[Part 1 of a series from Raising them Right, a sub-book extracted from The Path to Salvation by St. Theophan the Recluse]
The Christian Adult
The Goal of Man
- Man’s final goal: Communion with God
- Path to the final goal: faith, walking in the commandments with the aid of Divine grace
- Man is not surrounded by elements favorable to the Christian life/path, therefore the Christian must labor hard on this path even unto sorrow, but not despair.
Three stages of Christian life
- Turning to God – turn from darkness to light, from Satan to God
- Purification or self-amendment – cleanse chambers of heart of every impurity in order to receive Christ the Lord
- Sanctification – the Lord comes and takes up abode in his heart and communes with him. This is blessed communion with God – the goal of all our endeavors.
To call oneself a Christian and be a member of the Church does not mean one is a Christian (Matthew 7:21; Romans 9:6).
“There is a moment and a very noticeable moment , which sharply is marked out in the course of our life, when a person begins to live in a Christian way. This is the moment when there begins to be present in him the distinctive characteristics of the Christian life...
…Christian life is zeal and the strength to remain in communion with God by means of an active fulfillment of His Holy will, according to our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the help of the grace of God, to the glory of His most holy name.”
– St. Theophan the Recluse
Zeal according to Knowledge
- The testimony of this Christian life is the “ardor of active zeal to please God alone”.
- This zeal is illustrated with fire in the Gospel:
- Luke 12:49
- Mark 9:49
- Saint Paul warns not to quench the Holy Spirit, and to be fervent in spirit serving the Lord:
- 1 Thessalonians 5:19
- Romans 12:11
“…unslothful striving is an inseparable attribute of Christian life.”
- Saint Paul also uses language such as “press on” and “run towards the prize” in the Christian life:
- Philippians 3:13-14
- 1 Corinthians 9:24
- Beware of dead works though (Revelation 3:1)
- A person’s good conduct can actually lead them into deception.
- Only true zeal both wishes to do good in all fullness and purity and persecutes sin even it its smallest forms.
- What if we are lacking in zeal?
- Grace cannot be forced, but we can labor until it is given.
- “The work of piety and communion with God is a work of much labor and pain, especially in the beginning. Where can we find the power to undertake all these labors? With the help of God’s grace, we can find it in heartfelt zeal.”
- This zeal is sustained by “enthusiasm and love of the work”.
- One must do everything for the glory of God in defiance of the sin that dwells within us.
- Without zeal, a Christian is a poor Christian.
- A true witness of Christian life is the fire of active zeal for the pleasing of God.
How is this fire of active zeal ignited?
Such zeal is produced by an action of grace. However it does not occur without the participation of our free will. Christian life is not natural life.
A desire and free seeking are aroused (by action from without), then grace descends through the Mysteries and uniting with our freedom produces a mighty zeal. But let no one think that he can give birth to such a power of life; one must pray for it and be ready to receive it.