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Get Going by Growing in Grace! It's like a passport connecting us to the Christ power of "the divine influence" in our lives!

Craig L. Ghislin, C.S., Glen Ellyn (Bartlett), IL
Posted Sunday, February 24th, 2008

Get Going by Growing in Grace! It's like a passport connecting us to the Christ power of "the divine influence" in our lives!
Application ideas for the Christian Science Bible Lesson: "Christ Jesus"
for February 25-March 2, 2008

by Craig L. Ghislin, C.S. of Glen Ellyn, Illinois

Editor's Note: The following application ideas for the Christian Science Bible Lesson for this week are offered primarily to help CedarS campers and staff (as well as friends) see and demonstrate the great value of daily study and application of the Christian Science Bible lessons year-round, not just at camp! You can sign up to have them emailed to you free -- in English by Monday of each or by Wednesday you  can get a FREE TRANSLATION in French by Pascal or in Spanish by Ana. JUST SIGN UP at www.cedarscamps.org/newsletters

Grace.  It's a powerful concept in Christianity.  As in the well-known hymn, "Amazing Grace," it is commonly thought of as a saving gift of God given to undeserving, fallen mortals.  There is a lengthy discussion of grace and its evolution in religious thought on the Wikipedia web site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divine_grace.  To be sure, we could not achieve much in the growth of Christian character without grace.  It's like a passport to power that authorizes and supports all efforts in spiritual growth and demonstration.  I have yet to find a more enlightened definition of grace than is found in Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: grace-"the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life."

 

According to the Greek-English Lexicon, (Liddell and Scott), grace includes kindness and goodwill on the part of the Doer, and a sense of thankfulness, favor, and gratitude on the part of the Receiver.  It's a reciprocal activity.  That is the significance of Strong's definition.  The divine influence is reflected in man.  In the Responsive Reading, this is what the author of Colossians is praying for.  He has an expectation that the understanding of God, as taught and demonstrated by Christ Jesus, bears fruit through the good lives of his followers.  This understanding or spiritual wisdom, "expresses itself concretely in the life of the believer who increases in knowledge as his life bears fruit ‘in active goodness of every kind'"  (Interpreter's One-Volume Commentary on the Bible). "Fullness," as used in Colossians, was a term used by certain opposition sects to represent the totality of "elemental spirits, which collectively constituted the cosmic deity" (Ibid.).  This was opposed to the Christian concept that Christ alone possessed the fullness of divine power.  For early Christians, utilization of this divine power gave a holy purpose to human endeavor and became the standard for Christian practice.

 

The fullness mentioned in I John includes both the divine attributes embodied by Christ Jesus, as well as the human virtues he displayed.  Every believer is endowed with these attributes through grace, as one act of love begets another.  [Possible UPLIFTING Sunday School Homework: (P.U.S.S.H.)]  Take some time this week to look for evidence of grace in your life.  As you study the Lesson, you will find that more than an avenue for saving wretched mortals, grace is a divine source of healing power.


Section 1:  The Grace of God Brings the Christ to Humanity

Prophecy was an essential element of Hebrew religion.  "Through prophecy are communicated the mind and will of God upon which Israel's life and destiny depend"  (The Abingdon Bible Commentary).  Such prophecy proved, "(1) that there is a living God revealing his mind and will, and (2) that Israel, by God's choice and grace, was through its prophetic personalities in contact with that living God" (Ibid.).  Moses foretold that the prophetic line would continue (B2).  [Possible Sunday School Topic (P.S.S.T.):  How did Jesus fulfill the prophesy to be "like unto" Moses? (Deut 18:15, B2) How did Jesus show dominion over water like Moses did when he parted the Red Sea?  What did Jesus do that was like Moses' feeding his followers with manna and quail? What did Jesus do that was like Moses' healing Miriam's leprosy?  What guidelines did Jesus give us that are like The Ten Commandments given by God to Moses?]   Isaiah (B3) prophesies a Servant who would provide freedom from spiritual bondage, just as Moses had liberated Israel from physical bondage.  The new message would bring deliverance to all nations, therefore "establishing a new and permanent relationship between God and all men like that which exists between Him and Israel" (Interpreter's).  Moses established commands, but they did not change human nature nor give mankind the power to obey them.  "Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ" (B4).  Grace and truth transform human nature.  They provide power and authority for us to become more Christ-like. 

