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Master Material Beliefs by Understanding the Allness of Spirit!

Craig L. Ghislin, C.S., Glen Ellyn (Bartlett), IL
Posted Monday, March 14th, 2016

[Master Material Beliefs by Understanding the Allness of Spirit!]

Metaphysical Application Ideas the Christian Science Bible Lesson on:
Matter

March 14—20, 2016

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

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

[Click for PDF & larger-type options in CedarS online Met with these features on top.]

Have you ever heard something so profound that it made you question just about everything you thought you knew? Perhaps the idea was so remarkable that you doubted you could ever understand it. The words of the Golden Text are the culmination of a lesson many of Jesus’ listeners found too much to bear. As his disciples exclaimed: “This is an hard saying; who can hear it?” (John 6:60). Jesus responded to their bewilderment, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing…” In context, Jesus was explaining that the disciples should pay attention to the message of his lesson rather than get bogged down in the metaphor. But it was still beyond what many could accept. The account goes on to say, “From that time many of his disciples went back and walked no more with him” (John 6:66).

To human sense, the idea of the Spirit being the only life-giving force; and the flesh, or matter, being worthless is still “a hard saying.” As we’ve noted before, the popularity of science fiction and supernatural fantasy themes in entertainment indicate a certain fascination with the idea that laws of matter, time, and space, aren’t as fixed as they appear. But the thought of God, Spirit, being the power that overrules matter seems too much to bear.

This week’s Lesson-Sermon shows us that indeed there is no profit in the flesh, when the reality of Spirit is understood.

In the Responsive Reading the children of Israel are admonished not to follow the superstitions and idol worship of their Chaldean captors. The heathen idols were made of wood, stone, and precious metals. They may have looked impressive, but they were nothing more than lifeless, impotent statues. In modern times idol worship has been exchanged for worshipping laws of matter. Material laws seem to be impressive, but they like the idols of yesterday, are powerless to harm or to help us. They are as Jeremiah says, “a doctrine of vanities,” or, as The Amplified Bible puts it, “it is a teaching of falsity, emptiness, and futility!”

Section 1: God Is All; Matter Is Nothing

As always, this Lesson begins with God. The Scriptures assert that God created all that exists, and shares His power with nothing else (B1). From the outset, we can see how different this is from the general assumption that laws of matter govern every aspect of our lives, and every event in the universe. Isaiah reminds us that God isn’t merely the biggest power, but the only power. To this end, the prophet continues by advising “all people upon earth, from one end to the other, to cast away their idols, and to turn their eyes and hearts to me [God], expecting salvation from me [God], and from me [God] only” (B2) (Paraphrased by Matthew Poole 1624-1679). Following the psalmist’s reasoning in citation B3, John Calvin (1509-1564) comments “It follows that nothing which is dictated by the judgment of the flesh is good or sound.” The psalmist is clear that he will never let go of his devotion to God’s law, and he will observe it “with his whole heart.” (B4).

These biblical passages are so well known that we tend to gloss over them. But we owe it to ourselves to really pause, and take the time to examine how closely we are adhering to these lofty spiritual views. What does it mean for us to observe the law with our “whole heart”? Are we as committed to following God as the psalmist? Do we put God’s law above everything—even so-called material law? According to Albert Barnes (1798-1870) the phrase “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity” means, “Make my eyes to pass rapidly from such objects, that I may not look at them, may not contemplate them, may not dwell upon them.” We would do well to heed this today, for the world is constantly demanding we focus our attention on material conditions and pursuits.

Our textbook minces no words declaring, “The realm of the real is Spirit” (S1). That means matter, the opposite of Spirit, is unreal. Science and Health goes on to say that matter is “a human concept” and an “error of statement.” A “concept” is something one has when his eyes are shut. It’s an image in mind. That means matter isn’t a tangible condition. This is corroborated by the explanation that “Matter is an error of statement.” Matter is not a condition. It’s a false statement.

