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Discover Your Perfect Selfhood!

Craig L. Ghislin, C.S., Glen Ellyn (Bartlett), IL
Posted Monday, March 1st, 2010

Discover Your Perfect Selfhood on the Path to Ascension
Christian Science Bible Lesson Application Ideas for: "Man"
by Craig L. Ghislin, C.S., of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, for March 1-7, 2010
 
[Editor's Note: The following application ideas for this week and the Possible Sunday School Topics that follow 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 each week, or by each Wednesday you can get a FREE TRANSLATION in French from Pascal or in Spanish from Ana. Soon a free German translation will be available again from Helga. SIGN UP at www.cedarscamps.org/newsletters]

How many times have you heard the phrase, "Nobody's perfect?" Growing up a Christian Scientist, I often heard just the opposite: "You're God's perfect child." Honestly, this caused me a fair bit of trouble.  After all, since I was perfect, I could do no wrong.  Right?  Not by a long shot!  I did plenty wrong, but it took quite a bit of struggling to admit it.  As I began to face up to my failings, I began to realize that the human personality with my name attached to it, wasn't the perfect man of God's creating, but rather a counterfeit.  The man made in God's image is reflection, image, and idea, not physique and personality.
 
This week's Lesson distinguishes the real man from the false picture we see humanly.  As we realize the real man of God's creating, the false human personality called "man" disappears.  The culmination of that disappearing of the false view of man and the appearing of the real man is called ascension.  This Lesson includes three of them.  When you get right down to it, that's really the pinnacle of spiritual understanding and our true destination in Christian Science. Our goal is to walk with God and to awaken to completely spiritual being.
 
The Golden Text actually begins with where we intend to end up - man in God's image and likeness.  This is man in his true, perfect, spiritual state.  In Christian Science we are taught that Truth destroys erroneous lies and that the Truth makes us free.  We're also aware that if we have error in the premise of our argument, we'll have it in the conclusion as well.  Since we don't want error in our conclusions, we keep it out of the premise.  So starting with man in God's image is a good premise. Like a proof in geometry it's a "given."  But next, we need to prove it.
 
How do we do that?  We practice being perfect and live it in our everyday walk.  Now before we go too far, let's make sure we know what we're talking about when we use the word perfect. According to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible the word perfect in (B-1) has the same root word as the word translated as undefiled in the Responsive Reading. It means with integrity, without blemish, complete, full, sound, without spot, upright, whole. The Amplified Bible reads, "Blessed...are the undefiled (the upright, truly sincere, and blameless) in the way [of the revealed will of God], who walk (order their conduct and conversation) in the law of the Lord." Paul too was convinced of man's innate purity as children of God, but he also acknowledged the process required to prove it. We are meant from the beginning "to be conformed to the image of his Son." The Abingdon Bible Commentary describes the divine purpose in Romans 8:28 as bringing man "into conformity to the image or character of Christ, and as causing them to participate in the glory, the moral splendor, of God." That sounds like a description of ascension.
 
None of this is to say that we won't face challenges. However, none of the challenges, no matter how severe, are able to separate us from the love of God.
 
Section 1:  The First Challenge Is to Know Where You're Headed
"Mark the perfect man..." (B-1).  As mentioned above, this sentence and others like it can sometimes cause us some trouble.  Either we cast perfection off as an impossible standard, or we feel immense pressure to uphold it humanly.  But we don't have to feel either way.  The New English Bible simply uses the term "the good man."  We may not be able to live up to "perfect" but we can certainly strive to be good.  In Matthew 5:48 (B-4) Jesus commands us to be perfect.  But in this case, the original Greek word means complete - as the result of labor and growth in mental and moral character (Strong's); or, having reached its end, finished, without spot or blemish, full grown, accomplished (Greek-English Lexicon Liddell & Scott). These definitions indicate a process of growth.  Paul urges us to take part in such growth by walking in the Spirit (B-2).  As we put on the "new man" we will be modeling our lives after the true and righteous man created by God.
 
In Science and Health man is described and defined from the standpoint of spiritual perfection (S-1).  Note well that our Leader doesn't say man is material and perfect, but that man is spiritual and perfect.  The so-called material man is not perfect. Every portion of this citation on page 475 describes the real spiritual status of man in the likeness of his Maker.  Keep in mind that in reality there is no other man.  The man God made is the only one there is or ever was.  The appearance of a mortal man is a product of the belief that man can be separated from God.  Our Leader urges us to rid ourselves of this belief (S-2).  As we clearly understand the spiritually-scientific statement of man, the new man will appear (S-3).  This is a radically different approach from most religious views.  Generally, man is thought of as a fallen sinner.  If that were really so, we'd be hard-pressed to prove otherwise. But recognizing that the degenerate view of man is belief rather than fact, we can begin to demonstrate that "higher man" in proportion to our spiritual understanding. If we start from the premise that man is God's likeness, we are free to prove it (S-4). In order to progress, we need to know our destination.  Starting with our model as man in God's likeness gives us the confidence and power to prove it in our daily walk (S-5).
 