 

The first citation in Science and Health echoes the meaning of fullness as used in I John 1:16 - divinity made manifest in humanity.  Mary Baker Eddy emphasized a distinction between the human named Jesus and the divine idea of Christ he demonstrated (S2).  As explained on page 333, (S3) we can understand that the Christ has always been present to those prepared to receive it.  Moses was one of a long line of spiritual seers who glimpsed the expression of "God's spiritual, eternal nature."  There was indeed a line of prophecy, and it still exists today.  Jesus didn't nullify the work of the early prophets.  He confirmed it (S4).

 

Today, all sorts of people are looking into family trees and searching for their "roots."  Some want to feel a connection to their ancestors; some hope to find they are related to nobility or that they have a family castle somewhere.  There was a recent program on PBS devoted to tracing African-American genealogies.  Much of the program was based on DNA evidence and produced surprising results.  They found that many have fairly diverse genealogical backgrounds as opposed to pure genetic lines.  In the Bible, Matthew and Luke include detailed family trees to support Jesus' claim to the Messiahship.  [What does Joseph's genealogy matter though to Jesus' virgin birth in which God is his only father?]  Jesus established his claim to Messiahship by his works (S4).  As followers of Christ Jesus, we have roots, too.  Have you ever taken the time to realize what a precious and powerful spiritual heritage you have?  In our times, people lay claim to their physical heritage by sampling their DNA.  But as Christians, we establish our claim to divine heritage just as Jesus did - by our healing works.  [P.U.S.S.H.  Apply a simple idea from the lesson to heal something that "Does Not Apply" (DNA) to you or to another - a Cobbey Crisler acronym for DNA.  A positive DNA acronym I claim for us all is Divinely Natural Attributes.]

 

Section 2:  We Have Authority Through Grace

Any time the status quo is challenged, there is going to be resistance.  On the surface, it looks as though Jesus' detractors were merely questioning the propriety of Jesus' healing on the Sabbath (B5, 6).  But the rabbis had conceded that God doesn't suspend care for His creation on the Sabbath.  The larger question was "where did Jesus get the authority to heal and teach?"  Jesus claimed that his actions were parallel to God's.  Jesus did not ask to be judged by the conventional methods of rabbinical lineage through the scribes, but by the strength and efficacy of his teaching and practice.  He felt that those who were earnestly working to follow God's will, would perceive that his authority and doctrine came from God.  In John 7: 21-24, Jesus boldly confronts his opponents.  He quotes the Law of Moses, which his opponents claim to follow: J.R. Dummelow paraphrases, "You are not keeping the law.  Moses commanded you not to shed innocent blood, and yet you seek to slay me, an innocent man."  He goes on by asking how they can set aside Sabbath restrictions for circumcision, but object to healing on the Sabbath?  [P.U.S.S.H. connected to the Sabbath day Commandment: Listen (again?) to the 4th commandment Sunday School podcast by clicking here (http://www.tmcyouth.com/downloads/audio/huff-commandments-04.mp3)] Continue to focus on expressing the dominion and authority to finish healings and projects and to make progress toward goals.]

