“You greatly delude yourself and make a grave error, if you think that one thing is demanded from the layman and another from the monk;…For all must rise to the same height; and what has turned the world upside down is that we think only the monk must live rigorously, while the rest of us are permitted to live a life of indulgence.” -St John Chrysostom.
God calls us not just to be Christians in the sense of just being similar to Christ, but to become Christ in every way we can. It is usually from the belief that we are called to be only similar to Christ, but not to be in Christ and become Him that we begin to make excuses to justify our non-conformity to the absolute truth, this leads to mediocrity, lukewarmness and a final state of presumption or despair. There is no merit before God in being just a good person, the only time when there is sufficient merit is if you are Him (Christ), you conform to absolute truth by living by it and dying to it.
The following are the lifestyles and popular spiritual follies which we would look at to better understand the type of Christian spirituality God wants from us.
POINT 7: TRUE CHRISTIAN SPIRITUALITY MUST INCLUDE ACCEPTING SUFFERING FOR HOLINESS AND FOR OTHER PEOPLE
Almost all the time when we are faced with discomfort and inconvenience we respond with frustration and anger, we shrink into ourselves wishing it could all just go away, but all the time when we are faced with discomfort and inconvenience it is an opportunity given to us to show righteous mercy and selfless love. Our negative reaction ruins our ability to perform. You should not refuse to do good because of the risk of great suffering befalling you, who else was injustice and ingratitude going to happen to? We are to emulate Christ and drink from the cup of salvation which is his humbled life, suffering and death, we are to partake in it. God did not bring you here to make you comfortable, God’s plan of making you comfortable is in His Love in eternity, not here, the plan God has for you here is to give you what you need in order for you to make it to eternity, and sometimes that means you must endure serious suffering, persecution and pain so do not despise it but prepare for it. If you do not accept the cross, then you do not accept Christ, for there is no such thing as Christ without the cross if you do not necessarily seek Christ because of His cross, then you do not seek God or His salvation because His eternal salvation (heaven) is not a place of frail convenience and everlasting self-indulgence, it is an eternal communion of self-giving of those who have purified themselves to become completely self-giving through the continual self-sacrifice of the cross.
Therefore, to everything you as a human being righteously have the right to do, you must control it, moderate it, reduce it and let it be under God, else sins of self-indulgence are the very next thing waiting for us. All human souls are worthy of our suffering and final death, God has declared this truth through Christ’s suffering and death. If you are obstinate in resisting this truth and will not live out that suffering and death for the ultimate spiritual good of every soul without any exceptions, then you work against Christianity, because that is the gospel of Jesus Christ and that is the way of the cross which everyone who wishes to follow Christ must pass. This translates that you must suffer in the way you dress, the way you talk, interact, give, receive, relate etc. You must suffer yourself in all aspects of your life working against your self-centred desires according to the spirit of righteousness and love which is God, for the sake of the ultimate spiritual good of every human being in your life.
Going against what you’re feeling like doing and doing what you don’t feel like doing but know is the right thing to do, is the difference between the saints and the souls in hell. Uncontrolled passions lead to attachment and selfishness which turns a person away from God and corrodes the soul. Mortification must be done to correct the corrosion and corruption of the soul and tame the broken desires and passions.
If you cannot sincerely answer that you are ready and happy to die now if God is really calling, then you are guilty of some type of self-indulgent belief and no one can be permitted into heaven while they enjoy being that way, at best such soul will have to be purified of its disordered attachments in purgatory before entering heaven. The attachment to things is not necessarily attachment to bad things but can be an attachment to other things which are good in this world. You’re to have no type of disordered attachment to them that will make you reluctant to leave this world and go to heaven to be fulfilled with the love of God when it is the will of God.
Also, we must understand this truth; that the “body of Christ” takes away sins and evil; therefore if you belong to the body, you’ll absorb evil out of the world. The mystical body continues to absorb evil out of the world through mortification in making reparation. You ought to carry people, places, institutions, organizations and societies which have grown to serve sin and glorify evil in your heart; worry and work for their purification and sanctification and like a loving mother whose heart is pained by the waywardness of her child, remember these people and organization every time you pray; begging God for mercy on them and purification from their slavery to sin.
