POWER

POWER

A Sermon by Rev. Mark D. PendletonPreached in Rochester, Michigan, October 24, 1993

” … Jesus said to them, `Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ They said to Him, `Yes, Lord.’ Then He touched their eyes, saying, `According to your faith let it be to you” (Matt. 9:28,29).

One month ago I sat and talked with a college friend on a hill which overlooked an athletic field. We were watching a lacrosse game together. As we talked, his two-and-a-half-year-old daughter toddled up the hill to meet us. She was crying. What was wrong? I didn’t know. But what struck me was what she did as she came up the hill. She went to her father, took him by both hands, and began pulling on him. She wanted his attention and his help. As I watched daughter and father, I sensed that something profound was being pictured in their interaction, though at the time I didn’t know what it was.

After this service, and each day for the rest of your lives there is going to be a test, and the test will have three questions. Right or wrong is not an issue with this test. No one will see your answers. No one will give you a score. What is at issue is your personal sense of contentment and happiness, and the level of effectiveness you enjoy with people around you. The answers you give will be indicators of how much peace you feel inside, and of the level of effectiveness you enjoy in relationships.

And so, the first question of the test is this: Who is God? And we might ask that question in a different way: Who is the source of power in your life? The second question is: How powerful is your God? And the third question: What will you do?

Once when Jesus was leaving His own city, two blind men followed Him. They cried out, “Son of David, have mercy on us!” So Jesus turned aside into their home. The two blind men approached Him, and Jesus asked them a question: “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” “Yes, Lord” was their reply. “Then He touched their eyes saying, `According to your faith let it be to you.'”

But this isn’t the only story of its kind in the New Testament. There are six others like it. A centurion’s boy was healed of paralysis (Matt. 8:5-13). A woman with a flow of blood for twelve years was made well (Matt. 9:20-22). A Canaanite woman’s demon-possessed daughter was healed (Matt. 15:21-28). Jairus’ only daughter, who was almost dead, arose and walked; her spirit was restored (Mark 5:22-42). Blind Bartimaeus received his sight (Mark 10:46-52). And a woman who was a sinner was forgiven and saved (Luke 7:36-50).

These are different stories, different people, different problems. What are the common denominators in all of the stories? All of the people in those stories wanted to feel the Lord’s healing power, and so all of them came to Jesus. All of them believed that He had the power to heal them.

The centurion came and pleaded with Jesus, and when Jesus said that He would come and heal his boy, the centurion answered, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, but only speak a word and my boy will be healed.”

The woman with the flow of blood came and touched the hem of His garment. “If only I may touch His clothes,” she thought to herself, “I shall be made well.” Jesus turned to see who had touched Him. The woman was afraid. She trembled. In an instant she had been made well and she knew it. So she came and fell down before Him. She told the whole truth in front of everyone. She told the reason why she had touched Him and how she had been healed immediately.

The Canaanite woman came and cried out to Jesus, “Have mercy, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely demon-possessed!” Jesus didn’t answer. And so she came and worshipped Him: “Lord help me.”

Jairus, man of prominence, ruler of the synagogue, came and fell at His feet. He begged Jesus earnestly, “My little daughter lies at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her that she may be healed and she will live.”

Blind Bartimaeus sat by the road begging. When he heard that Jesus was passing by, he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” When people around Bartimaeus told him to keep quiet, Bartimaeus cried out all the more. Jesus stopped. He commanded that Bartimaeus be called to Him. Bartimaeus threw aside his garment, rose and came to meet Jesus. Jesus asked him a question: “What do you want Me to do for you?” “My great one,” he replied, “that I may receive my sight.”

And finally, a woman who was a sinner brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil. She stood at Jesus’ feet behind Him and wept. She washed His face with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. She kissed His feet and anointed them with oil.

