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See God in the Midst of Us

Craig L. Ghislin, C.S., Glen Ellyn (Bartlett), IL
Posted Monday, September 9th, 2019

See God in the Midst of Us
Metaphysical Application Ideas for the Christian Science Bible Lesson on

“Substance”
for September 9—15, 2019

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

Have you ever taken the time to contemplate the abundance of spiritual ideas surrounding you? William Rathvon, one of the workers in Mary Baker Eddy’s Chestnut Hill home, records her saying, “Every leaf upon every tree perpetually declares that God is Love” (We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, Amplified Edition, Vol. 2, p. 541).

There have been several times in my experience where as I observe my surroundings, I’m almost blown away by the realization of the spiritual substance behind everything the eye beholds.

Most recently, we finally got around to an unruly raspberry patch in our yard. According to our research, a raspberry patch neglected for as long as this one does not usually bear fruit. We had resigned to the fact that our current work was all for next year.

Yet as we began picking up the canes so they could be properly trellised, we were amazed to find an abundance of fruit-producing buds. Almost instantly the patch was filled with too many bees to count of different varieties moving from flower to flower. As soon as the budding fruit was exposed, the bees seemed to show up out of nowhere. What was a tangled mess of drooping plants was suddenly a beautifully choreographed ballet buzzing with growth, life, and active productivity.

We had no idea that our little patch was producing anything, but as we looked deeper, and exposed the budding fruit, it became filled with life. There was more there than our eyes could first see, but the deeper we looked the more we recognized the abundance of “God in the midst” of us.

We often look only superficially at our lives, and the world, and accept what seems to be a mess—so did the children of Israel. They had the prophets to remind them often that God was in their midst, and we have the Scriptures, and our textbook Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy to remind us, and teach us how to look beyond what we see to the spiritual substance of things. In the Golden Text Zephaniah declares that the mighty God is in our midst. Eighteenth century theologian John Gill (1697-1771) writes of this brief verse:

Every word carries in it something very encouraging to the church and people of God; and is an antidote against those fears and faintings they are subject to; Christ is in the midst of them; near at hand to support and supply them, to assist and strengthen them, to protect and defend them; he is not only near by his essential presence, which is everywhere; and by his providential presence, which is concerned with all his creatures; but by his gracious presence, peculiar to his church and people; and which gives them unspeakable joy, and is sufficient security from all fears and dismayings…

While Gill’s words are very comforting and reassuring, we have to remember, that as we’ve said in previous “Mets,” from a purely metaphysical standpoint, God doesn’t actually come to our situation, or fill a material space with good things. In actuality, we live in Spirit, in God, because God is All. It’s only a limited human sense of things that makes it appear that we are separated from God, and that He comes to us. As we realize the allness of God, we see the impossibility of being apart from Him, and we begin to recognize that the true substance of all things is in God.

In the opening verses of the Responsive Reading the psalmist acknowledges God as the only Cause, and that the whole earth is filled with the manifestations of His presence, and His glory because God is All-in-all.

The verses from Acts describe an event on the day of Pentecost in which the sound of a rushing mighty wind filled the place where they were. Along with the sound, the Scripture says, “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.” The disciples then began speaking “as the Spirit gave them utterance” and everyone heard them in their native languages.

As with most miraculous events in the Bible, commentators try to dissect the descriptions in order to find out what actually happened. In this case, they point out that if it were an actual tempest filling the place, it might have been considered just an odd weather occurrence. But here, there was no actual wind—just the sound of a wind. This unusual circumstance made it clear that it was not merely a natural phenomenon.

This event transcended logical explanation. The disciples had a collective glimpse of the true substance of reality, and this propelled them to perform many “wonders and signs.” To human sense, the demonstration and recognition of true substance always seems like a wonder, because it defies human explanation. This experience had a remarkable effect on the disciples as well, and it sustained them as they continued preaching and healing. In a similar way, as our tending the raspberries brought an abundance of bees into the garden, the disciples’ enlightened viewpoint also brought an abundance of people to their church.

