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Don't be Tricked by the Masks of Sin or Sickness!

Craig L. Ghislin, C.S., Glen Ellyn (Bartlett), IL
Posted Monday, October 27th, 2014

[Don’t be Tricked by Sin or Sickness! Give them Treatments in Christian Science!]
Rejoice in Deliverance through a Higher Understanding of God’s Mercy

Metaphysical Application Ideas for the Christian Science Bible Lesson:
Everlasting Punishment

October 27—November 2, 2014

By Craig L. Ghislin, C.S. Glen Ellyn, Illinois (Bartlett)

  craig.ghislincs@icloud.com /   (630) 830-8683

 

[Bracketed italics by CedarS Director Warren Huff, who’s letting needs be known for support:  our Matching Funds need gifts to complete upgrades before year-end snows fly. Click here to donate now!]

Have you ever thought about hell?  Probably not too much.  These days even though there are a wide variety of films and books about demons and the devil, most people have figured out that (notwithstanding Interstate billboard warnings that “Hell Is Real,”) there isn’t a place below the earth’s surface where sinners are condemned to eternal fire.  But for centuries, traditional Christian theology has taught just that, and used the threat of hell to keep adherents in line with church law.  Most of the images we have about the devil and hell have their origins in Dante’s Inferno, and Milton’s Paradise Lost and they are all fictitious.  If hell isn’t a real place where we might end up after death, what is it?  Did God make it?  Do we need to fear it?

According to Mary Baker Eddy, hell is a state of belief in which one feels totally separated from God.  It is often a self-imposed state of suffering due to sin, or the state of separation from God felt while indulging in sin.  It can also describe a hopeless outlook while suffering sickness.  This view of hell, being a state of thought rather than a location, could seem real to us to some degree in our present experience.  Most of us studying the Lesson this week lead fairly comfortable lives and have a fairly low tolerance for discomfort of any kind, so unless we’re really struggling, we don’t give much thought to these things.  Therefore, we read the Psalms and Book of Lamentations in a somewhat detached way.

But Bible scholars from earlier times saw in the Bible poignant and profound connections to the struggles of the human condition.  The Golden Text speaks of God delivering the psalmist from the “lowest hell.”  This deliverance gives him reason to rejoice and glorify God not only in times of need, but “for evermore.”  Are you in despair?  Are you struggling with a deep sin, or even a seemingly minor one?  Do you feel your physical suffering is punishment for something you’ve thought or done?  Do you feel that you’re the victim of someone else’s sins?  If you think you’re in the deepest waters, this Lesson is for you.

The Responsive Reading assures us that rather than God watching, and punishing us, His great mercy saves us from sin and its effects.  If we’ve done, or are doing something we shouldn’t, we may feel separated from that loving care, but no matter how dark any night might be, each morning brings new opportunities for redemption and salvation.  Mary Baker Eddy writes, “That tomorrow starts from today and is one day beyond it, robes the future with hope’s rainbow hues” (Mis. 339:7).  God doesn’t afflict us, nor does He create obstacles in our path to find Him.  Yet if we willingly indulge in sin, we shouldn’t complain if we run into difficulties.  Suffering is the natural result of sin, and it often forces us to look for something better.  Jeremiah urges us to call upon the Lord and “lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.”  Jeremiah felt that God had saved him from the “low dungeon.”  That theme is repeated quite a bit throughout this lesson showing the power of Love to redeem us no matter how painful, or sorrowful our condition might seem.

As bad as Jeremiah’s predicament was he knew that God had saved him before, and he trusted that God would save him again.  When things seem at their worst, let’s not let the liar dissuade us from turning to what we need the most.  It’s easy to be holy and pray when the wind is at our back and we’re going downhill.  But when things get tough, that’s when we have the opportunity to show what we’re made of.  No matter what we’re doing, or how we may be waffling between temptation and holiness, we know that God is consistently present to support and save us.  His mercy is everlasting.