These are different stories, different people, different problems. And in each case the Lord was able to perform the miracle that was longed for. Why? Because in each case the person came to Him with a conviction that He had the power to heal. And so after each miracle, Jesus had something to say to the person who had been healed. To the centurion He said, “Go your way, and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” To the woman with the issue of blood He said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be healed of your affliction.” He answered the Canaanite woman, “O woman, great is your faith. Let it be to you as you desire.” When the report came from Jairus’ house that his daughter was dead, why trouble the teacher any further? Jesus said to Jairus, “Do not be afraid; only believe and she will be made well.” To Bartimaeus He said, “Go your way. Your faith has made you well.” And finally, to the woman who was a sinner He said, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

Seven stories, and each points to a simple truth: Jesus Christ is God, the one and only one who is able to heal. He is the one and only one who heals “every sickness and every disease” (Matt. 9:35).

And so, in the gospel of John, we are encouraged to believe in the Lord: “Jesus said to them, `I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst'” (John 6:35). “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40). “Whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:26). “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples which are not written in this book, but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, you may have life in His name” (John 20:30,31).

In the Lord Jesus Christ we have our life. With Him as our help, we can have personal power in all that we do.

As I was preparing for this sermon, I was reminded of a passage in the book Heaven and Hell in which Swedenborg describes the power the angels have in the spiritual world (HH 229). Any obstruction which presents itself to them, welling up out of hell, the angels are able to disperse in a moment. And so, as a witness to happenings in the spiritual world, Swedenborg saw mountains which were occupied by evil spirits cast down and overthrown. Rocks which the evil spirits were hiding amongst were split in two. As Swedenborg watched, he saw evil spirits scattered and cast into hell. The angels who were able to do this exercised their power by an effort of will and by a look. It didn’t matter how cunning, or how deceptive, or how convincing the evil spirits were. The angels were able to see through their efforts and disperse them in a moment.

We can have that same kind of power in our lives. We can feel the presence of evil spirits as they come to us, out of hell, in the form of harmful desire. We can see through any argument that they pose to our minds.

But when the doctrine for the New Church speaks about the power that angels have in the spiritual world, they also talk about angels’ loss of power. Reading from Heaven and Hell: “But it must be understood that angels have no power whatever from themselves, but that all their power is from the Lord; and that they have power only so far as they acknowledge this. Whoever of them believes that he has power from himself instantly becomes so weak as not to be able to resist even a single evil spirit” (HH 230).

Like angels, as soon as we think we have power from ourselves over the influence of evil spirits, we lose that power: “You search the scriptures,” Jesus said, “for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they who testify of me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” (John 5:39,40). “And He said to them, `You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that … if you do not believe that I am, you will die in your sins'” (John 8:23,24).

Seven stories from the New Testament, and each points to a simple truth: Jesus Christ is God, the one and only source of power for angels in the spiritual world and for people in this world. But implicit in that truth is a second, simple truth: He is able. He is able to heal every sickness and every disease. No human problem is too great for Him to overcome. “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

When was the last time you went to the Lord for help? When was the last time you sought Him in prayer and asked Him to help you with something? When you sought Him, what did you ask? And when you asked, did you believe? Did you really believe that He is able to grant that request? “Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. For assuredly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, `Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things He says will come to pass, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive, and you will have” (Mark 11:22-24). “All things whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (Mark 11:24).

The last time you sought the Lord for help, did you believe that what you asked for would come to pass? Do you really believe, for example, that the Lord is able to overcome your greatest fault?

The Lord Jesus Christ is God. He is able to heal any sickness and any disease. No human problem is too great for Him to overcome if only we will believe that He can do it.

But let us not forget the third question in the test: What will you do? You see, if we accept the Lord as our God, and if we believe that He has power to heal every sickness and every disease, then we are left with a final logical question: How will we follow through?

Suppose, for example, a teenager is having trouble in school. She trusts her parents for their wisdom and for their advice, and so she comes to them to talk about it. “All my teachers are against me,” she says. Her parents listen, they talk with her about her problem, and maybe they suggest one or two options for how she might behave differently, to help nurture her relationships with her teachers. Suppose that teenager doesn’t try any of the suggestions that have been given to her by her parents. She goes right on behaving as she has in the past. Can it really be said that she trusts the wisdom of her parents if she doesn’t follow through?

