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Discover the I AM to enable your I can in Life!

Craig L. Ghislin, C.S., Glen Ellyn (Bartlett), IL
Posted Monday, July 11th, 2016

[Discover the I AM to enable your I can in Life! (GT-4, 5)]
Metaphysical Application Ideas for Christian Science Bible Lesson:

“Life”

for July 11—17, 2016

by Craig L. Ghislin, C.S. Glen Ellyn, Illinois (Bartlett)
craig.ghislincs@icloud.com (630) 830-8683

What is your life? Many would say our life is our existence. Most would agree that the majority of human effort is spent learning to understand life, to do everything possible to preserve it, and to make it as trouble-free as possible. Self-preservation is a basic human drive. This has led to various philosophical discussions including, but not limited to, the debate on whether or not the consciousness, or so-called soul of an individual, exists independently of the physical form to which it is associated. One philosopher René Descartes (1596-1650), reasoned to the point that even if everything he perceived through the senses was an illusion, and even if he was being deceived, his existence was intact because he could still think about being deceived. One translation reads, “ …let him deceive me so much as he will, he can never cause me to be nothing so long as I think that I am something” (English translation by Elizabeth S. Haldine and G.R.T. Ross Cambridge University Press). Related to this line of reasoning is Descartes’ well known quote, “Cogito ergo sum”—I think therefore I am. So one might say at least for a rational being, life is conscious existence.

Up to this point, the “I am” we’re referring to is the individual person. But what of the divine Person?— the infinite One? The Golden Text (GT) contains the Scripture, “I AM THAT I AM.” This has been alternatively translated as, “I am what I am,” and “I will be what I will be.” God is the self-existent being who knows who He is, and what He is. He is unchanging—forever fulfilling His function as creator, guide, and protector. If God is the “I AM,” what of the so-called mortal personality that asserts the same?

On page 189, line 20 of Miscellaneous Writings, Mary Baker Eddy writes, “The Scriptures declare Life to be the infinite I AM, — not a dweller in matter. For man to know Life as it is, namely God, the eternal good, gives him not merely a sense of existence, but an accompanying consciousness of spiritual power that subordinates matter and destroys sin, disease, and death.” So our real life is not our personal existence, but rather, our real Life is God.

The Responsive Reading opens with Isaiah’s representation of God declaring His name—Yahweh, which means “self-Existent or Eternal” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible). This name is exclusive—neither shared nor given to any other. The three citations from Isaiah 47 are directed toward Babylon for its transgressions. The prophet points out that Babylon has been perverted by false appetites, and has the audacity to declare, “I am, and none else beside me” when only God has the authority to make such declarations. English Bible scholar John Gill (1697-1771) quotes Roman historian Curtius as saying, “no city was more corrupt in its manners, or furnished to irritate or allure to immoderate pleasures.” Gill goes on to say, “her [Babylon’s] high opinion of her own wisdom and knowledge in political affairs, or in magic arts, deceived her and turned her from right to wrong ways, which issued in her ruin.”

While Babylon’s was an extreme condition, the warning is one for all to heed. Those who believe they can get by on their own, or that they’re the product of their own doing, will not fare well. As we’ve seen many times before, the prophet reminds us that God’s record is unimpeachable. Israel has a strong historical record of God’s unerring care. You will notice throughout this Lesson the recurring use of the words “I am.” Mortals may mimic this statement thinking they have some power to make things happen, but God alone has the power to deliver, and create as He pleases. Nothing is impossible for God—even the making of rivers in the desert. He formed His people for His praise, and we will at length know Him as the only I AM.

Section 1: God Is the Only I AM

The psalmist is under no delusion that he has a life independent from God (B1). He’s fully aware that God guides and governs every aspect of existence. In one way, or another, we all learn that same lesson. A benefit of learning that God is our Life, is that the more we learn about God, the more we know about ourselves. Knowing God is our Life, we gain a better view of ourselves, and of our life’s purpose.