Our Leader says Science “deals its chief blow at the supposed material foundations of life and intelligence” (S2). Explaining the mental nature of things further, our textbook tells us that Science “excludes matter, resolves things into thoughts, and replaces the objects of sense with spiritual ideas” (S3). That is so beautifully put, that it’s useless to try to elucidate it. Just consider carefully what it means.

Nothing regarding matter is real. We aren’t the product of generations of DNA or “star stuff.” We are the “offspring of Spirit” (S4). As engaging and interesting as our human stories sometimes are, the human story is a mixture of good and bad. It follows a pattern that leads to inevitable demise. Mrs. Eddy discovered that we don’t have to accept that material pattern. We owe no allegiance to material laws because God never had anything to do with them (S5). Our only real history and status is in and of the divine Mind.

Section 2: The Material Condition Is Only an Illusion

The children of Israel were suffering under slavery to the Egyptians and Moses got the message from God that it was his task to bring his people to freedom (B5). This can be an object lesson for us. Sometimes the material picture can seem insurmountable, but it’s our job to overcome it and find the path to freedom. Moses is understandably hesitant, doubting his ability to fulfill the command. But God gives him two signs designed to strengthen his resolve (B6).

Many commentators point out symbolism in the old biblical stories but don’t quite arrive at the spiritual interpretations. For instance, Barnes points out that the rod becoming a serpent represented the royal power of Pharaoh, and God’s command to take it by the tail symbolized the power Moses would have over his foes. Additionally, Calvin notes that Moses first shrinks in terror at the sight of the serpent, as he shrank from the command to confront Pharaoh. Calvin also views the second sign—Moses’ hand becoming leprous and then being restored—as typifying God’s power to restore Moses’ seemingly wasted years in the wilderness thus, bringing him back to health and prosperity. However one views it, this story is an example of fear being overcome when God’s power is revealed. The psalmist has complete trust in God enabling him to be fearless in the face of every challenge of the flesh (B7**).

Reinforcing the fact that matter is no more than a false mental state, Science and Health furnishes the spiritual definition of “flesh” as “an error of physical belief…a supposition…and, an illusion…” (S6).

As interesting and thought-provoking as the traditional commentaries are, Mary Baker Eddy had a very different view of Moses’ experience. She recognized the importance of Moses overcoming his timidity, but found Moses’ lesson to reach far beyond the context of the story. She saw the serpent as representative of evil. Though traditional Bible commentaries emphasize the rod literally becoming a serpent, Mrs. Eddy calls it an illusion. Though Moses was at first startled by the picture, divine wisdom prevailed, and allowed him to handle the serpent when he realized it “was really but a phase of mortal belief” (S7). The lesson was punctuated when his hand was leprous in one moment, and fully restored the next. Moses realized that the picture before the senses was never real.

That’s a lesson we can use. Matter’s conditions are always illusions (S8). This is a vital point—if we admit matter exists—even for an instant—we are at the same time admitting its reality. If we deny matter’s existence, we can “destroy the belief in material conditions”. When Moses’ fear left him, he was able to handle the serpent, and it turned back into a staff. When we lose our fear of matter and disease because we know they are unreal, we are able to handle those beliefs and find healing.

Section 3: Food Has No Power to Help or to Harm

The Bible promises that all our sustenance comes from God (B8, B9). Elisha had an opportunity to prove this when he was visiting Gilgal spending time with a group called the sons of the prophets (B10). There was a shortage of food in the land, and when the time came to eat, some of Elisha’s students gathered greens and gourds for a simple stew. Their chosen ingredients turned out to be poisonous, and they appealed to Elisha for help. Scholars who think they’ve identified the type of plant that may have poisoned the pottage agree that the meal alone wouldn’t have alleviated the problem so quickly. Therefore, they are confident this was surely a demonstration of spiritual power over a life-threatening material picture.

In Matthew Jesus teaches us to “Take no thought for [our] life, what [we] shall eat, or what [we] shall drink” (B11**). Adam Clarke (circa 1760 - 1832) writes that the proper Greek translation of the phrase, “Take no thought” means “anxious solicitude”, or “distracting the mind.” Although we rarely find ourselves eating obvious poisons today, we are constantly being warned of the dangers of artificial additives and GMO’s in our food supply. It’s a perfect opportunity to apply Jesus’ instruction to “take no thought.”