Section 1: Life, Truth, and Love Are Substance

As with most Bible Lessons, we begin with an acknowledgment of God’s omnipotence. The Psalmist recognizes God’s ever-presence and creative power (B1, B2). Isaiah underscores that creation doesn’t form itself, neither does it sustain and maintain itself. Creation is spiritual, and sustained and maintained by God (B3). John Calvin (1509-1564) detects a note of reproof in Isaiah’s words, “the whole earth is full of his glory” (B4). He says the Jews held that the glory of God was only seen among themselves, and wished to “have it shut up within their own temple. But Isaiah shows that it [God’s glory] is so far from being confined to so narrow limits, that it fills the whole earth.”

In citation B5 the psalmist asks God, “…what wait I for? My hope is in thee.” Albert Barnes (1798-1870) explains the futility of looking to things of the world to fill our needs. Only God, the substance of all things, can meet all the necessities of our immortal natures and unfold all the mysteries of life. In other words, if we expect to understand creation, we can’t do it through material sense. We have to exercise spiritual sense, and look into the spiritual foundation, or substance of all things.

The book of Hebrews tells us “Faith is the substance of things hoped for” (B6). Barnes tells us “substance” may also be translated as “assurance or confidence…that which is placed under” as a basis, foundation, or support. He adds that the word we render as substance properly means, “reality, substance, and existence, in contradistinction from what is unreal, imaginary, or deceptive” [emphasis added].

The Discoverer of Christian Science defines substance as “that which is eternal and incapable of discord and decay” (S1). “Eternal” means existing outside of time. The definition continues: “Truth, Life, and Love are substance…God is the only real substance.” So, without God there is no substance, and all that is substantial is the product of God. Everything created reflects God, and God can only be seen in His spiritual creation (S2).

Mary Baker Eddy says matter can’t be substantial if Spirit is substantial. Objects in and of themselves have no substance. The spiritual idea behind them does. Matter is the opposite of substance that is, as Barnes termed it, “unreal, imaginary, or deceptive.” Mary Baker Eddy refers to matter as erring, changing, and dying, the mutable and mortal” (S4). Creation reflects the true substance of Spirit, and this true view can only be seen as we subordinate the testimony of the senses to the facts of Science (S5).

Section 2: Where Are You Looking for Substance?

The problem is we tend to look for substance in places where it can’t be found. Jeremiah warns the house of Israel not to follow the heathen customs, nor look to the idols of their day for that which only God can provide (B7). In those days, the “heathen” were those who followed astrology as if it were a science. They were also very superstitious about astronomical events. While some adhere to astrology today, it certainly isn’t generally considered to be a science; and astronomical events are not generally considered as omens. However, the scientific community of our time is still looking into laws of matter as if matter governs itself.

The ancient idols were crafted by the hands of men, and had no power to do anything. In essence, the laws of matter have no more power than the ancient idols. They are still only beliefs of men. When we consider the fitness and health industry, we can see that the beliefs as to what constitutes health, and how to achieve it almost seem to change with the seasons. As soon as one trend of diet and exercise becomes popular, another is right behind it ready to take its place.

Isaiah promises that true substance, is found in the glorious law of God, and that it will be revealed for all to see and understand (B8). The book of Numbers assures us that “all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord” (B9). Again, this is confirmation that the truth of being isn’t a mysterious secret, nor is it confined to one particular sect. Everyone can, and will see it because it is the law of all being.

In Christian Science, creation doesn’t govern itself. God is understood to be the only Creator, and the sustainer and maintainer of all that is made. But here again, God’s creation cannot be found in matter, or through the material senses (S6). God’s creation is spiritual. Efforts to find life and truth in matter must be reversed. If we want to know the spiritual fact, our textbook tells us to reverse “the material fable pro or con, — be it in accord with [our] preconceptions or utterly contrary to them” (S7).

Mary Baker Eddy terms the “heathen” beliefs of old, “pantheism,” or, the “the belief in the intelligence of matter” (S8). Pantheism reverses cause and effect, supposing that God, Principle, life and intelligence, are “in” matter. But matter has nothing to do with life or intelligence. God, Mind, is all, and produces all. Mind expresses itself in idea, and matter has nothing to do with it. If matter were capable of governing itself, everything would be subject to discord, and decay. But with God, divine Principle, governing “all is one grand concord” (S9).

