is not helpful. In modern
terms, getting hung up on the physical form of the Lord while He was
on earth, and allowing the physical form of the Lord to dictate how we
think of the essence is not helpful. An example of this would be
statements that say the essence of God is male or female. That is
thinking of God from person to essence. God is the I AM, while the
origin of gender, God in essence is above gender. To attribute
qualities of creation to the uncreated is like calling the Potter clay.
But that does not mean that all attributes of what we call humanity are
not from the Divine. Of course they are, and that is why every human
being, whether white, yellow, black, male, female, disadvantaged,
disabled or healthy and whole can approach and be conjoined with
the Lord.

But this is accomplished by approaching the Lord from essence
to person. Through a recognition of the all-encompassing God, the all
loving, all wise, ever creating, ever nurturing Force, from whom all
people and things come, we look to the Divine Human. We see these
infinite and Divine qualities in the Lord Jesus Christ. When we do this,
we allow the invisible to be visible, as the Writings say, in the air or on
the sea, with His arms opened inviting you into His embrace (True
Christian Religion 787). This is how conjunction with God takes place,
through the visible, tangible, lovable, approachable Lord Jesus Christ,
as revealed in His Word.

But we are to worship Him as the Lord as Jesus Christ and no
other. To worship Divine attributes by any other name is to make God
invisible. The Writings tell us, “In respect of His Divine Human the
Lord is the Mediator, and no one can come to the Divine Being itself
within the Lord, called the Father, except though the Son, that is, the
Divine Human… Thus the Lord as to His Divine Human is the actual
joining together. And if people cannot do this in thought how can they
be joined to the Divine itself in love.” (Arcana Coelestia 6804:4)
The Writings go on to say, “He was pleased to take upon Himself
human form, and this to allow people to approach Him … It is this
Human which is called the Son of God, and this it is which mediates…
This is why the Son of God, meaning the Human of God…is called
the Savior, and on earth Jesus, which means salvation.” (True
Christian Religion 135:4)

And so the Lord said, “I am the way the truth, and the Life. No
one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me,
you would have known the Father also; and from now on you know
Him and have seen Him.” (John 14:6-7)

The invisible soul of God is at once revealed and made
manifest in His own Humanity, now revealed in His Word, and
proclaimed to us in the Heavenly Doctrines as the Lord God Jesus
Christ. Can we see the essence of God within His person? Can we
allow God to be both Divine and Human? The image of the Divine
Human is a blessing to those who long to understand and be
conjoined with the Lord. A newcomer of the church once said, “When
I was young I heard about God, the great and powerful Almighty. He
clapped His hands, the thunders roared. He batted His eyes, the
lightening flashed. Boom! God? God scared me. But when I read in
the Writings that this gentle shepherd named Jesus, who Himself
called a lamb, who held the children, healed the sick, and taught so
many loving things, that this man was God, well, that did for me.” The
question might be asked,

“What does it do for you?”
The image of the Lord Jesus Christ as it appears in the Gospels
and as it is explained in the Heavenly Doctrines, is given to the
human race to bring conjunction with the Divine, the true Divine, and
with that — healing. Although it is no doubt difficult for some, because
of real abuse of false doctrines in the past, to approach this image as
presented in the Word will bring healing. This image when viewed
from essence to person can be in filled with a variety of descriptions
from the Word, which represent every aspect of humanity. Jesus
does bless the children, heal the sick, feed thousands of hungry
mouths, cries for His people, and calls each of us to arms of love and
compassion. He says,

“Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will
give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) He cries out to a church that has
gone astray in faith alone, He says, and listen to His words,
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and
stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your
children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but
you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say
to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who
comes in the name of the Lord.” (Matt. 23:37-39 )

Can we say these words? Can we see our Lord and Savior as
all encompassing, containing the source of all that is human and
Divine? And can we worship Him as He has revealed Himself in His
own Word? Then we will truly be able to see Him, and say with full
hearts, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”
What is the essential message of the New Church? Is the
message of the New Church that God is inaccessible to some people,
for no fault of their own? Is the message that if you have a hard time
picturing God that you should give up and go somewhere else? The
answer is NO! Is the message of the New Church that anything
goes? You can make up your own God here, in any fashion you
choose? The answer is NO! The message of the New Church is clear
in the Writings, preached by the lips of the apostles themselves, and
held as a hope for all people everywhere, from whatever background
or origin, so that they may be conjoined with their Creator. This
message is for everyone, to be in filled by every individual in a way
that she or he must, in order to see and feel what it means to them.
The message is that the Lord God Jesus Christ Reigns, and His
Kingdom shall be forever and ever. Blessed are they who come to the
marriage supper of the Lamb (True Christian Religion 791). The Lord
promises us, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me
to give to everyone according to their work” (Rev. 22:12). May
ourresponse be with open hearts and minds, and with joyful lips,
“Even so,come Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20)
Amen.
Lessons: Isaiah 42:1-9; John 14:1-11; Arcana Coelestia 8705

https://newchurch.org/

DAILY INSPIRATION

“Love wants to love and it wants to be loved.”

True Christian Religion 99

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

The Transfiguration Of The Lord

The Transfiguration Of The Lord
A Sermon by Rev Kurt H. Asplundh

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“A bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice
came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am
well pleased. Hear Him!'” (Matt. 17:5)
Our subject is the Transfiguration of the Lord, that amazing
event recorded in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, when the
Lord was transformed before the eyes of Peter, James and John. We
will consider this in four parts, each answering a question: First, what
took place and how did it actually happen? Second, what did it teach
about Jesus? Third, what is its representative meaning? And fourth,
What does it mean for us? What did happen?

The Lord, with His disciples, had come into the region of
Caesarea Philippi, a city north of the land of Israel situated at the
headwaters of the Jordan River. Nearby were the slopes of Mount
Hermon rising to snowcapped peaks. We can remember this
mountain from the 133rd Psalm which speaks of the delightful “dew of
Hermon” descending on the mountains of Zion. Choosing Peter,
James and John who accompanied Him on other intimate occasions,
the Lord went up onto this mountain to pray. The disciples, seemingly
dozing off after their climb, suddenly became fully awake to observe
that their Lord’s face was altered as He prayed, now shining like the
sun; and His clothing glistened with whiteness, like the snow, beyond
any imaginable whiteness of clean linen. Also, the disciples saw two
men whom they recognized as Moses, their ancient lawgiver, and
Elijah the prophet, who appeared in glory and spoke with the Lord of
His forthcoming death in Jerusalem.

Peter, overwhelmed at this wondrous sight, said, “Lord, … let us
make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one
for Elijah.” (Matt. 17:4) As he said this, a bright cloud overshadowed
them, and from the cloud a voice saying, “This is My beloved Son, in
whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (Matt. 17:5). All three disciples
heard this and fell on their faces, greatly afraid. When the Lord came
to touch them and raise them up, the vision had ended. He was
alone, no longer surrounded by flaming glory and glistening light.
What happened on this occasion was a real experience, not a
dream or hallucination. The three disciples were introduced briefly
into conscious life in the spiritual world. Their spiritual eyes were
opened and, for a few moments, they saw as the angels see:
beholding the deeper spiritual qualities of their Lord that are visible in
that superior realm. Indeed, the disciples saw the face of the Lord like
the sun because His Divine love shines forth in the spiritual world as
a sun. The doctrine of the New Church teaches that He is seen by the
angels above the heavens, encompassed by the flaming brilliance of
His own Divine love.

Spiritual visions are common in Scripture, especially with the
prophets, and these took place through an opening of spiritual senses
latent in us all but now opened only rarely. For example, John
experienced visions when banished to the Isle of Patmos. Again, “in
the spirit,” as at the time of the transfiguration, having his spiritual
eyes opened, He saw the Lord as a Divine Man, “His eyes like a
flame of fire,” His hair “as white as snow.”

Having considered so far what actually happened at the
transfiguration, let us now ask what it teaches about Jesus. The voice
from the cloud which put the disciples into a state of such profound
humility and fear identified him as the “Son of God.” “This is My
beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (Matt. 17:5)
Who is this “beloved Son”? The doctrine of the New Church
describes Him as the “Divine Human,” God in Human form. “Before
the Lord came into the world He was present with men of the church
but only medially through angels who represented Him; but since His
coming He is present with men of the church immediately, and this
because in the world He put on also a Divine Natural [form] in which
He is present with men.” (TCR 109) Jehovah God put on a degree of
life called the Natural, “thereby becoming Man, like a man in the
world,” we are told, “but with the difference that in the Lord this
degree … is infinite and uncreated … ” (DLW 233, emphasis added)
He made His Natural Divine.

We are told that while the Lord “was indeed born as is another
man, … this human the Lord entirely cast out, so that He was no
longer the son of Mary, and made the Human in Himself Divine …
and He also showed to Peter, James, and John, when He was
transfigured, that He was a Divine Man.” (AC 4692:5) “It was plainly
the Divine Human of the Lord that was thus seen” and identified by
the voice heard from the cloud as the “beloved Son” (AE 64:3). Many
gospel teachings show the importance of this recognition of the
Divinity of Jesus; from John, for example, where it says that “No one
has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son … He has declared
Him.” (John 1:18) Again, “Jesus said … I am the way, the truth, and
the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
In another instance, when the disciple Philip said to Jesus: “Lord,
show us the Father … ” He answered: “He who has seen Me has
seen the Father… ” (John 14:9) “I and My Father are one,” He said.
(John 10:30)

“They who are truly men of the church … are acquainted with
and acknowledge a Trine” we are told in the Writings of the New
Church. “But still they humble themselves before the Lord and adore
Him alone, for the reason that they know that there is no access to
the Divine Itself which is called the Father’ except through the Son,
and that all the holy which is of the Holy Spirit proceeds from Him.
When they are in this idea they adore no other than Him through
whom and from whom all things are, thus One.” (Arcana Coelestia
2329:4)

We turn now to the third question of our consideration. What
was the representative meaning of the transfiguration? We must
preface this by pointing out that every account in Scripture has a
representative or parable-like sense. This is illustrated by the Lord’s
parables which contained a deeper meaning. In some places, the
prophets “acted out” a style of life that demonstrated the state of the
nation. What they did had symbolic meaning.

In a similar way, the transfiguration of the Lord represents the
transformation of the Word. In fact, everything that is said in this
account about the Lord can be understood as referring to the Word
and our reception of it.

Consider these parallels. Jesus was present in an external
body. So, too, the Word of Scripture is an external body of history,
laws and prophecy. Jesus revealed a Divine spirit within His body.
So, too, the Word of Scripture has a spirit of truth. When the disciples
went up onto the mountain, their vision was opened to see Jesus in a
new way. When we climb above mundane thoughts and concerns,
we elevate our mind to a state in which we can be given a new vision
of the meaning of the Word.

“The Word in its glory was represented in the Lord when He
was transfigured” (True Christian Religion 222; Doctrine Concerning
the Sacred Scripture 48). We are told in different words that “when
the Lord was transfigured, He presented Himself in the form in which
the Divine truth is in heaven” (Apocalypse Explained 624e). In other
words, He caused Himself “to be seen as the Word” (Apocalypse
Revealed 24).

It is significant that the two men seen talking with Jesus were
Moses and Elijah, both closely linked with the Word of Scripture.
Moses obviously represents that part of the Old Testament we call
“the Law,” while Elijah represents the Prophets (see also Apocalypse
Explained 624e).

Moses and Elijah, when talking to Jesus “spoke of His
decease.” (Luke 9:31) The parallel representation is that the Law and
the Prophets of Scripture treat of the Messiah, some prophecies
specifically foretelling His death.

An important representation or parallel is to be found in the fact
that a cloud overshadowed the disciples during the transfiguration.
Matthew’s gospel describes this as a “bright cloud.” We think of a puff
of cloud momentarily enveloping a group of climbers on a mountain
slope, a cloud penetrated by the sun’s rays, bright but obscuring the
sight of nearby objects. It was from such a passing cloud that the
voice was heard saying: “This is My beloved Son.” (Mark 9:7; Luke
9:35)

We are reminded here of other instances in Scripture where
clouds are mentioned: how Mount Sinai was covered by clouds when
Moses went up to receive the Commandments; the promise that the
second coming of the Lord would be “in the clouds of heaven” (Matt.
24), as it is said:

“Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him
… ” (Revelations 1:7)

While the transfiguration of the Lord represents the Word in its
glory, the overshadowing cloud represents a particular aspect of the
Word called in New Church doctrine the “sense of the letter”
(Doctrine Concerning the Sacred Scripture 48), or Divine truth in its
outmost or literal meaning. (Apocalypse Revealed 24)

When we read of anything in Scripture, as we read here of
clouds, we can interpret the meaning on different levels literal or
symbolic. For example, to believe that Christ will return to earth
surrounded by clouds when the Last Judgment is at hand is to think
literally. We can also think of the same statement symbolically.
The Writings of the New Church have much to say about the
symbolic or representative meaning of clouds. This comes from the
fact that clouds appear in the spiritual world as well as in the natural
world, “but the clouds in the spiritual world appear beneath the
heavens, with those who are in the sense of the letter of the Word,
darker or brighter according to their understanding and reception of
the Word …consequently bright clouds’ are the Divine truth veiled in
appearances of truth … and dark clouds’ are the Divine truths
covered with fallacies and confirmed appearances … ” (Apocalypse
Revealed 24)

When the Word is read according to this spiritual
representation, we can see new meaning in the account of the
overshadowing cloud. It refers to an obscure understanding of Divine
teachings. It represents truth veiled over with appearances drawn
from a literalistic understanding of the Word. Here is an illustration:
When the Lord spoke to Nicodemus about being “born again,”
Nicodemus wondered how it would be possible to enter again into his
mother’s womb (John 3:4). He took the statement literally. The Lord
intended it symbolically.