Section 1: Everlasting Mercy
The Bible teaches us that God is good and His goodness is shown in His mercy and truth—both of which endure forever (B1).  As changeable as mankind seems to be, God is one hundred percent consistent in all situations, and throughout all time.  How could God be anything less than good?  Most tend to think of God as observing and judging just as men do.  But God isn’t swayed by any human circumstance because He doesn’t see the human scene, nor does He know anything about it (B2).  God’s law is automatic.  It supports and assists everyone in need.  His law is as far beyond our ways of doing things as the heavens are from the earth; and just as it’s impossible for west and east to ever meet or touch, so God separates man from sin.

As is common in the Psalms, the composer is recalling times of severe distress.  He is bound like a beast covered by a net, and he instinctively calls to God for aid (B3).  The psalmist also uses the imagery of being tangled in the weeds under the water.  It doesn’t matter whether we get into those weeds on purpose, through reckless behavior; or whether we accidentally swim where we should not go—the result is the same—God draws us out of the quagmire.  Traditional theology often points to Psalm 139 (B4) as evidence that God is aware of everything we’re doing.  This was to keep people in line because, since God was watching, they couldn’t get away with wrongdoing.  But that sounds a bit more like Santa Claus to me.  The fact is that God knows exactly what we are—but what we are is His sinless idea.  He can only know us the way He made us.  Wherever we think we are, we are always in Him, safe and sound.  The desire to have God search and know us is really our pledge to God that we will examine ourselves, and look to Him for help to align our every thought and act to His perfect knowledge of us.

Our Leader reasoned clearly and logically that God could never behave as humans do (S1).  He doesn’t experiment on us, or put us through tests as the gods of Greek and Roman mythology were thought to do.  Mrs. Eddy points out the obvious fact that good and evil do not cooperate in any way and therefore, God being good, He never created anything evil (S2).  She also cautions that just because sin is unreal and not made by God, it does not mean that sin can be indulged without consequence.  “Error excludes itself from harmony.  Sin is its own punishment” (S3).

Here is where we are called upon to live consistently with our theology.  We have to recognize that even though God does not see sin, and even though sin in the spiritual reality of things is unreal, those who indulge in sin will still suffer for their misguided activities (S4).  We touched on Mrs. Eddy’s view of hell a bit earlier and the full definition of it is in citation S5.  Living in sin is living in hell.  But God didn’t make hell nor does He send us there.  Sin brings “self-imposed agony.”  That’s an important distinction between Christian Science and traditional theology.  In Christian Science man is not a “born sinner,” but he has to prove it.  If he sins, the sin is still punished, but not because God sees it, but because if we sin, we believe we are separate from God, and if we think we’re separate from God, we will find ourselves in distress.

Fortunately, we are not doomed to be sinners or to suffer.  Since God didn’t make sin, we can choose to live righteously and the more we do, the more heavenly our lives will be, and the belief of sin will finally disappear (S6).

Section 2: You Don’t Need to Suffer for Others’ Sins.
The news recently has been filled with stories of violence against women.  Professional athletes have been taken to task for abusing their girlfriends and spouses; international criminal organizations have been pursued and exposed for human trafficking for the sex trade, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 1 in 5 women experience rape at some time in their lives.  Men also experience abuse, but at a much lower rate.  These atrocities occurred in the Bible as well.  This week we have the story of Amnon raping his sister Tamar (B6).  It’s interesting that several commentators view this incident as a result in part of David’s sin against Uriah and Bath-Sheba.  David’s advisor Nathan predicted that evil would be raised up to David from his own house.

Amnon’s wickedness was compounded by the fact that once he indulged his brutal lust, his cruelty was multiplied by turning against Tamar with hatred, and causing a public scandal, exposing her to humiliation and contempt.  It’s hard to imagine the depths of sorrow and shame she must have felt after such abuse.  Victims often tend to blame themselves, and like Tamar, “cover themselves in ashes.”  But if we have been the victim of abuse or violence, there is hope for us because we are not to blame, and we are not condemned to suffer for other’s sins.  The prophet writes, “when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me” (B7).  Even if it seems that the whole world is against us, the Scriptures promise that God will bring the enemy to utter ruin (B9).  Like Job, we can maintain our innocence despite all human opinion, or evidence to the contrary (B10).

