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Walk In the Light of God as an Immortal Idea!
Inspirational Application Ideas for the Christian Science Bible Lesson on

“Mortals and Immortals”
November 11—17, 2019

By Craig L. Ghislin, C.S. Glen Ellyn, Illinois (Bartlett) / (630) 830-8683

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Have you ever gotten up in the middle of the night, and smacked your toe into some furniture? I have. In fact, I have often roamed the house in the dark because I’d been too lazy to turn on the light, or too cocky to think it was necessary. As a consequence, I’ve smacked my face into half open doors, fallen down stairs, and stepped on more than my share of scattered toys. Although there is often just enough ambient light from digital clocks and other outside lights in the house to get by, it’s still much easier to find what I’m looking for if I turn on a light.

The Scriptures often use light as an analogy for direction, understanding, uprightness, purity, goodness, and life as a contrast to the darkness of confusion, doubt, deception, sin, and death. Just as we sometimes think we can get by with as little light as possible as we navigate our own houses, we similarly think we can get through life with a minimal amount of attention to trust in God, or adherence to spiritual law.

In the Golden Text, the psalmist proclaims his complete trust in God, based on his deliverance from what seemed to be certain death. He’s confident God will support him through all subsequent challenges so he may continue to “walk before God in the light of life.” As with many who survive brushes with death, the psalmist expects he has been given a new lease on life; and sensing a higher purpose, he devotes his life to pleasing God.

I can’t help but recall a time when I was in college and found myself in complete darkness. With all the arrogance of a young man who thought he was indestructible, I foolishly ingested a substance that made me unable to think clearly, and extremely sick. I felt immediate remorse, and was praying to find my way free. There were people around me doing their best to help, but I was getting worse. They brought me to a couch, and as they sat around me, my vision went dark, and their voices faded away.

I suddenly found myself fully conscious, and no longer sick, but I wasn’t on the couch. I was in the deepest blackness I could ever have imagined. It was crystal clear as if in the farthest reaches of space. I had the sense that I wasn’t alone, and I began to see pinpoints of light in every direction. I had the eerie feeling that I was in the portals of death. I felt extremely embarrassed to be in that condition, and I made a conscious decision that I was not going to die like that. I reached out knowing that God is my Life, and that my true being can never touched by poison or toxins of any kind. As a spiritual idea I had God’s work to do, and I knew all things are possible to God.

The next thing I knew, I was opening my eyes to see all the people around me, expressing awe that I had “come back.” Although I was still unsteady, I was more alert than I had been earlier, and I was taken home. I woke up in the morning fully recovered with no aftereffects.

I can certainly relate to the psalmist’s words, as I do to the opening lines of the Responsive Reading. The way to life is through attentiveness to God’s law. The Reverend John Gill (1697-1771) expounds on what it means to trust in the Lord with all the heart. It’s to trust…

Not in a creature, the best, the holiest, and the highest; not in any creature enjoyment, as riches, strength, and wisdom; nor in any outward privilege, arising from natural descent and education; not in a man's self, in his own heart, which is deceitful; nor in any works of righteousness done by him; not in a profession of religion, or the duties of it, ever so well performed; not in frames, nor in graces, and the exercise of them; no, not in faith or trust itself: but in the Lord, the object of all grace, and in him only.

Such trust doesn’t come from profession, but from heartfelt longing to be the best we can be as we go through each phase of our lives. The Scripture entreats us to look to God for direction and protection in all ways, not just the ones that seem convenient. This admonition brings to mind a practice we have at CedarS Camps. Before every activity we do what we call a “Met.” Short for “metaphysical,” the Met is a time to look at the activity we’re about to do through a spiritual lens, and put us on a sure foundation.