Consider another example: The Lord once said He would raise
up the temple in three days if it were destroyed. Many took His words
literally, wondering how He could do this when the temple had taken
46 years to build. But He spoke of the temple of His body and His
resurrection in three days. (see John 2:19-21)

Now when the bright cloud overshadowed the disciples, the
symbolic meaning is that the church at that time (which the disciples
represented) “was only in truths from the sense of the letter” of the
Word (Apocalypse Explained 594a).

The remarkable thing to note, however, is that the voice which
identified Jesus as the “beloved Son” came from the cloud. This
revelation, so crucial to Christian belief, is powerfully given in the
sense of the letter of the Word rightly understood. The Writings give
this explanation: “The bright cloud’ which overshadowed the disciples’
represented the Word in the sense of the letter; so from it a voice was
heard, saying, This is My beloved Son; hear ye Him,’ for no
announcements or responses are ever made from heaven except
through outmosts such as are in the sense of the letter of the Word,
for they are made by the Lord in fullness.” (Doctrine Concerning the
Sacred Scripture 48, emphasis added; see Arcana Coelestia 9905)

This teaching that Divine revelations must be made in the
statements of Scripture is illustrated in the parable of Lazarus and the
beggar. Lazarus, the rich man who went to hell, pleaded with Father
Abraham to send someone to his brothers on earth to warn them of
this fate. The answer was: “They have Moses and the Prophets …. If
they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be
persuaded though one rise from the dead” (Luke 16:29-31). Unless
revelations are stated in and confirmed by truths in external form,
they have no power. When presented in that form they have
awesome power and effect. Thus, it was that Peter, James and John
humbled themselves profoundly when the voice came out of the
cloud. It was not only the voice that affected them, but the message:
that their Lord was Divine Man God in Human form!

What, then, does all of this mean for us? What spiritual benefits
come from reading about and understanding the transfiguration of the
Lord? There is a sense in which we can put ourselves in the place of
Peter, James and John and be witness to, and profoundly moved as
they were by, a miraculous transformation of our understanding of the
Word. The transformation for us is in the mind. First it is seeing the
glory flaming in the cloud seeing the spiritual sense of the Word
within the letter which gives it Divine life; for as the apostle Paul said
to the Corinthians, “The letter kills but the Spirit gives life.” (2
Corinthians 3:6)

There is a wonder here a miraculous transformation of
Scriptural teachings that have meant little or nothing to us now
suddenly glowing with Divine love and enlightening our minds with
Divine wisdom. Second, it is sensing a holy fear at the presence of
the Lord in His Word. It is humbling ourselves before Him, being
willing to serve and obey Him. It is saying to the Lord and really
meaning it, “Not my will but Thine be done!”

Lastly, it is being touched by Him and lifted in spirit by His
presence and His words. For He said, “Arise, and do not be afraid”
(Matthew 17:7). When we consider the entire sweep of the Lord’s
ministry and its impending conclusion, do we see a reason He
brought these disciples to the mountain for His transfiguration? Would
the experience strengthen them for the days ahead, for their lives as
apostles? Do not we need such strength for the days ahead? Do not
we need the same encouragement to learn and live our faith? We do!
What a comfort it must have been to Peter, James and John,
being greatly afraid during the transfiguration, to have Jesus
afterward touch them and say, “Arise, and do not be afraid.” They
lifted their eyes and saw no one but Jesus only. (Matthew 17:7, 8)
Here is a representative parallel for us. He is all we need. In our times
of fear and need the Lord Jesus Christ can touch and comfort us. He
extends His Divine mercy and love to us wherever we are spiritually
because He has drawn near by assuming our nature.
This is what the transfiguration can mean to us. It can mean a
renewal of our religious resolve and a rededication to the worship of
the Lord Jesus Christ in His glorified Human.
Amen.
Lessons: Exodus 19:9-11, 16-20; Matthew 17:1-9; Apocalypse
Revealed 24

https://newchurch.org/

DAILY INSPIRATION

“Nobody can be joined to the Lord except by means of love and charity. Love is spiritual conjunction itself.”

Arcana Coelestia 2349

Behold! The Lamb Of God!

Behold! The Lamb Of God!
A Sermon by Rev. Dr. Reuben P. Bell

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For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who
is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe
wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.
Christmas–the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ almost 2,000 years
ago, and celebrated (by no accident) at the darkest time of the year.
There are many themes woven into the Christmas story. But of all the
themes in the Biblical narratives, we return most often, it seems, to the
theme of light–to the primeval archetypes of darkness and light. Is there
a more basic metaphor in the human experience?

With almost gnostic precision, the Apostle John tells us of the
Lord of light, who came into the world to bring us everlasting life, and to
make us “children of God”:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. In Him
was life, and the life was the light of men, that was the true light
which gives light to every man who comes into the world. And the
Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His
glory, the glory as of the only
begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth [John 1:1-14].

The Lord was Divine truth incarnate, who said to us “I am the light
of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the
light of life.”

Our lesson from the Apocalypse Revealed has a lot to say about
light. It tells us that when we encounter images of light in the Word, we
are to think of Divine truth, streaming in from the spiritual sun of heaven.
Because light and truth are linked in use–they correspond–and the Lord
comes to us across discrete degrees of order from His abode above the
heavens by means of correspondence.

And truth? We know about truth in this church, if nothing else. We
love truth. The Writings for the New Church proclaim themselves to be
the Lord’s Second Advent by means of the internal sense of the Word–
Divine truths locked up for centuries–finally disclosed and taught in
those thirty volumes of doctrine… truths to lead us to the good of life.
And these truths are what make the New Church new. But what is truth?
Now this is an important question–not just an academic pursuit–
because if the Lord did come into the world as truth incarnate, we must
define this thing very closely. Why? To understand truth is to know more
about the Lord. And that is always good. Let’s see what the Writings can
tell us about truth:

All truth is from good, for it is the form of it, and all good is the
inmost being of truth. Good when it is formed, so as to appear to
the mind, in speech is called truth (Apocalypse Explained 136).
Truth is the form of good; that is, when good is formed so that it
can be intellectually perceived, then it is called truth (Arcana Coelestia
3049). In the Word the Lord is called Jehovah as to Divine good; for
Divine good is the very Divine. And the Lord is called the Son of God as
to Divine truth; for Divine truth proceeds from Divine good, as a son
from the Father, and also is said to be born (Arcana Coelestia 7499).
Divine good can in no way be and exist without Divine truth, nor
Divine truth without Divine good, but one in the other, mutually and
reciprocally…. The Divine good is the Father, and the Divine truth is the
Son (Arcana Coelestia 2803).

So truth, according to this series, is the very nature of Divine good
Itself. Since good is of the will, and thus not immediately available or
even apparent to us fallen humans, it needs a form; a shape, a skin, an
external aspect, or something we can see. And that is just what truth is.
Who was born on Christmas day? Jesus Christ, the form of Divine good
itself, “was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” Someone we can see.
Now if we can see Him, we can strive to imitate Him. And that is called
regeneration. That’s the whole idea of truth: every building project needs
a set of instructions.

So we have truth… loads of it-in the Word itself, and in the internal
sense of the Word, revealed in the Writings for the New Church. And
that’s wonderful. But you know, like everything else in this world, there
can be complications.

There are some other teachings about Divine truth, that reveal the
great power in it, and also tell us what happens when we forget that
good and truth are supposed to go together. Truths serve as weapons
of destruction in spiritual warfare, and they are necessary if we are to
overcome the falsities that the hells use against us in the great battle for
our souls (Arcana Coelestia 2686). And truth is powerful stuff. It has to
be. In its pure form–the light that flows into heaven from the sun there
that is the Lord Himself–it would burn us to ashes, if it weren’t
accommodated–filtered a bit–into a less potent form, that we can use
(Divine Love & Wisdom 110). This filtered form is the Word, and the
Writings, but BEWARE: there is great power in these as well. Like any
weapon, truth must be handled very carefully, and it must be used in a
proper and responsible way. And we must also remember that using
truths to overcome the hells and using truths in our daily activities–in
discussions and conversations and all our interactions–are two different
things.

Truth, used alone, by itself–without the good that is supposed to
be there with it–can destroy the people around us by its ability to cut to
the heart–of their intentions, their expectations, and their motivations–
sometimes before they know what these really are. And it leaves no
room for negotiation–no room for improvement, or starting over. Truth
alone does not teach, or lead–it condemns, and it leaves no survivors.
The Arcana Coelestia tells us that “in the other life, truths separated
from goods appear as arrows” (Arcana Coelestia 2686:6). I guess they
would.

Now as a weapon in the war against the hells, this is great,
because this battle is for life or death. But for daily use, around the
house, in our jobs–around people who are not our enemies, but just
plain old regenerators like ourselves, we must be very careful that we 1)
use truths only in the presence of good, and 2) use them very cautiously
even then. Pick your weapons carefully. Truth can kill.

There is a beautiful flowering plant native to Europe, with flowers
like little purple thimbles. From the dried leaves of this plant, called
Digitalis purpurea we get a powerful drug called digitalis, that can
restore a failing heart to normal for a considerable period of time. It
remains an important drug, to this day. But the dosage is interesting–
and kind of scary: as little as a tenth of a milligram per day. And if you
get too much? It will stop your heart.

Save a life, or stop one; all from the proper, careful use of a
powerful agent for good. Truth is like digitalis: it must be used wisely,
and with great care, with the good of the person always in mind. And
there we have the good that goes with the truth.

So what does all this have to do with Christmas? Well, we found
that the Lord came to us as “the light of the world,” and we found that
light signifies truth, so we made that connection: The Lord was Divine
truth, come into the world in human form; Divine good Itself, but
accommodated to our reception in the form of truth. (That is why He
called Himself the Son.)

And we learned that Divine good can in no way be and exist
without Divine truth, nor Divine truth without Divine good, but one in the
other, mutually and reciprocally… and you don’t want to try to use truth
by itself, because it’s just too dangerous. You’ve got to combine truth
with good when you are using it around the house.

What does this have to do with Christmas? The Lord is Divine
truth Itself–infinitely powerful; more powerful than you or I can imagine,
and He decided to visit this planet and bring that truth to bear on the evil
that was about to engulf its people. It was an urgent situation, that
demanded such a drastic remedy. And so Divine good descended into
this world in the form of all truth; Jehovah bowed the heavens, we read
in Psalm 18, and thick darkness was under His feet. He made darkness
His hiding place, darkness of waters, clouds of the heavens. At the
brightness before Him His clouds passed, with hailstones and coals of
fire. That’s powerful.

So how did Divine truth come to us? How did the “light of the
world” make His entry into this world of darkness? What did John the
Baptist say, when he saw Him coming; walking toward him at the
Jordan River?

Behold! The lamb of God! Lamb??? All this power, in the form of
a man, and John calls Him a lamb? That’s right. And he knew just what
he was talking about. For there is born to you this day in the city of
David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you:
You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.
A baby, wrapped in a blanket. The power of the most high, wrapped up
in the innocence of an infant. Divine truth, yes, but wrapped up in all the
good that the Lord could muster in this world. Of course! Can you
imagine that much truth, by itself, alone, to work its work of destruction?
Short work, at that. Imagine! No freedom; no second chance; no
reformation or regeneration; no process; no covenant; no Savior; and
worst of all, no Friend of the human race. Just judgment: in or out that
day, and the job is done. The Lord did not choose that kind of mission
on this earth 2000 years ago. He came to bring us life, not death: I am
the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but
have the light of life. Judgment tempered with mercy. Truth conjoined to
good. That is the way the Lord Himself operates, to leave us the room
(the freedom) to bring our lives into order and to follow Him to His
kingdom in heaven.

And we must do the same. We have lots of truths. The Lord has
decided that we should receive them at this time in history: the doctrines
of the New Jerusalem, to open up the infinite truths of the Word. But we
must handle His truths gently and carefully with one another, as we use
them, to correct and lead, and reform, and teach, but never to cut, or
tear, or kill.

We must always serve up His truths with equal measures with
good, to our families, to our friends, to people at work, to the people we
meet, to people we don’t even like very much. Because truth applied as
a weapon is a weapon.. and you’ll be sorry if you use it that way.
But will this work? Will anyone buy the strength of your truth if it’s all
wrapped up in “love your neighbor as yourself?” Can you make an
argument or take a stand while “doing unto others as you would have
them do unto you?” Can you still be strong, using truth all wrapped up in
good?

I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in
darkness, but have the light of life.

Of course you can! It worked on the shepherds. They came and
saw the babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and they helped spread
the news. It worked on the “Wisemen” from the East: they believed. It
will work for you. And it will transform the people around you. This is the
magic of Christmas: love, come down from heaven, in the form of truth,
but “wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” AMEN
Lessons: Isaiah 11:1-6, Luke 2:1-20, Apocalypse Revealed n. 796

https://newchurch.org/

DAILY INSPIRATION

“Nobody is able, from things that are lower, to grasp with their mind things that are higher.”

Arcana Coelestia 2568

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The Church is Both Internal and External

Lastchurch - The Eternal PurposeSelection from True Christian Religion ~ Emanuel Swedenborg

The Church is the Lord’s, and that from the spiritual marriage, which is that of good and truth, the Lord is called the Bridegroom and Husband, and the Church the bride and wife, is well known to Christians from the Word, especially from the following.

John said of the Lord:  He that hath the bride is the bridegroom, but the friend of the bridegroom, who standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth because of the bridegroom’s voice (John 3:29).