Our Leader assures us that God is a present help whenever we’re in trouble (S7) with these encouraging words: “Evil is not supreme; good is not helpless” (S8); and “The wicked man is not the ruler of his upright neighbor… success in error is defeat in Truth” (S9).  Isn’t that comforting?  Just contemplating these facts help to lift us out of self-condemnation, shame, and guilt.  It often appears that evil is holding the upper hand and that innocent people are powerless to stop it.  But “right is right, since God is God; and right the day must win” (Hymn 86).  Yes, goodness will overrule and eliminate all evil, but not from a standpoint of revenge.  It’s from the standpoint of divine justice.  It’s just not right that evil goes unpunished.  Mrs. Eddy is quite sure of God’s righteous reign over all that exists.  Neither the full consequences of evil deeds, nor full rewards for goodness are realized in our present experience (S11).  These truths help see us through challenging times bringing us a sense of peace (S12).  Our textbook promises that Truth destroys the errors of sense, and that our true natures as God’s sinless children will eventually be realized (S13).

Section 3: Keep Watch over Your Thinking.
It’s up to us to prove our pure, sinless natures by repenting from sin, and living clean lives (B11).  Living rightly begins with thinking rightly.  The Sermon on the Mount teaches us how to do that.  Christ Jesus came to fulfill the law by teaching us to watch not only our behavior, but also the way we think, and to imbibe the spirit of the law in our hearts (B12).  The only way to recognize and fully apprehend the heavenly kingdom is to clear the dense fog of sin out of our lives.

Those who try to be good are often maligned and misrepresented.  We might think that it would be understandable, and even excusable if innocent victims of abuse would want revenge of some sort against their persecutors.  But Jesus teaches us to love our enemies.  He expected consistency in every circumstance and condition.  We would reasonably expect that the kingdom of heaven is free from perpetrators and therefore free from victims as well.  Therefore, in this kingdom there is no need for revenge or retaliation.  Trying to live that way before we reach the kingdom may seem a bit out of our reach.  However, when Jesus asks us to be perfect even as the Father in heaven is perfect, he’s not asking the impossible, nor is he asking us to be perfect humans.  The word translated as “perfect” comes from the Greek teleioi a derivative of telos meaning “end.”  Hence, perfection is our goal as a mature tree or an adult compared to a child.  Perfection—living without sin—is our aim. 

As cruel as people may be, Jesus warns us not to fear potential destruction of our bodies, but rather, fear for the safety of our souls (B13) because nothing anyone can do to us has the power to affect our true being.  But sin dims our view of who we are and shuts the door of heaven.  Most traditional commentators feel that here Jesus is warning his disciples to beware of God.  Mary Baker Eddy disputes that view by pointing out that Jesus was warning us to beware not of God, but of sin (S14).  Again, she makes the point that God doesn’t make hell, sin does.  Our Leader also was keen to observe that Jesus stressed the quality of our thinking.  We need to watch our thoughts, and avoid contemplating or indulging in evil (S15).  All evil if indulged, will lead to shame, woe and punishment (S16).

We’ve explored these ideas before, and by now we should be familiar with them.  Traditionally, preachers and ministers went to great lengths to impress upon their listeners the awful cunning and deceit of sin.  This had the effect of making evil seem very real and personal; and as it became personified, people conjured up images of an intelligent devil opposed to the omnipotence of God.  Mrs. Eddy teaches us to be aware of the claim of evil, and to expose it and denounce it; but we should not give sin any intelligence, reality, or power to do anything (S17).  Again, that doesn’t mean we are off the hook, and can sin without consequences.  It means that the only power sin has, is the power we give it.  Sin isn’t an intelligent power in and of itself.