Whenever there is a situation of God’s punishment, God’s presumed absence, problems, or even demonic activity; know that God is providing through these sufferings a call to greater grace such that if one should undergo these sufferings with a true spirit of penance, perfect trust in God, proper disposition and resignation to God, he or she will surely come out more Holy than he or she was before the suffering. So whenever such arises look not in despair at your emptiness but in total hope and trust at the omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient and omnibenevolent God. If we were truly humble and not self-seeking we would understand very well the acts of God. True humility is this; the ability to accept the worst types of disgrace, pain, persecution, slander, insult and suffering because you have come to truly understand that:
- You really are a sinner who has done a lot of wicked things and in truth you’re not undeserving of the worst type of disgrace and suffering because you really have been an instrument of evil to others.
- God is truly omniscient and all things that are happening and will happen can only occur by His will or permitted allowance.
- God is omni-benevolent (absolutely and infinitely good). He is truly mercy itself and is always looking for how to save everyone including you.
- Therefore if God is truly mercy itself and nothing can happen without His permission then all suffering and disgrace that will ever come to us will come for our good, not just the superficial good of this life but the good of our soul and the next life.
All we need do is tell God “I humbly accept whatever humiliation and suffering that comes to me, I know it has come to bring me a room of more grace to exercise and grow deeper in virtue. Take it from me after I have gained the good I can from it for my soul and others around me. So lord help us to know the good we are to experience from this situation, according to Your wisdom.”
Because men do not know the joy of accepting suffering with Christ they go in search of happiness in other futile things. The heart of man is frail, and sometimes it loves what is evil for its self-pleasure over what is truly good, But it is our calling to by self-sacrifice draw out of it that self-centeredness. A sincere heart is needed for the spiritual journey of life, if this is attained, God leads it to a deeper knowledge and sets new standards for the journey and the soul will be purified by these new standards.
It is from pride; that is the superficial look at the world, our seeking pleasure and convenience at all cost that we distrust God’s omniscience and go in search of joy in other futile things and end up steep in self-righteousness and sin. St John Chrysostom summarizes this very well, he says: “You greatly delude yourself and make a grave error, if you think that one thing is demanded from the layman and another from the monk;…For all must rise to the same height; and what has turned the world upside down is that we think only the monk must live rigorously, while the rest of us are permitted to live a life of indulgence.”
POINT 8: GOD IS NOT CALLING YOU TO BE A GOOD PERSON, HE IS CALLING YOU TO BE A SAINT
Faith is a seed that is supposed to grow to knowledge and then conviction. If you stagnate your faith with no exercise of the virtue of studiousness then you don’t really have faith.
I’d like to start with a controversial statement which is this; “good people don’t go to heaven, it is holy people who are truly pure in sincerity, humility and charity that go to heaven because it is only the pure who are compatible with the divine life of God.” Most of us are of the idea that God only wants to make us “good people” and that if we are good people we have fulfilled our duty to God and we don’t owe Him anything else. First and foremost the term “a good person” is wholly subjective and does not even begin to represent what we are to repay God with. In some honest sense of the term “a good person,” everyone is good. Those who are referred to as bad have the reasons why they do what they do, they have those who they do what they do with and they have people who they wish to give convenience by what they do and to those people, they who you call bad are good. Also, we are not supposed to judge and label people, we are to love them all, we must understand that every human soul has the three powers of the soul and therefore is capable of change if they yield to God’s grace, they are also still loved by God. Therefore everyone is good but goodness is not enough, see, before Christ came there were so many good people but no one was anything near enough to offer atonement to God, why? because God is absolute infinite perfection and we humans are finite beings, that is why Christ came, to offer to God the infinite perfect atonement which He is rightfully and justly deserving of, and He is calling us to be a part of this one infinitely perfect sacrifice. Therefore God the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ is calling us not to be just good people but to be perfect people, He is calling us to become holy people whom He is truly and fully manifested in, He is calling us to become God Himself (Christ). Anyone who perseveres in holiness and total striving to give God the perfection He deserves are those who are wrapped into the sacrifice of Christ. We must know that every mentality or spirituality pointing us to believe that being just a good person is enough is false and is evil. We are to offer to God the perfection He is truly deserving of by becoming manifestations of our Lord Jesus Christ the perfect gift and sacrifice of love to God. We are to become the absolute infinite perfection of God the son by fulfilling our part of becoming absolute finite perfection through His grace. We are to strive for perfection in purity with our whole existence so we can enter into the divine life of God. Many times people despair and fall in faith because they believe since we cannot be infinitely perfect in this life, why try so hard? Just accept being broken and go with the flow, just try to do some good things while doing also doing the bad ones and everything is alright if you hear a teaching or preaching just agree along and shout amen but continue with all the bad and unrighteous things you do. This is a big problem of pride and despair. God demands perfection! Which means absolute sincerity in trying hardest to reach perfection.