Section 2:  The Next Challenge Is to Walk in the Right Direction
In addition to the definitions above, The Amplified Bible defines perfect as used in citation B-4 as "growing into complete maturity of goodness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity."  Here again we see that Jesus isn't asking the impossible.  He's asking us to work at it and prove what we learn.  As Olaf M. Norlie's New Testament translation puts it, "You must become spiritually mature."  To human sense this appears to be the result of a process. Paul defines that process in citations B-5 through B-7.  Paul calls for what Interpreter's terms "a radically new orientation" with respect to our motives and goals.  Our concept of the new man is found in our recognition that man is made in God's image.  The Christ is the highest concept of man in God's image.  As we focus on the Christ, we reflect his image in our character.  All of our efforts appear to be hindered by a material attraction toward the opposite direction we wish to go.  It seems to be a tug-of-war between Spirit and flesh.  But step-by-step our natures are transformed.
 
Mrs. Eddy points out that we walk in the direction we're looking (S-6). CedarS campers know that when riding a horse, it will walk in the direction it's looking.  The same rule applies in our lives.  But just looking where you want to go doesn't get you there.  You need to move your feet too.  Just so, our spiritual progress is accomplished in steps - sometimes big ones, other times small ones (S-7).  It's good to remember that this progression from imperfection to perfection is only going on in human belief.  As the false beliefs are given up, the reality appears (S-8, S-9).  In citation S-10 we find the "Scientific Translation of Mortal Mind."  In it are three degrees: Depravity, Evil beliefs disappearing, and Understanding. Sometimes people try to figure out which "degree" they're in.  But depending on the area of life we are considering, we may be in different degrees at the same time.  That is what the human scene claims: that we live in a blend of good and evil.  Even though we can be honest, meek, and faithful, we could also be challenged with hatred, self-justification, or sickness.  As we work daily to spiritualize our thinking, we will find that we are gradually replacing those aspects of the first degree of mortal mind with the second and third degree aspects.  It's a lifelong process of practicing what we preach.  Only when all the unreal and transitional qualities give place to the real, do we demonstrate perfection.  When that time comes the material disappears altogether and the result is ascension.
 
Section 3:  Walking with God
Lately, I've been thinking about reputation.  Several sports figures and politicians, people who are generally thought of as positive role models, have made some really big errors of judgment.  Their reputations have become tarnished and their credibility has suffered.  We think we "know" celebrities, but do we really know them?  What people think they know is nothing but a public persona.  The only people who really know them are the ones that live with them, and to some extent, the ones who have personal interaction with them.  Those who see them in their daily walk, have a better idea of who these people are. But even the people who see you every day aren't with you all the time.  How you think and act when nobody is around is a more honest gauge of who you really are.  Many of us feel that only God is truly capable of knowing us.  When all other witnesses fail, we often hear the plea, "As God is my witness."
 
The Psalmist felt that way (B-8).  He knew that his trust in God formed his character and he knew that he honestly lived a life of integrity.  Enoch (B-9) had an exemplary reputation.  You might say he excelled in the second and third degree qualities.  His is the first of the three ascensions mentioned in the Bible and in this Lesson. Abingdon says Enoch "made himself the familiar companion of God."  Dummelow writes of Enoch, "In all his actions he recognized the duty which he owed to God; from none of his thoughts was God absent; he lived in communion with Him."  His adherence to God earned him passage to heaven (reality), and he did not die to get there.  If we aren't sure how to act, or if we are too concerned with what others might be thinking, we can remember that we don't have to do the right thing so we can impress men.  We do the right thing because that's what God requires (B-11).  Not outward ritual, but inward righteousness expressed in selfless service is the way to begin our walk with God.
 
The Discoverer of Christian Science taught that we need to show our understanding of our unbroken relationship with God each day (S-11).  The man God made doesn't have to die to get to heaven (S-12).  Our textbook tells us no matter how much we think we need material sense we "must change the human concept of life" (S-13). As we do this we lose all faith in material ways and means, and we begin to rely totally on God (S-15).  ["leaning on the sustaining infinite" S&H vii:1]  Then we wake up to our real being as God's image and likeness.
 
