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Editor’s Note: The following background information and application ideas for the Christian Science Bible Lesson for this week are offered primarily to help CedarS campers and staff see and demonstrate the great value of daily study of the Christian Science Bible lessons year-round, not just at camp. If more information or the text of this Lesson is desired, please see the Director”s Note at the end. The citations referenced in the “met” (metaphysical application ideas) are taken from the King James Version of the Bible and the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. The Bible and Science and Health are the ordained pastor of the Churches of Christ, Scientist. The Bible Lesson is the sermon read in Christian Science church services throughout the world. (Other reference books are fully noted at the end.)

Everlasting Opportunity for Victory — Lesson Application Ideas for “Everlasting Punishment”   for October 24-October 30, 2005
By Craig L. Ghislin, C.S. of Bartlett, Illinois

Golden Text:
We begin with a call to the sinner to change his ways.  The promise of God is conditional upon our obedience. God will not punish forever. He will save and pardon, but we bear “the burden of action…to forsake the old sinful ways and the old sinful thoughts” (Abingdon). As we will see in this Lesson, God’s purpose is not to destroy and punish, but to save and restore. We however, must do our part and change our foolish ways. We have everlasting opportunity to do so.

Responsive Reading:
Have you ever been reprimanded?  How did it feel? Have you ever thought your parents or teachers (or bosses) were mean and unreasonable for making you do something a certain way? Or when they scolded you for disobeying? Most of us don’t like our mistakes being pointed out. We like it even less when we have to take action to correct them. Many of us also, just plain don’t like being told what to do. Most of the time, when our parents, teachers, coaches, or other authorities take us to task for disobedience of some kind, it doesn’t mean that they don’t like us or are being cruel. It usually means that they love and care for us and want to see us do things the right way in order for us to succeed. If they didn’t care how we behaved, they wouldn’t bother to correct us.

The Bible speaks of God as our divine parent who chastens (corrects) us when we need it. God’s correction is evidence of His love for us. We are told not to refuse to listen to divine direction and correction. As a parent helps a child shake the soil off of his clothes and shoes before coming back inside after a day in the snow, sand, or mud, before we enter the kingdom, God’s word shakes loose all the sinful stuff that we’ve gotten into. Nothing sinful enters the kingdom of heaven. After the divine word is finished shaking us off, there’s nothing left but perfection and we’re free to come in.

SECTION I: God Knows Nothing of Evil
Has it ever seemed to you that God either allowed or caused something evil? That’s how Habakkuk felt. He was really upset (B1) because he thought God had sent the Chaldeans as a solution to Israel’s problems. But they were “cruel and haughty, working out not God’s will, but their own” (Dummelow) making the “remedy” worse than the original problem. He just couldn’t see how God could have let that happen. But the Scriptures promise that God is just. God doesn’t cause the problem. But if something needs correcting, the adjustment process might make it look that way. God’s action is righteous, not chaotic. Metals are purified in a furnace so all the impurities rise to the surface and are cleaned off. Isaiah likens our purification to such a process (B3). As we are purified, we might feel like we are in a furnace. But the result is our freedom from sin. All the dirt and impurity of material thinking is shaken loose. Our transgressions are blotted out and our true selfhood remains (B4). Psalms indicates (B5) that Israel was being “divinely educated” so that “oppression will be endured calmly until the day of retribution” (Abingdon).

Science and Health assures us that there is no way that God could make us capable of sinning and then punish us for it (S&H 1). God has nothing to do with evil. He pardons it by destroying it (S&H 2). If God would create or allow evil we’d be in trouble. There would be no way to get rid of sin. Since there is no logical way for God to create evil or sin, then the only conclusion is that the discords of material sense are not real (S&H 4). God’s law wipes out everything unlike Him (S&H 5).