There are three pillars of lukewarmness and spiritual mediocrity, these are: 1) believing in being too weak to carry out the will of God concerning the cross, as he has shown it to be. 2) love of convenience or fear of being crushed by the cross, therefore, is selfish instead of a self-giving spirit. And 3) acquiescing into a life of venial sins, not making a serious effort to avoid all attachments, activities media’s places, things, peoples, and discussions that are not edifying.
If one wants to begin or regain a spiritual life they should consider these parts of their spiritual life: 1) spiritual support for others, 2) their prayer life of contemplation and intercessions for others, 3) their works of mercy, charity and their apostolate, 4) daily sacrifices and offerings to God, 5) their participation in the sacraments (confession and the Holy Eucharist, 6) their reception of spiritual direction, spiritual reading, and intake of spiritually edifying media.
Think of all your problems, your flaws, your characters and behaviours that are unrighteous, ungrateful, unmerciful, self cantered, those traits of yours that will make you honestly describe yourself as cruel, selfish and ungrateful. If you are not truly ashamed of such things holding root in your life and thoroughly making sincere efforts to overcome them, but instead you are placing them as your limitation, as more powerful than grace, then you call Christ’s actions a waste, because Jesus Christ who is God truly came, suffered grievously and died so that all humans including you will be redeemed, will have abundant grace, the Holy Spirit and overcome such self-centeredness. How then can we claim to stand with God if we work against His actions and place our weaknesses over His spirit of righteousness, love and mercy? If we do love God then we would work with His sanctifying grace to purify ourselves of all prideful, unrighteous and self-centred traits, by God’s grace work against all of it, every single one. That is the testimony of our love for God.
As we advance and mature in the spiritual journey of holiness, the Holy Spirit makes us Godlike because we begin to see, sense, understand and view things the way God does and we can then act like God because we move according to God, we manifest His gifts and supernatural activities of mercy, charity, kindness, studiousness, contrition and reparation in the souls of others.
We also suffer the problem of not seeing God as absolute infinite goodness and perfection. Of claiming to grow without the instituted order of God in the church, sacraments, prayers, fasting, asceticism, almsgiving, self-sacrifice, studying, contemplation etc. Of holding God’s consolation, God’s work and things of God which are not God over our communion and relationship with the persons who are truly God.
“You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). Does your life reflect being the light of this world? Does it promote the positive things or is it the top reference for negative traits? Do our actions and words produce positivity that enables others to see Christ? Or does it extend the darkness? Is our very presence life-giving, setting people free and a terror to the devil and his plans? Or are we the source from which people hear about, copy and reaffirm negative lifestyles? Every step we take, every choice we make, all of our words, all the things we like, everything we indulged in is either taking us closer to God or away from him. There is nothing that doesn’t do one of these two things, rather the devil is going to make you try to believe that so that he can silently plant things in your life that would slowly take you or people around you away from God. Let us meditate on this. Are the books I am reading taking me closer or away? Are the movies I watch taking me closer or away? Are the songs I keep taking me closer or away? Are my discussions, my hobbies, my dressing, my career, my friends, my lifestyle, all the things I indulged in, am I certain that it is taking me and those around me closer to God? Or is the devil trying to play a dirty trick on me? Let us meditate on this, praying for the gift of discernment in order to lead a sincere Christian life.
