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Get Ready for a Transformation!
Metaphysical Application Ideas for the Christian Science Bible Lesson on

“Mortals and Immortals”
November 12—18, 2018

By Craig L. Ghislin, C.S. Glen Ellyn, Illinois (Bartlett)
craig.ghislincs@icloud.com / (630) 830-8683

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Have you ever felt the need to be transformed? Most of us have from time to time. The Golden Text refers to what is perhaps the most significant transformation of all. Some may feel this particular change is unattainable or even fantasy. The Apostle Paul didn’t think so. He’s talking about exchanging a mortal, worldly sense of ourselves for a spiritual, immortal view. This transformation isn’t really turning a mortal into an immortal, but realizing that though we appear to be mortal, we have, in reality, been immortal all along.

This Lesson unpacks the concept, and after studying and praying about the topic, it will seem more plausible, and even achievable. An overall hint—we’re going to have to unlearn what the senses have taught us, and look to God for the answers. (But you knew that, didn’t you?)

Paul calls upon Christians to not be “conformed to this world.” Theologian Albert Barnes (1798-1870) says, “conformed” means to put on the form, fashion, or appearance of another. But Barnes warns that the change cannot be superficial. He writes: “Let not this change appertain to the body only, but to the soul. Let it not be a mere external conformity, but let it have its seat in the spirit. … Christianity seeks to reign in the soul; and having its seat there, the external conduct and habits will be regulated accordingly.”

Where We Seem to Be, and Where We’re Headed

In the Responsive Reading Paul takes frank look at what we seem to be facing. It appears to human sense that we are some distance from being what God intends us to be. Our perception seems imperfect and obscure. Paul implies that it’s not necessarily our fault. It’s just a phase of growth: We are children—too inexperienced to comprehend the bigger picture. It’s not our fault because we just haven’t learned it yet.

Paul doesn’t think the realization of our immortal nature is a pipe dream. He expects “that which is perfect” will come, and that eventually, we will know ourselves as God knows us. The reference to seeing through a glass “darkly” refers to an enigma or riddle. Mortal existence can seem that way. Mary Baker Eddy writes in our textbook, “In league with material sense, mortals take limited views of all things” (S&H 255:12-14). Darkness and obscurity often lead to fear. God has not given us the “spirit of fear;” therefore, fear fades away in the light of the knowledge of God.

Paul also indicates that our salvation is not gained simply through merit, but rather, through grace. The question of salvation through merit, or as a gift of grace has always been a contentious theological issue. Grace is defined in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance to the Bible as, “The divine influence upon the heart and its reflection in the life.” True, grace leads us to salvation, but it also compels us to good works, so they go hand in hand. Manifesting Christ-like qualities brings “immortality to light.” This is something unique to the gospel—the promise of eternal life. This promise comes directly from God, for such a promise could come in no other way.

Section 1: Flesh and Spirit Do Not Mix [See W's PS#2]

“The spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life” (B1). These well known words are part of the preamble to Elihu’s remarks to Job, and they serve as an opening reminder to us—we are all created by God.

The Amplified Bible gives us a different view: “It is the Spirit of God that made me [which has stirred me up], and the breath of the Almighty that gives me life [which inspires me].” This reading is more about Elihu’s motivation for speaking, than a metaphysical statement about man. Many commentators view these words as Elihu’s attempt to connect with Job on a familiar level—(We’re all in the same boat friend!). Whichever way we read it, the passage states a basic fact that provides a foundation for us in Christian Science—that man is spiritual and immortal.

In the letter to the Galatians, we have a somewhat brassy question. The Amplified Bible puts it like this: “Are you so foolish and so senseless and so silly? Having begun [your new life spiritually] with the [Holy] Spirit, are you now reaching perfection [by dependence] on the flesh?” (B2). That’s like Paul asking, “Really?!” Some commentators think the statement “made perfect by the flesh” is a reference to the law of Moses versus the Gospel of Christ, but the point remains that the ways of man are opposed to the ways of God.

Paul explains to the church at Rome that the flesh and Spirit have nothing at all to do with each other (B3). They can’t be mixed. They are enemies from the outset, and material-based thinking certainly cannot please God. God sees us as He made us—as His spiritual children. The importance of thinking spiritually shouldn’t be underestimated. Paul equates being carnally minded with death.