Jesus said, The children of the bridechamber cannot mourn so long as the bridegroom is with them (Matt. 9:15; Mark 2:19-20; Luke 5:34-35).


I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband (Rev. 21:2).


The angel said to John:  Come, I will show thee the bride, the wife of the Lamb, and from a mountain he showed him the holy city Jerusalem (Rev. 21:9-10).


The time of the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready. Blessed are they that have been called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7, 9).


I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright and morning Star. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And he that is athirst, let him come, and he that willeth, let him take the water of life freely (Rev. 22:16-17).


It is in accordance with Divine order that a new heaven should be formed before a new Church is established on earth, for the Church is both internal and external, and the internal Church makes one with the Church in heaven, thus with heaven itself; and what is internal must be formed before its external, what is external being formed afterwards by means of its internal. This is well known in the world among the clergy. Just so far as this new heaven, which constitutes the internal of the Church with man, increases, does the New Jerusalem, that is, the New Church, descend from it; consequently this cannot take place in a moment, but it takes place to the extent that the falsities of the former Church are set aside. For where falsities have already been implanted what is new cannot enter until the falsities have been rooted out, and this will take place with the clergy, and so with the laity; for the Lord said:  No one puts new wine into old wineskins, else the skins burst and the wine is spilled, but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved (Matt. 9:17; Mark 2:22; Luke 5:37-38).


That these things take place only at the consummation of the age, by which is meant the end of the Church, can be seen from these words of the Lord:  Jesus said, The kingdom of the heavens is like unto a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away; but when the blade sprang up, then appeared the tares also. The servants came and said, Wilt thou that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest haply while ye gather up the tares, ye root up the wheat with them; let both grow together until the harvest; and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Collect first the tares and bind them in bundles to burn; but gather the wheat into my barn. The harvest is the consummation of the age; as the tares are gathered and burned with fire, so shall it be in the consummation of the age (Matt. 13:24-30, 39-40).


“Wheat” means here the truths and goods of the New Church, and “tares” the falsities and evils of the former Church. … “the consummation of the age” means the end of the Church.


That there is in everything an internal and an external, and that the external depends on the internal as the body does on its soul, every single thing in the world shows when it is properly examined. In man this is manifest:-

As his entire body is from his mind, so in each thing that proceeds from man there is an internal and an external; in his every action there is the mind’s will, and in his every word the mind’s understanding, so also in his every sensation.

In every bird and beast, and even in every insect and worm, there is an internal and an external; and again in every tree, plant, and germ, and even in every stone and every particle of soil.

A few facts relating to the silk-worm, the bee, and dust, will suffice to make this clear. The internal of the silk-worm is that whereby its external is moved to weave its cocoon, and afterward to fly forth as a butterfly. The internal of the bee is that whereby its external is moved to suck honey from flowers, and to build its cells in wonderful forms. The internal of a particle of soil whereby its external is moved, is its endeavor to fecundate seed; it exhales from its little bosom something which introduces itself into the inmosts of the seed, and produces this effect; and this internal follows the growth of the seed even to new seed.


The same takes place in things of an opposite character, in which there is also an internal and an external; as in the spider, whose internal, whereby its external is moved, is the ability and consequent inclination to construct an ingenious web, at the center of which it lies in wait for the flies that fly into it, which it eats. It is the same with every noxious worm, every serpent, and every beast of the forest; as also with every impious, cunning, and treacherous man.

(True Christian Religion 783 – 785)
June 15, 2017

The Word Made Flesh

The Word Made Flesh
A Sermon by Rev Brian W. Keith

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“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we
beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full
of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

Night; a time of quiet when the bustle of the day dies down; a
time of weariness when we make ready for a restful sleep; also a time
of darkness and cold; our vision is limited and we seek the warmth of
fires and homes.

Nighttime plays a prominent role in the birth of the Lord. It was
at night in a dream that the angel appeared to Joseph giving him
reasons to marry Mary. Later at night he warned him of the danger of
Herod, and eventually informed him that it was time to return to the
land of Israel. It was in the night that the Lord was born and the
shepherds found their way to the manger. And it was in the night that
the wise men saw the star in the east, and then had the star lead
them from Jerusalem to Bethlehem where it stood over the house
where the young Child lay.

The nighttime scenes surrounding the birth and early years of
the Lord’s life depict the shroud that had descended upon the world.
Their God, Jehovah, had not been seen nor heard from in hundreds
of years. They were lost and rudderless without Him. Other than
maintaining the ancient rituals, they had little sense of who He was
and how they were to live. Hearts were growing colder from the
confusion and distortion of everything good.

Even with the few descendants of the ancient churches, some
of whose knowledge resided with the wise men, there were but scant
glimmers of light. Perhaps those wise men alone among the ancients
saw the star. Certainly its light was not overpowering. So even with
the ancients there was but little understanding of who the Lord is.
What minimal truth remained was heavily shaded because all they
had ever seen of the Lord was a representative not the Divine in its
glory (see Doctrine Concerning the Sacred Scripture 99).

But our images and memories of the birth of the Lord are not
focused upon the darkened states. Rather we remember the
multitude of heavenly hosts shining upon the shepherds, the star
guiding the wise men, and the light of day in which Simeon lifted up
the infant Lord, blessed God, and Anna proclaimed His glory to all.
For the Lord’s coming is a coming with light and with life. “And the
Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory,
the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and
truth.”

One of the wonders of Christmas is the fact that the Lord is
born with light in the midst of confused and dark states of life. When
we see little but gloom and hopelessness, He comes to us. He holds
us in His hands, nourishing an inner sense of hope that we might
endure and overcome. Then His full presence with us is in the light of
the morning, enabling us to recognize who He is and how we might
walk in His ways. This is why the morning with its light and warmth
corresponds to the Lord’s coming. (see Arcana Coelestia 22, 4240e;
Doctrine Concerning the Sacred Scripture 99)

For the Lord came as the light of the world. This is His glory.
We can see it shining upon us in the truth His advent brought. For
until the Lord took on a physical form as a tender infant, all the earlier
concepts of Him were vague at best. (see Doctrine Concerning the
Sacred Scripture 99)

All of the true ideas that had existed with the ancients about
marriage, life continuing past the veil of this world, and how His
providence guides us were only misty images of what they might be.
For all truth had been filtered through the heavens. Dependent upon
the finite grasp of the angels, the glory of the Lord had shone dimmer
and dimmer into this world, until at last the vision of Him was nearly
lost.

By His birth the Lord acquired a natural degree of life. As He
put it on and gradually made it Divine, the warmth of His love and the
light of His wisdom became immediately present with all. This is the
light of the new day the Lord’s coming heralded for mankind, a light
shining in the darkness, leading to the brilliance of day. We can
sense this when we reflect upon our awakening states not those
mornings which come after too little sleep, or when we are rudely
awakened by alarms and the bustle of hurriedly preparing to rush off
to work. But we feel it in the quiet mornings when we awake
refreshed and revived when we listen to the singing of the birds and
know the dazzling sunlight portends the warming of the earth. The
light has a special quality then. With clarity we see beauty in even the
simplest things around us. And we can sense the closeness of
heaven, the closeness of the Lord’s Advent as our spirits are lifted up
to the new day. (see Arcana Coelestia 7844:2)

As the Word made flesh, the glory of the Lord can bring us a
peacefulness unlike any other. Not a peace like the quiet of evening
when we are preparing to rest. Rather it is a peace of contentment
and confidence. As the Heavenly Doctrines note, this peace is “the
very Divine truth in heaven from the Lord which universally affects all
who are there and makes heaven to be heaven; for peace has in it
confidence in the Lord, that He directs all things and provides all
things, and that He leads to a good end. When a person is in this
state, he is in peace, for he then fears nothing, and no worry about
things to come disturbs him.” (Arcana Coelestia 8455) The glory of
the Lord’s Word shines upon us when we have such assurance that
He is in charge, carefully guiding every one of our steps.

This is the state of the angels. Their unpleasant memories of
this earth have been set aside. They have no desire to leap into the
future. Rather they fully enjoy the present, sensing all the goodness
that the Lord is giving them now. For they trust in Him, knowing that
He is leading and caring for them no matter what happens.

We may taste some of this angelic peace as we celebrate the
Lord’s advent or awaken in the morning. But we enter into it more and
more as we set aside the things of this world: worry about the future,
too great a focus on natural toys and conveniences, our selfish drives
and desires. To the extent that we can enjoy earthly delights without
making them all important, that we can serve others without always
thinking about what we will get out of it, so far peace can enter our
lives. It is then that we become convinced that the Lord’s light is the
true light and most of the problems and troubles we experience can
fall away. It is then that we can glimpse the Lord and experience His
peace, His Advent into our lives.

In one sense there is nothing startlingly new or different about
this idea. Indeed, it is so simple, so fundamental, that it hardly needs
to be said. So we are affected by the Word made flesh as the Divine
flows into some of the simple truths we already know. This is one of
the reasons the Lord was born on earth that the Divine goodness
might be joined with our common sense and simple ideas of Him that
we have. (see Arcana Coelestia 2554)

The Lord’s birth itself did not reveal any radical new information
that had not been available before. In fact there would be no real
instruction until thirty years later when the Lord began His public
ministry. But His birth signaled a beginning of salvation for all
because His presence, His love for us all, was proclaimed by His
coming down among us, filling us with His good.

For us now, the Christmas story reveals His glory, the brilliance
of His Divine Human in which we may know and love Him. The Divine
as it is in Itself is far beyond our comprehension and affection, even
as it was for the ancients. So the Lord was born that we might see
His nature and have it shed light on our lives, giving us the
confidence and trust that He is always with us, always leading us in
paths of peace.

The Lord then becomes flesh and dwells among us when even
our limited, simple ideas of truth can be filled with His presence,
showing us something of His love. For the Lord’s coming into our life
is not simply to make us feel good. Yes, the Lord would have us
experience states of happiness and joy regularly, and eventually in
heaven constantly. While He may be born in our states of darkness,
His full Advent is to us in light the truth of His Word which can fill our
minds. Every time we recognize a concept as Divine, as coming from
Him and leading our minds back to His love and mercy, His advent
has occurred. Then the Word is made flesh, living, for us. We are
touched by it, we are enlightened by it, and we are strengthened by it.
(see Arcana Coelestia 8792)

This is our sight of the Lord, His birth among us. It brings us
light, and it will bring us warmth. We can embrace this light, this new
vision of the Divine, and use it to recognize and follow His teachings.
(see True Christian Religion 774) Then the truth of peace will be ours.
So let this Christmas day affect us with the joys of morning. As
its light brings a new brightness to our day, as its warmth stirs a
renewed heat in our lives, let us feel the Lord’s closeness to us. His
birth on earth was the taking on of a natural form of life that we might
know Him, see Him, and love Him. As we put off an excessive focus
on the things of this world and upon our concerns, He can come
closer to us, bringing us the peace of dawn-a peace that has within it
complete confidence in His truth, in His guidance, a complete
confidence that a heaven shall be made from this human race.
This was the reason for His coming to touch our hearts and
enlighten our minds, that He might become the Word made flesh for
us eternally. Let us behold His glory, full of grace and truth.
Amen.
Lessons: Luke 2:1-7; John 1:1-18; Arcana Coelestia 8455

https://newchurch.org/

DAILY INSPIRATION

“Knowing a lot makes no difference if we do not live by what we know.”

Arcana Coelestia 1100

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What really happened at Easter?

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Spiritual Topics

By New Christian Bible Study Staff

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Cherry Blossom

What does the New Church teach about Easter? It’s a short question, but it involves a big network of connected ideas. It can’t be answered right in a sound bite, so bear with me…

First, we believe in God – just one God – who creates and sustains everything, including our physical universe.

We believe that God is love itself, and wisdom itself. It is the nature of love to want to love others outside of oneself, and to make them happy, and to be conjoined with them. It is the nature of wisdom to provide the means, the know-how, to bring love into effect.

God, acting from his core of Divine Love, using his Divine Wisdom, created the universe (the Big Bang?), and, eventually, as part of it, our galaxy, solar system, and the Earth. Through his creative providence, life began on earth. Over millions of years, it evolved into progressively more complex life forms, until, in time, God could bring about the development of human beings with rational minds capable of understanding spiritual truths. Through those truths, people would be able to love one another as neighbors, and to love God, walk in his ways, receive his love and wisdom, and be conjoined to Him.

It’s part of God’s Providence to always keep open a way to communicate with us, so that we can receive truths accommodated to our state. He communicated with early humans through a more direct awareness, but as we became more external, he used some men as prophets, or revelators, to write down his truths, and to tell them to others. Some of these revelations are very ancient, by human standards. In the Books of Moses, maybe 3500 years old themselves, Moses refers to even more ancient books – “The Wars of Jehovah”, “Annunciations”, and “The Book of Jasher”, which formed parts of an ancient Word.

At the time before Jesus Christ was born, the truths from the Ancient Word had been corrupted or largely forgotten, and polytheism and idolatry were widespread. Of the 12 tribes of the Children of Israel, 10 were dispersed, and swallowed up into the surrounding culture. In Jerusalem and its surrounds, the Jewish church still preserved the Old Testament, and the faithful still observed its tenets, but even within Judaism, some of the external worship was hollow. There were still some people in simple good, who would receive the Lord’s new truths gladly – Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, Zacharias, Anna, Simeon, and later the apostles, and then the multitudes who gathered to hear Jesus preach the truth, and to be healed by Him.

The New Church teaches that Jesus Christ was God himself, who took on a human body, so that he could live among us, and teach us the essential truths we need so that we can follow them, and by doing so open our minds to receive and transmit his love.