Let us not fall for the temptation of believing that God calls us to be lukewarm in our love for Him and all that concerns Him. Many of us have forgotten or no longer believe that our Lord is truly a real person who really loves us and we are supposed to become manifestations of His love. Are you still interested in our Lord? Do you still raise all aspects of your life to Him? Do you still discuss what happens in life with Him? Do you give Him quality time even if there’s not much to say or even if you’re terribly busy? Or do you only come to Him because you want to use him; only requesting blessing, protection, a smooth day and other of the sought? What sought of “love” for God is that that only remembers him on Sundays or when you want to ask him to give you something to make your life easier? Our Lord is a person, He is really a person, so is the father and the Holy Spirit and they are persons who love you more than anyone else. You want to love Jesus without spending your time and energy? You want to love Jesus without sacrificing your pleasure and your resources? what sought of silly self-deception is that? Love is not a roll of empty claims if there is no sacrifice, if there is no self-giving there is no love. Return to our Lord, love him with your time, love him with your energy, with your reading power, love him with your meditation. Love him with your life not just with your lips. Visit him and spend time with him in his true physical presence of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
Not desiring to sacrifice oneself in unity with Christ is the cause of spiritual lukewarmness and from there the backslide begins with no hunger for perfection in pleasing God, then no fear of committing venial sins before progressing to no fear of committing a mortal sin. It is not enough to be in a state of grace and believe you haven’t sinned, we must hunger to be absolutely pure and pleasing to God at all times in all we do.
Your ambition, your family, your career, your relationship, these can become the biggest distraction to the spiritual warfare going on in your life. While they on their own have no evil in them if they are misplaced in your spiritual life they will be the death of you. The very most moment you decided with conviction that you want to lead a righteous life by God’s grace, that was the day you declared war on all darkness and they declared war on you. For the rest of your life on earth, there will be no ceasefire, no breaks, but I like most people forget this and all we end up with is losing big pieces of who we are and what we are to be and having to revivals and recoveries.
Why take venial sins and imperfections as if you have a right to be sinful towards God? Even if there were no mortal sins Our Lord would still have suffered gravely to allow us a means to repay an infinitely perfect God.
POINT 9: GOD IS CALLING YOU TO LIVE AND PREACH THE TRUTH AT ALL TIMES NO MATTER WHAT
You must be mercy to your neighbour in order to obtain mercy – You must be merciful to others in all your acts! Your dressing, talking, smiling, playing, working etc. If this is not so then you’re judging people to deserve your sacrifice or not and as you have given out judgement you too will be judged by God. When receiving judgement from God based on whether you deserve His sacrifice or not, you will surely inherit damnation because no one is rightfully entitled to that perfection of God’s divine life.
“Judge not that you’ll not be judged” (Matthew 7:1) means be truly merciful so that you’ll pass through the door of mercy not that of justice. 
Do not condemn people because you do not know tomorrow, you do not know if tomorrow these people will finally repent and become great saints very pleasing to God while your self-righteous judgment will land you so far away and at death, they will be great saints while you will be a lukewarm person. Work out your salvation in fear and in trembling.
The only reason we are alive is for love and mercy, everything and every structure that is righteous in this world exists and is righteous because of love and mercy.
We may also fall for the sophisticated temptation of living like as if the exertion of gifts of the holy spirit or exercise of pious acts more than other people or as much as other people is what makes one holy. Therefore we neglect our duty in order to win all competitions and look like the strongest and most pious in everyone’s eyes at the expense of the true duties that God is calling us to do at home, in the family, at work, the church and other places.
The reason we are to become holy and rise to the greatest heights of sanctity is that we cannot love without being truly holy and sanctified because without love (charity) we have no merit before God, we do not please Him and we cannot be united to Him and His kingdom when we die because He is absolute love (charity). Call others to God even when you are struggling to be clear like water. The mission to call is not about your “supposed” righteousness but God’s call. Others can come to God and become greater saints than you, you should love and desire this, that the children surpass the parents. If we do not have a tangible love for God in everything we do then we have a useless and hypocritical self-centred holiness that is not ready, willing and passionate for others spiritual growth by prayer and self-sacrifice.
