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Lost? Repent to Find Rescue in Everlasting Salvation!

Craig L. Ghislin, C.S., Glen Ellyn (Bartlett), IL
Posted Monday, April 26th, 2010

Lost? Repent to Find Rescue in Everlasting Salvation!
Application Ideas for the Christian Science Bible Lesson on "Everlasting Punishment" for study during the week of April 26-May 2, 2010
by Craig L. Ghislin, C.S., of Glen Ellyn, Illinois [with italicized brackets by Warren Huff]

[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. A free German translation is available again thanks to Helga. YOU CAN SIGN UP at www.cedarscamps.org/newsletters]

In Isaiah 49:8 the prophet speaks of a time when the exiled children of Israel will be redeemed from both literal captivity and spiritual darkness, and brought back home. They will be adequately fed, and their journey will be safe. In the Golden Text, Paul alludes to this text and declares that "now is the accepted time...the day of salvation." Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible informs us that the word translated "salvation" also means, to rescue, deliver, save, as well as health.

In the United States, there is a popular television show entitled, "Lost." In this show the characters are not only lost, stranded on a mysterious island due to a plane crash, but each one of them is lost in his or her own life journey. Some are lost in sin, others in sickness; some are searching, others are running away; some are believers while others are not. These lost souls have even been lost in alternate periods of time. Among various mystical themes, the show deals with the classic struggles between good and evil, destiny and choice, punishment and redemption. These people need to be saved.

We are all in need of salvation - of being saved from fear, doubt, sensuality, greed, sin, disease, and death. In short, we need to be rescued from the belief that we are lost and on our own - separated from God. While the early Christians were fully aware of the constant struggles that worldly existence presented them, they were also conscious of the fact that the path of redemption lay in following the teachings of Christ Jesus. Indeed, they understood their salvation to be through Christ, and that it came to them - not because of anything they had done to deserve it - but by the grace of God. The Responsive Reading also points out that Christians were not to be judgmental regarding non-believers. After all, the Christians themselves faced the same issues and were in no position to be self-righteous about them.

Following the teachings of Jesus seems to go counter to the so-called natural or baser instincts of men, and when fully adhered to, can be quite challenging. But the gospel of Christianity includes the power of fulfilling its own ideal. The Abingdon Bible Commentary explains, "The gospel is a school for character, instructing all men to renounce impiety, to curb all lustful impulses and to learn the discipline of self-control and the beauty of righteousness; it is also a training place where men acquire the strength and power to fulfill these instructions in the present world." The gospel includes a baptism that initiates a permanent change in the way we do things. Allowing this regeneration to take place, we're no longer lost and condemned to a future of everlasting punishment, but can look forward to everlasting salvation and eternal life.
 
Section 1: Starting with God
As usual, our Lesson begins with the spiritual reality of things. Early in human history, and in some degree still today, God has been thought of as having human inclinations such as wrath and vengeance. Some modern theological views of God still aren't very different from thinking of God as Zeus sitting on his throne playing with mortals' lives and causing havoc as well as occasional harmony. As Mrs. Eddy writes, on page 140 of Science and Health, "What is the god of a mortal, but a mortal magnified?" Contrary to such mistaken views of God we find a higher view in the scriptures.  Rather than imparting everlasting punishment, the citations in this section speak of everlasting mercy (B-1), everlasting love (B-2), and everlasting righteousness (B-4).

For all our mistakes, God is inexhaustibly patient with us.  Fully awake to God's mercy and kindness, the psalmist promises to behave wisely because he loves what is good.  He's not afraid of God - he trusts Him.  He endeavors to live perfectly even when nobody is watching.  You know that sometimes we feel restricted by "rules" of spiritual living.  But in fact, it's the sinful ways of life that are restrictive.  The word salvation also comes from a word meaning "to make wide" (Strong's).  So salvation, rather than being confining, actually opens the way for us and removes the barriers of sin that restrict our lives.