We also believe that part of his method of redeeming us was to take on a human heredity with its temptability, so that he could directly fight evil. Where was the evil coming from? We believe that people have immortal souls. When our bodies die, we live on in a spiritual world. In that world, we can’t pretend we are good if we are not – our true natures become evident. And, we gravitate towards like-minded people, much as we do in this world, except with clearer sight. If we fundamentally love our neighbor and God more than ourselves, we will create friendly, neighborly societies. If we fundamentally are looking out for “number one”, our societies will tend towards the nasty, forming hellish places. God didn’t create hell, but he does not force us to be good, since that would destroy our freedom. So, he permits us to create hells for ourselves. We can do it on earth too, when evil people have power. Nazi Germany was one ultra-clear example of this, among too many others.

Now, in the New Church we believe, as many people do, that there is a relationship between the spiritual world and the natural world, and that we are subject to spiritual influences. The popular image of the guardian angel actually has some basis in spiritual fact, and the image of the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other is also more real than is comfortable to think about.

We are tempted, while living our lives, to do evil things. These temptations flow into us from evil people in the spiritual world. In the normal order of things, the power of this evil is kept in check by balancing influx from heaven, where the Lord’s love flows through good societies and communicates itself to us. At the time of the Lord’s birth, the balance was precarious – the hells had grown too strong and evil was too influential. We see illustrations of this in the stories of the New Testament, where Jesus and his disciples in many cases are healing demon-possessed people.

So, part of the Lord’s mission was to rein in the power of hellish influence, and he did this by allowing himself to be tempted through the human that had had taken on from Mary, and by winning each temptation in turn, to cap the power of each hellish society. In the stories of the New Testament we see some of those temptations – when He was tempted by the devil in the wilderness, and in the Garden of Gethsemane, and on the cross. But, he conquered each one, even the final ones where he was doubting whether His mission had succeeded.

What, then, happened at Easter?

God incarnate had come to earth, as Jesus Christ, fulfilling a whole series of Old Testament prophecies. He had, through a lifelong series of temptations, fought with and subdued the powers of hell, restoring the balance which allowed people to freely choose their course in life. He had taught us the new truths that we needed, so that we could learn, if we wanted to, how to be good. He had opened a new channel of communication – we could now picture him in human form – not just as a remote, formless God, but as a Divinely Human God who loves us, wants to save us, and in whose image and likeness we are made.

The crucifixion was the climactic temptation, and victory, in a life of victory over evil. The human body that the Lord took on from Mary was glorified, converted to Divine substance. That’s why it was not found in the tomb on Easter Sunday, when the stone was rolled away.

After Easter, the Lord could – and did – still appear to his followers, but they were seeing him with their spiritual eyes opened. They followed him to Galilee, and witnessed his ascension to heaven. And then they spread out around the world, teaching the truths that he had taught them, and leading by example, so that Christianity became the world’s largest religion.

As the Christian religion spread, false ideas crept into it. Here are some key points in our belief, that combat those falsities:

– We don’t believe that Jesus was a separate person from God. He was God.

– We don’t believe that he sacrificed himself on the cross to atone to God for the sins of humankind. He WAS God. Instead, he allowed himself to be crucified because by doing that he could show that even the death of the physical body was not something final – not something that really had power over good and truth. His resurrection was the key event.

We believe that Mary was good, but not that she was perfect, nor that she was born without sin. She was chosen to be the mother of the Lord because she was, like Joseph, part of the remnant of simple, good people who obeyed the Lord’s will, and whose faith would enable the fulfillment of His mission. However, the heredity through Mary contained normal tendencies towards evil that opened Jesus to temptations, which was a necessary part of the plan.

There are also non-Christian ideas that have currency in our culture, though we think they are false. Here are some key points in our belief:

– We do not believe that Jesus Christ had a romance with or married Mary Magdalene.

– We do not believe that Jesus Christ was merely a good teacher or man of exemplary character, who was later deified by his disciples.

– We DO believe that Jesus Christ did exist as a historical figure, and that he was God incarnate, and that the Gospels contain essential truths that we should live by.

http://newchristianbiblestudy.org/

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The God We Worship

The God We Worship
A Sermon by the Rev. Peter M. Buss, Jr.

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“Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient
for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and yet you
have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the
Father’” (John 14:8-9).
Jesus and His disciples. If we look closely at the Lord’s
relationship with His disciples, one of the primary things He tried to do
for them was teach them who He was (and still is). He wanted them
to know that He was Divine. Through His miracles, His
transfiguration, His walking on the water, His raising of Lazarus from
the dead, and finally His own resurrection, He was working to get
them to understand that He was (as one teaching in the Writings for
the New Church puts it), “Infinite, Uncreate, Almighty, God and Lord,
altogether equal to the Father” (Doctrine of the Lord 55)-at least as
far as they could understand these things.

He has some success. Speaking for the disciples, Peter once
said: “We have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the
Son of the living God” (John 6:69; cf. Matthew 16:16). And after
Thomas saw that Jesus had indeed risen as He said, he professed
His faith by saying, “My Lord, and My God” (John 20:28).
There is but one God. And yet, when it comes right down to it,
even these disciples didn’t quite understand the central message
Jesus was trying to convey. They could not comprehend that He was
the one God of heaven and earth. They could believe that He was the
Son of God, but not God Himself, Jehovah came down on earth.

They are not to blame for their misunderstanding. After all they talked
with Jesus, ate with Him, traveled with Him-He was a Person to them.
They also heard Him talk about God His Father, as if He was talking
about someone else. So Jesus led them as far as He could in the
right direction-that He was the Son of the living God. Anything beyond
that was “wholly incomprehensible” to them (see Arcana Caelestia
6993:2). We have to remember that at the time of the Lord’s birth
there was extreme darkness in all the world about spiritual things.
Jesus brought about the dawning of a new church which would see
more clearly. And at such a dawning, there was a beginning of
understanding, a beginning of belief and worship, with many things
yet to be said and comprehended. As Jesus Himself said: “I still have
many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However,
when He, the Spirit of Truth, has come, He will guide you into all
truth” (John 16:12-13).

We now live in an era where that new truth is available. The
Lord has revealed the truth He promised to reveal. He has opened up
for us the Scriptures, and in them we may now see the truth about
Him-the truth He taught so long ago, and yet was not completely
understood. He wants us to be absolutely clear about things those
people were just beginning to understand. There are not two
Persons, or three in the God-head. There is one God, the Lord Jesus
Christ, and He is the one we are to believe in and worship. This is
why He was so blunt with Philip when he requested in innocence
(and perhaps even frustration): “Lord, show us the Father and it is
sufficient for us” (John 14:8).

As we read, He said to Philip: “Have I been with you so long,
and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has
seen the Father, so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you
not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in Me? Believe Me
that I am in the Father and the Father in Me” (John 14:9-11).
The central truth of the Word of God, the truth that Jesus tried
so hard to get people to believe while on earth is that there is but one
God. He is not only the Son of God, but the God of heaven and earth,
and one with the Father (see True Christian Religion 379). This is
what we are all called upon to believe.

The importance of a correct idea of God. There is a teaching in
the work of the Writings called True Christian Religion, a work
appropriately named for this topic, which describes how important it is
for us to understand who our God is: A correct idea of God is to the
congregation like the sanctuary and alter in a church, or like a crown
on the head and a scepter in the hand of a king, as he sits upon his
throne. From this hangs the whole body of theology, like a chain from
its anchor-point. If you are prepared to believe me, the idea everyone
has of God determines his place in the heavens (True Christian
Religion 163).

Why is it so important for us to have a correct idea about God?
Why is it that this one teaching-this one facet of belief will determine
our welfare to eternity? Why is it like the sanctuary and altar in a
church, or like the crown and scepter of a king? Why is it the most
important concept in all of religion? If I were to ask of all of you here
today, “How do you get to heaven?” I’d probably get responses such
as this: “Live a good life”, “Obey the Lord’s commandments”, “Shun
evils as sins against the Lord and then live a good life” or something
along those lines. And these would be correct answers.

But a correct idea and belief in the Lord is even more basic
than these statements. It is no accident that there are two great
commandments. The second one is: “You shall love your neighbor as
yourself” (Matthew 22:39). In general this is a command to live a
good life. But the first and great commandment in the Law is to love
the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our
mind (see Matthew 22:37-38). The reason for this is that we need to
know who is asking us to live a good life. For religion to make sense,
we have to know what kind of God the Lord is. Why is He asking us
to act in certain ways? If we don’t understand why He needs us to act
according to His commandments, what’s to convince us to do so
when the going gets tough, when temptation sets in and we feel like
doing something else? The truth about God is indeed the starting
point from which all the other facets of religion hang as links of a
chain from an anchor point.

Father/Son imagery. Now some people might raise a legitimate
complaint about the way the Lord has put His Word together. If it is so
important for us to know who the Lord is, and specifically to
acknowledge that He, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the one God of
heaven and earth, why didn’t He just say so? Why in the world would
He leave anything in His Word which would confuse us, or cause
many people to misunderstand this most central teaching? Why
would He speak to the Father as if to another? Why would He call
Himself the Son of God, and yet expect us to believe that He is more
than that?

We already discussed one reason: the people alive during His
life on earth could not believe anything further than that He was the
Son of God, and not God Himself. This is an important reason, for the
Lord always accommodates Himself to the understanding of the
people He is trying to lead. He is constantly trying to make Himself
accessible and knowable to the extent possible. And He did just that
for the people He taught and healed while He was on earth.
But, as you have probably already realized, there is a much
deeper and more profound reason for the way the gospels were put
together. There is a truth about the Lord our God which is played out
for us in the stories about Father and Son which we could not know
otherwise. There are three ideas I’d like to share with you today
which illustrate how the Father / Son imagery can help us, rather than
be a source of confusion.

1. Many names for one God. First, let us remember that when
we’re discussing the Lord, we’re discussing the Infinite. And, as one
teaching so eloquently points out: “The human mind, for all its
loftiness and superb analytical power, is finite, and there is no way of
rendering it anything but finite. Therefore it is incapable of seeing the
infinity of God as it is in itself, and so of seeing God (True Christian
Religion 28).

It goes on to say that we can see God in shadow-in other
words, as He has revealed Himself in Scripture. This is where the
various names of the Lord help us out tremendously. We cannot
know everything there is to know about God; indeed we would be
foolish to try. But the Lord has made it easier for us to know some
things. He has given us an ability to look at different facets of Him,
different Divine qualities that He possesses. And He labels each one
of these qualities with a different name for Himself. So we have
Jesus, which means “Savior,” and we have “Christ” which means
“King;” and Jehovah, which literally means “the One who Is, or
exists;” and “Immanuel” which means “God with us.” We also have
some of His activities categorized under different names: He is the
Creator and Redeemer, He is our Preserver and Comforter. All
of these things help us to look at one aspect of God at a time, to
understand it, and put it together with the other things we know about
Him, so that our faith in Him can develop.

The same is true of the three most dominant names for God,
which are Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These also are different
aspects of the one God, highlighting certain of His Divine qualities, so
that we can come to understand our God more fully. So the first idea
about the imagery of the trinity is that, although it may seem like a
source of confusion for people, it is actually designed to help us
understand our God more fully.

2. The Trinity. The second idea which will help us see the value
in the imagery of the Trinity, is to see in concept how these three
make one. There is one teaching which is extremely helpful in this
regard. It goes like this: These three, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, are
the three essentials of a single God, which make one as soul, body
and activity do with a person (True Christian Religion 166).
The beauty of this teaching is that it makes so much sense. We
all have a soul-a life force within us. We all have a body. And these
two together make it possible for us to do things-to think and speak
and act, to walk, to express love, to reason, and to serve other
people. Working from this fundamental way in which we have been
created, we can come to realize that it works the same way for God,
for we are created in His image and in His likeness (see Genesis
1:26-27). That means that God has a soul, a body, and that He acts
by means of these two. The conclusion then is that “Father” is the
name which describes the Soul of the Lord, or His life-force-why He
acts, what He cares about, who He is at His core; “Son” is the name
of God which describes His body-the Human form we see in our Lord
Jesus Christ, showing forth or revealing to all who He is, and what He
wants for us; and “Holy Spirit” is the name given to what God doesthe
effect He has on us, the providence, enlightenment, comfort, and
eventual salvation He can bring to us.

3. The soul, body, and activity of God. With this construct of
soul, body and activity of the Lord, we turn to our third idea about the
Father / Son imagery of the gospels-specifically to one story where all
these ideas come together. The story is the one of Philip asking to be
shown the Father, to which Jesus responded, “He who has seen Me
has seen the Father.” Jesus began this teaching episode by saying to
His disciples: “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not
so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John
14:2).

We can now understand what He was really saying to them. If
we think about the “Father” as the soul or life-force of God, we can
see that His inmost desire is to bring us into heaven. What drives
God at His very core, and causes Him to do every single thing He
does, is love-a love for us, and a desire to make us happy from
Himself (see True Christian Religion 43). This is God in Himself: love
for all people, and that love is described by the name “Father.” What
better image could we be given of God’s love, than that of a Divine
Parent who cares for His children with infinite mercy?

And yet, Jesus says that He would prepare this place in heaven
for us; that He would return and lead us there. Further He explained
to the disciples (and to us), that we know how to get there: where He
goes, we know, and the way we know (see John 14:3-4). Thomas
reacted to this statement by saying: “Lord, we do not know where
You are going, and how can we know the way?” And Jesus replied: “I
am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but
by Me” (John 14:5-6).