Mrs. Eddy provides us with ample directions that teach us how to avoid anxiety over food. First of all, she fully trusts that all the sustenance we need comes from God (S9). She also addresses the belief that food has the power to help or harm us. Since God provides all we need, we can be confident that God’s provision is safe and health giving. Laws of matter have nothing to do with God’s creation, and Mind cares for all His ideas. Our Leader cautions us to keep false human concepts at bay (S10).

“Erring, human concepts” about food meet us daily in print, on air, and online. If we give food any power to help us, we unwittingly allow for the possibility that food can harm us. It may seem an over-simplification, but as Science and Health tells us, “The fact is, food does not affect the absolute Life of man…” (S11). If we think food can harm us, we’re given a choice: either the food or the fear has to go.

Mrs. Eddy is careful not to give the false impression that we can survive without food, but she stands by her premise that man is immortal, and that we do not live in body, but in Spirit as the Scriptures declare (S12). Earlier, we saw that Christian Science resolves things into thoughts. The same goes for food. To human sense, we eat food, but as we grow out of material beliefs, and become fully aware of our spiritual being, our sustenance will be purely spiritual too (S13).

Section 4: Matter Has Nothing to Do with Life

The material picture seems very real to the senses. Symptoms and bodily functions seem to be happening without our knowing why, and we become fearful that the body governs us rather than God. But our God is merciful, and His “saving health” (B12**) is ours to prove. Three of the gospels have the story of Jesus’ healing the woman with the issue of blood (B13**). Looking at the material circumstances, her situation seems desperate. She’d been suffering for twelve years, she’d spent every dime she had on worthless treatments, and under Jewish law she was looked down upon and thought to be unclean. Commentators say that the fact that she came behind Jesus in a way not to be noticed indicated how embarrassed she must have been about her condition.

When she reached out to Jesus, she was healed, and when he stopped to recognize her, she at first cowered. Given her circumstances and the customs of the time, we can understand the courage it took to make herself known. We can see how anyone suffering with an ailment for a period of time might become mesmerized and disheartened. In similar circumstances, we too, might become embarrassed and begin to wonder if we don’t deserve healing. We might even be tempted to take material measures to remedy the situation, but no matter how real the material picture seems to be, the Christ is able to pierce the darkness of fear, and bring the light of healing.

Until our textbook was written, the belief of life in matter had gone on largely unchecked. But the Discoverer of Christian Science boldly confronted, and conquered the claims of matter. She accepted the Scriptural truth that man is not material, but spiritual—made in the image and likeness of God (S14).

When Jesus healed he didn’t operate from the standpoint that matter was real, and that he had to do something to it to make man healthy. He regularly resolved things into thoughts. When the woman reached out to him, he recognized a fearful state of consciousness that he corrected immediately (S16). Mrs. Eddy describes this moment of healing in her book, Unity of Good, 57:14: “His pure consciousness was discriminating, and rendered this infallible verdict; but he neither held her error by affinity nor by infirmity, for it was detected and dismissed.” Jesus didn’t care what the laws of matter said about life or health. Nor did he give heed to religious laws regarding hygiene. He did what our Leader says we must do—“forsake the foundation of material systems, however time-honored…” (S17).

Mrs. Eddy had learned that the body doesn’t run on its own. The body only does what mortal mind tells it to (S18). The only way to control the body is to begin with mortal mind. While mortal mind claims to be in charge, the fact is, “every function of the real man is governed by the divine Mind” (S19). Science and Health tells us that, “the body will reflect what governs it” (S20). This truth can be as liberating to us as it was when Moses realized that what he saw was only a phase of mortal belief. When we see the truth, our fear dissolves, and we find peace and healing.

