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Maintain Your Course, and Let God Write Your Story
Metaphysical Application Ideas for the Christian Science Bible Lesson on:

“Doctrine of Atonement”
April 13—19, 2020

By Craig L. Ghislin, C.S. Glen Ellyn, IL (Bartlett) / (630) 830-8683 / (630) 234-3987 cell/text

How are you doing?

This is not a casual greeting. Seriously—take a moment to assess how you are feeling right now. Are you fearful? Confident? Angry? Poised? Sad? Depressed? Joyful? Expectant? The current world situation has altered practically everyone’s plans. Some may feel the loss of missing once-in-a-lifetime events. Others have fears about their employment or savings. Some may be looking for the good in all this. Everyone, whether they like it or not, is in a position of having to slow down their busy lives. They are finding windows of time they don’t usually have.

Naturally, we are bombarded with a multitude of diversions and activities to fill that empty space up. But many are realizing that they can use this time to reassess their priorities, and get closer to God. I’m viewing it as an extended Sabbath. As I’ve mentioned before, Sabbath is a gift, not a duty. Sabbath is often viewed as a reward for hard work; but, in fact, it’s a time provided to prepare prayerfully for the work ahead. Most of us before the “shelter in place” policies went into effect were slaves to modern culture. We led non-stop lives—overworked, rushed, driven to succeed. Slaves don’t get a Sabbath. They work non-stop. Sabbath is for those who are free.

Another aspect of freedom is the ability to claim agency for your own destiny. But with governments requesting us to limit our movement, we’re experiencing a domino effect that appears to impact nearly every aspect of our lives. That’s why people are afraid. They don’t feel in control. Modern societies—especially those that consider themselves to be “free”— thrive on self-control. Governments are in crisis, because they too, are facing something they have no control over, and they’re consumed with finding a way to “control” the virus, the economy, the population, and so forth. Despite projections and computer models, nobody really knows what will happen. Most everyone is just waiting to see what happens. It’s really as if this virus has hi-jacked our futures, and we are helpless to do anything about it. But our futures are not defined by computer models or governmental decisions. We always have the free choice to pray, and place our lives and futures in the hands of God.

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer, and Founder of Christian Science writes:

"One disease is no more real than another. All disease is the result of education, and disease can carry its ill-effects no farther than mortal mind maps out the way. The human mind, not matter, is supposed to feel, suffer, enjoy. Hence decided types of acute disease are quite as ready to yield to Truth as the less distinct type and chronic form of disease. Truth handles the most malignant contagion with perfect assurance."

(Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, p. 176:24)

The key here, is that mortal mind believes it’s mapping out our way, but mortal mind has no power at all unless we yield to it. Mortal mind does not have the power to write our past, present,or future. God writes our story, and armed with that authority, we can take back agency in our lives, and remain faithfully, and confidently on the path God dictates for each one of us.

What does all of this have to do with the Lesson this week? Throughout the entire Lesson, we see examples of how the carnal mind attempts to define and take control of Jesus’ mission. But he refuses to let others write his story, or define his mission. You may have heard the saying: “The journey is the destination.” That is true when we consider The Doctrine of Atonement. This Lesson touches on how traditional theology views atonement and explains that, for Christian Scientists, atonement is both the destination and the method of getting there.

We saw in the Easter Lesson that Jesus faced a load of resistance, and so do we. This week’s Lesson instructs us on how to get through it by maintaining our course according to God’s direction.

The Golden Text is actually starting at the end of the Journey. Peter is promising that our entrance into heaven would be a grand one. Theologian John Trapp (1601-1669) describes it in terms of a ship returning to port:

Ye shall go gallantly into heaven, not get thither as many do, with hard shift and much ado. A ship may make a shift to get into the harbour, but with anchors lost, cables rent, sails torn, mast broken; another comes in with sails and flags up, with trumpets sounding, and comes bravely into the haven: so do fruitful and active Christians into Christ’s kingdom.

This is an example of how we let God write our story. No making apologies for it, no barely making it; but, standing strong, upright, proud, full of dominion and authority. Such is expectancy for the faithful. We might add here that we may fully expect our victory through the current world challenge to be every bit as authoritative as in Peter’s description, not letting ourselves be defined by anyone but God.