These words describe Jesus Christ, who called Himself the Son
of God. “No one comes to the Father, except through Me.” “I am the
Way the Truth and the Life.” This is why Jesus came on earth in the
first place-to reveal to people through His actions and His teachings
what kind of God He is and what He expects from us. We have many
teachings about our Lord, and all of them help us to understand Himall
of them point to the fact that He is a God of love-a God who cares
for us with more compassion and mercy than any human being could
ever do. This is what Jesus Christ showed to us. This is the God
teaching us about Himself, showing us what His plans are for us, and
explaining why He asks us to act in certain ways. The Son teaches us
this, and through the Son, we see the love of the Father, or through
the body of our Lord, we see His soul. As a teaching in the work True
Christian Religion says:

“By means of the Human, Jehovah God brought Himself into
the world and made Himself visible to human eyes, and thus
accessible (True Christian Religion 188:6).

And once we realize that He is accessible, we can see that He
can make a difference in our lives: He can affect us. This is His
operation, which is described under the name of the Holy Spirit.
Conclusion. The beauty of these concept of our God is that they
makes Him believable. He has a singularity of focus: all His energy is
directed towards making us happy to eternity in heaven. Everything
He teaches leads us towards that goal. In everything He does, He
works to bring us closer to Him so that He can be a bigger part of our
lives. He wants us to understand that He, the Lord Jesus Christ, is
our one and only God. He wants us to understand the way He has
put the gospels together that we can see more about Him through the
Father/Son imagery than we could without it. By means of the stories
of Jesus Christ, living in this world, teaching people and healing them,
He offers us a real picture of the kind of God He is-not merely an
intercessor between us and God the Father, but God Himself who
has the ability to teach us and heal our lives. He is one with the
Father. This is the truth that Jesus was trying so hard to get His
disciples to understand. There is but one God, and we are to place
our lives in His hands. It is the first and great commandment,
expressed in this way: “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is
One. You shall love the Lord Your God with all your heart, with all
your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).
Amen.
The Lessons: Deuteronomy 6:1-9; John 14:1-11; True Christian
Religion 379

https://newchurch.org/

DAILY INSPIRATION

“Before a person can know what truth is, or be moved by good, the things that hinder and offer resistance must be removed.”

Arcana Coelestia 18

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The Doctrines Of The New Church

HR90THE SCIENCE OF CORRESPONDENCE

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PSK734b<< THE DOCTRINES OF THE NEW CHURCH >>
A SPIRITUAL SCIENCE.

“Behold, I make all things new.”—Revelation xxi. 5.

Image result for "Behold, I make all things new."—Revelation xxi. 5.

WE live in a miraculous age. Our lot has been cast in the midst of those tremendous changes in man’s spiritual condition which could be fitly typified only by the most stupendous convulsions in the material world, —by the darkening of the sun in the heavens, the falling of the stars from their places ; by conflagrations and cosmic storms ; and by the creation of new heavens and a new earth.

It is our happiness as New-Churchmen to know the meaning of these prophetic symbols, and, secure from harm from these convulsions, and unterrified by the noise and wild fury of old systems falling to ruin, and the collision of chaotic forms of belief, to stand upon the new earth rising fresh and fair from the ruins of the old, and to see the new heavens, clear and serene, overarching human life,—heavens whose moon is brighter than the sun of the former age, and whose sun shines with seven-fold splendor.

I ask your attention to one of the distinct and peculiar characteristics of this age, one which clearly entitles it to the claim of being the fulfilment of the Divine promise, ”Behold, I make all things new;” which will make it enduring as the power of the Lord to create human souls, will give it the excellence of heavenly graces, the beauty of heavenly forms, the power and glory of Divine truth, and imbue it with the blessedness of heavenly peace ; which will make it the Lord’s kingdom on earth. I say, “will make it,” for this new day of the Lord, even to the most advanced minds, is yet only in the gray of the morning. Its full-orbed sun is yet below the horizon, and the mass of the people are still asleep in the shadow of the valley. Some of them are indeed stirred by a new breath of power, but “whence it cometh and whither it goeth” they cannot tell. It is the unconscious influence of the Divine force which precedes the light, which opens the eyes and prepares them for its reception. But enough of the light has been seen by some minds, watching for the morning, to reveal its true nature and to give undoubted assurance that it is not the twilight of an age passing away, but the morning of a spiritual age which is new in spirit, new in form, new in power, and will be new in life. The characteristic of the new age to which I invite your attention is one peculiar to its genius, which gives it a surpassing excellence. I propose to speak of the truths of the New Church as a spiritual science.

By science I mean the laws of the Divine order as they exist in the creation, the methods of the Divine wisdom in effecting the purposes of the Divine love in their connections and relations. The Lord’s methods of working in nature constitute natural science. When we discover those methods and the relation of one substance and of one form to another, and of causes to their effects, that knowledge constitutes science. Science treats of substances and forces and forms in their connections and relations, and reveals the laws and methods by which many things make one. Science is spiritual when it relates to spiritual subjects. The same conditions are essential to a spiritual as to a natural science. Let us consider what those conditions are. . First, science must be based upon facts. It is as impossible to construct a science without facts as it is to build a stone wall without stones. Science cannot be constructed with fancies, or opinions, or of facts even as they appear to the senses. Nor can it be formed by a mere accumulation of facts. Science is formed by insight into the intrinsic forms and qualities of isolated facts, by which their relations to other facts are seen, and the higher laws and qualities common to all the particular facts are discovered.

It is now known that all the kingdoms of nature, and all the individuals in each kingdom, are bound together, penetrated, and moved by substances and forces of a finer and more subtile nature than the coarse concrete forms which clothe and hide them. The knowledge of these forces and the laws according to which they act upon every particular object, and of how the stone and plant and animal welcome and treat, receive or reject, use or reflect these, to them, heavenly visitors, is the science of nature.

Spiritual science requires spiritual facts. These are given us in the doctrines of the New Church. Swedenborg’s introduction into the spiritual world, and his statement, from living experience, of what is done there by the Lord and angels and spirits, was just as necessary to a spiritual science as a man’s introduction into this world and the ability to see and hear what the Lord is doing here, and what men are doing, and how they are doing it, is an essential condition of any natural science. The claim of Swedenborg to have done this, a claim to which men take strong exceptions, is absolutely essential to the work he performed. His doctrines of man’s nature and relations are not based upon fancies or opinions, but upon facts, upon what takes place in the spirit. He has also rendered to men this further service and given this larger evidence of the truth of his claims ; he has shown us how to descend from the palaces of spiritual truth into the paradise of nature, and to find the higher laws of the spirit ruling in corresponding forms and working by similar methods in animal, plant, and mineral.

One of the causes which has made the endless discussion of religious questions so fruitless in results is the want of any fixed and clearly-defined subject of spiritual knowledge. The New Church stands on the solid basis of spiritual substance. It deals with realities. The spiritual world is the real world, the spirit is the real man ; its laws of culture and development are as definite and immutable as the laws of nature ; they are also ascertainable and capable of precise application. We have the same basis for progress in spiritual knowledge and life that we have for progress in natural knowledge and life in this world. The spiritual body is presented to us for examination, as real and substantial as the material body which is presented to the physiologist for his study.

We are introduced into a distinct and substantial world, and we are furnished with true principles for our guidance. So far as regards a substantial basis, therefore, we are as thoroughly equipped for progress in spiritual knowledge for the attainment of some distinct and desirable end as the men of science are for knowledge of physical laws and their use in our natural progress.

There is also no dearth of material for endless advance in spiritual knowledge. The science of correspondences, which reveals the definite relation between natural effects and spiritual causes, opens in nature, and especially in the natural symbols of the Sacred Scriptures, exhaustless depths of spiritual knowledge. Every natural object and act mentioned in the Scriptures is the outward form and expression of a spiritual fact or a series of facts, one lying within the other, and all so connected and related that they reveal the means and the order of man’s spiritual creation and of his relations to the Source of life. We shall never want for facts, therefore. Science will sooner exhaust nature than any finite mind can exhaust the forms of spiritual truth contained in the Sacred Scriptures.

The doctrines of the new age possess also in an eminent degree the second essential of a true science ; they are organized truth. They are not assertions made upon personal authority ; they are not detached and unrelated truths ; much less are they conflicting statements which destroy one another. They bear the same relation to spiritual facts that a house does to the materials of which it is constructed, or that the wonderful structure of the body bears to the food which nourishes it. They are a symmetrical whole, composed of intimately related parts, a house fitted to be the home of heavenly affections and the indwelling life of the Lord.

Science teaches us how to use facts. Rational knowledge shows the ratio or relation of one thing or of one being to another, by which the unity of life is discovered. The plan and form and function of the various mental faculties are shown by true spiritual science. In this respect we are better equipped for spiritual progress than the scientific man is for natural progress. Here we find again the inestimable service which Swedenborg has rendered us. He has given us the laws of spiritual life as they are derived from the Lord and exist in man. We have only to learn them and to examine spiritual facts in their light to see their true nature and relations. We can verify the general law by particular facts. The principle is seen at first in outline more or less distinctly ; but every new particular fills up the outline, brings new light to it, and is a new witness to its truth. Having rational knowledge we know how to dispose of the facts as we learn them. We see their relations to other facts and to the central principle which underlies the whole. They fall into their places and tend to unity. Beneath the illusion of appearances we see order, harmony, and the most powerful forces working according to immutable law for human good.

This is a new and distinct step, and gives man the same help in spiritual progress that a rational knowledge of the substances and forces of nature has given him in natural progress. It forms a basis on which he can stand. It gives him power to wield his materials, to build up his life, and to come into orderly and helpful relations to others. His knowledge changes from a thicket, in which he gets entangled by a multiplicity of apparently unrelated and incongruous forms, to a garden with sure paths which lead from blossom to fruit, from labor to attainment. He comes out of confusion and chaos into harmonious and established order.

The doctrines of the New Church are a statement of the laws of man’s regeneration, spiritual culture, and growth in heavenly life, and of his relations to the Lord, to angels, spirits, and men ; to the spiritual world on one side of his nature, and to the material world on the other. They possess all the qualities of a true science of the spirit ; they will meet every requirement for the most varied and fullest development of our spiritual faculties and the attainment of every natural, spiritual, and heavenly good which man can conceive and the Lord can give.

Science not only introduces us into a world of new truths, gives us clearer light, enlarges the horizon of thought, and reveals to us the beauty and harmony of the Divine order, but it teaches us how to employ the substances and forces we have discovered for our own use. We are all familiar with the achievements of natural science in this respect. It has discovered and brought into common use tireless forces of exhaustless power which bear our burdens, run upon our errands, do our work, and minister to our comfort in manifold ways. Science has not only revealed them, but it has taught us how to use them. It has harnessed them to our service ; it has put the reins into our hands by which we can control and guide them. Spiritual science will render the same service to us on the spiritual plane of life. It not only introduces us into a new world of spiritual truth, illuminates the understanding with its light, and charms the soul with its beauty ; it not only places us in the midst of the Divine harmonies and unveils the forms of spiritual substances and forces as much superior to natural forces in power and capacity for human good as the soul is more excellent than the body, but it teaches us how to use them to overcome our spiritual enemies, to remove the obstacles to our progress, and to help us in the development of our noblest faculties and the attainment of our highest good.

There is conclusive evidence that men, urged by their needs and stimulated by their hopes, are demanding a knowledge of spiritual truth which is based on facts, which is logically consistent, and leads to practical results. Wearied with fruitless labor, distracted with doubts, tormented by conflicting passions, despairing of help from the past, hungry for meat that will feed their famished souls, and with aspirations for a higher life than they have found the method and means of obtaining, they are waiting in despair or turning with hope to a new day. They find that all things in the material world are related and indissolubly bound together ; that unconnected existence, even for the stone, is impossible. They see method, order, subordination existing in all things great and small, and immutable law governing all the Lord’s operations in nature, and they logically conclude that the same principles and methods rule in the realm of spirit. They see that the Lord does not work at random in the creation and development of the plant and the material body, and they pertinently ask why He should do it in the formation of the spirit. All the tendencies of the age, all its movements, its hopes, and even its doubt and denial and despair, and all those subtile and delicate but powerful currents which sway the feelings before they awaken thought, which kindle hope and turn the face in the direction of the new light, point with unerring finger to a scientific and rational knowledge of spiritual truth ; they prophesy the existence of an order, method, and law of the spirit, of the same nature as those which exist in the material universe. The claim that a spiritual science is possible does not come from a few minds alone disaffected with the confusion and comparatively fruitless religious doctrines of the past ; it comes from every form and movement in nature ; the stone embodies it, the grass and the vine and every tree of the forest speak of it, the instinct of the animal proclaims it. Every principle in man’ s nature declares the possibility of a spiritual science, because it is itself the embodiment of it. But especially the rational faculties of the mind demand rational knowledge as the eye demands light, the fin water, the wing air, and the body food ; and whatever the Lord has given man the power to want. He has provided the means to supply. The existence of a Divine order in spiritual growth and attainment is certain, and the ability of man to receive and understand the knowledge of it and come into the Hfe and joy of it is as sure as that plants will blossom and bear fruit, and that seedtime and harvest will continue.

Let us then notice some of the effects which a rational knowledge of spiritual truth and a life conformable to that knowledge must legitimately and certainly produce. Fortunately we are not left to conjecture concerning these results. We have a complete demonstration of the power of rational knowledge in the miracles which science has wrought on the natural plane of life. If a true knowledge of the forms, forces, and qualities of nature can change the face of the world, modify all human conditions, and bring into the service of man a multitude of powerful, tireless forces to bear his burdens, run upon his errands, and in manifold ways minister to his wants, what limits can we assign to the power of a rational knowledge of spiritual substances and the laws of their activities and relations? The results of such knowledge must be as much greater and more beneficent in the spiritual realm of life as the knowledge itself is higher in degree and more excellent in its forms. It is not possible to overestimate its beneficent effects, for it is a knowledge of causes, of vital forces ; it deals with the sources of power; it is the true knowledge of God and of man and of theirrelations to each other.