Contemporary Pastor Mark Dunagan points out the folly of attempting to commingle material and spiritual thinking:

“Minding the flesh and serving God are two things that cannot be made to harmonize! … Many people fool themselves into thinking that they can serve God acceptably and yet hold on to a mental perspective that is filled with immoral and godless thoughts. Paul says, "as long as a person allows their heart/love/mind/affections to be centered on the things of this physical world, there is no way that such an individual is going to subject themselves to the law of God.”

Paul assures us that focusing on God has a transformative effect on our natures (B4). His reference to beholding God’s glory with an “open face” refers to the contrast between Moses coming down from the mount having to cover his face as it shone when the people saw him, and Christians who behold the glory of Jesus face to face. In doing so, the Christian begins undergoing a complete metamorphosis.

Many of the citations from Science and Health this week are very clear and concise on their own, so much so that it seems to me almost presumptuous to explain them further. So I think it best to let the textbook speak for itself and to keep my summaries and comments brief. Let me focus on citation S5.

To human sense it looks like matter and mind commingle, but Mary Baker Eddy (MBE) says Science denies this notion (S5). To MBE there is a difference between a “notion” and an “idea.” The Student’s Reference Dictionary (an abridged version of the Webster’s of her time) says, “Notion and idea are primarily different; idea being the conception of something visible, as the idea of a square or a triangle; and notion the conception of things invisible or intellectual, as the notion we have of spirits.” Our textbook states that the Science of being rests on this statement: “God is Mind, and God is infinite; hence all is Mind” (S5). The Science of being defines the relationship between God and man, and declares man to be immortal.

As Paul chides us for looking to the flesh for answers, Mary Baker Eddy explains to us that as we grow through Christian Science, we will naturally turn away from the flesh, and gaining a higher sense, we’ll seek to learn only from God, “how to demonstrate the Christ, Truth as the healing and saving power” (S6). As we learn to make this demonstration based on our understanding of perfect God and perfect man, we will lose interest in the flesh, and turn our thoughts toward immortality (S7).

Section 2: Ascension

The psalmist declares that the inheritance of the upright “shall be forever” (B5). “Forever” doesn’t mean forever on earth. To be immortal means waking up to reality, and existing outside of time. In theological terms, this process is called ascension. There are three accounts of ascension in the Bible—Enoch, Elijah, and Jesus. The account of Enoch’s ascension is very brief: “And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him” (Gen. 5:24). The Amplified Bible reads: “Enoch walked [in habitual fellowship] with God.” This implies that to ascend requires living spiritually before the transition.

The psalmist seems to support this concept when he writes, “the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.” But according to both Barnes and others, the word “good” isn’t in the original psalm. The original Hebrew word actually means “a strong man, conqueror, or hero.” So while it seems to suggest that the Lord takes particular care of good men, the deeper reading is that even the strongest man needs God’s support, because human strength will eventually fail. Since mortals generally tend to take pride in their own ingenuity, leaning totally on God would certainly signify a complete transformation.

Elijah learned through some pretty humbling experiences to lean on God, the “still, small voice.” His protégé Elisha also had to learn this lesson. It’s interesting that among all the commentary on Elijah’s ascension, focused mostly on figuring out the empirical details, there is a brief note about the fact that upon Elisha’s return across the Jordan River, he had to smite the waters with Elijah’s mantle twice. Scholars think this signifies that the mantle itself had no intrinsic power. The mantle meant nothing unless Elisha was fully relying on God, as his master had. This supports the idea that even the conquering hero needs to rely on God alone.

Ascension could be thought of as the ultimate transformation. Mary Baker Eddy defines “Elias,” (the Greek equivalent of Elijah), as “Prophecy; spiritual evidence opposed to material sense; Christian Science with which can be discerned the spiritual fact of whatever the material senses behold; the basis of immortality” (S9). That’s a pretty powerful definition. Elijah’s demonstration and ascension encapsulates everything Christian Science teaches, and is the basis, or foundation of immortality.

