You have now been invited to commit yourselves to the Ideal of a “Life of Grace”, and been taught how to grow spiritually in that life as part of a church community through worship and sacraments. This new “life of grace is easy to live out here in a retreat environment surrounded by friends who encourage and support you. The problem is we can’t all stay here forever. We all have to go back to our lives in what we are tempted to call the “real world”. The bad news is that:
· Most of the people around us do not know about Jesus / have a life of grace
· World has been corrupted by human weakness and sin
· People have been deceived by false teachers and demons
This is your spiritual “boot camp”. Unlike soldiers taught to defend themselves against an obvious physical attack; you need to learn how to protect yourself from both your own desiresand a hidden enemy who tries to deceive youthrough your mind. You will need to work hard at piety, study and action to overcome the obstacles to living a spiritual life of grace.
1. Sin is an obstacle to living a life of grace - spiritual life
Just as we enter a ‘life of grace’ through accepting Jesus as our personal Saviour and asking for an receiving his grace (forgiveness) - we can lose our life of grace / spiritual life if we continue to live a life of un-repented sin. Sin is a technical word that refers to anything we choseto do or chose to fail to do; that is a rebellion against Gods’ Commandments or a failure to love God, our neighbour or ourselves - as we promise in our Baptismal Covenant:
- Some people in our more liberal culture deny the reality of sin.
- Others have had false teaching that once you are “saved” all your sins are automatically forgiven
- False teaching that you can confess your sins to Jesus privately (contrary to the James 5.16).
- Sin involves a willful choice to act or failure to act that pollutes our personal spirit, our soul and our body
- Diagram scribble illustrates how this separates us from God as we become “unholy” and unable to live in the presence of God:
- Sin is an obstacle to the life of grace because if we break our part of the Baptismal Covenant and rebel against God’s Law; we may put ourselves out of Covenant.
- Sin may pollute our soul to the point where we cannot be in the presence of a Holy God, receive the gift of the Holy Spirit or not inherit eternal spiritual life – the life of grace.
2. There are three sources of sin – the world, the flesh & the Devil
The Book of Common Prayer included a Baptismal promise to “fight manfully against the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil” – that modern false teachers deny as mythical.
The Biblical or spiritual worldview is that we live in a confused and largely pagan culture on a sin polluted and demon infested planet. The obstacles we face include:
- Worldly temptationsof power, control and materialism that can lead to the sins of avarice, envy and jealousy
- Our human weakness and feartempts us into the sins of pride, deceit, gluttony, lust and wrath / anger
- Spiritual sources of evil– the devil / Satan / demons that try to deceive us into rebellion (sin) which can pollute our soul, separate us from God and open a spiritual doorway to spiritual oppression or even bondage (prisoners in Luke 4.18
3. Remedies for sin: Belief in Jesus, Confession & Absolution
Essence of Christianity is that we have a new way to remove the sin guilt that pollutes our soul and separates us from God who is holy. In our Baptism we promise “to repent and return to the Lordwhenever you fall into sin” (BAS 159). This is the heart of our salvation through “believing in Jesus” (John 6). To overcome the obstacles of sin you will need to be sure you really “believe in” (vs. know about) Jesus as your personal saviour through personal piety, study and action:
· Regular personal and group Bible study
· Daily personal Bible reading and prayer
· Regular (weekly) Christian fellowship and public worship
· Regular participation in the sacramentsof Holy Communion or Reconciliation / Penance (Confession may be ‘in the heart’ if sincerely done during a public general confession in the Anglican Church or privately to a priest in the Anglican, Orthodox or Roman Catholic Churches.)
4. Remedies for sin: Self Examination
Regular self-examination to identify specifichidden sin by asking yourself “In what ways have I failed to love God, neighbour and self this week through:
· Worshiping other gods, idolatry, avarice
· Failure to honour parents, spouse
· Anger, hate, gossip - desire to murder reputation
· Self-Deception, lying “false witness, and murdering truth
· Wanting more, what belongs to others (envy, covetousness, jealousy and lust)
· Selfishness, pride – lack of love, humility
5. Remedies for sin: Spiritual Direction and Healing Prayer
Sin if it becomes regular or is traumatic can lead to spiritual wounds. These wounds can act as a spiritual doorway for demons to attach themselves to your soul and whisper lies from inside. Alcoholism for example is a chemical, psychological and spiritual affliction. We can deal with the spiritual part by confession and absolution which removes the sin-guilt that opens the doorway and allows the Spirit of Alcoholism to afflict and oppress the individual. Our Healing Ministry often includes people confessing lies about themselves (not wanted, no good etc.) that they believed as children which was sin because it was contrary to God’s truth. God loves and values all of His creation.
6. Remedies for sin: Arm yourself spiritually through prayer
I practice daily, prayers for spiritual protectionby praying on the “whole armour of God” for protection against deception (Ephesians 6.10-17)
o Helmet of salvation to protect mind
o Breastplate of righteousness to protect heart
o Shield of faith – protect from spiritual attacks
o Sword of Holy Spirit – see and beat back lies
o Belt of truth – hold together in difficulties
o Shoes of Gospel – keep from going astray
o Blood of Jesus – from pollution of guilt
o Mantle of praise – sign of God’s glory
7. We can overcome the obstacles to a life of grace
This is the Good News of Christianity. But this is not easy. The remedies are not automatic. Each of us must make an effort to:
- Read our Bibles to understand and believe in the reality and seriousness of sin as an obstacle to a life of grace
- Read and study our Bibles so we can believe in the sacrificial death of Jesus as potential payment for our sin
- Receive spiritual teaching and nurture by regular fellowship and participation in the sacramental life of a Christian Church
- Develop a regular spiritual discipline of prayer, self-examination, confession and absolution
- Seek Spiritual Direction and Healing Prayer as needed