Our first story is how God reveals Himself to Moses. We could say Moses was on a journey of self-discovery. At various points in his life, he could finish the sentence “I am…” by saying, “an Egyptian Prince, a fugitive, a wanderer, a shepherd, or a leader.” But, before becoming a leader, he needed to learn more about the infinite I AM (B2). In the desert he receives a command to go to Pharaoh to demand that he release the children of Israel. Not fully realizing his oneness with God, Moses is impressed with Pharaoh’s status, and feels he would have no standing in Pharaoh’s presence. Have you ever felt inferior? Or been so impressed by someone that you felt inadequate to the task? Given the circumstances, the odds of Moses accomplishing his task seemed very long indeed. As God reveals Himself to Moses, he gains confidence. The Scriptures say God spake unto Moses as unto a friend (B3). If we were that familiar with God, would we not feel emboldened to meet even the most powerful people on earth? By revealing His name to Moses, and to each of us, God is revealing His divine nature (B4). I AM indicates that God is the only existence—the only Life.

Our Leader tells us, “Life is the everlasting I AM,” and God is Life (S1, S2). I AM is defined as “the only ego” (S3). If the only ego is God, the only consciousness is God, and therefore, God is the only Life. All the problems we can ever have are based on the false premise that our life is separate from God, our true consciousness, the one Mind, or I AM. If it were possible to be separated from God, our Life, we would cease to exist. But nothing can separate us from consciousness.

Our textbook tells us, “The everlasting I AM is not bounded nor compressed within the narrow limits of physical humanity…” (S4). As we’ve discussed many times before, it is essential to understand that God isn’t in us; we are in Him. As Moses and many other biblical characters discover, material life is full of disappointments. Moses’ sharp experience eventually turns him to God, and our challenges turn us to the arms of Love as well (S5). When times are tough we’re ready to learn, and learning about Life in Science is learning about God, and vice versa. For emphasis it is repeated that God is not in His creation, but His creation expresses Him (S6). Hence we could say creation is God expressing Himself.

Section 2: Discovering Who We Are

The psalmist’s point of view is an ideal one. He has a solid sense of his relationship to God—responding immediately to God’s call (B5), and he recognizes God as the never-ending source of his being (B6). But it’s not always that simple. Jacob for instance, had a bit of a struggle finding out who he really was. He’d usurped his brother’s place in the family, stole his birthright, and his blessing. Jacob’s name means “heel-catcher or supplanter” (Strong’s). It’s not hard to understand why his brother Esau hated him (B7).

After fleeing for his life and being tricked by Laban to work fourteen years to win Rachel as his bride, and six more years to acquire livestock, Jacob gets the message to return home. Jacob doesn’t know how Esau will receive him, so he sends ahead to inform Esau of his return. Although it’s only an introductory remark in the Lesson, the fact that Esau had gone to make his way in the land of Seir, may have some significance.

Theologian John Calvin (1509-1564) takes a rather dim view of Esau’s move. He suggests that Esau left his family in a huff over having lost his birthright. Calvin writes, “he was incensed against his mother” and had “shaken off all reverence for his father.” Calvin surmises the lure of riches and self-importance drew Esau to Seir where he could be free of his father’s authority and live in a desolate place where he could appear to be a great man. I wonder if Esau might not have taken off for different reasons. Could it not be that Esau left his homeland for Seir because he had a realization that he didn’t have to be tied to a toxic sense of family? Perhaps striking out on his own allowed him to be successful since he no longer tied his success to an inheritance, and no longer held Jacob responsible for giving him his due. He made it on his own. Therefore, he could drop his grudge.

We can’t know for sure what Esau’s motives were, but it is clear that by the time of Jacob’s return, Esau too, had undergone a transformation. As Jacob wrestles with an erroneous sense of self (B8), he not only gets a clearer sense of who he is, but who his brother is. He names the place of his discovery, Peniel—the face of God; and Jacob’s name is changed to Israel—meaning He ruled as a prince. He saw himself clearly when he saw the face of God, and he saw his brother clearly as well (B9).