The Responsive Reading takes us back to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. From the outset, Jesus was staying true to his mission, even as he faced opposition. His detractors attempted to defame him, and minimize his impact. Their biggest objectionwas his claim of oneness with God. This was a double offense to them: not only was Jesus claiming divine authority; but he claimed a relationship with God that was wholly unorthodox—using the familiar term “Abba” which means “daddy.”

As much as the establishment of the day was put off by Jesus’ claims, he solidly drew his authority from his assuredness that he and his Father were indeed at one, and nothing could contradict it. Jesus’ authority was grounded in prophecy. Hisgospel—or message of “good news”— was brand new, and he spoke with authority. Dr. Paul S. Rees notes, “The Gospel is neither a discussion nor a debate, it is an announcement!”

Honestly, I puzzled at first over why the story of the healing of the man in the synagogue with the unclean spirit was included in the Responsive Reading. William Burkitt (1650-1703) brings up interesting ideas about this healing:

He interprets the entire exchange as an early attempt to discredit Jesus’ Messiahship. The unclean spirit begins by calling him “Jesus of Nazareth.” Doing so purposely ignored that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, which, according to prophecy, is where the Messiah was expected to come from. When the unclean spirit asks: “Art thou come to destroy us?” it’s like asking, “Do you really think you can overpower me? ” Next, the demon pretends to know him, thereby hinting that somehow the devil aided Jesus. This tactic laid the foundation for later accusations that Jesus healed through Beelzebub.

But Jesus would have none of it, and he tells the unclean spirit to hold his peace—or as John Trapp frames it: “be muzzled”—because he wasn’t fit to utter the truth. Jesus needed no help from the king of liars. The unclean spirit makes one final attempt as it departs. Evil does not like letting go when it’sgotten into us. None of those theatrics impressed Jesus, and the man was healed.

Jesus just didn’t fit the traditional expectations of what the Messiah would be. He wasn’t a prince or conqueror, but rather, he was humble, a lowly carpenter. But Jesus didn’t define himself as a carpenter either. He took control of the conversation, and defined himself on his own terms. He recounts his works as sufficient evidence of his sonship with God, and boldly declares, “I and my Father are one.”

Section 1: Taking Care of Yourself First

Jesus could stick to his mission because he had a clear sense of what that mission was, and that it was God who appointed him. There is a wise saying: “We cannot give what we do not possess.” Therefore, it always helps to be clear, and convinced of our own mission before leading others. This is why Aaron had to first atone for himself before atoning for the people (B1). What must we do to atone? Be obedient to the law of God. This obedience isn’t merely a mechanical observance. It’s opening our hearts to complete transformation inwardly, and morally (B2). The law is important, but unless the law transforms us, and actually brings us closer to God, superficial adherence to God’s law is little more than window dressing. Through grace Jesus demonstrated the transforming power of Spirit (B3). I have found no better definition for grace than that given by Strong: “The divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life.”

Not all of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day were critical of him. There were some who asked legitimate questions. This seems to be the case when a scribe questioned Jesus on his understanding of the first commandment. Jesus responds by citing the Shema: “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment” (B5). Note the depth of this commandment. It isn’t a casual observance, but it calls on us to love God withevery faculty of our being. Jesus adds that the second greatest commandment is also important: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” John Gill (1697-1771) underscores that love for your neighbor is more useful than all rituals of ceremony, or sacrifice. Note too, that this is a command, not a choice. When love is a command, we can’t pick favorites to love, or love only those we deem deserving. Every man is our neighbor, and we must love all equally, without discretion or preference.

Mary Baker Eddy defines atonement as “the exemplification of man’s unity with God, whereby man reflects divine Truth, Life, and Love.” (S1). Her words imply that Jesus didn’t have exclusive rights to unity with God, but he was the example of what being united with God means. Jesus was crystal clear as to his identity and purpose. He wasn’t hesitant to declare himself “the way, the truth, and the life.” By this Mary Baker Eddy discerned that Jesus was referring to his divine nature. We call it the Christ. (B2). Jesus wasn’t teaching a mere philosophy. He was demonstrating what true being is.