Another key point is that Christian Science separates the sin from the so-called sinner.  Sin is, without question, doomed to destruction, but the man is saved.  His soul is never lost (S18).  Our textbook dispassionately declares, “If sin makes sinners, Truth and Love alone can unmake them” (S19).  Do you see how that de-claws the beast?  God’s man is not a sinner.  The “perfect man”—the end toward which we aim—is not governed by sin, but by God.  Therefore, the real man is sinless and eternal (S20).

Section 4: Is Sickness a Punishment?
Many sufferers can relate to the question, “Why is my pain perpetual…?” (B14).  Just as sin can seem to bring us to the lowest depths, so it sometimes seems with sickness (B15).  But in either case God is always present to save us (B16).  Traditional theology often supposes that our suffering is God’s way of punishing us.  Even Eastern philosophies accept the idea of karma, which basically is the belief that our future is determined by deeds of the past.  Regardless of the cause of our physical woes, the Scriptures promise that we won’t be left in hell or see corruption.  Scholars presume these passages refer to the corruption of the body in the grave, and specifically to prophecies of Jesus’ overcoming the grave due to his sinless nature.  But we can apply these comforting words to any situation that seems to bring us to our “lowest low.”

The woman bowed together with a spirit of infirmity for eighteen years may well have felt that she was in a hopeless situation and that she would never stand upright again (B17).  But Jesus didn’t start digging into her past to figure out what caused her infirmity; he healed her immediately.  To Jesus there was no past, nor any legitimate cause for sin or sickness.  He didn’t see our lives as determined by what we have done in the past; but rather, he saw our experience to be determined by who we are as God’s children. 

Both sickness and sin are healed through the same [thought] process (S21).  Mrs. Eddy suggests we learn to govern the body from “the higher understanding that the divine Mind makes perfect” (S22).  Here again we have the idea of perfection as our aim.  [As the acrostic name of the predecessor of Camp Owatonna in Maine puts it “Reflection Of Perfection Is Our Aim” (Camp R.O.P.I.O.A.).]  Our textbook states, “This process of higher spiritual understanding improves mankind until error disappears, and nothing is left which deserves to perish or to be punished.”  This higher understanding isn’t manipulating a human condition; it’s elevating us right out of the human paradigm completely.  Mrs. Eddy tells us it’s “absurd” to think that we could destroy anything God intended or made (S23).  If God were punishing us for sins by making us sick, we’d never be able to reverse that.  It’s not God but sin that binds us to the ills of the flesh.  God frees us from these ills.  All diseases are false; and it’s only mortal mind that invents names for diseases and tries to get us to think one is worse or harder to deal with than another (S24).  Whether disease is acute or chronic, disease is still a lie without a history or cause, and is therefore unreal.  Knowing that God never punishes anything but sin gives us a solid platform to support our higher understanding that the divine Mind makes perfect (S25).  And let’s take notice of the passage that says that God punishes sin.  It doesn’t say God punishes the sinner.  So we don’t need to fear the old theological belief that God punishes us for sin by making us sick because it just doesn’t hold up.  [On this point see P.S. for a Cobbey Crisler insight about Jesus healing the woman with spinal difficulty in the synagogue (B17, Luke 13:11-17).]

Section 5: Find the Lost!
Jesus made every effort to save sinners and win them back to the kingdom.  The religious aristocracy of Jesus’ time was vehemently opposed to Jesus’ teaching on this point.  They thought that the sinner was corrupt and should be shunned.  They judged Jesus as harshly as they did the sinners for his reaching out to them.  Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and scribes with the parable of a woman who sweeps her house to find a lost piece of silver (B20).  If the silver represents the good and righteous people, and the lost piece represents the sinner, let’s realize that the so-called sinner is still a piece of silver—with equal value to the others.  The only problem is that the sinner is lost.  It takes the light of Christ—the higher understanding of Christ-like thinking to recover him.  Ephesians tells us that God is “rich in mercy” (B21).  That means He loves us even when we’re “dead in sins.”