If the Lord is God, and if we believe that He has power to heal and save, the natural and logical consequence is that we would follow through on whatever advice He gives us to help with the healing (see AC 10083:6).

In this regard I am reminded of the number of times that I have talked with people about trouble in human relationships. Often in those conversations I have recalled the teaching in the New Testament which says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother” (Matthew 18:15).

How many of us know that truth from the New Testament? How many of us are aware of that piece of advice for helping relationships heal? And yet how many of us, when we think of a teaching like that, will say, “That’s too hard to do. That’s too hard to follow through on.” And a response like that is understandable; there can be a lot of fear surrounding such an approach to our brother: “What will he do?” “Will she even listen to me?” “He will yell at me.” “Maybe I’ll just let it lie. After all, it doesn’t seem important enough to bring up.”

There you are, hurting in a personal relationship. You want to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. You want to believe He has power to heal and save. The Lord has called to your mind a bit of advice out of His Word one that you sense may help and yet you aren’t following through on that advice.

If Jesus Christ is our God, and if we believe that He is able to heal and save, and if He suggests a course of action and we don’t follow His lead, can it really be said that we believe in Him? Can we really expect that we will be helped in our struggles? Jesus said, “If you do not believe that I am, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24).

Belief in the Lord Jesus Christ belief that He has power to lift us up and save us; belief that He is able to accomplish whatever we long for is the first and most essential element of spiritual life (see AC 10083:5,6). It’s the beacon in the night to which every ship will eventually turn. It’s the pearl of great price. Without it no one can see and no one can love, and no one can be truly happy or at peace (see AC 10083:6). The Lord Jesus Christ is power, and He alone is peace.

One month ago I sat and talked with a college friend on a hill which overlooked an athletic field. We were watching a lacrosse game together. As we talked, his two-and-a-half-year-old daughter toddled up the hill to meet us. She was crying. What was wrong? I didn’t know. But what struck me was what she did as she came up the hill. She didn’t even notice that I was there. The only one she saw was her father. Here was one of her parents who could help her. She wasn’t going to be distracted by anyone or anything else. She went straight to her father, took him by both hands, and began pulling on him. She wanted his attention and his help. “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be healed of your affliction.” Amen.


Lessons: Matt. 9:27-31, AC 10083

Arcana Coelestia 10083 (a portion)

It was often said by the Lord when the sick were healed that they should “have faith,” and that it would be done to them “according to their faith” (as Matt. 8:10-13 et alia). The reason was that the first of all is to acknowledge that the Lord is the Savior of the world, for without this acknowledgment no one can receive anything of truth and good from heaven, thus no faith; and because this is the first and most essential of all, therefore in order that the Lord might be acknowledged when He came into the world, in healing the sick He questioned them concerning their faith, and those who had faith were healed. The faith was that He was the Son of God who was to come into the world, and that He had power to heal and to save. Moreover all the healings of diseases by the Lord when He was in the world signified healings of the spiritual life, thus the things that belong to salvation (n. 8364, 9031, 9086).

Because the acknowledgment of the Lord is the first of all things of spiritual life, and the most essential thing of the church, and because without it no one can receive from heaven anything of the truth of faith and the good of love, therefore the Lord often says that he who “believes in Him hath eternal life,” that he who “does not believe has not life” (as John 1:1,4,12,13 et alia), but He also teaches at the same time that those have faith in Him who “live according to His precepts,” so that the consequent life may enter into the faith. All this has been said to illustrate and confirm the fact that the acknowledgment of the Lord, and that from Him is all salvation, is the first of life from the Divine with man.

DIVINE ORDER

DIVINE ORDER
A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida, July 12, 1992

“Order my steps in Your Word, and let no iniquity have dominion over me” (Psalm 119:113).

