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Hold On to Your Innocence!
Lesson application ideas for “EVERLASTING PUNISHMENT”
Oct. 25-31, 2004 by Craig Ghislin, CS (Bartlett, IL)

The Golden Text, states clearly that God saves man from the punishment, which is brought upon him from the wicked and terrible. This is a direct reversal of the popular notion that God punishes man for wrongdoing.

In this verse, the “inner voice” is responding to Jeremiah’s prayer. He has asked God not to forget him when his enemies have besieged him. God answers him by declaring he must remain faithful in spite of all opposition. Then he will prevail.

This is a fitting opening to this week’s Lesson, which centers on the trials of the innocent.

The Responsive Reading opens with the well-known 100th Psalm. An essential element of worship is joy. We are to approach God with gladness and thanksgiving. God is infinite good and there is nothing to expect from him but good. From there we move to Psalm 18. Here we have the confirmation that man is blessed by God in proportion to man’s reflection of God. The good man need not fear punishment, but will be preserved.

Section I: Divine Justice 
We begin with God. His works are “verity and judgment.” “Verity’ means stability, certainty, right, sure, and true. “Judgment” in this case comes from a word meaning “verdict” or “sentence” (Strong’s). Hence we can affirm that God is a righteous judge and rules with absolute certainty.

The citation from Job may appear on the surface like a supportive idea, but in context, it is Job’s visitor Eliphaz who is speaking. Job was struggling with the question of how he could suffer while being innocent. Eliphaz is pointing out that if a man is innocent he is saved, but those who do wickedness “reap the same.” This infers that since Job is suffering, he must be guilty. Not a very friendly comment after all. Sometimes, we are tempted to figure out what we did to “deserve” the trials we face. Thinking that God brings punishment upon His children is old theology and is false. The remainder of the Lesson explains why.

Abraham’s interchange with God regarding the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah is one of the sweetest in the Bible. Knowing his kinsman resides in Sodom, and that he is a good man, he pleads ever so gingerly for his safety. Abraham is struggling to reconcile how a “just” God could allow innocent people to suffer. Dummelow records, “Abraham thought all along that the righteous would perish with the wicked unless the whole city was saved, God distinguished between the innocent and the guilty, and saved four persons.” It is comforting to know that even in the midst of the darkest sin, the good are preserved.

Psalm 103 confirms that God knows what he is doing. He is eternal good. He separates us from evil as far as the heavens are from the earth. God doesn’t punish: He pities us.

Science and Health opens with a most significant sentence. “Whoever believeth  that wrath is righteous or the divinity is appeased by human suffering, does not understand God.” Wow! How often have we been tempted to think, “God ‘ll get ya for that”? To human reasoning, it seems logical that God will “get” the wrongdoer in the end, but that just isn’t the way it is. God knows nothing about evil, and most certainly can’t partake in it. Mrs. Eddy goes on to say that it isn’t possible for God to have anything to do with sin. The margin heading on page 230 reads, “God never inconsistent.” On page 537, Mrs. Eddy declares that God doesn’t punish man, but sin punishes itself and excludes itself from harmony. This is important, because even though God is universal good and knows nothing of evil, that does not mean we can get away with sinning. Though the man is always saved, the sin will be punished and destroyed. Evil has no power but “to destroy itself” (S&H 186).

Section II:  False Witnesses 
The Psalmist begins with an appeal for a safe path and protection from false witnesses. Psalm 35 continues with a prayer for the Lord to plead the cause in the face of a barrage of false witnesses. Those we think of as “friends” either literally or figuratively often prove to be enemies in the end. Note the legal overtones of the language. To “plead” means, “to strive as in a court of law” (Dummelow). Psalm 119 uses similar legal language in a promise to obey the divine Law through understanding its statutes and the expectation of righteous judgment from God. 

The textbook begins with what is generally called “the trial scene.” This is an allegory to illustrate the mental reasoning that takes place in a Christian Science treatment. As indicated in the Psalms, those we call friends can turn against us. Mortal man who is the defendant is being brought to trial for “liver complaint” after helping a friend in need. Note that the trial doesn’t begin until the defendant “ruminates.” This means, “to chew over again” (Student’s Reference Dictionary) like a cow chewing its cud. Thinking about what has caused one to feel ill, is not going to help overcome it. Instead it makes the lie seem more real to the sufferer. 

In this case mortal man, in his ignorance, calls for his friends Physiology, Materia Medica, and Hypnotism to help him, but they are false friends. They stand by Health-laws instead of the defendant. Eventually the death penalty is sought.  

In one way or another, we often take a mistaken approach to solving our difficulties. We inadvertently succumb to false theories and laws. But we don’t have to. Our Leader states clearly that, “We should relieve our minds from the depressing thought that we have transgressed a material law and must of necessity pay the penalty.” We never need to place ourselves under laws of matter. Matter has no authority to impose any type of law. Whether we are infringing on a so-called material law or not, doing good can only bless us. 