Section 5: Overcoming Time and Space

The psalmist appealed to God, “teach me thy statutes” (B14). John Gill (1697-1771) says this isn’t a request to know more of the theory, but a desire to learn how to practice it. Calvin adds that if God isn’t the source of our enlightenment, we won’t recognize the truth even if it’s in front of our face. This is because men are often blinded to the light by too much confidence in their own perspicacity. The psalmist acknowledges that the human measurement of time is unknown to God (B15).

To human sense we certainly seem constrained by time and space, but Jesus overcame every law of physics—including time and space—when he walked on the water, and moved an entire ship immediately to its destination (B16**). Commentaries try to rationalize and explain away this event in the same manner as they do the multiplying of the loaves and fishes, but here again, Christian Scientists, knowing that matter and its laws are unreal, know that all things are possible to God.

Our textbook defines “time” as “Mortal measurements; limits, in which are summed up all human acts, thoughts, beliefs, opinions, knowledge; matter; error” (S21). Rather, than time being a fixed law, our Leader’s definition practically invites us to challenge the belief of time. Human thought has become so accustomed to the limitations of material so-called laws that people have stopped questioning them. Mrs. Eddy never accepted a material law, and neither should we. She writes, “God never ordained material law” (S22). Therefore, we are under no obligation to honor material law of any kind. Not only should we challenge material law, we’re warned that obedience to such law, prevents us from fully obeying spiritual law (S23).

Mrs. Eddy was ahead of her time in every avenue of thought. She predicted we would look out from the stars long before rockets and space-based telescopes had been invented. She also is confident that one day, as we let go of the belief in “substance matter,” we will be able to travel with the body from place to place as easily as we do in thought (S24). That might seem science fiction, but why? As spiritual understanding is illuminated, objects of time and sense will “disappear” (S25). To me, one of the most amazing things about Mrs. Eddy is that she didn’t take her discovery part way. She was “all in.” She reasoned from a spiritual standpoint and from that standpoint, every material law falls away. The flesh truly “profiteth nothing.” We exist in Mind, and are inseparable from it. Mind expresses His idea, man, eternally (S26).

Section 6: God’s All-Power / Matter’s Nothingness

We all know that the material picture can seem daunting. It sometimes looks like we are helplessly being tossed about on the waves of events beyond our control, and the best we can hope for is to reach land in one piece. But regardless of our circumstance, we can find comfort in God (B17). The psalmist praised God as “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (B18**). I think we could say “the ONLY help in trouble.” Whatever turmoil surrounds us, God is with us, and protecting us all the way. More accurately, we are always safe in God, and can never be separated from Him.

Whenever I used to hear or read the command “Be still, and know that I am God” I always thought the command was for us to be still, and know the power of God, but I’ve found that several Bible commentaries consider the command to “Be still” as directed toward the forces claiming to oppose God.** That sheds a different light on it.

When our son was in pre-school he used to be fascinated by tornadoes. Then we saw a movie by that title, and he began to change his tune. We talked to him about how God is the only power governing, and protecting everyone. A short time later, our family was camping on a remote island in Lake Superior. The storm was so strong that our tent was bending in half. Our son had accepted all we told him about God’s power, and he calmly told us, “Don’t worry. I said, ‘Peace, be still.’” His assurance embodied the spirit of the Biblical command.

Our Leader tells us that we must master the belief that “existence is contingent on matter…before Life can be understood” (S27). We can do it. The Scriptures are full of examples of God’s supremacy (S28) as are the lives of each one of us. In several recent Lesson-Sermons, it’s been pointed out that we see the reality of things in direct proportion as our belief in matter disappears, and this Lesson does the same thing (S29). Every once in a while, we hear people talking about “mind over matter” and relating that phrase to Christian Science. But in truth, Christian Science teaches, there is no matter, all is Mind, Spirit (S30). It’s more than a clever phrase or a hopeful thought. It’s a literal fact—“It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing.” With this understanding we can master every material belief.

[** See Online version of this Met (upper right) for Cobbey Crisler commentary Downloads on a few Bible citations.]

[CedarS 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.

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