In Science and Health, we find that we are all part of God's family.  Everything God does is in perfect agreement with His divine character (S-1).  Mrs. Eddy always thought it was illogical that God would create man capable of sinning and then punish him for it (S-2).  Even as a young girl, she refused to join a church that believed that some would be condemned and others saved.  She states unequivocally, "Good is not, cannot be, the author of experimental sins" (S-2).  With eloquent logic she exposes the absurdity of thinking God could create anything unlike himself (S-3).  She begins with the premise that God is good and all, and she sticks with it.  God could never make man capable of sin.  Note that she doesn't say evil is capable of making man sin - it only "seems to" (S5).  That's an important distinction.  Evil is not really capable of doing anything, it only claims to be able to do it.  It is an illusion that does not come from God.  People have reasoned otherwise for centuries.  But, if we stick to our premise that God is good, there is no way for us to be convinced that evil comes from Him, or that He allows it.  The real, perfect man is "sinless and eternal" (S-6).
 
Section 2: Lost...
While the "perfect man" is sinless and eternal, mortals need to be saved to realize that fact.  This is the good news that Jesus proclaimed (B-6).  The time is at hand; the old material ways of strife and evil opposition to God are about to be replaced by the kingdom of God.  Abingdon writes that the new gospel enhanced and enriched the old views of God "by making love and mercy central in His character."  The Pharisees were very critical of Jesus' mission to those perceived to be sinners and outcasts - unworthy of attention much less salvation.  But it was to those lost in sin that Jesus reached out.  He brought his point home in the parable of the prodigal son (B-7).

This parable has made several appearances in the Lesson and most readers are familiar with it.  Taking his inheritance before his father's death, the younger son abandons any further claim to the estate, symbolically rejects his religion, and selfishly and arrogantly wastes his fortune.  As Dummelow writes, he goes where God is forgotten and "throws off even the semblance of piety and respectability, and ruins not only his soul, but his health and fortune in extravagance and debauchery."  No mincing words there!  Eventually his pleasures [and lust] lose their luster, and he is left friendless and destitute as a famine strikes the land.  He tries to remedy his situation by plunging even deeper into sin attaching himself to a foreigner and tending swine - the lowliest of all occupations to a Jew.  His indulgence in sin has driven him into virtual slavery, and he is in a dark place.

Paul cautions all believers to avoid falling into material ease, self-indulgence, sensual pleasure, and material pursuits (B-8).  As The Interpreter's One-Volume Commentary on the Bible puts it, Christianity is true living, not merely existing.  To some degree, each of us has taken our share and "gone off" on our own.  Any time we think we can make it without God's help, or any time we look for success in material and sensual pursuits, we are joining with the prodigal on a path to disappointment.

Now notice something important: The father is not punishing the son for his mistakes. The mistakes are punishing themselves.  Indulging in evil and breaking from God bring unhappy consequences.  Like I tell the campers at CedarS, "If you leave the tent and it's raining, it's not the tent's fault that you get wet."  If we choose to separate ourselves from God's law and protection, we suffer the consequences.  Mrs. Eddy saw these consequences as necessary if they teach us to let go of sin.  The marginal heading for citation S-8 is "Blessings from pain."  I know a lot of people don't like this, but it's what she says, and it's true.  "Sin is its own punishment" (S-9).  The "sharp experiences," our "disappointments and ceaseless woes, turn us like tired children to the arms of divine Love" (S-10).  When a young child starts losing control and going wild before an overdue bedtime, he abandons the rules and stretches the envelope as far as he can.  But eventually, that "little bulb" burns out and ends up on mommy or daddy's shoulder.  Would that it were that benign for us to forsake our love of sin!  No, we still tend to hold defiantly to our course like the prodigal, and we sometimes end up paying dearly for it.  But thank God that's not the end of the story, "The darkest hour precedes the dawn" (S-11).

Section 3: ...and Found
["Lost" belongings at camp are easily "Found" when names are written on them.  At CedarS we hourly help you to "rejoice, because your names are written in heaven." Luke 10:20]
 
Our prodigal friend wakes up (B-9).  He "came to himself."  Like snapping to after a fainting spell he realizes his father's household helpers have more than he does.  He acknowledges his sin and resolves to admit his wrongdoing when he gets home.  Now notice two things: First, he acknowledges his sin.  Second, he doesn't just frolic home, he works hard to get there, limping all the way.  Now his father isn't standing there at home with his hands on his hips, tapping his foot impatiently, taking pleasure in the boy's groveling.  He is eagerly looking for him.  And when he sees him "a great way off," he runs to him and hugs and kisses him.  Even though the son is ready to accept a lower position, the father fully restores his status as a member of the family, including his claim to the estate, and throws a party to welcome him back.  His son was lost and has been found.  The reunion isn't tainted by past misdeeds.  It's a new day and it's a joyful one.  In Psalms 85 (B-10), mercy and truth are met, and righteousness and peace greet with a kiss.  Interpreter's notes that "salvation is a joyous meeting, like that of friends long separated, between God's saving love and His people's loyalty."  Abingdon adds, "Earth and heaven meet in man's redemption. Permanent peace can exist only on a foundation of righteousness."