SECTION II: An Opportunity to be Purified
Naaman was the kind of guy who knew how to get things done. He was a successful soldier, but he had leprosy. When he found out that there was a prophet in Israel who could heal him, he got right down to business. He got his king to send a letter to the king of Israel demanding a healing. He set off with a load of money and clothing to get the job done. Naaman brought his entourage to Elisha’s house expecting a grand show culminating in his healing. But Elisha knew that Naaman had a lesson to learn. He just sent a messenger to him and told him to wash in the muddy Jordan River not once, but seven times! Naaman thought that at least he could wash in better rivers and was really mad that the prophet didn’t come out to him. He went away in a rage.

Now Naaman was fortunate to have wise and humble people around him. First, the maid who suggested the prophet and then his servants who reminded him that he wouldn’t have complained about doing something flashy. Why shouldn’t he try something simple? He finally found the humility to follow Elisha’s directions and his flesh became as that of a “little child.”

We all have some false character traits that need cleansing. The citations in Science and Health underscore the necessity of washing away those impurities. Nothing sinful can enter the kingdom of heaven (S&H 7). The chastening process is a wholesome spiritual baptism. It washes away the hard, callous attitudes and leaves us as pure and fresh as a little child. Why should we hold on to outgrown ways of thinking and acting? We should be glad to see them disappear (S&H 8). We can’t advance spiritually when we’re stuck in the dirt of materiality (S&H 9). The trials that force us to let go of evil are opportunities for spiritual development and purification.

SECTION III: Hypocrisy Undone
“Since willingness to learn is an essential quality of the seeker after wisdom, it is evident that pride-the confidence that one already possesses the requisite knowledge-is a prime deterrent in the quest. Therefore humility is a basic virtue” (Interpreter’s). The Pharisees and scribes thought they knew it all. In fact, the scribes “regarded their traditions equal or superior in authority to the law of God” (Dummelow). This is the context of Bible citations 9 through 11. The Pharisees were very careful about details of the law but didn’t practice what they preached. Jesus called them hypocrites. They pretended to be what they were not.

Hypocrisy is a sin, and it has no place in Christian Science (S&H 11). We can’t talk Science and not live it. We have to leave behind all human opinions and traditions. Human opinions do not come from God and are not spiritual (S&H 12). The “big” sins start out as “little” ones. So we need to watch the little things before they get worse (S&H 13). All negative thoughts are destined for punishment. The section closes with a reminder that God’s Law “reforms the sinner” (S&H 14). Sin will be corrected. We have no choice.

SECTION IV: A Case Study
Abingdon’s points out that Paul’s “conversion was not so much a transformation from an evil life to a good life as it was a transformation from one type of goodness to another…He loved the law.” Saul was fighting to hold on to old traditions. He saw the followers of Jesus as a threat and thought he was doing the right thing by stopping them. Perhaps his genuine love of the law and his desire to do the right thing allowed him to have his visionary experience. When the truth hit him he was blinded by it. But what did he do with it? He didn’t stop with the vision. He took steps to change his life. He obeyed. He felt remorse and prayed. He had the humility to learn new things. He even changed his name from Saul to Paul. Paul’s example shows that change is possible even in extreme conditions. Truth does change us. We can’t always tell at the moment what is going on, but if we are obedient, we will see the right path. Sometimes we suffer as we realize our mistakes, but we emerge with a victory over evil.

Mrs. Eddy says we only need to turn away from sin to find our true selfhood (S&H 15). She says Paul had an “uncertain sense of right” (S&H 16). Once he had things straight, he went on to do great things (S&H 17). Wherever you are in your experience, even if you’re doing the wrong thing now, you can get your vision and make things right. Remember Ananias had a vision too. He wasn’t too happy about being sent to someone whom he considered a dangerous enemy. But he obeyed. No matter what side of the story we are on, if we are humble enough to receive our vision, we can obey it and bring blessing to everyone.

