The True God Changes EverythingFr. Barnabas Powell
The truth is you will never develop or mature beyond your idea of who and what God is. The old gods of the pagans were little more than really powerful humans, and it seemed the whole point of worshiping these gods was to get them to “like” you so they would either leave you alone or give you a prize! All those ideas crumbled when the Christian Faith upended the pagan world.
Christianity posits a different view of God. The God of the Christian Faith is Personal, Peaceful, Loving, and quick to forgive. The God of the Christian Faith isn’t Someone Who needs to be appeased with gifts and obedient behavior as much as He is the Creator Who so loves His creatures that He invited them to enter into a real and life-changing relationship with Him so that His creatures can become “like” Him by grace!
This view of God is so radically different than how other gods have been described in different cultures and religions that, when Christianity is brought into close proximity to these false ideas about God, the false ideas fall! That is, of course, until the authentic Christian Faith is abandoned or lost because we failed to pay attention or remain faithful.
This revolutionary view of God is built through centuries of God dealing with His people and shaping them to be witnesses of this radical rediscovery of God’s True Self. And this message of the True God changes the world forever.
St. Paul helps us with this today. Look at our lesson in Romans 4:13-25:
Brethren, the promise to Abraham and his descendants, that they should inherit the world, did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants — not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham, for he is the father of us all, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations” — in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations; as he had been told, “So shall your descendants be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead because he was about a hundred years old, or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “reckoned to him as righteousness.” But the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him that raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
St. Paul actually has only the Old Testament scriptures that he uses to discern the wisdom of God in Christ. And his readers of Romans are treated to his reading of the Jewish Scripture and how they already pointed us to Faith in Jesus Christ.
Paul takes the great saint and Patriarch Abraham, whom the Jews hold as their founder and father of their whole nation, as the example of what God always intended to do in coming in the flesh. St. Paul insists that Christ came for the whole world and not just for the “chosen tribe” of people. In fact, he re-emphasizes what the Old Testament already taught that the “chosen people” were “chosen” so that they could be a light to the rest of the people on the earth, not reduced to some exclusive “special” race that God treats better than everyone else!
He even reminds these “chosen people” that their very Law, given to them by St. Moses, was never intended to be reduced to simply “following the rules” but to PROVE to everyone that we humans are simply too weak to always follow the rules. We need to be taught this because of our stubborn pride, so God, in His love for us, gives us the Law to teach us of our desperate need for grace.
We need to have an inner transformation to a life of gratitude for God’s mercy to us SO THAT when we obey and do the faith, our motive is gratitude and not one of expecting to be “paid” for “doing” what we should. That significant transformation comes when we embrace a deep love for God in seeing how He always treats us as a loving Father.
A classic example of this radically powerful view of the True God comes to us from the Hebrew Scriptures and the story of the Prophet Elisha. The story of Elisha becoming the Prophet for the people of Israel is powerful. When St. Elias chose St. Elisha to take his place as the Prophet for the nation, St. Elisha was plowing in his field and had 12 oxen under his yoke. When Elias told Elisha he was to be the prophet of the people, Elisha offered all 12 oxen in sacrifice, using his plow and the other implements he had for farming as the wood for the sacrificial fire. He then gave the cooked meat of the sacrifice to the poor of the area as food and left his farm, his family, and his life behind to follow the call of God on his life. To show how radically transformative this life of dedication to the True God can be in transforming the person into a vessel of grace and healing, even after St. Elisha dies, some men were carrying a dead man to bury him and they came to the place where the bones of St. Elisha were. They threw the dead man onto the bones of the Great Prophet and immediately the dead man came to life! The consequences of being brave and humble enough to embrace the radical message of the True God changes everything and even reverse death itself! Even Elisha’s name means “God is Savior!”
So, today, are you doing religious things so that God will bless you or so that God won’t “send” you to Hell? That’s the wrong way to think about Faith. God has already given you everything for your salvation. And now, when you respond to His mercy and grace with gratitude, you will find yourself embracing the true view of God, and that embrace changes you into a Normal Orthodox Christin!
P.S. The incarnate Angel, the Cornerstone of the Prophets, the second Forerunner of the Coming of Christ, the glorious Elias (Elijah), who from above, sent down to Elisha the grace to dispel sickness and cleanse lepers, abounds therefore in healing for those who honor him.