Section 4:  No Halting if You Want to Get There
While Enoch seems to be the ideal model of how to conduct our lives and progressively find our way out of the flesh, Elijah's story has a few more details.  As we look over the record of his life, we see that he had several challenges to face. He stood alone against the prophets of Baal (see I Kings 18), and he was marked for capture and execution.  At one point, he even contemplated suicide.  But he learned to rely on the "still, small voice" and to stand firm with God.  Like Enoch, Elijah did not die, but ascended into heaven, taken up by a whirlwind (B-13).  His zeal in his stand for the One God earned him preeminence as a prophet.  No doubt it also played a part in his ascension.  He challenged the prophets of Baal, "How long halt ye between two opinions?" (B-14). In other words, how long will you "pursue a vacillating, irregular course, serving God and Baal alternately?" (Dummelow).
 
Do you find yourself vacillating between good and evil - between matter and Spirit? Mrs. Eddy cautions that our decisions will master us "whichever direction they take" (S-16).  This calls to mind again, that we must look where we would walk.  To human sense it looks like the material sense of things and the spiritual sense can blend and coincide - that as one recedes the other appears.  But, really they never mix at all.  We really can't halt between two opinions.  The real and unreal never unite (S-17).  The only reality is the divine.  The "straight and narrow way is to see and acknowledge this fact..." (S-18).  We measure our advancement toward spiritual reality as we live the Truth consistently and earnestly.  Watching the Snowboard Cross in the Olympics, it sometimes looks as if they are moving laterally rather than vertically.  But all the time they are striving to get to the finish line faster than anyone else.  For all their efforts, they can't really push themselves down the hill or muscle their way through gravity.  What they can do is use their skill, strength, and balance to find the path of least resistance and to use gravity to their greatest advantage as they move through every obstacle as smoothly as possible.  We too, can't muscle our way to heaven, but we can use our spiritual skills to allow the pull of Spirit to keep us going in the right direction until we finish our course with joy (S-19).  For us the finish line is ascension.
 
Section 5:  A Preview of Things to Come
For those who seem to be spending more time in the "first degree," it certainly can feel like sitting in darkness.  There's no chance of recognizing the perfect man of God's creating in that bleak condition.  But let's remember it's the first degree of mortal mind, i.e. the first degree of a lie.  Not the first degree of real being.  If we believe the lie though, it is a dark place indeed.  Fortunately, Jesus' teaching brought the light of Christ to pierce the darkness of material belief (B-15).  Abingdon gives a beautiful description of Jesus' mission: "The ministry of Jesus was a veritable dayspring from on high whose aim it was to bring beauty and loveliness to the gray, drab lives of men, to call forth the latent powers of the soul, to inspire in the hearts of men the psalm of praise and to prompt men with a desire to minister to others."  The event known as the Transfiguration (B-16) shattered all sorts of accepted conventions.  The account says that Jesus shone like a bright light.  This is important because when Moses came down from his audience with God, his face shone too, but the light was "borrowed," not from within.  And speaking of Moses, there he was talking with Jesus.  Elijah was also there.  Here we have one who [was presumed to have] been long dead [although his body was never found] and one who had already ascended talking face to face with Jesus.  The disciples were witnesses to it.  Figuratively, Moses stood for the Law, Elijah for the Prophets, and Jesus for the Gospel and the perfect man.  How could this have taken place literally?  The disciples fumbled around in an effort to make sense of it all, and then they heard a voice declaring, "This is my beloved Son...."  Were they getting a glimpse of the real man?  John, who had been one of those three witnesses, later wrote, "now are we the sons of God" (B-17).  Even though we can't see it yet, we are more than we seem to be.  Paul says it's like looking into a distorted mirror (B-18). We never really resemble a distorted reflection, nor can we rely on a distortion to give us the true picture.  Believing man is material is a distorted view of our true being.  We are never really in the material condition.  We are always spiritual.  But we need to change our way of looking at things.
 
Our Leader informs us that all of those negative aspects in the first degree of mortal mind are illusion (S-22).  The disciples were told to "hear" or listen to and follow what Jesus taught.  He showed us the way to sweep away the "dark visions of material sense."  Jesus not only understood himself to be the image and likeness of God, he knew we were too.  Jesus was never fooled into looking into the distorted mirror of material sense.  He saw the real, perfect man everywhere he looked.  And this correct view healed (S-23).  He knew that the distorted material view was no more the true view of man than a distorted image in a dirty mirror was.  Today we have the great gift of divine Science to shine the light on our false views and sweep them away (S-25).  Every glimpse we have of our real being brings healing, and it also brings us a step closer to awakening fully to our true being as spiritual children of God - that is, one step closer to ascension.
 