The effects of a rational knowledge of spiritual truth will be both negative and positive. The truth not only gives man power and light, but it frees him from many obstacles to his progress. The truth makes him free. It frees him from groundless fears. When we do not know the way we fear that every step may lead to danger. It is natural for us to fill the unknown with terrors. Before the light of science had dawned upon the earth, any deviation from the accustomed order of nature, as an eclipse of the sun or moon, filled the minds of men with superstitious fears. They trembled at the dire calamities which they supposed such phenomena to forebode. The same occurrence now gives pleasure to millions, and is the means of much useful knowledge. In spiritual life men are tormented and held in cruel bondage by groundless fears. There is the fear of coming evils which never come and have no existence ; the fear that the Lord is our enemy when He is our infinite and unchangeable Friend ; the fear of death as the most terrible calamity, when it is an orderly step in life ; and a multitude of other fears, wholly groundless, which destroy man’s peace and paralyze his power. A knowledge of spiritual truth will disperse the darkness of ignorance in which these spiritual fears are bred, chase them away as the coming sun dispels the night and all its hideous forms.

Again, genuine spiritual knowledge will free the mind from doubt. Man’s progress in spiritual life is constantly retarded by doubts. He goes to and fro instead of moving on to new attainments ; he stands still instead of advancing ; he rejects the truth when offered to him ; his steps are halting, his courage weak ; he hesitates and lingers and is distracted by conflicting influences, misses the chances of life, and fails of any great attainment in spiritual development, because he is not sure of the path which leads to it. The misgivings, the fears and torments which the noblest minds have suffered from this cause are one of the most mournful phases in the sad history of humanity. Men do not doubt about what they know ; it is when they do not know, or when they see in the twilight only the flitting forms of appearances that they doubt. Genuine knowledge carries the conviction of certainty with it. This is the eflect of the doctrines of the New Church upon those who know them. This benign power will increase until all doubts are dispelledand man will walk in the freedom and joy of the new light, with firm and sure steps, in a straight path to the attainment of the highest ends.

A result of rational knowledge is constant increase of light. Every new truth verifies the principle to which it relates. Every new truth is a new star in the firmament of the mind. All progress in knowledge, natural as well as spiritual, is from evening to morning, and from morning to bright day. Many have accepted the doctrines of the New Church, at first with a hope tremulous with fear that they might come to a point where they would find their way obstructed with insoluble problems and darkness again gathering over them. But it has been their blessed experience to find the way becoming clearer ; difficulties vanish, problems which were supposed to be beyond human skill to solve yield readily to the new power, paths open into broad spaces which seemed closed to human approach, mysteries are understood, and light increases at every step. When we come into the harmonies of the Divine order we begin to see truth in the light of truth. Genuine truth is its own witness ; it shines with its own light, it reveals its own nature, and it fills the mind with light. This is the history of science, and it accords with the experience of every man and woman who has come into the light of the new age.

This gradual and constant increase of light also produces a conviction, which finally amounts to a certainty, that we are on the right road to the attainment of the end we are seeking. When we discover new truths in harmony with those already known, we get new and stronger confirmations of what we have already learned ; we are attracted by the new beauty, we are stimulated to new activity, we are always attaining ; new gates open into broader fields of truth, and the’ certainty of conviction that we are on the right path which leads to the everreceding goal of perfection fills the mind with a sweet and profound peace. We are coming into the order of the Divine wisdom ; we see the way to make ourselves a part of the Divine harmony.

It is a remarkable fact in the history of humanity that men have regarded those who were the most friendly to them as their direst enemies, and those steps in life which have been provided by infinite love and wisdom for their highest good as the most terrible calamities. They have fled from their friends, they have been blind to the richest treasures of truth which lay before them, they have been tormented with groundless fears, have wandered in darkness when the light was shining all around them, and have been crushed with self-imposed burdens when almighty power was offered to lift them from their shoulders.

The rational knowledge of the new age clears away all these shadows, dispels the appearances which have surrounded human life with illusions, and places man in the midst of forces of omnipotent power friendly to every human interest, and teaches him how to use them for the development of the highest plane of his being. It gives him definite, practical knowledge. It reveals to him the true ends of life, puts the means of attaining them into his hand, and shows him how to use them. It must, therefore, render him the same service as a spiritual being, as a citizen of a spiritual world in which he is to find his home and to dwell forever, that a knowledge of the finer substances and forces of nature has rendered him as a material being- and son of earth and time. It must change the whole aspect of human life ; it must give an immense impulse to progress in spiritual knowledge ; it must give fulness, clearness, directness, and precision to every effort for spiritual culture ; it must bring man into such relations to the Lord that he will know what to do and how to do it to come into orderly relations with Plim, and to open every faculty of the soul to Divine influence, to be with the Lord where He is, and thus to dwell in the centres of life and move in the peaceful currents of the Divine order to the attainment of new joys and the rest of an ever-deepening peace. It must make all things new. We stand in the morning of this new day ; its privileges and its responsibilities rest upon us. No men ever had greater interests committed to them ; no men ever possessed larger means and grander opportunities for their own spiritual attainment and to make themselves a blessing to humanity. Much has been given to us ; much will be required of us. Let us be faithful to our trusts ; let us counsel wisely and labor diligently to make known to men those spiritual and Divine truths in which the Lord is making His second coming to men, and by which He will subdue all things unto Himself

Author: Chauncey Giles, From Progress in Spiritual Knowledge, 1895

http://www.scienceofcorrespondences.com/doctrines.htm

Copyright © 2007-2013 A. J. Coriat All rights reserved.

 

Image result for "Behold, I make all things new."—Revelation xxi. 5.

 

Joy In The Coming Of Our Lord

Joy In The Coming Of Our Lord
A Sermon by Rev. David C. Roth

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“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen
His star in the east and have come to worship Him …. And when they
saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy” (Matthew 2:2,10).
How often have we been in the same position as the wise men, or
maybe the same situation as the shepherds? We are in a position
similar to theirs when we are told of the Lord and the message of His
Word. As He did for the wise men and the shepherds, the Lord has
made Himself known to each of us in different ways, and now it is up to
us to respond. Both the shepherds and the wise men were told in
different ways about the coming of the Lord and then given guidance to
that special place where the Lord chose to be born. Although both were
present to see the newborn Savior, they received the message of the
Lord’s birth in different ways.

Most likely each of us has a favorite story in relation to the Lord’s birth.
We may even ask ourselves whether it was the wise men or the
shepherds who responded in a more favorable way to the
announcement of the Lord’s advent. But this question is not really very
important when we realize that the essential observation is the one that
points to the fact that both the wise men and the shepherds did
respond. They both heeded the Lord’s call, but in different ways, each
according to his own state – different states, yet states which were
acceptable to the Lord. How can we then apply the responses of the
wise men and shepherds to our own lives on this Christmas day? As we
examine the stories of the shepherds and the wise men, the spiritual
sense shows us clearly of their application to our lives.

The first thing, however, that we must understand is the importance of
the Lord’s birth. Without His coming we could not be in freedom to be
regenerated by Him. His coming has redeemed mankind; that is, He put
the hells back where they belonged, put the heavens in order so that
they could be safe from the attack of the hells, and began a new church
where people could love the Lord and their neighbors (see TCR 86). By
His birth and fulfilled life here on earth the Lord is now present with us
fully and powerfully in His Word; we are not left alone. It was this
message involving all this wonderful work to be done by the Lord which
the shepherds were told of, and which the wise men sought to see
fulfilled. As the angel of the Lord proclaimed to the shepherds, “Fear
not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all
people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is
Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10,11). The message was clearly one to pay
attention to, one to be happy about. A Savior had come, of whose
kingdom there would be no end.

When we consider the call of the shepherds we see a unique response.
The shepherds at this time of the year lived out in the fields with their
sheep day and night, always keeping a watchful eye on their tender
flocks. Perhaps we envision it being cold and dark, with the shepherds
staying close to keep themselves warm. This is illustrative of the type of
world into which the Lord was born – cold from the lack of charity and
love, and dark because of the false understanding in which the world
had engulfed its minds. Yet even in all this cold and darkness there
were a few who possessed an innocence and a willingness to be led
and taught by the Word. We can see this in the story of the shepherds.
A shepherd represents one who teaches the truths and goods of faith. A
good shepherd, that is, one that guards and protects his flock, shows us
a picture of someone who is learning, protecting and storing up goods
and truths. This is a picture of a basically good person, yet one who
believes that life is his own, and that most power is from himself. He has
been working hard to learn the truths of the Lord’s Word; however, he
remains in a state of darkness as to how it all applies to his life, and how
it leads him closer to the Lord and away from self. But with this learning
of truth and innocent willingness the Lord is able to come to us and be
born in our hearts.

The first thing which the appearing angel said to the shepherds was,
“Fear not.” This represents a renewal of life, meaning that the Lord will
create a new heart within us, a heart that acknowledges the Lord as our
Savior and not ourselves. This actually can be a real cause for fear. We
read, “For all who come suddenly from self-life into any spiritual life are
at first afraid, but their life is renewed by the Lord” (AC 80). It can be a
difficult and scary thing to give our life over to the care of the Lord when
we feel so strongly that life is our own and that we have the power
ourselves to conquer evil. When the Lord draws near, the result is
temptation, and if we are good we will fear for the loss of good and truth.
His nearer presence makes it feel as if we are losing what good and
truth we have. But it is when we do follow the Lord, when we listen to
the angel’s good tidings, that He can truly care for us. The manger in
which the shepherds found the Lord represents spiritual nourishment. It
is here in the presence of the Lord that we are nourished and instructed.
The Lord does not lead us to Himself and then starve us; He will fill us
to overflowing. The Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes means first
truths, truths of innocence from the Lord’s Divine Love. When we come
to the Lord He nourishes and instructs us in those things which will
make us ready for His kingdom, a kingdom of innocence, love, and use.
After seeing the Babe, “the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising
God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them”
(Luke 2:20). This response by the shepherds signifies a true confession
and worship, which comes when we acknowledge in our hearts that
there is nothing of good in ourselves, and that we can do nothing of
ourselves – and, on the other hand, that all good is from the Lord, and
that the Lord can do all things (see AC 1210). The Heavenly Doctrines
say further of this response, “When man is in this acknowledgment he
puts aside what is his own, which belongs to the love of self, and opens
all things of his mind, and thus gives room for the Divine to flow in with
good and with power” (AC 1210). The shepherds heard the Lord’s call
and followed it. We can be like the shepherds ourselves when we make
the same sort of acknowledgment regarding the power of the Lord. He
will call us in His Word, but if we are looking to ourselves for strength we
will not hear Him. We may celebrate the Lord’s advent, but not with the
same conviction for the Lord as we would if we humbled ourselves and
gave glory to the King of Glory.

From this beautiful picture of innocence as seen in the story of the
shepherds we now turn to a different scenario: one of wisdom and
perseverance – the story of the wise men. The wise men seemed to
have a special quality about them. They knew about the advent of the
Lord because they had a knowledge of the Word and its prophecies. We
read concerning them, “The knowledge of correspondences survived
among a number of the Orientals, even until the Lord’s Advent, as is
evident from the wise men of the east who came to the Lord at His birth”
(SS 23), “and that they knew of His Advent by a star which appeared to
them in the east” (AC 10177).

It is interesting to think of the fact that those who were of the Jewish
faith who had the Old Testament Word and who should have known that
the Lord was to be born had no idea of it. When the wise men came and
asked Herod, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” he
had no answer but called the chief priests and scribes together to help.
We can imagine that perhaps Herod was a bit embarrassed that he, the
king, did not know this, as well as being jealous of this newborn King.
The Word says that ” … he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. ”
Whatever the nature of the response, again it was quite indicative of the
state of the Jewish Church at the time. Not only was their knowledge of
the Word lacking and false but many, like Herod, had an all-out hatred
for the Lord. This is plainly shown in Herod’s plot to kill the infant Lord, a
plot which resulted in the slaying of thousands of innocent children in
Bethlehem.

The Jews at this time, it seems, were not looking for the Lord. And when
they did find out that He had come, there was no room in their hearts
nor their inns to greet Him. Yet, as with the shepherds, we see in the
story of the wise men others who were ready for the Lord. But we
observe a difference in their response to the Lord’s coming, the main
difference being that the wise men were actively seeking out the Lord.
They had seen His star in the east and had come to worship Him. They
traveled a long distance to see the star that had come out of Jacob, the
Scepter that had risen out of Israel, He who was to be born King of the
Jews.

In the spiritual sense, the east represents love, and the star that went
before them signifies knowledge from heaven (see AC 3762, SS 23).
The wise men traveling eastward to the land of the east was
representative of those who in their life are moving toward the good of
faith. This, the Writings teach, is nothing else than charity toward the
neighbor, or a life according to the Lord’s commandments (see AC
3249). In this spiritual picture we can see that it is the knowledges of
good and truth found in the Lord’s Word, represented by the star, which
guide us to a life of charity or love, that is, which guide us to the Lord
Himself. This paints a beautiful picture for each of us. We see that it is
through the learning of the Lord’s truths and commands that we can be
led to Him.