Our Leader acknowledges that sin clouds our sense of Truth (S-12).  She also makes an arresting statement: "Only those, who repent of sin and forsake the unreal, can fully understand the unreality of evil" (S-13).  This would indicate that to the degree we do not see the unreality of evil - in that same degree - we have not yet forsaken it.  A sobering thought.  Sensualism is not the bliss it pretends to be; it's really bondage (S-14).  Our only true happiness is in finding our oneness with God.

It's interesting that in citation S-15, we find that "waking to Christ's demand" causes mortals to experience suffering.  This seems a little unusual since we've already been told that sin produces suffering.  But this is reminiscent of the prodigal who, although he sees his mistake, he still needs to get back home on his own.  As Paul says, "work out your own salvation."  Sin is pardoned and destroyed only as it is forsaken (S-16, S-17).  But if we continue to believe in sin, the punishment continues.  We can choose at any moment to "come to ourselves," to get back on track, and get back with God (S-18).  Remember that to open or "make wide" is one of the meanings of salvation. The great thing is, if we're honest about it and really mean it, God will open the way for us, and that's the good news of the gospel
[In "Quality time with Dad", today's "Daily Lift" for Monday, April 26, 2010, John Q. Adams tenderly gives us a prodigal son's perspective of "voicing regret and tearful repentance over some incident. . . . After the tears had stopped . . . (Dad) would ask "Did you gain a lesson, Son?" ... If you think the moment is right to spend some quality time with your heavenly Father, then maybe the demands of the day can wait while you renew your tender, caring relationship that remains undisturbed and ever the same." Now that's renewable energy and sustainability!]
 
Section 4: Restitution-A Must
Is it wrong to have money?  No, but the Bible tells us that the inordinate love of and pursuit of material riches can lead to trouble (B-12).  Interpreter's likens the love of money to an "entrance drug" leading to deeper vices.  There is nothing wrong with obtaining provisions for legitimate needs.  But, if the desire for wealth becomes our main focus, we tend to neglect spiritual endeavors.

Zacchaeus was apparently someone who loved money.  He was a rich tax gatherer. However, that didn't stop him from wanting to get a glimpse of Jesus passing by (B-13). He climbed a tree to see Jesus, and in turn, Jesus "went out on a limb" for him. He suggested that he have dinner at his house.  Since publicans were held in very low esteem, the surrounding bystanders murmured at this.  But Jesus must have detected something worthy in Zacchaeus, and he responded to Jesus' invitation with a complete reversal in his attitude.  He pledged to give half of his goods to charity and to repay four times over anyone he had cheated.  To repay "four times" was the punishment for thieves.  Jesus, true to form, then rewards him by calling him a "son of Abraham."  Just like the father reinstates the prodigal into the family, the Christ welcomes home all those that are lost and found through repentance.

The key element for Zacchaeus was that he repented.  It's easy to be sorry for wrongdoing, but we need to reform (S-19).  Even though civil or criminal law may find a person not guilty or commute a sentence, the moral law must be satisfied (S-20). Our Leader tells us that only God corrects and governs man.  True reform comes through the operation of Principle (S-21).  Here again, we find Mrs. Eddy having no problem at all with suffering for sin.  In fact, she cautions us that every sinful pleasure will produce its equivalent in pain, until the sin is forsaken.  This point seems to come up quite often in Mrs. Eddy's writings.  We should not complain about suffering for sin. But as Christian Scientists, we don't just admit we're sinners and leave it there.  We are expected to reform.  How?  By loving good more than evil.  Being good because we're afraid of punishment does not indicate a true change of heart (S-22).  If we really love good more than evil, we will look away from material pursuits and gain a deeper understanding of God.  The marginal heading for citation S-23 is, "Salvation is through reform."  Enough said.
 