In our time we face challenges to our authority to heal, too.  [P.S.S.T.]  How do you defend your right to heal in the face of opposition?  You may not feel you have as blatant resistance to face as Jesus did, but in subtle ways every medical advertisement and commercial, every report of new diseases is a direct challenge to our practice.  How do we defend our authority to heal?  Mrs. Eddy writes, "Grace and Truth are potent beyond all other means and methods" (S5).  They are potent in every situation-both to bring us healing and to defend our right to do so.  Jesus didn't rely on clever rhetoric for his defense.  He said, "My doctrine is not mine, but His that sent me."  He rebuked the error of ingrained dogmatic thinking with the healing power of the Christ (S7).  Rather than promoting a personal view, he identified with his divine nature and this gave him authority over sin, disease, and death (S8).  In addition to the blatant resistance to spiritual healing from pharmaceutical and medical quarters, there is a subtle argument that tries to get us to believe that people are generally uninterested in Christian Science healing.  Our Leader met that argument decisively.  She was convinced that Jesus' message was for all time, that the divine healing Principle is still at work today, and that eventually everyone would seek it (S9).

 

Section 3: Grace Is at Work in Human Consciousness

Mrs. Eddy predicted that eventually, all people would turn to the healing power of Christ.  In order to recognize the healing Christ, one needs to be ready to receive it.  The Beatitudes define states of consciousness indicative of one's readiness to receive spiritual instruction.  Two of the Beatitudes are included in this week's Lesson (B8).  The first is "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."  Many are familiar with J.B Phillips' translation, "How happy are those who know their need for God..."  Such an individual relies not on his own resources or achievements, but relies totally on God.  Blessedness "consists of standing in a right relation to God, and so realizing the true law of a man's being" (Dummelow).  That strikes very close to the definition of grace considered earlier. [P.U.S.S.H. connected to the Beatitudes: Listen to the Sunday School podcasts on the featured Beatitudes by clicking here (http://www.tmcyouth.com/downloads/audio/huff-poor.mp3 and http://www.tmcyouth.com/downloads/audio/huff-heart.mp3 ] Focus on expressing the humility and purity of the mind of Christ.]

[The second featured Beatitude, on]  being "pure in heart" means not just ceremonial cleanness or outward conduct, but "complete purity of inward thought and desire" (Ibid.).  Though the spiritual standard is purity without any mixture of evil, human experience seems to be nothing but good and bad all rolled into one.  The parable of the tares and wheat (B9) illustrate the human condition.  But the power of Truth, when introduced into the human scene, has a leavening effect.  Commenting on the parable of the leaven Abingdon states, "When placed under the microscope, the working of leaven in the meal looks like a veritable battlefield: there is assault and penetration in the face of determined resistance until peace descends after the whole has been conquered."  That's an apt description of the effect of Truth upon error.  All the teachings in the scriptures are useful to us and prepare us for useful service to God (B10).

 

Mrs. Eddy points out that the leaven, the Science of Christ, is working through power and grace to change the basis of Science, Theology, and Medicine, from a material standpoint to the spiritual (S10, 11).  This spiritual reality is pure and cannot mingle with error (S12).  Some theologians have viewed the parable of the tares and the wheat as an indication that we can't expect perfection either in our lives or in church -that we have to take evil with the good.  But considered spiritually, we find in the parable a promise of the separation of evil and good, and that only the good will survive (S13).  [P.S.S.T.]  Can you think of any evidence of the leaven of Christ going on in human thought today?  No one can stop the leavening effect of Truth.  It purifies human experience until there's nothing left but "God's spiritual, perfect man" (S14).

 

Section 4:  The Preserving Power of Grace

Jesus knew that he must fulfill his mission.  He was a teacher, healer, and the Redeemer of mankind.  It was his eternal connection with God's grace that sustained him through the severest trials.  As Paul recounts the crucifixion, he makes sure to point out that Jesus' mission was the fulfillment of prophesy (B13).  The selfless act of redemption supplanted the mechanical function of the letter of the law.  The divine influence embodied in Jesus' ministry raised him from the belief of death and preserved him from "corruption."  In other words, the Christ experienced no "putrefaction and dissolution of the grave" (The Amplified Bible).  This evidence of divine grace, gave impetus to the apostles' mission (B14, 15).