Section III:  Crisis Point  
“How long?” is a question many of us have uttered in the midst of suffering when we’re “the one the devil’s hurtin'”. In Psalm 13, the turmoil of the petitioner is based on the “theological assumption that the Lord rewards the righteous with prosperity.” Yet, the individual is perplexed because even though he has been righteous, his suffering continues. His confidence is bolstered however, by his trust in the Lord’s saving action toward the weak (Interpreter’s).  Ps. 139 affirms that we can never be outside of God’s care- even if we wanted to-no matter how extreme our situation may appear. In Ps. 86 the petitioner “is in serious trouble…[but he looks to God for] some sign of encouragement that will not only help [himself] but will also serve as notice to his enemies that God is mindful of him” (Abingdon). The section concludes with the well-known promise from John, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  

In Science and Health, the trial continues with the closing witness-Death-and “the solemn sentence of death” is pronounced by Judge Medicine. Although these citations are very short, to the sufferer, time seems elongated. It seems all is lost. But, parallel to the Bible passages, there is still hope. Christ, Truth can set him free! 

Section IV:  The Appeal 
Power and authority over all evil were exercised by the Master and given to the disciples by Jesus to overcome every danger and obstacle to healing. As modern day disciples, this power is extended to us as well. In Psalms we see what it takes to reach victory-calling upon the Lord “evening, and morning, and at noon…” In other words, we need to consecrate our entire effort and maintain a single purpose to be at one with God. In Romans we find that the result of this holy work is freedom from the law of sin and death.

In the textbook, we have an “appeal to a higher tribunal” as the marginal heading states it. It may be noticed that in the first trial, mortal man had no counsel. But this time, Christian Science will be arguing for the defense. Immediately, the sentence is contradicted and cast aside as illegal. It is man’s moral right to act justly. Now mortal man finds support and authority for his benevolent acts in divine law and it is shown impossible that he should be guilty of a crime for following the higher law of Love. The Bible, the “supreme statute-book”, authorizes man’s plea of innocence and exonerates him from all wrongdoing establishing the promise that he “shall not see death.”  

Section V: A New Day Dawns 
Jesus declares himself “the light of the world.” Those who follow him “shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” The citation from Ephesians is a quotation from and early Christian hymn. The sentiment is pointed. We need to awake from the sleep of death – of life in matter to the light of Christ, the light of life. Following, is the raising of Tabitha by Peter.  It is significant that Peter put out all those who were mourning Tabitha. Every false witness must be banished. He also prayed, turning to God to see what was really going on. The result was healing.  

Meanwhile, back in the trial scene Christian Science continues reversing the charges and condemning those who witnessed falsely. The Supreme Bench cannot be overruled. God “sentences only for sin.” The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Spirit deems the accusations unworthy and remands them to oblivion, “unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown.” This is important. Just as Peter put out all evidence that said Tabitha was dead, every claim of evil we face are to be completely wiped out. No memory of them should linger. Man is judged innocent and the verdict of “not guilty” is quickly reached.

A recurring theme throughout this trial is that man is innocent because he is sinless. Mrs. Eddy on page 412 summarizes this point. We need not be afraid of sickness because God never punishes “aught but sin.” As we have seen in previous Lessons sin is most definitely punished though the man is saved. If a case of sickness is such that sin produces the sickness, the sin is destroyed first, and then man can rightfully claim his innocence from sickness.  

Section VI:  No Sinning! 
In Ephesians we have a blessing that considers us blameless, i.e. sinless. This attitude brings us into “heavenly places.” The phrase,” heavenly places” only occurs in Ephesians and indicates “that sphere in which the Christian has been raised to new life” (Interpreter’s). In Isaiah, the theme of sinlessness is repeated. If God is all good, He must be of purer eyes than to behold evil. If we are to approach God we must logically be cleansed from sin ourselves. God desires us to behold him. Therefore, he is the agent of our cleansing. In order to fulfill the promise of our being at one with God, our sins are first eliminated. In Philippians, we are encouraged in this endeavor. God works with us not against us. But let not the point be lost that we must do our part by living in accordance with good. Interpreter’s paraphrases it this way, “actualize in your life this lordship of the obedient one.” We close with the promise in Psalms that God’s mercy is everlasting.  

“The design of Love is to reform the sinner.” This is the keynote of the last section, which was hinted at in Section V. In the third tenet, it is again underscored that sin is punished as long as it lasts. Sin is forgiven as it is destroyed. Both sickness and sin are healed through Christ. The overcoming of one sin is cause for rejoicing, but to overcome all sin is the goal. When we are without sin, there is nothing left to accuse. The ultimate fact to keep in mind is that man is never separated from God in the first place. He has always been “perfect and eternal” and this fact can never change.

(Camp Director’s Note: As the latest in a long series of CedarS weekly lesson “mets” (metaphysical application ideas) contributed by many CedarS 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. Sent originally just to campers, staff and CedarS families who wanted to continue their inspiration from camp, CedarS lesson “mets” are in no way meant to be definitive or conclusive. The thoughts presented are the inspiration of the moment and are offered to give a bit of 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 applications.  We are glad you requested this metaphysical sharing and hope that you find some of these ideas helpful in your daily spiritual journey.)

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