We know that human beings demand explanations. Therefore, they constantly search for knowledge, and want to trace our origins. That’s fine in itself, but most often, the world of men is looking for explanations that they can understand through reason. But Jesus wasn’t promoting a human doctrine. He was demonstrating the power of divine Truth (S3).

As indicated earlier, the theological hierarchy of Jesus’ time was constantly discrediting Jesus’ claim to the Messiahship. They didn’t understand his statement of oneness with the Father. Traditional Christian theology interprets that oneness as a declaration that Jesus was God in the flesh. Naturally, the Jewish concept remains at odds with that view.

I’ve been told that the core issue for the Jews against Jesus was that Jesus was a “false Messiah.” We can see throughout this Lesson that this view is based on the Jewish expectations of a Messiah, which Jesus didn’t fit. By the same token, traditional Christianity defines Jesus in their terms as well. But Christian Science defines Jesus by his own terms. Jesus was not God, or a false Messiah. He was at-one with God in quality, not quantity(S4).

We are all children of God, and therefore one with Him. We too, demonstrate this oneness through unwavering obedience to God’s law (S5). Our prayer is to understand that oneness better each day. We ask to know that God’s law can be understood and demonstrated right here and now, as it is in heaven (S6).

Section 2: True to Our Legacy

There are all sorts of temptations that attempt to pull us off of our God-given course, one of which is the belief that we are personally in control of our mission. Just like us, Jesus faced this same temptation. Yet, Jesus never allowed personal pride to dictate his actions; and rather than teaching us to worship and be dependent upon him, he taught us to worship and be dependent upon God (B6). Most of the temptations we face are the result of human nature (others, animal nature). Thus far in this Lesson,we’ve seen how envy and priestly pride tried to discredit Jesus. But human nature is always a two-sided coin. There were also those who adored Jesus as a personality.

Jesus could have given in to the demands of those who sought him, but just as he didn’t allow the detractors to influence his mission, neither did he allow his admirers to influence him. Jesus knew he couldn’t be everywhere at once, and he also knew his mission wasn’t limited to his individual demonstration. So what did he do? He taught his disciples to heal, too (B8). The disciples understood that they weren’t just entrusted to spread the word of Jesus, but they were expected to heal. Equally, Paul knew his mission included more than spreading the Gospel to the Gentiles. Healing was necessary for the mission to succeed (B9).

Adam Clarke (c1760-1832) puts it like this:

The religion of the Lord Jesus is not in word – in human eloquence, excellence of speech, or even in doctrines; but in power… in the mighty energy of the Holy Spirit; enlightening, quickening, converting, and sanctifying believers; and all his genuine apostles are enabled, on all necessary occasions, to demonstrate the truth of their calling…

Our textbook confirms that Jesus’ mission was “both individual and collective.” Jesus showed mortals “how to do [their work]” but he didn’t “do it for them nor…relive them of a single responsibility” (S8). This is a key point. Christian Science teaches that we have to demonstrate our unity with God throughout our “life-practice” (S9). This may seem remarkable to many. But it makes perfect sense. Jesus came to teach us how to do it. That gives us authority and power. Paul too, told us to “work out our own salvation.” We don’t do it for our glory, or for the glory of Christian Science. We do it because we are willing disciples loyal to our mission. Our Leader quotes Jesus’ comforting promise: “Fear not little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (S10).

Section 3: Childlike Trust

There are two aspects to this section: 1. the reliability of the message; and 2. the receptivity of those receiving the message.

In Proverbs (B10), the Preacher calls upon us to listen to his words as children would to a father. Clarke explains that this invitation calls attention to the teaching as the most excellent of its kind, so we’d better pay close attention, and let it sink into our hearts.

Jesus saw the multitudes as sheep without a shepherd (B11). Most of us are familiar with the 23rd Psalm. Think of how complete the shepherd’s guidance and care is. Now imagine sheep without a shepherd—always in want, unable to find refuge, to safely eat or drink, perhaps running into predators, or into dangerous places without any guidance, or protection. How could Jesus not have been moved to help them? Given the current uncertainty about the issues our world faces today, many of us might feel like sheep without a shepherd, too.

