St Paul the Apostle Orthodox Church
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/ Weekly Message / Weekly Message 02-14-10: No Ordinary Courage

No Ordinary Courage

It is precisely in this that God proves his love for us:
that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us
Romans 5: 8.

The Cross is the second of the greatest events in the history of the world, in the history of salvation. The cross is the victory, the Resurrection is the triumph and makes the cross meaningful. The Resurrection is the public display of the victory, the triumph of the Crucified One which is why in the Church of Jesus Christ the emblem above the head of the Crucified One reads, "King of Glory." The victory was announced from the Cross; "It is finished" John 19: 30.

The Cross is the supreme evidence of the love of God. For there the Lord of life surrendered to death. His most beloved, his only-begotten Son, the Mediator and Heir of Creation surrenders himself for our sake. The innocent One assumes the penalty for our transgression. "In him everything in heaven and on earth was created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions, principalities or powers; all were created through him and for him" Colossians 1: 16; "This Son is the reflection of the Father's glory, the exact representation of the Father's being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he cleansed us from our very sins, he took his seat at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven, as far superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs" Hebrews 1: 3, 4.

Christ the Lord expired on the Cross; He for whom the stars circle in the skies and for whom every gnat dances in the sunshine "Indeed it was fitting when bringing many sons to glory God, for whom and through whom all things exist, should make their leader in the work of salvation perfect through suffering. He who consecrates and those who are consecrated have one and the same Father" Hebrews 2: 10, 11. Truly, "This we know: our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed and we might be slaves to sin no longer" Romans 6: 6.

Those who have not denied themselves cannot follow Jesus. For choosing to follow Jesus and to actually follow him springs from no ordinary courage. For example, Those who deny themselves make a sincere serious effort to wipe out their former wicked lives. Those who once were immoral deny their immoral selves and become more self-controlled ... those who have become righteous do not confess themselves and their abilities, but Christ alone. Those who find wisdom, because they possess wisdom, also confess Christ. And those who with the heart live in righteousness and with lips make confession to salvation and witness for the works of Christ by confessing them before others who will be confessed in turn by Christ before the Father in heaven. As a result every thought, every purpose, every word and every action becomes a denial of self and testimony for Christ. We are persuaded that the perfect person's every action then, is testimony to Christ Jesus and that abstinence from every sin is a denial of self. It is these souls who in deed, take up their own cross and follow him, who for our sake, bears his own cross for us as well.

Part of our passion comes from the daily realization that we are in fact winners. To the victor go the spoils and we enjoy every benefit of the victory that was won on Golgotha when Christ defeated death. Now we need only surrender fully to him and serve under his command, to ally ourselves with him, to align our goals with his salutary purposes. When we realize that our future is secured, that there is no way Satan can snatch us from the hands of God, we take on the positive and exuberant spirit of champions.

But how exactly do we surrender? As we share in Christ's victory, we share in his crucifixion. As we become more perfect Christians, we are crucified with him. "...and the life I live now is not my own; Christ is living in me. I still live my human life, but it is a life of faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" Galatians 2: 20, 21.

This means all the self-defeating parts of us - the self-righteousness, the rebelliousness the strife, the resentment, the selfishness, the slavery to our lusts - all these are nailed to the cross with Christ. It is the sum of the evils, what we call the "old self," that is crucified. Then as surely as Christ rose in perfect form on the third day, we rise again to walk in newness of life, in passion and in the spirit of champions.

If only we would remember! If only we would surround ourselves with monuments and memorials. If only we would allow the Cross to witness for us and become the Statue of True Liberty, the Tomb of the Unknown Sinner, to keep ourselves from forgetting, even for an instant, that Christ has already won the battle, that we need only cooperate with, incorporate his victory-won grace because our enemy is defeated.

Heaven knows the works of crucifixion that ultimately frees us to true life are not sought after enthusiastically. Left to our own devices, we will conduct Calvary in our own self-interest, for the sake of displaying to others that we do so, and thereby win their approval, even seeming respect. Such false humility is a blight on Christendom and characterizes too many its leaders. Yes, it is a horror that leers at every priest and fills him with timidity when he sees a problem that should be corrected and neglects to do it. It is the attitude of respectable parishioners which intimidates the security of a priest in the parish until he looks the other way at the neglected opportunities for advancement in spiritual life which are never taken.

No, No, this must be a work of God, contrived by him in his own timing and in his own way. The role of the priest, just as the role of any believer, is to bow down, to accept the painful agony of being corrected so it becomes a good thing, a positive thing, a surrender into the perfect working of the will of our Maker even though we cannot at the time see the outcome, but trust in faith to the working of the Spirit within us.

The role of the believer is to surrender and not fight against the wooden stake being pounded into the arrogance, the pettiness, the narcissism, the concentration on self­inflated and vacuous achievements and abilities. The role of the believer is to pray, "Empty me. Empty me even of life if that is the way you work your way in me 0 Lord. I choose to trust your plan for me is good because you allowed it to occur in my life. Open my eyes to understand this reality."

For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin Romans 6: 7. Why do we believe the Lord died? We believe it because the Word of God teaches us so; His Body, and Bride, the Church echoes it continually. It is not because we feel it is so, it is because it is reality. When the Lord was crucified, two thieves were crucified at the same time. Now what about our own death? Our crucifixion is more intimate than theirs. They were crucified at the same time as the Lord but on different crosses, whereas our crucifixion took place with him. We were with him when He expired for our sake! It does not depend on our feelings, it is not the result of positive thinking and upbeat emotion. If we are faithful believers our crucifixion has taken place. We are ruled out! The self we loathe so many times was on the cross in Christ. If we integrate his freely offered grace into our lives; if we make his blessings our own; if we are faithful in living our lives as He invites us to, we are set free from the power of sin! That is what makes this Great Fast such a Great Joy!

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