Our text is a prayer, a prayer to the Lord, a prayer that He order our life according to the truth of His Word and thereby free us from the domination of evil loves and wayward thoughts. It is a prayer that the Lord reform and regenerate us. Implicit in this prayer is the acknowledgment that the power to change is from the Lord and not in ourselves.

“Order my steps in Your Word!” In effect, we are asking the Lord to introduce order into our lives. When we speak of order, what do we have in mind? What is order? Order may be defined as the Divine laws which govern the universe. In thinking of the universe, we should beware lest we limit our thought to the material plane the created natural universe of suns and planets, solar systems and galaxies; we should have in mind the created universe on every plane, both spiritual and natural from the inmost heaven right down to the earth we live on.

On every plane, from the inmost to the outmost, the Lord governs all things according to Divine laws of order according to His Word. If we wish to live in the happy state for which the Lord created us, if we yearn to be free from the dominion of evil loves, then we must learn the laws of order from the Word and live according to them. The truth of this becomes very evident if we consider first the realm of the natural universe.

There was a time and not so very long ago when very little was known of the laws which govern the natural environment in which we live. Superstition was rife. The earth was thought to be flat; it was believed that the sun rose above and sank below its edge. Then people began to study the stars and their movements, and the science of astronomy was born. Methodical observations were made and carefully checked. The accumulated data were analyzed and conclusions drawn. Postulates were made and methodically tested. From these studies a new concept of the natural universe opened up which had far-reaching consequences; among other things it led to improved navigation. This in turn led to the systematic exploration of our globe. This resulted in tremendous changes in the way of life for people on our planet.

The quality of natural life has benefitted in innumerable ways from the development of such sciences as chemistry, physics, agronomy, horticulture, and animal husbandry, not to mention mechanics, electronics, and aerodynamics. Through the development of these sciences, a much fuller and more efficient use has been made of the earth’s resources. We may say that through the discovery of the Divine laws of order on the plane of nature, and by ordering our steps according to these laws, tremendous advancement has been made on the natural plane of life.

Admittedly, many erroneous conclusions were drawn as well as mistakes made in application. Many people abused the knowledge derived from these studies and exploited the environment for selfish ends. While this is true, it does not negate the fact that great progress has been made through the discovery of these Divine, natural laws of order.

Consider also those sciences which are more closely related to human beings: the sciences of biology, anatomy, physiology, and psychology. Since the development of these sciences it is now generally recognized that there are definite laws which govern physical and mental growth. From a study of these laws, and by acting in harmony with them, significant advances have been made in the field of education and the detection and treatment of mental disorders. By ordering our steps according to these Divine natural laws, the potential for human development and achievement has been greatly increased, with a corresponding deepening and extension of man’s potential for being of use to his fellow human beings and to society.

The progress we have been speaking of has been the result of people studying, discovering and learning natural laws, and ordering their steps according to those laws. They have been able to make this progress because the operations of these laws are observable. But man is not merely a natural being we are also spiritual, and there are Divine laws which govern the growth and development of our spirits. These laws are above human consciousness. We cannot discover them by natural observation, analysis, and induction. These spiritual laws are revealed by the Lord in what we call Divine revelation, or the Word.

Only when these laws are known and understood, and as man’s steps are ordered in them, can we expect to see a development of man’s full potential. Much that is wrong in the world today results from our failure to recognize, or refusal to acknowledge, this truth. Great efforts have been made in recent years to improve the human condition. The extension of educational opportunities and the improvement in educational facilities have been undertaken on a grand scale. Extensive social welfare schemes have been devised and implemented.

Unfortunately, the philosophical underpinning of most of these efforts has been an erroneous belief and assumption that man is intrinsically good, and that the evils which beset human society are due to ignorance, an imperfect environment, and corrupt human institutions. While certain benefits have resulted from these efforts, they have also created a host of other problems. The real ills of human society have not been cured; nor will they ever be through such efforts alone.