 

Science and Health underscores the role of grace in Jesus' triumph over the grave (S15).  Recognizing that the power to sustain Jesus in the tomb was something beyond material recognition, Mrs. Eddy saw the resurrection as a "divinely natural act" (S16).  The divine presence influencing, uplifting, and healing the human circumstance is an example of grace in action.  However, it's not enough to observe and acknowledge Jesus' accomplishment.  We are expected to follow Jesus' example (S17).  He gave direct orders to go out into the world and put into practice the preserving power of grace (S18).  [P.S.S.T. "Give us grace for to-day; feed the famished affections;" is an eye-opening line from Mrs. Eddy's spiritual interpretation of the Lord's Prayer. (See Science & Health 17:5 & click here to hear a Sunday School Lord's Prayer podcast at http://www.tmcyouth.com/downloads/audio/barry-5bread.mp3  How have you put grace into action this week and fed "famished affections?"]

 

Section 5:  Grace Is Available to Everyone

The life of Christ Jesus exemplified grace.  He brought salvation to all mankind (B16).  The marvelous healing work done by the apostles was the evidence of grace working in their lives.  Their healing works attracted new believers to the faith daily (B17).  But as a wider variety of individuals turned to the young church, a bitter and lengthy controversy threatened.  The leaven of truth had been working in the hearts of potential converts, and now it needed to do its work within the Christian community.  The church at Jerusalem, while Christian, continued to adhere to Jewish beliefs and rituals.  The new Christians who came from a Gentile background were being urged to submit to the Jewish rite of circumcision as a prerequisite to their full admission to the Christian faith (B18).  Needless to say, there were strong feelings on both sides.  It became a contest between the old ways of doing things, which many considered to be too focused on the letter of the law; and the new way, which many considered to be a more spiritual approach.  The point of circumcision was to symbolize the cutting away of carnal nature.  Peter had already had his vision impelling him to meet with Cornelius (a Gentile) as equals.  He'd learned that God was "no respecter of persons."  The new understanding was that salvation did not come through rituals but through the grace of God.  Paul came to the same conclusion in Romans (B19) that there is no difference between nationalities, but all who called on God could be saved.  In Hebrews we find a warning to believers to avoid becoming victims of false teaching (B20).  In context, this plea was part of a debate over whether or not spiritual life was nourished by specific diets.  This is yet another area where human doctrines impose themselves on spiritual practice.  [P.S.S.T.]  Diets, rituals-any man-made system-has little if any power to bring us into grace. [Let's ask ourselves:  What inferior dietary beliefs and practices am I finally ready to surrender to the true "miracle diet?" - "the miracle of grace" (S19) and the feeding of "famished affections" (S&H 17:5)]

 

Mrs. Eddy denounces man-made doctrines.  She asks, "Devoid of the Christ-power, how can they illustrate the doctrines of Christ or the miracles of grace?" (S19).  [P.S.S.T.]  Modern times are not without ritual.  Can you think of other outmoded practices that stand as obstacles to grace?  Too often, tradition is confused with spiritual necessity.  Jesus' teachings free us from worn-out rituals (S21).  Jesus' teachings bring salvation to all who accept them (S22).  Sometimes we might be tempted to feel that certain individuals don't deserve God's grace.  But "Love must triumph over hate" before we can experience the fullness of grace ourselves (S23).  As many of our church signs declare, "All are welcome!"  [P.S.S.T.  Let's ask ourselves often:  What can we do to be more like Jesus and the apostles in Acts to welcome everyone to our church "with one accord ...and ...with gladness and singleness of heart" (B17)]

 