Still, the most beautiful aspect of the wise men’s response to the Lord’s
Advent is seen when they departed from Herod for Bethlehem and the
star reappeared before them. “And behold the star which they had seen
in the east went before them, til it came and stood over where the young
Child was. And when they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding
great joy.” Exceeding great joy! What kind of a feeling did they have? It
must have been an overwhelming feeling of excitement and internal
peace over having embarked upon the last leg of the journey to their
Savior, the star’s reappearing to assure them that the Lord was with
them as they continued their trek. Can we ever have such feelings of
great joy in our religious life? We certainly can, and we must! Talking to
a person who has recently become aware of the wisdom and love found
in the Heavenly Doctrines can certainly emanate exceeding great joy.
Or a newly engaged or married couple show it to a certain degree.
Perhaps we can even relate it to the expression a young child shows on
Christmas morning. However, if we are raised in the New Church, do we
lose this excitement, or never let it show? If we do, how can we regain
this feeling or bring it out so that others can share it? One answer is to
be like the wise men, to seek out the Lord in His Word and then come to
Him when we see the star, that is, the knowledges from heaven
contained in the Word. We may not find the Lord right away. Even the
wise men thought they would find the Lord in Jerusalem, but He wasn’t
there. They could have given up, but they asked others where He could
be found. It is essential to talk to others about our beliefs and our quest
for the Lord. They can add to our understanding and love for the Lord,
and perhaps our picture then becomes clearer for us, which can
eventually lead us to Him. Notice, the star showed itself again until it
came and stood over where the young Child was. It led the wise men
right to the Lord. We need the truths and goods represented by the star
to lead us, and to keep leading us throughout life.

It is important to realize that truth will lead us to the Lord and make us
happy, but the real joy for us in our spiritual lives will be when we come
to the Lord offering gifts to Him, as the wise men did. These gifts of
gold, frankincense, and myrrh were more than just earthly treasures.
They represented testifications of the heart or will, the heart found in a
person that is truly thankful for all that the Lord has done for him, and
shows it by following His Word. These gifts represented things pleasing
to God, because their origin is in love and faith toward Him – the love
represented by gold, and our faith by the frankincense, and by myrrh is
represented our love and faith grounded in things external, which is a
life in obedience and love to the Lord and to our neighbor. These are
the gifts which the Lord is asking us to bear on Christmas day and
beyond. But more importantly to know, they are the gifts which He gives
us and wills to give each of us when we respond to His coming. So on
this Christmas day let us ask ourselves the following question with the
earnest desire to find the answer: “Where is He who has been born King
of the Jews?” Let us then search diligently for His star in the east and
come to worship Him, that is, live a life of charity and faith in Him,
because it is in this kind of a life where we too can share the vision of
the shepherds and the excitement of the wise men. “Where is He who
has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east
and have come to worship Him … And when they saw the star, they
rejoiced with exceeding great joy.” Amen.
Lessons: Luke 2:1-20; Matthew 2:1-12; AE 661

https://newchurch.org/

DAILY INSPIRATION

“The peace that reigns in heaven is like spring on earth, or like the dawn.”

Arcana Coelestia 5662

“I Am The Lord Your God”

“I Am The Lord Your God”

A Sermon by the Rev. Peter M. Buss, Jr.
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Life progresses. I’d like you to think for a moment about what
your life may be like a year from now. Countless things will happen to
all of us between now and then. We will all experience another
Easter, another Thanksgiving, another Christmas. Some of us may
retire. Others may change jobs, or become grandparents for the first
time, or move. Those of us who are married will celebrate an
anniversary; it may be a third anniversary, or a thirtieth or fortieth
anniversary. Those of us who are parents will notice that our children
will develop substantially: they will become more independent and
more competent. This might be the year for a child to move out of the
house – even get married. We will all celebrate a birthday this year.
Whatever activities or landmarks fill our time, we can be
assured that life will keep rolling by. Each day brings with it new
experiences and challenges; some which give us joy, and others
which test our endurance.
Through it all we will be developing as people. Our perspectives
will change as we see more of life. We know that beyond the various
things which fill up our day, we are supposed to be making spiritual
progress. Each year we get closer to the time when our lives in this
world will be over, and we will enter the spiritual world, which includes
heaven and hell. Our primary goal in this world should be to prepare
for that time – to be led by the Lord towards heaven. From time to
time, then, it’s useful to reflect on how religion will play a part in our
lives. How will the Lord Himself help us to make some spiritual
progress this year? What is He leading us towards? What does He
want us to see about our choices and ways of acting, and consider
changing? What is most important to Him?
The First Commandment. Today’s focus is on the most central
religious principle to keep in mind as we strive to make progress in
our spiritual lives: dedication to the Lord our God. That is why we will
look at the First Commandment today – the first thing, and in one
sense the most important, which the Lord commanded from Mt. Sinai.
He said:
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt,
out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before My
face. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness
of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or
that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them
nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting
the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth
generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands,
to those who love Me and keep My commandments (Exodus 20:2-6).
“That which reigns universally.” There is a teaching in the
Writings for the New Church which says: “What is stated first must be
held in mind and must be seen to reside universally in everything that
follows” (Arcana Caelestia 8864:3). In one sense this means that the
First Commandment must be held in mind when we look at the rest of
the commandments, for it “reigns universally” in them. For example:
• The next two commandments teach us how to worship the Lord
alone or have no other gods before His face: we are not to take
His name in vain, which means that we honor and revere Him;
and we are to remember the Sabbath day, or take time to focus
on the Lord and make Him a priority.
• We are not to steal, because the God whom we worship forbids it.
• He commands us not to commit adultery because He is the God
of marriage.
• We are not to murder, lie, or covet because in doing so we are not
loving the Lord nor keeping His commandments, as the First
Commandment requires.
In general, the First Commandment calls us to commit
ourselves to the Lord to let Him reign in our lives. If we think about it,
we need this command. For religion to make any sense, we have to
know who the Lord is – He is the central focus, and the object of all
our religious devotion. For us to see value in the Bible we have to
know the Revelator – then it can be a Divinely authoritative guide for
us. If we are to accept the path of regeneration or spiritual rebirth, we
need to worship the Savior who makes it all happen.
One teaching in the Writings for the New Church says: “What
reigns universally with a person is that which is present in every idea
of his thought and every desire of his will… That which reigns
universally within a person should be the Lord” (emphasis added,
Arcana Caelestia 8865). Another teaching says: “A person’s whole
character is determined by the nature of whatever dominates his life”
(Arcana Caelestia 8858). The Lord asks us to let Him “dominate” our
lives. He asks that we love Him above all things, that we make Him
and His ways the priority in our lives, for He is the Source, the
Beginning, the Lord our God.
The Tone. One of the things we notice about the First
Commandment is that it is stated in the negative: “You shall have no
other gods before My face,” rather than “You shall worship the Lord
your God alone.” If we fail, He will “visit the iniquity of the fathers on
the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate
[Him].” For He is a jealous God and one whom we should fear. We
might wonder why this is the case. If worshiping the Lord alone is so
important, why does He appear so foreboding, commanding, and
manipulative – so distant? As you may suspect, there are several
reasons for such a tone. First, the Israelites, to whom the Ten
Commandments were first revealed, needed such an image. They
would not have listened unless a powerful, jealous God was
speaking. Such an image caused them to pay attention!
But another reason for the tone is that it teaches us how to
make the Lord our central focus. “You shall have no other gods
before My face,” it says. How? By not carving any images, or making
any likenesses of anything in heaven, on earth, or in the waters
below. All these represent things which stand in the way of letting the
Lord reign in us. “Gods” can mean selfishness – putting ourselves
before the Lord, which is the root of all evil. They can also mean
worldliness, or a lack of concern for anything beyond what we can
see and experience, namely the Lord and heaven. A “likeness in the
heavens above or the earth beneath” means pretending to be a good
person. A person who acts like a spiritual and moral person
externally, is making a likeness or putting on a façade (see Arcana
Caelestia 8871:1). The Lord calls such people hypocrites.
When we get to “the waters under the earth” we come to the
direct opposite to worshiping the Lord. The waters and the things they
contain represent a bodily-oriented person, who cares only for
external pleasures (Arcana Caelestia 8872). Such a person is
dominated by appetites for worldly things such things as food or
possessions, or for physical, lustful pleasure. This is a far cry from
what is orderly, with the Lord at the top, and these cravings much
further down the list in their appropriate places (see Arcana Caelestia
911:3).
The purpose of stating the First Commandment in the negative
is to warn us that we all have tendencies to love ourselves, to make
ourselves appear like good people, to seek pleasure. If we focus on
these things alone, the Lord cannot help us. Without Him, we live
lives which are pictured by the Israelites in the land of Egypt-in
bondage, controlled by negative influences which come to us by
means of hell. Our lives will have qualities to them which don’t bring
us happiness, but instead make us feel miserable. We will act in
selfish and manipulative ways, and cause harm to the people around
us. But the Lord wants us to realize that it doesn’t have to be that
way. He can free us from these negative influences. If we put Him
first, He delivers us from the influences of hell (see Arcana Caelestia
8866). He gives us a rationale for the way things should be, with
Himself at the top governing and directing our lives, with charity to
other people next, as He commands. Then we can take care of our
own needs, and experience pleasures in their proper measure, with
appropriate goals: eating to remain healthy, earning money to support
a family or even to live comfortably.
Amen.

https://newchurch.org/

DAILY INSPIRATION

“A person is totally unaware of the fact that the Lord is governing them by means of angels and spirits.”

Arcana Coelestia 50

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Reward is Intrinsic Beatitude, which is called Peace, and thence External Joy

Lastchurch - The Eternal PurposeFrom Apocalypse Revealed ~ Emanuel Swedenborg

Behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
Rev 22:12
… signifies that the Lord will certainly come, and that He Himself is heaven and the felicity of eternal life to everyone according to faith in Him, and life according to His commandments. “Behold, I come quickly,” signifies that He will certainly come, that is, to execute judgment, and to found a New Heaven and a New Church. That “quickly” means certainly. “My reward is with Me,” signifies that the Lord Himself is heaven and the felicity of eternal life. That “reward” is heaven and eternal felicity. That it is the Lord Himself, will be seen below.

Rendering unto everyone according to His work,” signifies according to his conjunction with the Lord by faith in Him and by life according to His commandments. The reason why this is signified, is because by good works are signified charity and faith in internals, and, at the same time, their effects in externals; and because charity and faith are from the Lord, and according to conjunction with Him, it is evident that these are signified; thus also this coheres with what went before. That good works are charity and faith in internals, and at the same time their effects in externals.

That charity and faith are not from man, but from the Lord, is known; and because they are from the Lord they are according to conjunction with Him, and conjunction with Him is effected by faith in Him and by a life according to His commandments. By faith in Him is meant confidence that He will save, and they have this confidence who immediately approach Him, and shun evils as sins; with others it is not given.

It was said that “My reward is with Me” signifies that He Himself is heaven and the felicity of eternal life, for “reward” is intrinsic beatitude, which is called peace, and thence external joy. These are solely from the Lord, and the things which are from the Lord, not only are from Him, but also are Himself, for the Lord cannot send forth anything from Himself except it be Himself, for He is omnipresent with every man according to conjunction, and conjunction is according to reception, and reception is according to love and wisdom, or if you will, according to charity and faith, and charity and faith are according to life, and life is according to the aversion to evil and falsity, and aversion to evil and falsity is according to the knowledge of what is evil and false, and then according to repentance, and at the same time looking to the Lord.

That “reward” not only is from the Lord but also is the Lord Himself appears from those passages in the Word where it is said that they who are conjoined with Him are in Him and He in them, as may be seen in John:

At that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you.  He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him.  Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?  Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him. He that loveth Me not keepeth not My sayings: and the word which ye hear is not Mine, but the Father’s which sent me. (14:20-24)  (also see John 15:4-5 seq.; 17:19, 21-22, 26, and in other places),

… and also where it is said that the Holy Spirit is in them; and the Holy Spirit is the Lord, for it is His Divine presence; and also when he prays that God will dwell in them to teach and lead them, the tongue to preach and the body to do that which is good; besides other things of a like nature. For the Lord is love itself and wisdom itself; these two are not in place but are where they are received and according to the quality of the reception.

… the Lord Himself is in men according to reception and not from anything Divine separated from Him. The angels are in this idea when they are in the idea of Divine omnipresence, and I do not doubt that that some Christians are in a similar idea also.

(Apocalypse Revealed 949)
June 7, 2017
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Progress In Spiritual Knowledge

HR90THE SCIENCE OF CORRESPONDENCE

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PROGRESS IN SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE

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“I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.”

Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth : . . .
and he will show you things to come.” — JOHN xvi. 12, 13.

IN these words our Lord teaches us a lesson which has a most important bearing upon the condition of the human mind which is unfavorable to all progress in knowledge. We are constantly tempted to mistake the limits of our knowledge for the limits of the truth. The more ignorant men are, the greater the temptation to do it. It requires some knowledge to discover our own ignorance. Scientific men were much more disposed in former times, when there was but little knowledge of nature, to be dogmatic, and to claim that they had reached the summit of knowledge and had explored all the secrets of nature, than they are now. We see the most remarkable exhibition of this tendency in the disposition to limit knowledge upon the most important subjects of human interest, to what has already been attained, to what was attained, we might say, centuries ago. The belief among Christians is almost universal that we have reached the limits of our knowledge of spiritual truth ; that no further progress is possible while we remain in this world ; that the doctrines of Christianity, as they are accepted and understood in the so-called evangelical churches, are absolute truths, which cannot be superseded, and from which no advance can be made. They are the limit of our possibilities. New facts may be discovered about them ; there may be new ways of stating them, new illustrations of their truth, but there can be no advance beyond them. They mark the farthest boundaries of our knowledge. So determinate and fixed is this belief that it has passed into a maxim, that ” what is true is not new, and what is new is not true.”

