May 2008


Suffering means growing up in the faith; sacrifice means giving up what is inefficient in the process (even the body, for example).

Growing up in the faith is what protects us … and so the soul needs to be exposed to temptation and suffering like the body needs to be exposed to viruses and bacteria to stimulate it to build up the anti-bodies so that it can grow healthy and resistant to disease.

But this analogy only goes so far. The body is inevitably corruptible and corrupted, what is not corruptible is the living hope of our unfading inheritance in heaven, protected by faith, the salvation prepared for us when the time is right.

Therefore, protect your inheritance, suffer as a Christian, grow in the faith, sacrifice what is necessary to grow in the faith.

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Our purpose here is salvation of the soul. We are passionate about this and it makes perfect sense. Εγκράτεια, one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, is the agent by which we channel our passions, we focus all of our energy on the salvation of the soul.

Εγκράτεια means holding within, self-control; another word for self-control is discipline. Discipline also comes from the word for student, disciple, or learner.

Jesus said (Jn 8:31), if you stay within, hold to, my teaching, my Word (Λόγος), then you are truly my disciple.

We maintain self-control, then, to study the Word, Λόγος, so as to be able to pursue also the other fruits of the Holy Spirit, a chain of interlinked molecules, so to speak, including faith, that together form the eternal life of the soul.

Faith decides the matter; faith is how we feel in our hearts. This is what we must have the discipline to work on, a weak and dark heart to make it strong and full of light, full of faith.

Did you fill your heart with faith? Did you love your neighbor?

This will decide the matter between life and death, and the Word of God makes a difference … He sent His Word and healed them.

The forgiveness of sins, being bent out of shape and losing focus, means that, through the grace of God, we can get back on the right path in our pursuit of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, we can change our minds, restructure the “molecule”. But doing so requires commitment, hard work, and sacrifice.

The Lord, in His infinite wisdom, is not going to let us rest complacently in the faith for too long. We must keep working at the faith, making real sacrifices to make progress in the faith, until we come into the true Faith, the true sacrifice, as the day of Jesus Christ, and so finally into His Eternal Rest, which is really no rest at all, but Eternal creative energy in motion … hovering … woo, woo, woo … still, silent, and strong.

So the Covenant, the Διαθήκη, is like a plateau, a temporary resting place. We must periodically renew the Covenant, make the sacrifice of our temporary rest, and reach a new plateau, a new level of faith, a new Covenant, and so on.

Ultimately, I wish to be buried in a field of faith, thereby rising again in body and spirit, for faith is the fertilizer, the substance of the living life, faith is the agent by which we communicate with God, and εγκράτεια is the agent by which we focus all of our energy on faith.

Therefore, even as Saint Paul illustrated on several occasions (1Cor 9:25), like the athlete must train and practice through drills and exercises, as a student, disciple or learner, so we too must practice staying focused on the pure and strait Word also through daily spiritual exercises, through study of the Word.

(Based on 1 Peter)

Salvation of the soul is of supreme importance (thus salvation history). Salvation comes through faith in God and willing obedience to His Word. We discover His Word through grace.

Working against this process is dissipation of the soul through dissolute living, turning away from God and His Word, rejecting grace.

Thus a huge challenge (trials, temptations) is to maintain sobriety, in every form, and channel the passions to faith and obedience to God’s Word.

Now, why God created humanity and faced him with this challenge to begin with is a great mystery, though we try to explain by saying that a saved soul is a reflection of the glory of God.

(based on the Epistle of James)

God did not create us to willow away and die in sin, but to be fruitful – and not only fruitful -, to be among the first-fruits of His creation.

God gave us the will-power to dominate our own passions and use them in pursuit of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Whether we are close to God in holiness or removed from God by the barrier of sin depends on our own free will, through Jesus Christ.

The perfect man is capable of controlling his whole body. If a man does not maintain discipline over even the smallest of the earthly passions, innocuous as it may seem, it could not only set aflame the whole body, but consume the soul in the ensuing fire. A man can use his body to bless and to curse, to pursue the works of the Holy Spirit and to pursue the works of the flesh.

Indeed, the spiritual battle unfolds in the willingness and power of the soul to master the relationship between the body and the rest of creation. The loser allows his will-power to be dispersed aimlessly through the uncontrolled members of the body, the winner focuses the energy of his mind and body on the most important pursuit of all: the soul’s relationship with the Holy Spirit.

This is what we should be seeking, what we should be asking for: passion and discipline working together in the pursuit of the relationship with the Holy Spirit.

And that is why the Apostle James writes “obey God”, obey His statutes and the teachings of Jesus, resist the devil and the devil will flee from you, draw near to God and God will draw near to you. Wash your hands, purify your heart, harness the energy of mind and body under the direction of the soul in the pursuit of one goal.

Therefore, if you lack perfection in pursuit of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, ask of the Lord what is lacking. But do so with unshakable faith: we do not achieve perfection in doubt, duplicity, and instability.

In faith, then, listen to the Word, keep the passions in check. Cast aside all impurities and runaway passion in gentleness and humility so as to nurture the Word implanted within you that gives eternal life to your soul: tend the garden, be the worker in the vineyard, dig out the weeds, so that the seed can grow and produce fruit.

Be patient, then, like the farmer waiting for the autumn rain in the planting season – strengthen your heart – and the late rain in the season of the harvest – produce fruit.

Put in another way, the goal is to achieve complete personhood, from genesis to eternal life of the soul. Listening to the word as passive entertainment or studying the word as a self-indulgent intellectual exercise is self-deception. The doer is the true poet: keep the passions in check, listen to the Word, study the Word, and put it into practice. This is the law of freedom in Jesus Christ which allows us to produce the fruits of the Holy Spirit.