This is a key element of Christian Science. What is termed matter is unreal, and the only substance recognized in Science is Spirit, God (S10). The belief that matter has substance is a “false supposition” and no more. Everything we see is idea. But it’s not our idea; it’s God’s idea. There is no objective reality in matter. In metaphysics, things resolve into thoughts (S11).

But these thoughts aren’t ephemeral imaginings. They are “perfectly real and tangible to spiritual consciousness,” and being spiritual ideas, “they are good and eternal.” In metaphysics as taught in, and understood by Christian Science, the entire paradigm changes. “All [not some, but ALL] substance, intelligence wisdom being, immortality, cause and effect belong to God” (S12). Take some time to ponder the significance of that statement.

Section 3: What Are You Filled With?

A significant aspect of substance is that it’s real and present—a fullness—while material beliefs are empty—insubstantial shadows. The faculty that enables us to see the difference is wisdom (B10). Proverbs tells us that if we love wisdom, we will inherit substance, and our treasures will be filled. We’re not talking about physical possessions here—we’re talking about the spiritual riches that fill us with grace, peace, joy, holiness, and health. These are riches that can never be taken away.

A reprise of those encouraging words from the Golden Text reminds us again of God’s unconditional love for us (B11). God fills us with all good things including nourishment, and perfect health (B12). When we think of being filled with good things, we envision wholesome nourishment. We should equally keep our hearts and minds filled with healthy and wholesome things. Ingesting “garbage thoughts” is no better than ingesting garbage for food.

Commenting on Jesus’ casting out evil spirits from those possessed, (B13) Adam Clarke (c1760-1832) reports that according to Jewish historian Josephus, the Jews were particularly susceptible to beliefs of magic. Being thus, their thoughts were unguarded, and therefore susceptible to the evil spirits that magic included. In context, the citation from Ephesians (B14) contrasts being filled with the Spirit as opposed to being filled with wine. This underscores the importance of taking in, and being filled only with healthy, pure, uplifting thoughts, that provide wholesome nourishment.

Jesus only saw man as the true reflection of God. He emptied his thought of sickly mortal views and images, and kept himself filled with the right idea of perfect God and perfect man (S14). Our textbook tells us that the false sense of life, and substance hides the reality of things, and “conceals scientific demonstration” (S15). Do you see yourself as a mortal, or as Jesus would see you? The mortal view includes error, but the spiritual view is the one with substance.

Our true being can’t be contaminated by food, pollution, or rogue thoughts. In reality we have only the substance of good (S16). As the false sense of substance hides the divine possibilities, gaining the “true conception of man and God” reveals our full capabilities (S17). Science and Health teaches us that neither God nor matter can be sick, and that all true causation is in Mind. As we hold to these facts with the “unshaken understanding” of God, we will always gain the victory (S18).

Section 4: Safety in the Temple

The temple has long been considered a place of sanctuary and safety. But the temple is more than a place. We can find safety wherever we are by living according to the laws of God. (B15). The psalmist knows that when forsaken and abandoned by all worldly help, God is attentive to his need, and able to save him. In citation B16, Zechariah declares God to be in our midst, and available to all. Ezekiel speaks of God’s promised covenant of peace, and that His sanctuary will be with us, and it will be filled with believers (B17). John Gill notes that this sanctuary is, “not any material temple, but his word and ordinances; in which he will grant his spiritual presence with them, and which shall continue to the end of the world.”

Jesus honored, and understood the spiritual significance of the temple, and let no man-made traditions restrict the full demonstration of God’s love. The story of the healing of the man with the withered hand (B19) is a case in point. [Click https://youtu.be/6CStngXPuWc for the YouTube monologue by Ken Cooper's called “The Man with the Withered Hand.” It will help you remember to put yourself in the Bible accounts of healing as if you were there. Feel the presence of the Christ healing in the now. You can also Download PDF versions at the upper right of CedarS webpage version.]

The Pharisees and scribes in the temple were clinging tenaciously to the letter of the law, but had no sense of the substance of the law that brought healing. Jesus challenged their dogmatism, and healed in spite of their objections. The psalmist underscores the benefit of living in the temple figuratively and literally (B20).