SECTION V: Don’t Complain
Have you ever blamed someone else for something that was your fault? That’s how it is when sin is punished. The Bible says, “Instead of vain searching into the ways of God, it is better to search and try our own ways” (B14) (paraphrased in Abingdon). The Israelites complained about being punished for their own sins. But Mrs. Eddy says, “Error excludes itself from harmony. Sin is its own punishment” (S&H 20). She goes on to say that sin will be punished as long as it lasts, and the only “way to escape the misery of sin is to cease sinning” (S&H 21,22). That’s pretty blunt. I like to think of it like this: If you are in a tent and it’s raining, you will stay dry. If you decide to leave the tent, you will get wet. The tent doesn’t make you wet. Your choice to leave the tent was the problem. You can go back in whenever you want to get dry again, but as long as you’re on the outside you’re going to be wet. Call God’s law “the tent.” If you leave God’s law, you’ll get wet. It’s that simple. It’s not God’s fault any more than it is the tent’s. It’s up to you to stay dry by staying within the law.

SECTION VI: A Call to Action
Paul’s instructions were aimed at those who were already in the church. He reminded them that the old ways were to be put off and the new ways put on (B17). But he cautioned that just because one was a Christian, one shouldn’t think that God would “deal leniently with his [or her] misconduct” (Dummelow). The Christian virtues Paul wanted them to follow were not just for their own good, but for the greater good of the whole Christian community. These virtues had “direct social value” (Abingdon). In Philippians (B18) Paul is rebuking those who “were inclined to pride themselves in having attained great heights in spirituality (Ibid.) Abingdon’s also points out that: “Spiritual self-satisfaction…is a deterrent to any real advance.” Paul had grown a lot. He had done some bad things to forget, but he had also done some good things. Whether our past was good, bad, or both, we can’t advance while looking backwards. Spiritual growth stops for those who are “buried in the complacent contemplation of his past” (Ibid.). So just subscribing to the laws of God isn’t enough. We can’t become proud and hypocritical. We have to continue to prove our spiritual understanding through daily demonstration.

Mrs. Eddy cautions her readers as well. The only way to advance is to grow out of material thinking and rise above the senses (S&H 23). Too often people think that calling themselves a “Christian Scientist” magically exempts them from sin. But the fact is we need to prove our exemption by not sinning. Our Leader warns that indulgence in sin brings “hopeless” suffering (S&H 24). The good man-the real man cannot depart from holiness (S&H 25) but this fact has to be understood and demonstrated in our daily experience (S&H 26). If we indulge in sin, it will be real to us, and so will the suffering. “Sin should become unreal to everyone” (S&H 27). As we put on the new man, we will cease sinning and our seemingly everlasting punishment will turn into everlasting victory.

The reference books used in this met were:
The Abingdon Bible Commentary

The One Volume Bible Commentary edited by J.R. Dummelow, M.A.

The Interpreter’s One-Volume Commentary on the Bible

Camp Director’s Note: The above sharing is the latest in a long series of CedarS Bible Lesson “mets” (metaphysical application ideas) contributed weekly by a rotation of CedarS Resident Practitioners and occasionally by other metaphysicians.  This document is intended to initiate further study as well as to encourage the application of ideas found in the Weekly Bible Lessons as printed in the Christian Science Quarterly and as available at Christian Science Reading Rooms.
Originally sent JUST to campers, staff and CedarS families who wanted to continue at home and in their home Sunday Schools the same type of focused Lesson study and inspiration they had felt at camp, CedarS lesson “mets” are in no way meant to be definitive or conclusive or in any way a substitute for daily study of the lesson in the books. The thoughts presented are the inspiration of the moment and are offered to give a bit more dimension, background and daily applicability to some of the ideas and passages being studied. The Lesson-Sermon speaks individually through the Christ to everyone, providing unique insights and tailor-made applications for each one. We are glad you requested this metaphysical sharing and hope that you find some of these ideas helpful in your daily spiritual journey, in your deeper digging in the books and in closer bonding with your Comforter and Pastor.) 

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