Even though some reviled Jesus, while others adored him, he wasn’t influenced or distracted from his mission. It’s probable that the disciples too, had temptations of their own to navigate. They might have felt pretty “special” that they were chosen for private instruction, and to be part of Jesus’ inner circle. So, it’s somewhat understandable that when the multitude bought young children to him, the disciples—being protective and somewhat possessive of the teaching Jesus was giving them—tried to turn the children away. But here he gently rebukes the disciples, noting that the children were welcome because they innately had a receptive frame of mind (B12). Before children imbibe the parents’ beliefs, children are trusting and unpolluted. A child is not born with pride or prejudice. So, we should seek the truth with a completely open thought.

Paul reminds us that our openness to Jesus’ teachings produces a change deep within us. Paul is keen to point out that God initiates this transformation, not we ourselves (B13). Albert Barnes (1798-1870) explains his understanding of Paul’s words:

This refers particularly to … the renewing of the heart, and the influences by which Paul had been brought to a state of willingness to forsake all, and to devote his life to the self-denying labors involved in the purpose of making the Saviour known. He makes the statement general, however, showing his belief that not only these things were produced by God, but that all things were under his direction, and subject to his control. Nothing that he had done was to be traced to his own agency or power, but God was to be acknowledged everywhere.

The world generally has a very personal sense of what love is, and is very particular in choosing who is, and who is not as worthy of love. But Jesus loved all, even the simple and lowly, and especially the childlike—thus, giving us the “truer sense of Love” (S11). He knew that adults were often entrenched in old patterns of thinking and acting (S12). Therefore, he loved little children as Mary Baker Eddy says, “because of their freedom from wrong and their receptiveness of right” (S13).

Our textbook tells us that Jesus healed by beholding the perfect man in God’s likeness, right where others saw a sinning mortal (S14). How did he do that? Not just by seeing a person “out there” as God’s child, but by seeing everyone “as” God seesthem, thereby seeing perfectly.

Do you see the distinction here? Jesus beheld others in the manner in which God beholds His creation. Jesus was not seeing perfect mortals; He was showing us that in seeing others’ spiritual perfection, we approach perfection ourselves. Jesus beheld the perfect man by seeing as the perfect man would see.

This spiritual view brings the eternal harmony to light through spiritual understanding (S15). Are you seeing those “outside of you” as unfortunates who need changing and liberating? Or, maybe seeing them as unworthy of receiving the healing message? Or, are you seeing “as” the perfect man would see?

We could all be more childlike. A child often pays little attention to a person’s appearance or defects. They are, more often than not, very open and trusting. Try looking at things as a child. Resist the temptation to intellectualize spirituality, and just let yourself be taught.

Section 4: Sticking to the Mission

Jesus’ mission came with a cost. He endured the cross and the hatred of those he would save. Once again, keep in mind that he could have saved himself if he had cooperated with, or capitulated to, the theological hierarchy of his time. But he wasn’t trying to compromise; he stayed true to his mission. When Peter addressed the crowd, on the day of Pentecost, he was explaining to them that Jesus wasn’t crucified because he was overpowered. The entire ordeal was part of Jesus’ mission. As Jesus told Pilate during his trial, “Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above” (John 19:11). Jesus’ life work put him at odds with every aspect of worldly beliefs, and his adherence to his mission ensured his victory over the grave (B14). Clarke puts it like this: “If we take the words as commonly understood, they mean that it was impossible for the Prince of Life to be left in the empire of death: his resurrection, therefore, was a necessary consequence of his own Divine power.”

Jesus endured his trials because of his love for God and man. As John says, he was our “advocate,” (B15) which is another word for “comforter.” The advocacy John’s referring to isn’t like a lawyer working to get us a lesser sentence. John’s advocateworks on our behalf to see us safely through the process, therefore, assuring our repentance and compliance. John also mentions that through Jesus, the love of God was “perfected” in us. That means: “matured.” This implies that Jesus maintained his appointed course for our benefit. In turn, John promises that “whoso keepeth his word” has this love perfected in him as well. To keep “his word” means to receive it, embrace it, retain it, and stand fast in it.