Taking the psalmist’s point a step further, Science and Health defines “Temple” as “body” as well as “the superstructure of Truth; the shrine of Love” (S19). And since foundation can be considered to be another meaning of the word substance, Mary Baker Eddy writes, “Jesus established his church and maintained his mission on a spiritual foundation of Christ-healing” (S20). This is what church is all about.

Mary Baker Eddy points out that healing was lost from the early church “about three centuries after the crucifixion” (S21). This coincides with the Council at Nicaea called by Constantine. It was at this council, meant to solidify Constantine’s preeminent position, that the Nicene Creed became orthodox doctrine. The Creed held that, “God exists in Three Persons and One Substance,” and it “carefully defined and separated the heavens from the earth” effectively quashing any recognition of sacredness as working in the world, which might subsequently threaten the role of emperor. (See: Testament by John Romer p. 215).

For Mary Baker Eddy, political power was not as threatening to the individual’s state of grace, as the lack of spirituality in the church might be. She points out that from a religious standpoint, the true teachings of Jesus simply demanded more than the church elders were willing to follow. For her, the substance of devotion was not in a creed, but in the practice of the healing power of divine Love (S22).

Her church is built on the foundation of Love. Demonstrating that healing power is the only way to truly unite with this church (S23). In citation S24 she gives us an encapsulation of what it takes to accomplish these demonstrations. In her explanation, she uses the same word Barnes uses in his definition of substance quoted in Section 1 above. We stick to the truth “in contradistinction to the error that life, substance or intelligence can be in matter.” Substance by its very definition opposes the lie that matter has any reality whatsoever. Our Leader tells us to plead with an “honest conviction” and a “clear perception” of the certainty of divine Science. She says if our faith is “half equal to the truth of [our] plea, [we] will heal the sick.”

Section 5: Steadfast with God in Our Midst

Clarke describes “him who hears, and overcomes” as one “who continues steadfast in the faith, and uncorrupt in his life; who faithfully confesses Jesus, and neither imbibes the doctrines, nor is led away by the error of the wicked…” To such a one, will be given access to the tree of life (B21). Note how closely Clarke’s description follows those qualities mentioned by Mary Baker Eddy’s in citation S24 —that the healer should stick to the truth, plead with honest conviction, and be faithful, living in accord with one’s words.

The biblical message that all is made by God (B22), and all belongs to Him is continuous throughout the scriptures. Zephaniah, tells us when God is in our midst—when we see that we dwell in Him—the enemy is cast out, and evil is swept away (B23).

The psalmist initiates the theme as he speaks of the City of God, the holy place that shall not be moved because “God is in the midst of her” (B24). Barnes tells us, “The “idea” here is simply that Jerusalem would be calm and serene amidst all the external agitations in the world – calm as a gently-flowing stream. The streams – the canals – the water-courses of such a river flowing around each dwelling and along each garden, would diffuse happiness and beauty everywhere.” This is a clear indication that the underpinning, or substance, of this holy place is God.

All the way to John’s vision in Revelation, we see the true substance of things revealed by looking past the material senses to the spiritual reality of all being (B25). The significance of the “water of life, clear as crystal,” (B26) is that this pure stream is free of all hypocrisy, being real, hearty, and sincere. Commentators note that unlike the Garden of Eden, which had one tree of Life, in this holy city, the tree is growing everywhere - on the banks of the river, and in all the streets. Additionally, the tree bears fruit not just annually, but perpetually every month, and its healing fruit is available to all nations.

Our textbook underscores that substance, Soul, or Spirit is “unchangeable and eternal” (S26). We are reminded once more that this spiritual view cannot be obtained through matter (S27). The material senses reverse everything—calling spiritual substance intangible, and matter substance.

This belief vanishes in the presence of spiritual understanding (S28). Spirit being the substance of all reality, sustains everything that is real (S29). All understanding, beauty, perfection, glory, immortality, bliss, life, and substance are God’s (S30). As we exercise our spiritual sense to see through the unreal, imaginary, and deceptive pictures of material sense, we will see God in the midst of us. Knowing we live in God, Spirit, we will see true substance everywhere, and our lives will be filled with good things.


Watch for Warren's CAPs—Citation Application Possibilities):
Application ideas from Cobbey Crisler and others on select citations will be
available online and emailed as they are completed.


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