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Homily for 7/21/13 - P4 - eternal life

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  • David
    Rom 6:18-23 Our Lord said that no man can serve two masters, either he will hate the one and love the other or else he will hold to the one and despise the
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 21, 2013
      Rom 6:18-23

      Our Lord said that no man can serve two masters, either he will hate the
      one and love the other or else he will hold to the one and despise the
      other (Mt 6:24). The Apostle Paul echoes that saying in the epistle that
      we heard today, reminding us all that whereas we were once slaves to
      sin, now having been freed from our slavery, we have, in Christ, become
      servants of righteousness. The Apostle then develops this thought to
      point out the result of serving one master or the other for the wages of
      sin, he says are death, but the gift of God is eternal life.

      On a theoretical level this all makes very good sense and we certainly
      all would choose to be servants of righteousness leading toward eternal
      life. But the reality is that we are still plagued by sin and constantly
      slip back into the habits of our old slavery. The Apostle tells us these
      things to encourage us not to lose hope or give up, but to continue the
      life that we have begun in Christ so that we might be able to enter into
      the eternal life that God gives.

      In order to better grasp what it is that the apostle is saying to us,
      let us first examine this idea of sin and death in contrast to eternal
      life. Sin is, at its root, simply acting contrary to the will of God,
      failing to express in our lives the glory of God which He bestowed on us
      first at our creation and then again at our baptism. This happens when
      we live selfishly, seeking not the glory of God, but our own pleasure
      and our own glory. When we do this we no longer can see our lives in the
      perspective that God gives, but we lower our sights and see only a
      partial picture of life. In a sense, we limit our lives to the period
      from our birth to our physical death and any consideration of existence
      beyond that is at best some kind of myth or fantasy. As a result we are
      no longer aware of the fact that our life is not defined by the bounds
      of death, but that it continues on throughout eternity. When we live in
      sin – that is in our own self centered ideals – we subject ourselves to
      death as the final limit of our life. And so the apostle tells us that
      the wages of sin is death.

      The reality that God reveals to us, however, is quite different. In Him
      we see that our life is not limited by physical death and defined only
      by our existence in the world, but rather that this worldly life is only
      a small part of our life. This life is not the “best” part of life, nor
      is the culmination of our life, rather it is just the beginning. As the
      beginning of our lives, this worldly life is important for it is here in
      this life that we are shaped and formed in such a way that will affect
      how we experience the rest of our life. The qualities that we develop in
      this life will be a part of us throughout eternity and will continue to
      be a part of how we live that life. If, in our life here in the world,
      we do not prepare for eternity, and develop only those qualities which
      apply to this life, then we will enter eternity unprepared at best and
      more likely we will be unable to participate in the glory of God because
      we are only prepared to participate in the satisfaction of our fleshly
      desires. Eternity becomes for us a torment of desire that is impossible
      to satisfy – an itch that cannot be scratched as it were. If, however,
      we spend the time of this life detaching ourselves from the “worldly
      itch” so that it no longer affects us and instead we retrain our desires
      to fix upon those things which are dim here but with which we will later
      be surrounded, then when we finish our life on this earth and pass
      through physical death into eternity, we are no longer tormented by
      unfulfilled desire, but we enter into an environment rich with the grace
      of God for which we long. Rather than a torment of unfulfilled desire,
      we enter into a place where all our desires are satisfied in abundance.

      Now we can begin to understand a little more what it is that the apostle
      is telling us here. If we give ourselves over to sin, then we are living
      in an imperfect world which is temporary. We train ourselves to be
      attached to those things which will end with our physical death and as a
      result we enter into the life after death unprepared as though we were
      entering into a foreign land. However, if we use this life for the
      purpose it was intended – that is as a “school” to prepare for that
      which comes next and train ourselves to desire not the temporary
      pleasures of this temporary world, but rather the eternal joys of the
      world that does not pass away, then we begin even now to live not
      towards “death” but rather we live in the life of eternity.

      This is a difficult concept, but one that is vital for us to understand.
      This life is only the beginning, it is only the preparation for
      eternity. Eternal life is not a continuation of this life, but rather it
      is a much larger experience that encompasses this life as only a small,
      but important starting point. When we are slaves to sin, our vision is
      limited to this world and we cannot see beyond it, however, when we
      become the servants of righteousness, we are enlightened to be able to
      begin to see that this life is not the end, but that there is a much
      greater life for which we are destined. Leaving our worldly life is no
      longer “the end” but it is a transition into something greater and so
      death no longer has any sting and the fear of death no longer has any
      power over us. We begin to understand the words of the apostle when he
      says elsewhere that “to live is Christ and to die is gain … For I am in
      a strait betwixt the two, having a desire to depart, and be with Christ;
      which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful
      for you.” (Phil 1:21-24) He has so fully integrated the glory of God
      into himself that he no longer lives to satisfy his own desires, but is
      completely attuned to the will of God. This even extends to his
      realization that there is nothing in the world that can satisfy him and
      so he desires to leave it behind, and yet he realizes that he continues
      to serve God here in order to bring others into the life that he now
      sees and experiences himself.

      For this reason now, the apostle encourages us to live our lives as
      servants of righteousness, for it is by righteousness that we are
      prepared for eternal life. By yielding ourselves to righteousness, that
      is, by ordering our lives according to the dictates of righteousness, we
      begin to develop within ourselves the fruit of holiness. To be holy is
      to be like God for God is holy and thus this fruit of holiness is that
      which prepares us for eternal life in the presence of God. All of the
      things that we do in this life when we struggle to resist sin and when
      we struggle instead to embrace righteousness are part of our preparation
      for eternal life.

      God has given us the time in this mortal world as a time of preparation
      for life in eternity. We can choose to deny this gift from God and focus
      only on the worldly life which shall pass away and ignore completely the
      eternal life – always looking at the ground as it were and never looking
      up to behold the sky and the stars. Or we can choose to use this worldly
      life that God has given us in the manner in which it was intended to be
      used – as a preparation for the much greater life in eternity for which
      we are destined. If we deny the glory of God and enslave ourselves to
      sin, then we receive only the wages of sin, which is death and we will
      enter unprepared into eternity. If, however, we lift up our eyes and
      hearts to God and strive to live in accordance with his glory and become
      the servants of righteousness, then we will bear the fruit of
      righteousness, that is, holiness, and we will thereby be able to
      participate fully in the eternal life.

      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org
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