Theologian Adam Clarke (c1760-1832) points out the human tendency to forget God: “The grand sin of the human race is their continual endeavor to live independently of God, i.e., to be without God in the world. True religion consists in considering God the fountain of all good, and expecting all good from Him.” Although centuries before CedarS, Clarke gives us his version of a “Met”:

Begin, continue, and end every work, purpose, and device, with God. Earnestly pray for his direction at the commencement; look for his continual support in the progress; and so begin and continue that all may terminate in his glory: and then it will certainly be to thy good; for we never honor God, without serving ourselves.

The Responsive Reading continues with the 23rd Psalm. So much has been written about it, and we are so familiar with it that it isn’t necessary, nor is there enough space to fully address it here. The psalm is alluded to throughout the Lesson, and I encourage readers to do their own research. Suffice it to say that trusting in God is the wisest, and safest thing we can do as we work through life, and demonstrate beyond it. Given our subject of “Mortals and Immortals,” it’s interesting that according to W.M.L. deWette (1780-1849) who has been called the founder of modern Biblical criticism, the phrase, “He restoreth my soul,” literally means, “He causes my life to return.”

Indeed, God not only gives us life but IS our Life, and we find that Life when we walk in God’s light. Albert Barnes (1798-1870), and Adam Clarke comment respectively: “All away from God is dark; all near him is light. If, therefore, we desire light on the subjects which pertain to our salvation, it must be sought by a direct and near approach to him…” and, “No man can illuminate his own soul; all understanding must come from above.”

Section 1: “You remind me of your “Father-Mother!”

Walking in that divine light is living in accordance with, and in obedience to God’s laws, and this in turn leads to eternal life (B1). Paul tells us we owe nothing to the ways of the flesh (B2). Following such ways leads to death. Remember how we mentioned people being content with as little spirituality as possible just to get them by? Well this is what Paul is getting at. Even though we know that the ways of the flesh lead to death, we allow ourselves to indulge just to the point where we think we won’t go too far. Our Leader, Mary Baker Eddy nipped this in the bud: “The pent-up elements of mortal mind need no terrible detonation to free them. Envy, rivalry, hate need no temporary indulgence that they be destroyed through suffering; they should be stifled from lack of air and freedom” (Mis. 356:5).

Mark Dunagan, a modern-day Pastor from Beaverton, Oregon puts it in plain terms: “Christians have NO MORAL RIGHT NOR OBLIGATION TO SIN. So much for those that claim, ‘I know it’s wrong, but I just needed to do something for myself, I just needed to let off some steam.’” Rather than indulge in fleshly ways, Paul tells us to “mortify the deeds of the body.” That means not just to resist them, but “kill them”—finish them off. We do that by putting on the image of our heavenly parent (B3). The Greek for “put on” means “to envelope, to put on as a garment.” This isn’t, as some commentators feel, turning the mortal body into an immortal body; but rather, it’s clothing ourselves in spiritual thinking and acting. Hence, Isaiah’s admonition and invitation: “come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.” (B4).

According to Mary Baker Eddy, this shouldn’t be as difficult as it sounds. After all, “God is the parent Mind, and man is God’s spiritual offspring” (S1). Don’t you suppose it should be natural to take after your divine parent? It may seem contrary to our perception, but God is the only Mind, “shining by its own light and governing the universe…” (S2). Although we seem to be mortals, we are in fact, immortal models of spiritual sense (S4). As God’s spiritual creation, we have no relation to the material and mortal (S5).

What seems to be an imperfect mortal is a counterfeit of the real man (S6). It appears very real, but it isn’t. Does that mean there’s a real model of us somewhere else? No. There’s only one of us. As we realize our spiritual nature, we will abandon the false mortal view, for the real spiritual view. And once again, though this seems difficult to do, all it takes is an honest, sincere effort to adjust our path, and to walk in the light of Spirit to find eternal life.

Section 2: Do You Walk the Talk?

Speaking of walking in the path, how do you walk? Those that “know the joyful sound” walk in the light (B5). They rest in confidence that their happiness, and the existence of all creation is founded on God alone. Barnes writes, “There is no reason why the people of God should not be constantly happy; they who have such a God, and such hopes as they are permitted to cherish, should be so.”