Section 6:  Grace in the Church

As the leaven of Christ works in the church corporate, it also works in each individual member.  Everyone who is thirsty for truth is bidden to "come!" (B21).  In Colossians, Paul is concerned that his readers not "be duped into accepting and promoting doctrines which have no enduring significance and are not as profound as their exponents pretend" (Interpreter's).  Abingdon notes these philosophies claimed to be a "Higher Thought."  These modes of thinking were conglomerations of all sorts of pagan, Gnostic, Hebrew, and Christian ideas rolled into one.  In modern times we might think of some of the New Age practices in the same light.  Paul also reiterates the spiritual meaning of circumcision: "...in your conversion you received a spiritual circumcision, not the mere cutting away of a fragment of the body, but the removal of the whole carnal nature" (Dummelow).  The aim of the church is to promote a "mature and perfect humanity, endowed with the fullness of Christ" (Ibid.).  Take note that the reference to "unity of the faith," according to Interpreter's, is "not to be confused with uniformity, for the members of Christ's body have been variously endowed."  Peter's prayer was for the members of the church to grow in grace and knowledge (S24).  As touched on in the first beatitude, grace can only be known by surrendering all trust in human skill, wisdom, and ability.  It is a complete reliance on God alone.

Through grace, manifested in his human experience, Jesus demonstrated the divine (S24).  Each individual is expected to follow his example.  Our leader tells us that our biggest need is for "growth in grace" (S25).  Putting off "the false sense for the true" (S26) is one way of putting off the carnal nature as mentioned by Paul.  Christ reveals to us our indestructible nature.  It enables us to recognize our unity with God and feel the power of "divinity embracing humanity" (S28).  That's the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life.  That's grace - our passport to power.  [So, lets's get going by growing in grace!  P.S.S.T. Share specifically with your class and/or congregation how your "growth in grace passport" is giving evidence that you're really "going places" with "stamps" of Patience expressed today!  Meekness lived today!  Love shared freely today! Good deeds enthusiastically done today! (adapted from "what we most need" (S25) - S&H 4:3-5]

Camp Director's Note:
The above sharing is the latest in a series of CedarS Bible Lesson "mets" (metaphysical application ideas) contributed weekly by a rotation of CedarS Resident Practitioners and occasionally by other metaphysicians [with bracketed, italicized notes and "Possible Sunday School Topics" and Homework offered by me as editor and sometimes by the author]. This document is intended to initiate further study as well as to encourage the application of ideas found in the Weekly Bible Lessons as printed in the Christian Science Quarterly and as available at Christian Science Reading Rooms.  * Originally sent JUST to campers, staff and CedarS families who wanted to continue at home and in their home Sunday Schools the same type of focused Lesson study, application and inspiration they had felt at camp, CedarS lesson "mets" are in no way meant to be definitive or conclusive or in any way a substitute for daily study of the lesson. The thoughts presented are the inspiration of the moment and are offered to give a bit more dimension, background and daily applicability to some of the ideas and passages being studied. The citations referenced (i.e. B1 and S28) from this week's Bible Lesson in the "met" (metaphysical application ideas) are taken from the King James Version of the Bible (B1-24) and the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. (S1-30) The Bible and Science and Health are the ordained pastor of the Churches of Christ, Scientist. The Bible Lesson is the sermon read in Christian Science church services throughout the world. The Lesson-Sermon speaks individually through the Christ to everyone, providing unique insights and tailor-made applications for each one. We are glad you requested this metaphysical sharing and hope that you find some of these ideas helpful in your daily spiritual journey, in your deeper digging in the books and in closer bonding with your Comforter and Pastor. Have fun unwrapping, cherishing and sharing your special, spiritual gift(s)!
Enjoy!
Warren Huff
Camp Director
director@cedarscamps.org
(636) 394-6162
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Go to www.myBibleLesson.com to check out this visually-oriented and very helpful study resource for the weekly Christian Science Bible Lesson. It's being produced by The Christian Science Publishing Society. What a great auxiliary to lesson study - and to reading beyond citation markers using the handsome new student books now in Reading Rooms. MyBibleLesson contains word definitions, Bible background Notes, fun topical cartoons, timelines and translations, plus many healing ideas to use. Why not check out this vehicle to help bring new meaning and life to each beloved Bible lesson and so bless the youthful thinker and Sunday School student (and teacher) in us all!

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