Christian Science emphasizes that God’s design is not to punish, but to reform the sinner (S26).  But the reform has to be genuine—we have to really be changed from within, and lose all faith or belief in evil.  As we’ve seen before, to say there is no evil, but yet to indulge in it, doesn’t work.  Just as we can only see God through purity, we can only see the unreality of evil if we truly have forsaken it (S27).  That means we have to realize there is nothing remotely attractive or beneficial about it.  We have to love good more than anything, and know that matter has no capacity to feel or report pleasure, pain, appetite, or passion.  We have to exercise the higher reasoning that understands the nothingness of material sense (S28).  Being saved doesn’t mean being pardoned for our sins simply because we accept Jesus.  Being saved means we are free from all earthly beliefs and false desires of the flesh; and that being free from the flesh, we are alive to the spiritual reality of being.

It may seem like rising above sin is a long, drawn-out process, but it doesn’t have to be.  Our textbook tells us we can “at once change [our] course and do right” (S29).  But remember, just saying you’re sorry and intending to reform doesn’t mean we’re forgiven.  Sin is only forgiven when it is destroyed (S30).

Section 6: God’s Merciful Compassion Is a Wondrous Thing—Praise Him!
In Old Testament times and still today, most religions believe that God knows what’s going on in the human scene and passes judgment on our actions—either rewarding them or punishing them.  The higher understanding of a God who separates us from sin is a distinctive teaching of Christian Science.  The prophet Micah says God “passeth by” our transgressions (B22).  That is, He promises not to pursue our offences.  God has compassion on us, and though our sins may be great, He reduces them to nothing but dirt to be trampled upon.  God also casts our sins “into the depths of the sea” signifying we shall never see them again.  That’s good for us to know because the human tendency is to always remember wrongs we have done as well as those done to us.  Divine Love completely eliminates sin, and ultimately even the punishment of sin is erased.  In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, it says that sin brings death and in Revelation we see that even death and hell are cast out (B23).  That leaves nothing put perfect God and perfect man—sinless, whole, innocent, healthy, and immortal.  That’s certainly reason to praise God (B24).

As the lesson concludes, we’re reminded again that the only way God pardons sin is by destroying it (S31).  That makes perfect sense.  Just as light obliterates darkness, sin is destroyed by God’s supreme goodness.  By definition God must be utterly consistent.  There can’t be a single aspect of His character at variance with another.  Life destroys death, Truth overcomes error, Love eliminates hate, and so on.  That also implies that if one sin is destroyed, all sin is destroyed.  We know how good it feels to gain one victory over sin, and our textbook foresees the joyous inevitability of our conquering all sin (S32).  This Lesson examined several extreme situations.  We may, or may not feel like we are in the lowest depths, but no matter how difficult your situation is, God is able to lift you out of that hell.  More than that, God already has you out and is holding you perfect in His Love, untouched by evil of any sort.  We can “at once change our course and do right.”  There’s nothing stopping us, and that’s truly cause for rejoicing.