Mrs. Eddy’s Glossary definition of Jacob (S7) follows a progression from corporeal selfhood to revelation. She describes Jacob’s struggle as one we can all relate to (S8). As we conquer the mortal belief of who we are, our names—or natures—are changed. Our lives are not defined by our material history. We find our true life-purpose by understanding more about God, and conforming to His image (S9). Our textbook states, “In divine revelation, material and corporeal selfhood disappear, and the spiritual idea is understood” (S10).

Section 3: The I AM Cannot Say, “I Am Sick”

The Scriptures teach us that recognition of the true I AM is the pathway to health and life (B10, B11). We often think of the verses from Isaiah (B12) as referring to a spiritual state of being in which sickness has no place. But theologian Albert Barnes (1798-1870) puts these verses in context. The thought is that since Israel was invaded as punishment for her sins, overthrowing the Assyrians would be a sign that the Israelites had forsaken sin to such an extent that “even the sick, the aged, and the infirm shall go forth nerved with new vigor to gather the spoil.” Here we see freedom from sickness is gained through freedom from sin.

This view coincides with the story of Naaman (B13). He was a great man, but his pride got the better of him. To his credit, he did at least agree to visit the Jewish prophet. But he was attached to status, and was affronted by Elisha’s failure to follow protocol, and show respect to a visiting dignitary. On top of that, Elisha’s directions insulted him. As we’ve noted before, Naaman’s servants must have loved him, and felt confident enough to point out his mistake. Again, to his credit, he regains his composure, and in humility he follows Elisha’s directions. The command to dip in Jordan seven times is reminiscent of the directive in Leviticus 14:7 to be sprinkled seven times as part of a purification ceremony after being healed of leprosy. This could be a prompt to Naaman to acknowledge the superiority of God’s law. After being healed, Naaman does, in fact, acknowledge the God of Israel.

Naaman’s story is another case in which the putting off of a false personality trait brings healing, and a fuller recognition of what “I AM” really means. Do we ever let a false view of who we are get in the way of our healing? Do we get ruffled because the way we think we should be healed is different than what we actually need? What we need to do is to yield up a false sense of “I am” or ego, and wake up to the “I AM” that is God, and follow God’s direction.

The real “I” is independent of matter, and material circumstances (S11). We incorrectly believe our selfhood to be in matter. But matter cannot speak for itself, and say, “I am” at all! It’s mortal mind, a supposititious ego that says “I am sick” (S12). But the real “I AM”—the real Ego—is Mind (S13), and never says, “I am sick.” When the body tries saying it, we need to contradict it, and never plead guilty (S14). When we’re tempted to say, I am sick,” we can question: Who is the talker here? Who is the “I” that is speaking? Mortal mind? Or God? In our textbook our Leader writes, “As a drop of water is one with the ocean, a ray of light one with the sun, even so God and man, Father and son, are one in being.” (361:16-18) True “being” is God and man—God, forever conscious of His idea. When we understand that, we will recognize infinite Life, and the false sense of life will disappear (S15).

Section 4: Belief in Many Persons Contradicts the One I AM.

The Lesson shifts gears a bit now to what I feel is one of the most important aspects of Christian Science. Generally, mortals tend to center their lives around themselves first, and around other personalities second. They love to worship, or vilify big personalities. They model their lives after the ones they adore, and fret over the ones they disdain. Thinking of personalities and allowing our decisions to be effected by them—good or bad—does not help us understand the “I AM” who is God. The psalmist has the right idea in keeping his thoughts fixed on God rather than persons (B14). Even before the psalmist, the author of Deuteronomy recognized the value of NOT basing one’s judgment on elements of personality (B15). After a harsh experience, the psalmist learned a lesson in personality. He is most disturbed by the fact that rather than an enemy, it was a close friend who he’d known and worshipped with that had betrayed him (B16). No doubt Esau felt a similar anguish in the face of his brother Jacob’s machinations.

Truly, it is a hard thing when someone we know and trust turns against us, and especially so, when we don’t expect it. The tendency is to take it personally, and to view that person as the villain, and yourself as the victim. It’s a simple step to go from that to categorizing all similar people as potential enemies. In just this manner, prejudice and negative stereotypes blind us to the true selfhood of everyone.