There is a teaching in the Word which reveals the reason for this. The teaching is striking for its directness and simplicity. It states: “In the other life everything is possible that is in conformity with order. The Divine truth which proceeds from the Lord is what makes order and is order itself. Consequently, as everything that is according to Divine truth is according to order, it is possible; and as everything that is contrary to Divine truth is contrary to order, it is impossible” (AC 8700, emphasis added).

It is a Divine truth that man is a spiritual being. It is also a Divine truth that since the fall of the Most Ancient Church, man, by heredity, tends toward evil. It is a Divine truth that we must be reformed and regenerated if we are to experience true, lasting peace and happiness. To ignore these truths, to act apart from them, is to act contrary to order. That which is contrary to order is impossible! It is, therefore, impossible to cure the ills of society without reference to these and other Divine truths. Conversely, when the Divine truth is known and acknowledged, and when man’s steps are ordered in the Word, then such improvement and the perfection of society are possible, for “everything is possible that is in conformity with order” (AC 8700).

The same thing is true of us individually. Presumably we are all desirous of attaining a state of deep happiness, inmost contentment and peace of mind. We also desire the same for the children entrusted to our care. And this is possible. It is possible if our steps are ordered in the Word. It is therefore fitting that we should pray to the Lord: “Order my steps in Your Word, and let no iniquity have dominion over me” (Text).

As we said in the beginning, implicit in this prayer is the acknowledgment that the power to do this is from the Lord and not in ourselves that we need His help and guidance. But this does not mean that there is nothing we can do to help. The end cannot be achieved without man’s cooperation. Otherwise, we would not appropriate the results to ourselves. And the cooperation required of us is this: that we act as of ourselves to achieve the desired end with the acknowledgment that the Lord alone does it.

To this end the Lord has given the Word to us. In the Word the Lord tells us what is evil and what is good. He tells us what evils are to be shunned, why they are to be shunned, and how they are to be shunned. He tells us what goods are to be done, why they should be done, and how they should be done.

As we order our thoughts, our speech and our deeds in conformity with these teachings, the Lord, from within, orders our inmost loves and affections in a corresponding manner. As we shun evils in the externals of thought, speech and act, the Lord removes the lusts which gave rise to them. As we think, speak, and act with self-compelled consideration and charity for others in accordance with the teaching of the Word, the Lord implants within us a love of doing the same, together with a living perception of how the love should be expressed. As we order our steps in the Lord’s Word, He orders our lives therein.

In the new revelation which the Lord has given us the Word of the Second Advent the Divine laws of order are set forth as fully and completely as is possible in words of human language.

We live in a terribly confused and troubled world. We are not untouched by this trouble and confusion. But let us realize that we can escape from this disordered state. There is a haven of happiness, peace and hope for us. It lies in going to the Word, learning there the Divine laws of order, and ordering our steps therein. As we do this, so will the Lord lead us forth from the dominion of iniquity into the happiness and peace of the heavenly state. Amen.

Lessons: Numbers 9:15-23; Psalm 119:129-144; DP 125, 126

Divine Providence 125, 126

These angelic truths are stated here in order that it may be understood how the Divine Providence of the Lord operates to unite man to Himself and Himself to man. This operation does not act upon any particular of man separately but upon all things at the same time, and is effected from the inmost of man and from his ultimates at the same time. The inmost of man is his life’s love, his ultimates are what reside in the external of his thought, and intermediates are what reside in the internal of his thought. It has been shown in the foregoing numbers what the nature of these is in a wicked man; and from these considerations it is again made clear that the Lord cannot act from inmost things and ultimates at the same time except together with man, for in ultimates, man and the Lord are together. Therefore as man acts in ultimates which are matters of his choice, because they are within the scope of his freedom, so the Lord acts from his inmost things and in the things ranging in series to his ultimates. What the inmost things of man contain and what is present in the series from the inmost things to the ultimates are totally unknown to man; and man is therefore quite unaware of how the Lord operates and what He accomplishes there; but as those things are linked together as one with the ultimates, man need not know more than that he should shun evils as sins and look to the Lord. In this and in no other way can his life’s love, which by birth is infernal, be removed by the Lord and a heavenly life’s love be implanted in its place.