How well do you “keep” his word? The apostle John stresses the importance of abiding in “the doctrine of Christ” (B16). John Gill says this is a call for us to adhere to the word with sincerity, and to follow all the truths and laws within it without dissimulation. Dissimulation means to assume a false appearance, or pretending to be what you’re not. In other words, you can’t fake it.

Our textbook fully acknowledges Jesus’ atonement as proof of divine love that unfolds our unity with God (S16). Sometimes we might be asked. “Have you been saved?” We can answer unequivocally, “Yes!” We are definitely saved through Jesus’ demonstration. The difference is that we do not feel that Jesus did the work for us. We are expected to “follow his commands faithfully,” while remaining fully aware that we all will have to face struggles along the way (S17).

It’s not by words of agreement with Jesus’ teaching, but by living in accordance with those words that gets us to the kingdom. But be advised, we have to leave our sins behind to do so (S18). Neither Jesus, nor Mary Baker Eddy ever said being a Christian or a Christian Scientist was going to be easy. We all face challenges along the way, and the sufferings we experience help us understand what Jesus went through. If we’ve done wrong, (and who hasn’t?) we can’t just say, “I’m sorry for wrong doing,” and then continue with the bad behavior. If we’re really sorry we will stop, and correct our actions (S19). Don’t be surprised if after resolving to do right, temptations come along to pull us back to our old ways. Atonement is an ongoing process of transformation (S20).

Jesus’ enemies consistently attempted to impose their own limited conceptions on him. While we shouldn’t call traditional theology our “enemy,” we have to be aware of traditional beliefs. Traditionally, due to the misdeeds of Adam and Eve, man is an inherent sinner by nature. That belief doesn’t get us anywhere. Part of our atonement, or reconciliation, is eliminating the thought of being separated from God, and livingin obedience to God. As the textbook says, “Here is the great point of departure for all true spiritual growth” (S21).

Section 5: Don’t Be Distracted

How do we attain spiritual growth? Just as Jesus would not be swayed or distracted from his mission, neither can we. He said, you can’t get anywhere by trying to plough while looking backwards (B17). If we want to head toward heaven, we can’t keep focused on earthly things. You can’t perform the ministry while your thoughts and time are taken up in the affairs of the world. We have to stay on task.

Clarke writes:

As a person who holds the plough cannot keep on a straight furrow if he look behind him; so he who is employed in the work of the ministry cannot do the work of an evangelist, if he turn his desires to worldly profits. A good man has said: "He who thinks it necessary to cultivate the favor of the world is not far from betraying the interests of God and his Church."

While not all of us are officially engaged in the work of the ministry, we are all disciples of Jesus, and the rules still apply. The world thinks giving all for Christ is foolishness. The world wants to look for success and satisfaction within the boundaries of the world. But, Jesus taught that you can’t find the kingdom of God in the world. It is within you (B18). Here again, Jesus was upending the general religious expectation of the Jews. Clarke explains: “The Jews imagined that when the Messiah should come he would destroy the Gentiles, and reign gloriously over the Jews: the very reverse of this, our Lord intimates, should be the case. He was about to destroy the whole Jewish polity, and reign gloriously among the Gentiles.”

The kingdom doesn’t come in worldly modes, or through worldly methods. This is a different kingdom than the world expects. But Jesus doesn’t capitulate to the world-view. He remains firm to his message and mission—no throne, no regalia, no regal power. It’s rather, a complete transformation of character and the heart. As Paul reminds us: we have to put off corruption to put on the incorruptible (B19).

Although, most commentators consider Paul’s expectations of overcoming death as a future awakening to be realized at Jesus’ return to earth, Christian Science accepts the unvarnished fact that death is not a foregone conclusion. When we realize theallness of eternal Life, death will dissolve, and we will all be awakened quickly. “The gift of God is eternal life” (B20).