After having a vision, and an experience that pushed him far out of his comfort zone, Peter came to the realization that “God is no respecter of persons” (B17). Elaborating on the phrase “no respecter of persons” theologian John Wesley (1703-1791) relates that in an effort to preserve judicial impartiality, the “Grecian law-givers ordered that the judges should give sentence in the dark where they could not see men’s faces.” This same practice might well be remembered by us in order to help us to avoid making false judgments based on appearances and preconceptions; and it also bids us be cautious about how we decide who may, or may not, be deemed a friend. Barnes points out that, God being “no respecter of persons” denounces “the act of showing favor to one on account of rank, family, wealth, or partiality arising from any cause.”

In the Book of Job, Eliphaz underscores that the only path to peace is to acquaint ourselves with God (B18). Barnes comments on the plight of those who do not acquaint themselves with God: “Loving sin, they cannot love one who has no sin, and who frowns on evil; and this opposition to the real character of God must be removed before they can be reconciled to him. This requires a change of heart – a change from sin to holiness; and this is the work performed in regeneration.” Barnes also reveals the reward of those who do love God: “Peace of mind always follows reconciliation where there has been a variance, and nowhere is the peace so entire and full of joy as when man feels that he is reconciled to God.”

Science and Health points out that even though the “world believes in many persons… there is but one person, because there is but one God” (S16). This is an extremely important statement. As noted before, most of our difficulties lie in problems we have with other people. Misunderstandings, rivalries, competition, envy, jealousy, infatuation, and so on, all stem from preoccupation with the belief of many persons. Rather than being “absorbed in material selfhood,” we should deny it (S17). There is a significant difference between a human personality and a man’s spiritual individuality. “Personality is not the individuality of man” (S18). The personality is only the human story, and can be deceptive; hence, the wisdom of not judging by appearance. Pinning our hopes of happiness on a particular person can be just as detrimental as fearing one (S19). Our Leader bade us be very cautious about those whom we call friends. She warns of false brethren (see S&H 444:27), and the fleeting nature of human relationships (see Misc. 9:16). Citation S20 cautions that “friends will betray and enemies will slander” until we learn the lesson of looking away from a personality to God for our happiness. Friends often disappoint us, as do those we put on a pedestal. The solution is to “realize that Life is Spirit”—then we will “find all in God, good, and [need] no other consciousness” (S21).

Section 5: Jesus Directed Thought Away from Personality toward God

Even Jesus, who perhaps deserved to be loved and adored more than anyone who walked the earth, cautioned his followers not to worship him, or to be enamored by his personality. He directed his followers to look to God alone (B19). Jesus taught that those who saw him rightly were, in fact, seeing God’s reflection. He did whatever the Father did. Understanding Jesus in his spiritual nature leads to the understanding of what life really is (B20). Jesus understood that he was inseparable from the Father (B21). In fact, so are we, but we need to acknowledge it, and act like it. [See Cobbey Crisler comments on B20 and B21 in Warren's PS additions]

Throughout history the Christ has always been present for us to discern, showing us our true selfhood as we receive it into our hearts (S22). Jesus embodied and fully expressed the Christ, showing us what our real life is, and giving tangible proof that God is the only life there is. Every citation in this section supports the idea of oneness with God that cannot be broken. The message is straightforward and clear. When we really understand this, we can have no other Mind, Love, wisdom, Truth, or sense of Life (S26). The understanding of our inseparable relation to the Divine culminates in the dissolution of the false material sense of self.

Section 6: Man Is Life’s Reflection

The Revelator sees in heaven “a sea of glass like unto crystal” (B22). John Gill interprets this crystal sea as standing for “the clearness, perspicuity, and evidence of the truths contained in it; and to a, fixed, still; and quiet sea, because it is the Gospel of peace, love, grace, and mercy, and brings peace, joy, and tranquility to troubled minds, when the [worldly] law works wrath: but here are no tossing, foaming, raging waves of wrath, and fury, but all smooth, stable, solid, tranquil, and quiet.”

