In Holy Orthodoxy, salvation (theosis) is a process. It is not automatic. It is not magical. It is something we work out in cooperation with God through our free will. By choosing the process, we enter into a struggle.
According to the Fathers of the Church, there are two aspects to the process
- Cleansing of passions putting off the old (lower) man
- Winning of virtues putting on the new (higher) man
- St. Paul talks of dying to self, that Christ may live in us. (Also Colossians 3:9-10; Ephesians 4:22-24)
So then, what is the main obstacle in our way of spiritual progress?
Sin! Not just the big moral stuff, but all of it; anything that takes us from being with God, from working out of our salvation with fear and trembling.
In the ten commandments, the very first is: Thou shalt have no other gods before me. It is the first because the most prevalent sins come from breaking this commandment. This is the travesty of idolatry. Most assume it is the worshipping false gods or idols, particularly those of statues, made from the materials of the earth. It is this, but much more than this. Anything we place in front of God, before our worship of Him, must be seen as an idol. Our maintenance of these "priorities" "distractions"
"pleasures" (or whatever we wish to call them) above the maintenance of a Godward life is the same as idolatry. Idolatry is a distortion of the proper relationship with the Triune Godhead.
The prevalent list of "seven deadly" sins can be seen in this light:
1. Pride idolatry of self, distortion of self-esteem
2. Envy idolatry of others, distortion of discernment and admiration
3. Coveting idolatry of things, distortion of temporal ownership
4. Greed idolatry of wealth/money, distortion of generosity
5. Lust idolatry of sexual expression/passion, distortion of fruitfulness
6. Gluttony idolatry of food, distortion of healthy consumption,
7. Sloth Idolatry of leisure - distortion of needful rest
We need to get things into proper perspective. We need to be actively honest, searching for the truth, proving all things. We need to dispense with the works of evil in our lives - and then put off the old again until it stays off. We need to keep putting on the new given us from Holy Baptism until it stays on. Christ will be our guide and guardian. If we ask for His help and angels will rush to our side.
It may be helpful to examine the proper nature of self so that we do not bear the sin of pride; the proper manner of admiration so that do not envy. We need to examine our property, our wealth, and our attachment to it, realizing from whence it came and where it will end. We need to understand the fullness of healthy relations and family fruitfulness. We need to care for our bodies properly with healthy foods, exercise and rest.
We need to know the proper ways of being in this world so that we do not withhold the love that Christ has already been given to us. Often we think that sin is related to harming others and when we sin we withhold God's love from them - this is Truth! But the greatest commandment testifies that we must love God with all our minds, heart and souls and our neighbor as ourselves. So, when we sin, we withhold God's love from ourselves and then we cannot love others in the true way - this is how we truly harm others by harming ourselves.
Let us move from sinful ways continually. Let us embrace holy, virtuous and loving acts instead. We know that cannot do this without divine intervention. So, we must ask Christ for His love and mercy through confession and repentance. In this action of request, this humility of honest reflection and intention, we defeat the devil and we embark upon the journey of salvation, the process of theosis, the way of Christ.
And when we fall again, let us ask again for His love and mercy and let us rise from the dead, putting off the lower man and putting on the higher - until that day when we have not only worked out our own purification, but have saved thousands around us by our example along the way. We do not need to know how we may be reaching them or who among those that we encounter will be touched by our efforts - only that God will recognize their inner movement toward Him because of us.
Without this two-fold effort of putting off sin and embracing Godliness, we are left in the quagmire and whirlpools of earthly life that will lead to only one conclusion - death. Too dramatic for your case? If you believe it is not that bad - do you wish to be in such dire straits at a later date? How much further do you think you can go before you are stuck? How far from God does one have to be in order to be separated from Him?
Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
If you wish to leave the idols of your life and embrace the True Way of the New Life in Christ, contact your local
church. Have courage, for Christ has overcome the world and, once we have begun the process, started on the Way, He will never leave nor forsake us - no matter how many times we turn our backs on Him. We need only turn back again (repent) to live!