We can all expect to achieve atonement. We get there by rising into “newness of life” (S22). Jesus wanted us to follow this path. Let’s accept what God is giving us. It cannot be hidden (S23). How do we know we are on the right path? Ask yourself, if“Truth overcoming error” in your life? We can’t expect to progress by living off others’ spirituality. We have to do it for ourselves through striving, and looking away from matter to the incorruptible things of Spirit. We have to “be in earnest from the start”—totally committed to the spiritual path, and gaining a little each day. As the Golden Text implies, we don’t have to enter the kingdom in tatters. We can expect to finish our course with joy! (S24).

Section 6: Stand In Grace and Hope

The world right now is facing a tough situation. We are all being asked to rethink and re-tool our lives. For most people, these changes are temporary. But we cannot lose sight of the fact, that for many their lives will never be the same. Some have said, these challenges are the result of a variety of missteps and misdeeds along the way, and others feel that somehow God is behind it all. In Christian Science we have to know that God is never behind any evil or catastrophic event. However, we can know that God is on the scene to support us, and show us the way. We have a shepherd.

The Scriptures assure us that we will emerge stronger from every challenge to our faith. Are you tempted to be pulled off your spiritual course in these times? Are you allowing the media to write your story? Remember, you are ministered to abundantly. Rather than rebel, Paul rejoiced in tribulations (B21).

Consider the interpretations Adam Clarke gives to Paul’s words: He speaks of patience as “endurance” under trials, without sustaining loss or deterioration” [emphasis added]; experienceas solidifying our Christianity and faithfulness in God; which brings us hope, without dreading the trials because we know that grace will see us through. Clarke says, “A hope that is not rationally founded will have its expectation cut off; and then shame and confusion will be the portion of its possessor. But our hope is of a different kind; it is founded on the goodness and truth of God; and our religious experience shows us that we have not misapplied it.”

As the book of Revelation assures us: the victory over today’s trials will come with the full recognition of the power of Christ that leads us to salvation (B22).

Mary Baker Eddy whole-heartedly agrees. John saw the “new heaven and new earth” while yet living on earth. H is spiritual sense replaced the material belief of things. He saw man as no longer a “miserable sinner,” because he no longer saw man as a “miserable sinner” sees (S26). Like his Master, he saw as God sees. We too, can see this here and now. We don’t have to wait for it. Let’s allow nothing to pull us off of our course, or hijack our stories. The kingdom of God is within us, and within reach of our consciousness right here in proportion to our spiritual understanding (S27).

Let’s raise our voices in glory to God that our at-one-ment with God is achievable and a foregone conclusion (S28); and let’s sing praises to God, the only author our life stories.

[Warren:] PLAN to be AT CedarS THIS SUMMER! and/or THIS FALL! A 2020 #BestSummerYet! and #BestStaffYet! are being hourly planned and loved into 2020 vision. We are working to demonstrate that "Of two things fate cannot rob us, namely, of choosing the best [summer yet and best fall yet!], and of helping others thus to choose." (Miscellany, 165:2)

CedarS new inspirational and program videos are hope-filled visions of pure joy designed to help you choose the best thoughts and best programs for you and yours! Have fun choosing as you pick and click at

CedarS 2020 wise, preventative practices and adjustments being made as needed:
In fun, uplifting style — typical at CedarS — we will practice proven protocols for regular, deep-cleaning handwashing "baptisms." Out of a deep desire to be compassionate to everyone's comfort level, ahead of camp we are following social distancing and masking etiquette. And to be obedient to the laws of the land, we are following self-quarantine and non-gathering guidelines in the short term to bless the longterm.

With the long-range view always in mind as well, CedarS team is prayerfully and practically supporting a spiritual sense of a moment-by-moment closeness, and even oneness with, God. This will be loved and thanked into view with a thought-by-thought sanitizing and testing process of mental inoculation as well as by extensive surface and hand sanitizing.

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Through turbulent economic times additional "paid forward" funding will help CedarS keep giving an abundance of activities grounded in and inspired by spiritual sense. Check out glimpses of precious households worldwide zooming in every Sunday to inspiring virtual Hymn Sings, see and hear weekly Prac Talks, and read samples of difference-made fruitage.

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