While most Christians may accept the ascension accounts in the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy is the only one I know of who actually expects that one way or another, here, or hereafter, ascension is possible—and in fact, a necessary step for all of us. As mortals lose the false sense of life, the true sense of life appears (S10). This is a transformation in which everything learned through the senses is reversed by the spiritual facts. What we thought was real becomes nothingness as reality displaces the dream of the material senses.

It’s important to see that in ascension mortals don’t suddenly become immortals. The mortal and immortal never touch. The mortal belief is always unreal, and immortals, being created in God’s image, are always real (S11). The transformation is the disappearing of mortal belief as it yields to spiritual understanding. Then the real, which always has been, appears. The only way to see this is through spiritual sense (S12).

Section 3: Recognizing the Immortal Brings Healing [See W's PS#3a, PS#3b & PS#4]

Jesus exercised spiritual sense constantly. He only saw the immortal man God made. It grieved him that the religious authorities of his time were so lacking in spiritual insight and compassion. Barnes says the Jews had a maxim, that, “to not do good when the opportunity arose was to do evil.” In other words, not helping when you see a need is equivalent to doing evil. He also points out that Jesus’ anger over the attempt of his detractors to rebuke him for healing on the Sabbath was coupled with grief for the resistance he was facing, and his opponents’ insensibility to the sufferings of others (B8). Here again, is a need for unlearning merely human opinions, and replacing them with higher views. There was love in Jesus’ command to stretch forth the withered hand. The man may have doubted he could, or even should, obey the command—especially with all those around him watching, and waiting to entrap Jesus. But Jesus’ loving encouragement brought healing despite the opposition.

Jesus’ point of view was different. He didn’t believe the testimony of the senses. He only recognized man as immortal, and perfect, and that correct view brought healing (S13). Remember, he wasn’t turning mortals into healthier mortals. Jesus didn’t see mortals. Mortals are only the counterfeits of immortals (S14). Mary Baker Eddy followed Jesus’ example and held to the spiritual fact that man is already immortal and perfect.

Our Leader’s adherence to the rules of Science resulted in innumerable accounts of restoration and healing (S15). Our textbook promises, “Correct material belief by spiritual understanding, and Spirit will form you anew” (S16). That’s something we all can do—replace the mortal with the immortal view. This works because the mortal view isn’t real, and never was. When we understand this important point, the mortal view won’t have any more power over us (S17).

Section 4: Transfiguration [See W's PS#5, PS#6 & PS#7]

One of the most remarkable events in history is known as the transfiguration (B9). Jesus brings three of his disciples with him onto a mountain where Moses, and Elijah, two of the most revered figures in Jewish history, appear and have a conversation with Jesus. Can you imagine having three legends from history all in one place at one time? It’s not surprising that Peter wanted to commemorate the event, and build shelter for the esteemed visitors, perhaps hoping they might stay a while.

What was going on there? The Gospel of Luke records that Moses and Elijah spoke with Jesus about his crucifixion, and the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies. Some commentators view this event as a symbolic, “passing of the torch”—Moses representing the Law; Elijah, the prophets; and Jesus the fulfillment of the Law.

During this event Jesus’ appearance changes as well. It says his face shone as the sun, and his clothing gleamed as white as the light. Barnes tells us the word “transfigure” means to change the appearance or form. It does not denote the change of the substance of a thing, but simply of its appearance. It puts on a new aspect.

Jesus’ “face did shine as the sun.” This calls to mind when Moses’ face shone as he came down from Mt. Sinai. Some surmise that Jesus’ changed appearance was a glimpse of the “resurrection body”—a glimpse of the glory to come for all of us. Whatever they saw, it must have been a clear proof of immortality given the fact that Moses is estimated to have lived some 1400 years prior to that time, and Elijah about 900 years earlier.

As Peter was sharing his plans for building three tabernacles, a bright cloud overshadowed them. This would have been familiar to the disciples since often in Hebrew stories, the presence of the Lord was accompanied by a dark cloud or a fire. They heard a voice out of the cloud directing them to focus their attention on Jesus’ words. Was this a passing of the torch? The disciples had fallen with fear, and Jesus gently touched them, and told them not to be afraid. In the middle of this event the disciples must have gone through the gamut of emotions, and Jesus’ touch must have helped bring them clarity.