Section 5: No Justification for Sickness
If you perceive of someone as being a sinner, or at least not living up to the standards you think they should, what is your reaction?  If they appear to be getting along fairly well, do you inwardly hope it all eventually will catch up to them?  If they seem to be struggling, do you mentally condemn them for not being "good enough" to be healed? Nobody would openly admit to these negative thoughts about others, but these temptations do exist.  It's part of human nature to deflect one's own shortcomings by finding some degree of satisfaction in other's challenges.  But that's far from the Christian standard.  Jesus didn't come into the world to condemn sinners but to save them (B-14).  This is evidenced in Jesus' healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda (B-15).

Tradition has it that the cause of this invalid's condition was some great sin committed in his youth.  Of all the people laying around that pool waiting to be healed, something about this man drew Jesus' attention.  We'll never know what it was Jesus felt, but he questioned the man and directed him to rise up and go home.  The man had an excuse, but Jesus didn't allow it.  Maybe the whole town thought he deserved to suffer and nobody would help him when he needed it.  Jesus did more than help; he healed him.  He also warned him not to slip back into his old sin.

Jesus never found justification for sickness.  If sin was a factor in the case, he healed both the sin and the sickness.  Sometimes we are tempted to feel that if someone is suffering for a long time, they somehow must be thinking or doing something wrong and that they may in fact deserve what's happening to them.  This is not acceptable in Christian Science.  We should never justify a prolonged illness either in our own experience, or in someone else's.  Sin and sickness are both errors which Christ, Truth destroys (S-24).  We should watch that we don't inwardly accept a necessity for sin or sickness.  As we grow spiritually, we will come to the realization that nothing "deserves to perish or to be punished."  The sick need reassurance not condemnation. Mrs. Eddy counsels us to use wisdom in how we present the truth to the sick.  The sick often condemn themselves for their lack of healing progress.  Knowing that Truth overcomes disease and sin strengthens hope and imparts health (S-25).  If, while praying about an illness, it comes to us that sin is a factor, we must rise spiritually and overthrow both.  Rather than seeing sin as a cause of disease, or as a factor in its duration, and then excusing the lack of healing due to sin in the patient's thought, remember that the primary mission of Christian Science is the healing of sin (S-26). Then, whether someone is lost in sin, sickness, or both, the opportunity to be found and saved is right at hand.

Section 6: "Ransomed, Healed, Restored, Forgiven..." (Hymn 280)
A wonderful thing about Christian Science is that even though we do acknowledge we all have work to do, we are fully expected to overcome sin and get the victory.  In many recovery programs and theologies, accepting your sin or sickness (addiction) as an indelible part of your being is part of the process.  In the Scientific understanding of Christianity, we don't brand ourselves with sickness or sin; we allow the power of Christ to work in us and with us, realizing that we can be saved from sinful, sickly claims right now (B-17).  St. John envisioned a new order - a society in which everything is new and holy (B-18).  In this vision the lost mortal is ransomed - released, preserved, and redeemed.  Our salvation is not only imaginable; it is a present possibility.

Our textbook underscores this hope (S-27).  There is no doubt that sin needs to be destroyed in order for man to be saved, but once it is destroyed, the punishment is over.  This is how God pardons sin: by destroying it (S-28).  John saw this through spiritual inspiration.  His uplifted consciousness saw heaven here and now.  As we approximate John's spiritual state of consciousness, we too, can see the vision and experience an immediate lessening of the evils that afflict us (S-29).

Thinking again about the television series, "Lost," the action is currently following two parallel story lines - one which considers their lives if the plane had crashed, and the other, what would have happened to them if they hadn't crashed.  Interestingly, the majority of the characters are facing very similar problems in both story lines, on the island and off.  I suspect that if the characters are eventually found, or find themselves, the alternate realities will disappear.  As we experience our salvation from sin and sickness, we too, will find "the former things" passing away and being replaced by the new heaven and new earth.  We'll see that we don't have to remain lost and suffering.  The Christ finds us, redeems us, and saves us.  The heavens rejoice and we find everlasting salvation.

[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 or through CS Directory.  But, current and planned gifts are much-needed to cover the costs of running this "free" 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!
 
Our top need
is to put our money where our mission is by raising significant dollars to underwrite camperships for the hundreds of campers now applying for aid. To make a charitable donation to our 501C-3 tax-exempt, charitable organization:
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, 10-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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