Monday, December 10, 2012

The Devil's God

     Belief in Christ has become almost meaningless today. Everywhere I go everyone believes but the professions I hear pale in comparison to evil in our society. In response, I have come to the point that I no longer give others the typical answer when asked about belief. Unfortunately, when I do say things like, "I am a Christian" it feels like I am stating a social function that people have in common. As a result, I now state, "I follow the teachings of Jesus Christ" when asked about belief. In doing this I have found something that really challenges myself and others. For its one thing to say what you believe but totally another to say what you are actually doing.
     When it comes to belief it's no secret that the devil himself believes in God. In fact, you could even say that the demons have generated more reverence for God then what we often see in our common professions. In this regard, the scriptures say the following, "You believe that there is one God; you do well: the demons also believe, and tremble" (James 2:19 KJV).As it shows here and throughout the scriptures there has always been a sharp distinction between a general belief and a living experience of  faith. In fact, the Lord criticized even the most religious people of the time, such as the Pharisees, Scribes, or Sadducees, for their lack of commitment to God. In the case of these religious people their 'personal' beliefs were thoroughly expressed but they failed to demonstrate the reality of God through their actions.
     It really is troubling to know that the most religious people of the Lord's time failed to experience God. I can't help to think that even though many of us never miss a Divine Liturgy the evidence around us demonstrates how committed we really are. This truth reminds me of a man who once in trying to justify his commitment to God because of how he never missed a feast day was told by his spiritual father that the devil never misses a liturgy either. It's amazing how easy it is to fall into self deception and to use our "beliefs" to hide behind. Consequently, to be in such a state before God will have dire results if we don’t change (Matthew 7:23).
     Blessed Elder Sophrony once said, "Christianity in its true dimensions has never yet been properly grasped by the great mass of people"(On Prayer pg. 61). He speaks of people like majority that say they believe as those who wear a mask of piety but deny the power of God. This is something of course that none of us are immune to. I can't help to admit my own guilt and how at times it was easier for me to demonstrate my theological education than any real spirituality at all. In recognizing my error I realized by God's grace that I don’t have much of a real experience of God that I can share with others. Sure, I could convince others about why of how to believe but I offered them no real substance of God's power for it was all words.
     In my Byzantine tradition I have learned that a simple profession of belief alone is not sufficient to express our religion. For us to profess belief is to at the same time manifest the power of God. There should be no distinction to what I say I believe in and the living presence of God. For Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8). He is the same Jesus the apostles preached and He must be the same one we speak of today. Distinctions are made only to level that we choose to participate in Him through our repentance. As St. Maximos teaches God does not diminish His manifestation in us but estimates our capacity to express Him by our desire for Him (Philokalia v2 pg. 166).
     Unlike the Devil's belief in God ours is always open to a greater manifestation of God's presence. In essence, to say we believe is to show another person God. From this perspective for us to profess belief requires at the same time a great responsibility. A responsibility that calls us to become what God is through repentance and acquiring God's grace. When it comes to this kind of belief God has given us no reason for us not to believe. He is constantly making ways for us to know Him and the power of His love. In the face of such generosity we can only respond the way one man did in the Gospel of Mark, "I believe; help my unbelief!”(9:24)

2 comments:

  1. This is so true and it is something that has also been troubling me lately. When one reads the lives of the saints, or the lives of holy elders, one is struck by how different their lives are to ours in terms of commitment, devotion and love.

    I think complacency is a real problem for modern Christians as it eats away at our commitment and therefore our ability to manifest God in our lives. My husband and I are slowly trying to change our daily lives into something which is less conformed to the modern world by re-orienting our time so that it is filled with more prayer and fewer distractions. We took one small step yesterday by getting rid of our TV and putting an icon corner in its place. I think little things like this can help to strengthen our faith and hopefully make us more effective Christians over time.

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    1. Anonymous dec. 10, 2012 I agree. there are two things that may be worth trying. Making the sign of the cross when leaving home and starting the car and before eating and other times when the spirit speaks reminds us of the presence of God. The other help could be to take a one to five minute break when we discover we know our spiritual/emotional processes are in need of healing. Here we can take an inventory and ask God for what we need. Most of the time I find I need more patience for self and others and Ineed Gods help to show love to others. May God Bless all.

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