Although the vision went away, the effect of that glory remained as Jesus prepared for the crucifixion, his triumph over the grave, and his own ascension (B10). Jesus knew his own immortality, and that he was forging a path for all of us to follow. The disciples too, must have carried this life-changing experience with them. How could they view anyone the same (“after the flesh”) again? (B11).

Our Leader saw all these events as scientific proof that man is immortal, and unlimited by the material senses (S18). The disciples had personally witnessed proof that impelled them to put off their old views. The transfiguration showed what is true right now of all of us. We too, will see this as we let go of material belief in order to pave the way for spiritual understanding (S19, S20). As we “unlearn” what the senses claim to teach, the way will open to reveal things we haven’t even imagined (S21). The more we realize that life has nothing to do with matter, the broader our spiritual vision becomes. Eventually, we will let go completely of the material picture, and become fully conscious of spiritual existence alone.

During the transfiguration Jesus’ garments were as white as the light. Whether or not this is metaphorical, or an attempt at describing what the disciples saw, it symbolizes an indefinable purity. Mary Baker Eddy urges us to aspire to this rarefied spiritual position (S22). Spiritual existence should be our only focus because in reality there is no other existence. Immortal life and mortality do not intersect at any point. True being—perfect God, and perfect man in His likeness—is holy, harmonious, and immortal (S23). Even a glimpse of reality has a transformative effect.

Section 5: Salvation

Generally, salvation is defined as deliverance from sin and its consequences. To us, it means the understanding of Life, Truth, and Love demonstrated; and the destruction of sin, sickness, and death (S25). The disciple John was one of those present at the transfiguration, the crucifixion, and one of the first witnesses of the resurrection. He knew without a doubt that following Jesus was the path to immortality (B13). He also knew that we didn’t have to wait to become immortal. He wrote: Jesus’ teachings give us the ability to “know him that is true and we are in him that is true.” In his letter to the Philippians Paul reminds us that we can achieve this, and God is working with us (B14).

Science and Health reiterates that we aren’t doing this great work alone. God is present with us every step of the way (S24). Sometimes we might feel like we aren’t making much headway in our efforts toward immortality. But each new experience brings progress. In a letter to a student Mary Baker Eddy wrote that trust in Good delivers us. She concludes, “Thus it is really good to be afflicted, it teaches us what nothing else can teach of Truth” (Advice to Healers, Volume 2, p. 11, from The Mary Baker Eddy Library for the Betterment of Humanity).

Every demonstration over error of any kind shows that we are progressively dropping mortal beliefs (S26). Once again, we’re reminded that we have to part with error in order for the immortal ideal to appear (S27).

We really can’t get to immortality unless we recalibrate our lives from a material to a spiritual basis. Mary Baker Eddy says we must do it (S28). She acknowledges that it is an “immense” undertaking, and it doesn’t happen on its own. Our part is to, “turn our thoughts towards divine Principle.” Once we do that, why would we want to do anything else?

Section 6: It’s a New Day!

How can we begin to grasp immortality when it seems we are so tethered to a mortal body? We can start with Isaiah, who writes that God created us, and formed us (B15). That word “created” means we were “produced out of nothing” (Clarke). This means we are not the product of human parentage, nor are we subject to laws of aging. God says, “Fear not…thou art mine.” We aren’t under any law but God’s law of life. Christ Jesus showed us that we can be victorious over every claim of mortality (B16). Our transformation completely frees us from our worn-out views, and wakes us up to see “all things are become new” (B17).

Sometimes we think happiness is either behind us, or out of our reach. At other times we might look for it in places it can’t be found. But “For true happiness, man must harmonize with his Principle, divine Love…” (S29). Conforming our lives to Christ makes all the difference. Although ascension is the ultimate goal, we can begin the transformation to immortality right now as we challenge beliefs of aging (S30). Every healing we have, and every limitation we overcome is a step closer to proving our immortality. We don’t have to live in conformity to this world. We can let God’s creation appear, and bring us into “newness of life” (S31). The “Science of being” is based on perfect God and perfect man. We are immortal right now, and have never been anything else. Let’s rejoice!



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