When the Lord has implanted a heavenly life’s love in place of the infernal one, then there are implanted affections of good and truth in place of the lusts of evil and falsity; and in place of the delights of the lusts of evil and falsity there are implanted the delights of the affections of good; and in place of the evils of infernal love there are implanted the goods of heavenly love. Then also instead of cunning there is implanted prudence, and instead of thoughts of malice there are implanted thoughts of wisdom. Thus man is born again and becomes a new man. The kinds of good that take the place of evils may be seen in The Doctrine of Life for the New Jerusalem (nos. 67-73, 74-79, 80-86, 87-91); also, that so far as a man shuns and turns away from evils as sins he loves the truths of wisdom (Life n. 32-41); and so far he has faith and is spiritual (Life n. 42-52).

REPENTANCE, REFORMATION, AND REGENERATION

REPENTANCE, REFORMATION, AND REGENERATION

Repentance

He who would be saved must confess his sins, and do the work of repentance.

To confess sins is to recognize evils; to see them within himself; to acknowledge them; to make himself guilty and condemn himself on account of them. This when it is done before God is the confession of sins.

To do the work of repentance is, after he has thus confessed his sins, and from an humble heart has made supplication for remission, to desist from them and lead a new life according to the precepts of faith.

He who only acknowledges generally that he is a sinner, and makes himself guilty of all evils, and does not explore himself, that is see his own sins, makes confession, but not the confession of repentance; for he afterwards lives as before.

He who lives the life of faith daily does the work of repentance; for he reflects upon the evils that are within him, and acknowledges them, guards himself against them, and supplicates the Lord for aid. For of himself man is continually lapsing; but is continually raised up by the Lord. Of himself he lapses when he thinks to will evil; and is raised up by the Lord when he resists evil, and therefore does not do it. Such is the state of all who are in good. But they who are in evil lapse continually, and also are continually elevated by the Lord; but it is lest they fall into the hell of all the basest evils, whither of themselves they tend with all their effort, and to restrain them to a milder hell.

The work of repentance which is done in a state of freedom avails, but that which is done in a state of compulsion is of no avail. A state of compulsion is a state of sickness, a state of dejection of mind on account of misfortunes; a state of imminent death; in a word, every state of fear which takes away the use of sound reason. He who is evil, and promises repentance and also does good in a state of compulsion, when he comes into a state of freedom returns into his former life of evil. It is different with a good man; these states to him are states of temptation, in which he conquers.

Repentance of the mouth and not of the life is not repentance; sins are not remitted by repentance of the mouth, but by repentance of the life. Sins are’ remitted to man continually by the Lord, for He is mercy itself; but the sins adhere to the man howsoever he supposes they are remitted, nor are they removed from him but by a life according to the precepts of faith. So far as he lives according to these precepts his sins are removed, and in so far as they are removed they are remitted. For man is withheld by the Lord from evil, and is held in good; and he can be withheld from evil in the other life in so far as he had resisted evil in the life of the body; and he can then be held in good in so far as he had done good from affection in the life of the body. From this it may be seen what the remission of sins is, and from whence it is. He who believes that sins are remitted in any other way is much deceived.

After a man has examined himself, and acknowledged his sins, and done the work of repentance, he must remain constant in good to the end of life. And if afterwards he relapses to the former life of evil and embraces it, he commits profanation; for then he conjoins evil with good; and therefore his latter state is worse than the first, according to the Lord’s words: “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, but doth not find; then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, and findeth it empty, and swept, and garnished for himself, then he goeth away and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first” (Matt. xii. 43-45). (AC 8387-8394)