Looking at two passages, first Luke 19:24-26 “And he said to the bystanders, ‘Take the pound away from him, and give it to him who has ten pounds.’ And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten pounds.’ So then, I say to you, that to all who have, it shall be given, and he will have in abundance. And from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.” And Revelation 2:1-7 “And to the Angel of the Church of Ephesus write: Thus says the One who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: I know your works, and your hardship and patient endurance, and that you cannot stand those who are evil. And so, you have tested those who declare themselves to be Apostles and are not, and you have found them to be liars. And you have patient endurance for the sake of my name, and you have not fallen away. But I have this against you: that you have relinquished your first charity. And so, call to mind the place from which you have fallen, and do penance, and do the first works. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. Whoever has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the Churches. To him who prevails, I will give to eat from the Tree of Life, which is in the Paradise of my God.” We see our Lord is calling out to those who have been given the gift of faith but treat it with contempt, those Christians and Catholics who do not extend this blessing of faith to others, those who treat growing in faith, studying about the faith, praying contemplative prayers and spending time with God as secondary things. Our Lord warns that even the stagnant faith you have will be taken from you! You’ll begin to see things of God as abstract, unrealistic and unattainable. Slowly you’ll become lukewarm and while claiming to be a Christian you’re actually the same as those who reject Christ. Preach the faith with your life, study about the faith so you can preach with your words, preach with your social media, prove your love for God by spending special time with Him. Do this and gain the reward of understanding your faith and the gift of more faith. Do this for the love of others who are Christians but are lost, do it because you love them, you love God and love yourself.
The temptation of being focused on holiness for self like it is an achievement of yours like spiritual headway comes from your works and an accumulation of what you have done, meanwhile if all the days of your self-righteous acts on earth were put together they would amount to nothing if separated from Christ; Gods grace. God kept you alive after a fall to mend your life to take another chance, after all, you could have died instantly and gone to hell which is something you would deserve but God has given you grace. If you are still barely escaping sin then you need to make way for God, completely empty yourself out so that He will fill you up and win those battles. Stop thinking that your achievements of righteousness were earned by you somehow, so much that you are bothered about being holy, powerful and righteous. You believe you’ve become holy in yourself and it is no longer God making you holy and so you go around challenging temptations instead of sticking to God’s order. Temptation of looking at how we were high and holy not looking at God and how He can make us and how he wants us to be therefore leading to when we have fallen we go looking for “lost glory” and feeling discouraged and despairing like as if it was an achievement of ours instead of turning to God and trusting in His ultimate will of mercy that all chastisement that might follow is for our ultimate spiritual good. We have a self, what we are to do with it is “give it up” to God who would refine and bless it and then ask you “to give it out”. My God help me to remove from my soul the desire of holiness for myself and not for others!
The key to spiritual headway in deeper levels is to finally grow to be deeply zealous in selflessness and self-giving. To understand that you’re not righteous for yourself and that your being lukewarm, not zealous for what is right or being stuck contemplating on committing sin has a direct serious effect on others; your family, friends and all those who you preach to and support, then most especially God Almighty, and that these people are infinitely more important than yourself. Always keeping them in mind as the reason why you must overcome sin and temptation by meditating and praying for them when faced with trial and temptation.
POINT 10: GOD IS CALLING YOU TO WORK HARD AND CHANGE THE WORLD
If your “piety” is one that leads you into indecision and ineffective living in the guise of love of poverty and self-sacrifice to God then you are falling for a temptation from the devil. Since when did God become unworthy of the best you can give in all things? Is a righteous compulsory duty that you make the best out of yourself in all you can do, in cultivating good relationships, good relationship abilities, great skills to help others, great skills for the creation of wealth for others even if you wish to live a life of poverty, all virtues and all the righteous and abilities you can attain in other to make this world more loving, graceful, beautiful and peaceful for all, even if you are discerning a vocation you have to live like this because you are not supposed to plan to give God the vices of lack of ambition, resourcefulness and lack of prudence instead of the virtuous diligent life.
- St Faustina’s Diary entry 1146.
- Article by Jon Bloom Staff writer, http://desiringGod.org