[P.S. A Cobbey Crisler insight on (B17, Luke 13:11-17): “A woman with spinal difficulty is in a synagogue.  Notice that Luke doesn’t say she has an infirmity.  Luke, who is reputed to have been a physician, doesn’t even diagnose it as an infirmity but as a ‘spirit of infirmity,’ a sense of infirmity, a concept, a spirit, a thought. ‘She was bowed together. She couldn’t lift up herself.’
Verse 12. Jesus comes and announces to womanhood something that could be applicable in many ways, not just this one time.  ‘Woman, you are free from thine infirmity.’ Verse 13. ‘She’s made straight and glorifies God.’
Verse 14. (& beyond, outside the Lesson)  Incredible, ‘the ruler of the synagogue’ in which this grand healing and correction in thought occurred ‘answered with indignation’.
Jesus’ explanation about the cause of disease is Verse 16. No longer should there be any room in Christian thought that disease stems from God or is God’s will when Jesus attributes it directly to anything that would oppose God.  Only what would oppose God could impose something on man that God Himself never created in His whole man.  Is this a new theology?  Satan and disease linked, and not God as the cause of loss, or pain, or sickness?
Because if it is, Jesus defines Satan as a liar in John (8:44).  Satan has bound this woman with an infirmity that has her bent over, and has accomplished this for 18 years (Luke 13:16). And Satan is ‘a liar and the father of it.’ Satan’s works must be lies as well.  If they are, they can be corrected mentally, by a full recognition of what is true.  Notice that Satan does the binding.  Jesus said (John 8:32), ‘Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.’
It’s a contest between the truth and the lie about God and His theology, about man, about woman, about children and about disease.  If Satan is a liar, he will never change his character. Our idea of God may have gone haywire, but God has never moved.” The Gospels, Volume Three, Luke the Researcher, B. Cobbey Crisler, p. 176]


 [The weekly Metaphysical Newsletter is provided at no charge to the 1,200 campers and staff blessed each summer at CedarS, as well as to CedarS alumni, families and friends who have requested it. However, current and planned gifts are a big help and are greatly appreciated in defraying the costs of running this service and of providing needed camperships, programs and operations support.  Click http://www.cedarscamps.org/giving/ for more about how you can provide even monthly support online.  Or you can always call the Huffs at 636-394-6162 get information or discuss privately how to transfer securities or other assets to help support and perpetuate CedarS work.]


 [You can also MAIL your tax-deductible support to our 501C3 organization (#440-66-3883):

The CedarS Camps, Inc.  
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THANKS TO YOU PRECIOUS DONORS FOR YOUR ONGOING, GENEROUS and NEEDED SUPPORT OF CedarS IMPORTANT WORK!

LETTING 2 SPECIAL NEEDS BE KNOWN - Funding is still needed to help underwrite these special opportunities:
1        "Maintenance Musts" Matching Opportunity! 
Generous donors who are aware of the ongoing maintenance need to have CedarS facilities measure up to its mission will MATCH donations for “Maintenance Musts” given by year-end! (up to our needed $25,000 goal)
2    “Adopt the Herd: Matching Opportunity! Generous donors, aware of the ongoing need to care for CedarS herd, will match donations for our horse program! (up to a $50k goal)


The Met application ideas above are provided primarily to help CedarS campers and staff (as well as friends) see and daily demonstrate the great value of studying and applying the Christian Science Bible lessons throughout the year, not just at camp!  YOU CAN ALSO SIGN UP for weekly emails from past CedarS staff of possible ways to share Bible Lesson applications with older, as well as younger, Sunday School classes by clicking the "Subscribe Now" button (lower left) at http://www.cedarscamps.org/metaphysical/ ]


[Additional Director's Note: You can sign up to have these application ideas emailed to you free – by Monday each week in English; or by each Wednesday you can get a FREE TRANSLATION: in German, thanks to Manfred and Jeanette; or in Spanish, thanks to a team of Ana, Erick, Claudia and Patricio, or in Portuguese, thanks to helpers of Orlando Trentini in Brazil.  A voluntary French translation by Rodger Glokpor, a Christian Scientist from Togo (West Africa) has been contributed in the past.  Thank you, Rodger and all translators! Go to http://www.cedarscamps.org/and click "Newsletters" to sign-up for a free translation into these languages.  This sharing is the latest in an ongoing, 14-year series of CedarS Bible Lesson "Mets" (Metaphysical application ideas) contributed weekly by a rotation of CedarS Resident Practitioners and occasionally by other metaphysicians.  (Ask and look for "Possible Sunday School Topics "and "Possible Younger Class Lessons" in emails to follow.) 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 "and Sunday School ideas are in no way meant to be definitive or conclusive or in any way serve as 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 and in a variety of useful formats 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-26) and the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy (S-1 thru S-32). 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.]

 

 

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