If it is true that no farther advance in spiritual knowledge is possible, it is well to know it, that we may not waste our energies in struggling against the inevitable, but may rest and try to content ourselves in the darkness and uncertainty of our present attainments. If it is not true, then we ought to know it, that, without fear of danger to our eternal interests, we may freely and fearlessly examine all questions relating to our spiritual nature, and use all the means in our power to advance into clearer light and higher attainments. The bare possibility that we can gain a clearer and more rational light upon all the great questions of man’s spiritual nature and destiny ought to be sufficient to stimulate us to the diligent use of all the means in our power to attain so important a result. Let us, then, examine the subject in the light of reason and revelation, and see what ground we have for believing that we can continually advance in spiritual knowledge, into clearer light and more certain attainments.

There is nothing in the present attainments In spiritual knowledge so complete and satisfactory as to lead to the conclusion that nothing more is desirable. On the contrary, the present state of religious thought proves directly the contrary. There has never been a time, since the truths of Christianity were first revealed, when there was so much difference of opinion with regard to them, and so little heartiness in their reception as stated in the dogmatic forms of the various churches, as there is now. The fundamental doctrines of Christianity as they have been held, which have been regarded as essential to salvation, are not taught with the clearness and distinctness and directness in any of the churches that they were formerly. The ministers themselves have not the undoubting faith in them which the ministers of former times had. The intelligent members of the church do not believe them in their naked and unmodified form as they were once believed. The doctrines formerly accepted are not now held with that unquestioning belief which a good Presbyterian lady once told me she had in the Bible. ” If the Bible had said that Jonah swallowed the whale instead of the whale swallowing Jonah,” she said, ” I would believe it.”

There is an uncertainty, a diversity of opinion upon what have been regarded as the fundamental doctrines of Christianity which is increasing rather than diminishing. The Trinity, the Atonement, the Resurrection, the nature of our own existence after Death, the Inspiration of the Bible,—questions which form the basis of all religious belief, are discussed with greater zeal than they ever were, and there is a greater variety of opinion upon these doctrines, among those who believe in them in some sense, than ever before. The opinions range through all shades from a merely nominal acceptance of the doctrines to that belief which admits of no doubt because it admits of no examination. Is it rational to suppose that this confusion of tongues, this variety of opinion and even contradiction of belief, this uncertainty and doubt upon questions which relate to man’s highest interests, is the best which man is capable of attaining? Is he forbidden to advance beyond the twilight and confusion of mere opinion ? It seems to be contrary to the nature of the human mind and the purposes of the Divine love and wisdom that it should be so. But if any one is disposed to deny that there is this diversity of opinion, and to assert that the fundamental doctrines of Christianity, as formally held by Christians, are generally accepted without any doubts as to their truth, it still holds that they go only a very little way in spiritual knowledge. It is acknowledged that the doctrines themselves are not and cannot be understood.

They are great mysteries which the human mind, in this life, cannot fathom. The Trinity is a mystery, and the more it is discussed and explored the greater the confusion. The Incarnation of God, and the manner in which He effected human redemption by assuming a human nature, is a mystery which, it is generally acknowledged, cannot be understood. The Resurrection is a mystery which must be simply accepted as a fact, but which cannot be explained. We are taught that we are to live forever, and at the same time we are told that we can have no certain knowledge of the modes and forms and nature of the life after death. These great facts are affirmed in the most positive manner, and just enough is taught about them to awaken interest and lead to their examination, and then we are told that they cannot be understood ; we must accept them by an act of faith. Suppose the doctrines are true, how little they have done for man !

Now, I ask, is it reasonable to suppose that the Lord intended this to be the extent of human attainment upon these great themes which relate to man’s highest interests? Does it accord with the nature of the human mind ? Is it consonant with His oft-repeated declaration in His Word that a true knowledge of God is of vital importance to man, that to know Him aright is life everlasting ? Does it seem to be consistent with the goodness and wisdom of God that He should tantalize us with expectations which He forbids us to realize, and give us problems impossible of solution, which rend the soul in its efforts to reach the unattainable ? What else does He leave in such a fragmentary and unsatisfactory condition ? It is like bringing the tree to leaf and bud, and arresting its progress before attaining the glory of blossom and the blessing of fruit ; it is causing hunger and thirst and providing no means to satisfy them ; it is giving to the material body the power of growing into the beauty of womanhood and the strength of manhood and withholding the means of growth, leaving it in helpless infancy, cursed by eternal feebleness ; it is endowing man with the power of perceiving a few rays of the morning twilight, and awakening in him the expectation of the coming sun, and then leaving him in that expectation while its coming is withheld. It is contrary to every principle of the human mind, and to all the Divine methods so far as we have any knowledge of them. We conclude, therefore, that the Lord never intended to arrest man’s progress in the knowledge of spiritual truth, and stay his footsteps on the threshold of knowledge, while the whole universe of truth lies waiting to be explored. But we are not left to conjecture or to our own reasoning upon this subject. The Lord has declared, as clearly as human language can express a truth, that it is the purpose of His heart to communicate His love and wisdom to men. He desires to communicate Himself. He gave the Word for this purpose. He came in the flesh to be a light to the world. He attributes every loss and sorrow to ignorance of Him, and every possible attainment and joy to a true knowledge of His nature and relations to men.

The words of our text are an explicit declaration of the fact that progress in spiritual knowledge is possible. “Ihave yet many things to say unto you.” We cannot suppose that these words applied to the disciples alone. They must be of universal application. They are as true of the highest angel as of the child just born. The Lord is infinite, man is finite. The Lord has a perfect knowledge of all causes in all their possible forms and relations and effects to eternity. He knows the influence of every affection, thought, and act upon our whole future, in all its combinations and its relations to every other thought and act and being. He sees the end from the beginning of every particular in our lives.

How little the wisest men know, even of natural forms and substances ! Our knowledge is limited almost entirely to appearances and to a few links in the chain of cause and effect. We know that when light flows into the eye we can see, but we do not know how such a force, flowing into such a form, produces such an effect. We know that the undulations of the air flowing into the ear cause hearing ; we know some facts about the relation of the air to the ear, but why its inflowing should produce the effect it does no one can tell. Great progress has been made in natural science during the last century, but the relation of the known to the unknown is no greater than the smallest fraction to the infinite. Swedenborg says that the wisest angels see that their knowledge, compared with what there is to be known, is so infinitesimal that they simply say they do not know anything.

Every finite intelligence, however great its advancement in knowledge,—and in the coming eternity that knowledge must be so great that we have no words to express it or power to conceive of it,—will stand upon the shore, while the ocean of truth stretches away into the infinite distance before it. The time can never come when the Lord will not have many things to say unto us. This idea, at the first view, may appear to be discouraging. Must we be learners forever? Shall we never get to the end of our lessons ? What is the use of learning if we can never reach the goal ? We know it to be true that the more we know the more we see there is to be known. The higher we rise, the wider the horizon. This should not discourage us, because the acquisition of knowledge upon every subject which interests us is a source of pleasure. Knowledge is also intellectual and spiritual power and wealth. People never complain because they have more chances of gaining power and riches. Every new truth enlarges man’s means and capacities for happiness. Why, then, should he desire to have the sources of truth, and his ability to gain it, exhausted ? The fact that they can never be exhausted, that the Lord will always have many things to say to us, is the hope and the assurance that the means of happinesswill never fail.

Limited knowledge does not necessarily imply false knowledge. If we know but little, that little may be true as far as it goes. When the school-boy has only learned that two and two- make four, he has not made much progress in the science of numbers, but he has learned something which he will never need to unlearn. So it is with regard to every subject of human knowledge. When we have learned the single truth that God is onein essence and person, we have not advanced very far in a knowledge of His attributes, but we have learned an absolute truth which we shall never find occasion to unlearn. It is as true for the highest angel as it is for the little child. Every new fact adds new clearness and interest to those we have already learned. For this reason our interest in learning and our happiness in gaining knowledge will continue to increase forever.

The fact, therefore, that the Lord has many things to say unto us, and will always have many things to say unto us, holds out to us the grandest hopes for the future. He will always have something new to tell us, and there will always be the zest and joy of learning from Him. He will always have many things to teach about the laws of our own nature, about our relations to others. He will always have many things to reveal to us concerning His own love and wisdom, and His infinite tenderness and care for us. He will always have many things to reveal to us concerning the excellence and beauty and grandeur of the world around us, and concerning His infinite wisdom in adapting it to human wants, and in making it a means of support and culture and happiness.

The instructed mind sees a multitude of substances and forces and beauties in the material world which no one saw a century ago ; and when we pass out of the twilight of this dead, material world into the brightness and the perfections of the substantial, living, spiritual world, He will show us innumerable things ineffably more beautiful and nicely adapted to all our wants, ministering to a higher culture and a more exquisite happiness. The reason is often asked why the Lord does not speak to us more plainly. The question is often put to New-Churchmen, why the Lord did not make known the truths of the New Church before, if they are so great an advance upon former knowledge upon spiritual subjects.Our Lord gives the answer to all these questions in the words, “But ye cannot bear them now.” The Lord reveals the truth to us as fast as we can bear it. What He can tell us is not limited by His knowledge or power or willingness to communicate, but by our ability to receive. The word translated “bear” may mean to understand.” I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot understand them now.” We have conclusive evidence in the Gospels that the disciples did not understand many things which our Lord spake to them. This is true of all disciples. It is true of natural and of spiritual knowledge. When a child takes its first lesson in mathematics, in its ignorance and innocence it might say to the teacher, “Tell me all about the whole science of numbers.” The teacher could only reply, ” I cannot do it.” “Why can you not do it ?” ” Because you cannot bear such knowledge now. Mathematics is a great and complicated science, and it requires much study and severe discipline of the mind to understand it. I will tell you about it as fast as you can bear it.”

If this is true of a natural science, how much more must it be true in relation to the great problems of man’s spiritual nature and destiny ! They lie above the senses and the appearances of nature ; they relate to interior and hidden things. Man’s progress in the knowledge of the outer world has been remarkably slow, though its phenomena have been continually present to the senses, and its forces have been continually offering themselves to his service, to fight his battles, bear his burdens, and do his work. The wind and the rain, the sun and the earth, were constantly whispering their secrets in his ear, but he could not hear their voice. How, then, could we expect that man could understand those higher truths which relate to his spiritual wants and destiny? If it was many thousands of years before man could discover the forces in steam, the existence and use of magnetism, and the nature of the substances which contain so many elements which contribute to his comfort and happiness, is it incredible that it should require an equal number of years before he could be prepared to receive interior spiritual truth ?

But the words “ye cannot bear them now” mean more than inability to understand : they mean indifference and hostihty to spiritual truth. There is an inherent repugnance in the natural mind to spiritual truth. It is more than ignorance, or incapacity, or indifference : it is hostility; it is opposition of nature. It is like the repugnance which we find in the material body to certain substances. We use this very term concerning them. We say we cannot bear the smell or taste or sight of them. The natural degree of the mind has fallen. All its tastes have become perverted. It looks downward and outward to material things. It does not act in harmony with the spiritual mind. It does not like to hear anything about a spiritual world. It cannot conceive of a distinctly spiritual existence. Something akin to nausea is excited by hearing about the spiritual sense of the Word.

When our Lord said to His disciples that He had many things to say unto them, He evidently did not mean that he had many more natural facts to teach them about Himself or His mission in this world, because He never did speak much more to them about these things. His meaning was more plain as He went on to say, ”But when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth. . . . He shall receive of mine and shall show it unto you.” He shall show you the spiritual meaning of the words which have been spoken unto you, for they are spirit and life. They could not bear their spiritual import then.

Many Christian people are in the same state now. They can talk about religion ; they can pray with fervor and sing with delight. But they cannot bear to think that the Bible has a spiritual meaning. The idea that the spiritual world is a substantial and really-existing world ; that man himself, as to his spirit, is in the human form and fully organized as a man seems absurd to them. The idea that the old, familiar Bible is luminous with infinite truth, and that they have drawn their doctrines and formed their opinions from the appearances of truth in the letter ; that their minds are veiled and overshadowed with the clouds of the letter, while the unveiled and glorious sun shines in clear radiance about them, they cannot bear. But when the spiritual truth, not the letter of it, but the Spirit of truth, comes,—and He will come when men will open their minds to receive Him,—He will show them many things which they never dreamed of before. He will show them things to come.

These things are not natural events that will occur in the church in after-times, as most commentators have supposed, but spiritual things. A new and more accurate knowledge of the Lord,—”He shall receive of mine, and show it unto you ;” a more accurate and a larger knowledge of our own nature and destiny. He will show you things to come in the spiritual world. He will reveal to you the laws of the spiritual universe, and show you how surpassingly beautiful and glorious it is. He will make real to you your eternal home, and lead you into it.

When the Spirit of truth begins to shine in our understandings, a new and glorious day is dawning upon us ; a sun is rising which will never set. As the mind opens to the reception of this light, it enlarges, and can receive more of the many things which the Lord has to say to us. It also improves in strength and quahty. It can receive higher truths, clearer light ; it has a more comprehensive and delicate capacity for reception ; it can receive larger and richer and more exquisite joys. It will continue to advance towards the Lord with constantly accelerating velocity ; its power of reception from the Lord will continue to increase, and yet the Lord will always have many things to say that are more glorious and that will fill the soul with a constantly deeper and more exquisite joy. May we be among the number of those who have clear eyes and listening ears and open hearts to receive the many things which the Lord has to say to us, and which His Spirit of truth is ever ready to show unto us.

Author: Chauncey Giles, From Progress in Spiritual Knowledge, 1895

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BY THE REV. CHAUNCEY GILES

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