The crystal sea symbolizes the calm reflection of true selfhood. Paul also speaks of reflection, noting that the longer we behold the true image, and the more familiar we become with it, the more we fashion our lives to it (B23). The Revelator brings back the symbol of the fountain of life that flows freely to all who thirst (B24). In Section 2 the psalmist mentions the fountain of life (B6). Adam Clarke (c.1760-1832) sees this fountain as more than a supply generated through ponds, tanks, reservoirs, or even rain, but rather likens it to “the vein of lives.” As the heart pumps life-blood to every part of the system, so the Christ “conveys the life-giving streams of his providential goodness to …every part of the creation of God.” When we allow the fountain of life to be our portion and supply, we are changed into His image. This is a constant welling up from within that we cannot stop.

God is revealed in His creation as naturally as a reflection is seen in a mirror (S27). God is the only Ego—the only self-conscious, self-existent Mind that “supplies all form and comeliness” (S28). We are His reflection and Life expresses itself in infinite variety and diversity. Mrs. Eddy writes, “Life demonstrates Life” (S29). In this sentence the word “Life” is capitalized twice. Since the first “Life” is the beginning of a sentence how do we know what it means? Mrs. Eddy surely couldn’t mean that material life demonstrates Life, or God. Only God can demonstrate Himself. So true Life isn’t an animated mortal, but God expressing Himself as the Life of all that exists. We are His expression. As we dissolve a human, mortal sense of ourselves, and rise to learn more about God as our only Life, we will be His expression, and truly be at one with the only I AM.


[Warren's P.S. addition by Cobbey Crisler on John 5:19-30 (B20) "The Son can do nothing of himself...":
John 5:19 is Jesus’ famous statement, “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do.” Taking this apart, it really gives you what man’s role is. What is it? It’s reflection. It’s image.
Man is not original in what he does. What he does stems from the original which is God. Then it reflects originality. Otherwise there would be competition for the job of Creator. Under monotheism there is no possibility for such competition (“For what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.”)
He took the Son of Man through every problem that the world could hurl at him and proved that even the Son of Man can be victorious and not a creature of circumstances when the understanding of his true nature as the Son of God can be applied.
Our understanding of the Son of Man and the Son of God, and the difference, might be heightened by realizing that the Christ comes to the Son of Man. The Christ doesn’t come to the Son of God because the Christ really presents the Son of God.
We’re on the human side of things, who fell the foot of domination on our necks from outside circumstances. Is that where the Son of Man belongs? Notice the argument of Bildad in the book of Job… It uses the very same phrase that Jesus does, elevating him way above the outlines of fleshly domination. So, “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do.” Why?
John 5:20, “The Father loves the Son.”
John 5:30. The same point is repeated, “I can of mine own self do nothing.” Is this false humility or is Jesus actually giving us the facts straight out? What is the secret and source of everything he thought or did? What is the obstacle then between us and following Jesus? There’s something in there. Some kind of different concept of our selfhood than what he had. His was so transparent that there was nothing obstructing his at-one-ment with God, even on earth. His summons to us is to follow his example and shows his own expectation that we’re equipped to do it. So, we’re equipped to receive and to act on the instructions given us via communication. All we need to do is tune in.
We’re coming to understand Jesus’ view of himself, and where he thinks this authority originates, “The Son of Man can do nothing of himself. (John 5:19) (Excerpts from a transcription from a live recording by B. Cobbey Crisler on Vol. 4, “John, the Beloved Disciple”. For a full transcript email Cobbey’s wife, Janet, at
janetcrisler7@gmail.com]

[Warren's P.S. addition by Cobbey Crisler on John 10:30 (B21) be at one with God: In John 10:30, Jesus’ great statement, “I and my Father are one.” If this is from the Aramaic, then, the Aramaic word would give the meaning, “I and my Father are in accord.” (Excerpts from a transcription from a live recording by B. Cobbey Crisler on Vol. 4, “John, the Beloved Disciple”. For a full transcript email Cobbey’s wife, Janet, at janetcrisler7@gmail.com]

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