Section 6:  Last Stop - Ascension
The accounts of Enoch and Elijah inform us that it is possible to wake up from material existence and fully demonstrate that man is truly spiritual.  Jesus took it all a step further by first overcoming the grave (B-19).  This indicates that the awakening to man's true identity as the spiritual image and likeness of his Maker cannot be attained by death.  After his resurrection, he had the same body he had before.  The ascension - his final departure out of the flesh - was the zenith in his path to perfection. It is also ours.
 
Jesus' resurrection and ascension proved once and for all that the material view is unreal and that it "disappears in the presence of reality" (S-26).  Traditionally, people have believed that in order to get to heaven, you have to die.  But that's not true. There is only one way to heaven.  "It is to know no other reality - to have no other consciousness of life - than good, God and His reflection, and to rise superior to the so-called pain and pleasure of the senses" (S-27).  When Elijah ascended, his protégé Elisha, received a "double portion" of his spirit.  Mrs. Eddy writes that when Jesus ascended, his students received the Holy Ghost (S-28).  This understandably gave them an entirely different perspective on man's true nature.  She writes, "They no longer measured man by material sense" (S-28).  Some may doubt whether any of the ascension accounts in the Bible are factual.  But if they weren't, could the disciples have sustained their inspiration to carry on with Jesus' mission?  Could the message of the Christ survive in future generations?  The resurrection and ascension were the foundation of Paul's message.  The disciples witnessed the ascension and this buoyed their confidence in overcoming all fleshly obstacles. Jesus' ascension showed that the perfect man spoken of in Genesis is spiritual.  According to Mrs. Eddy, man's spiritual perfection is "incontrovertible" (S-29). That means it can't be disputed.
 
So back to the beginning: (a.) "Nobody's perfect" or (b.) "You're God's perfect child." No, matter is not perfect and doesn't even exist as a condition of being.  Yes, man made in the image and likeness of God is always perfect and was never anything less.  The first degree and the third degree in the scientific translation of mortal mind have no meeting point at all.  They are opposites and entirely separate.  One is physical; the other is spiritual.  But the Christ lights our way out of darkness and guides us through the transition.  True spirituality "deepens human experience" until the material sense disappears (S-30).  We prove our spirituality and perfection in daily demonstration.  Then we finally wake to realize that spiritual perfection is all there is, and we ascend to our status as God's perfect man.

[This weekly Metaphysical Newsletter is provided at no charge to the 1,200 campers and staff who were blessed last summer at CEDARS--as well as to thousands of CEDARS alumni, families and friends who request it, or who find it weekly on our website.  But, current and planned gifts are much-needed to cover the costs of running this service and of providing camperships for ongoing inspirational opportunities.  Your support is always tax-deductible and welcomed--but during the economic downturn, your help has been and continues to be especially needed and appreciated!  Two ongoing needs are to raise significant dollars:
     1)  to underwrite camperships for the hundreds of campers now applying for aid; and,
     2) to provide care for our large herd of horses to make it through a snowy winter.  "Adopt the Herd" donations will be matched!
 
To make a tax-deductible donation:
1) Write a check payable to CedarS Camps and mail it to the office:
           1314 Parkview Valley, Manchester, MO 63011; or
2) Call Warren or Gay Huff at (636) 394-6162
to charge your gift using a Visa or Mastercard or to discuss short-term or long-term gift of securities or property that you are considering; or
3) CLICK HERE RIGHT AWAY TO SUPPORT CEDARS WORK
with an online gift using PayPal.com, which can be funded using a Visa or Mastercard account.]
 
[Camp Director's Note: This sharing is the latest in an ongoing, 9-year series of CedarS Bible Lesson "Mets" (Metaphysical application ideas) contributed weekly by a rotation of CedarS Resident Practitioners and occasionally by other metaphysicians. (To keep the flow of the practitioner's ideas intact and to allow for more selective printing "Possible Sunday School Topics" come in a subsequent email.) These weekly offerings are intended to encourage further study and application of ideas in the lesson and to invigorate Sunday School participation by students and by the budding teachers on our staff. Originally sent JUST to my Sunday School students and 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 and background as well as new angles (and angels) on the daily applicability of some of the ideas and passages being studied. The weekly Bible Lessons are copyrighted by the Christian Science Publishing Society and are printed in the Christian Science Quarterly as available at Christian Science Reading Rooms or online at eBibleLesson.com or myBibleLesson.com. The citations referenced (i.e. B-1 and S-28) from this week's Bible Lesson in the "Met" (Metaphysical application ideas) are taken from the Bible (B-1 thru B-24) and the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy (S-1 thru S-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 the ideas helpful in your daily spiritual journey, in your deeper digging in the books and in closer bonding with your Comforter and Pastor.]
Enjoy!
Warren Huff, Executive Director   director@cedarscamps.org    (636) 394-6162

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