What is it to walk in the light of God’s countenance? John Wesley (1703-1791) explains:

To walk with God, is to set God always before us, and to act as those that are always under his eye. It is to live a life of communion with God, both in ordinances and providences; it is to make God's word our rule, and his glory our end, in all our actions; it is to make it our constant care and endeavour in every thing to please God, and in nothing to offend him; it is to comply with his will, to concur with his designs, and to be workers together with him.

The Book of Genesis tells us that Enoch walked with God, and this path led to his ascension out of the flesh (B6). Lest we think that the path to ascension means living a life of deprivation, let’s not forget that Enoch was no ascetic. He lived a full life having a family of sons and daughters, and is said to have lived three hundred and sixty-five years. Mary Baker Eddy intimated that both long life and ascension were possible in proportion as we live spiritually, and walk in the light of God.

She tells us that this depends on the accurate understanding of the Science of life (S8). In citation S9, we have a rendering of Psalm 23 from a spiritual standpoint. Actually, as we consider each verse, the psalm becomes a template for what it means to walk with God as Enoch did. Mary Baker Eddy recounts for us the lessons she learned as she faced, “the shadow of the death-valley” (S10). The truth of being lit her path as she prayed to see a clearer sense of her real being.

As we pointed out with Enoch, walking with God doesn’t mean we bypass the normal activities of our current experience. Our textbook cautions us not to, “thwart the spiritual ultimate of things, but come naturally into Spirit through better health and morals and as the result of spiritual growth” (S11). The key is to walk through life while turning to the light of truth to show us the path. Enoch saw more than what the senses revealed, and that enabled him to walk with God (S12). Before we ascend, we can prove that using a spiritual understanding of God throughout our present life-journey will help us awaken from mortality to immortality (S13).

Section 3: When Things Look Dark

When things are going well for us it seems a little easier to “walk in the light.” But when times are tough, it often seems quite difficult. The psalmist is actually making a spiritually strong move by declaring that God will be with him even in the night (B8). Remember, before the invention of electricity, the night was pitch dark. There were many superstitions about demons coming in the night, and they would flee only when the dawn came. So, it was really a spiritual breakthrough to trust that God would be present even in the dark. Commentators tell us that figuratively, “daytime” refers to seasons of prosperity, and the “night” refers to seasons of calamity.

Hezekiah’s story (B9) is somewhat similar to Job’s. Anciently, it was commonly believed that illness was the result of sin—a punishment from the gods for wrongdoing. In fact, philosopher David Hume posits that religion itself developed from people’s attempt to appease the anger of the gods to mitigate disasters. That’s quite opposite of how we feel today, but the belief that sins make us sick is a remnant of this point of view.

Rather than reel off an assortment of penitential oaths, Hezekiah turns to the wall (for private communion with God), and like Job, recounts his devotion: “…remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight.”

By the way, Isaiah’s passage about being renewed like the eagles (B10) is based on a mythical belief that eagles were “reborn” in their fortieth year, going through a grueling transformation replacing beak, talons, and feathers, before going on to live another thirty years. It’s curious that many commentators through modern day still believed these myths. Apparently, there is an inspirational slide show circulating on the Internet that still uses the same idea, but it is factually incorrect. Be that as it may, we know that when we turn whole-heartedly to God, we can indeed be renewed and “rebooted” so to speak in order to live life anew. The light of truth in which we walk is that light which radiates from the holy nature of God alone (B11).

Our textbook acknowledges that darkness can certainly seem as real as light, but darkness isn’t a presence—it’s an absence of light (S14). On the contrary, the light of truth is a powerful presence that dispels every condition of mortality. Mary Baker Eddy writes, “Sin, sickness, and death must disappear to give place to the facts which belong to immortal man” (S15). Our Leader showed the way for us by healing many cases considered to be hopeless. She assures us that we can heal too, but it all begins with those simpler demonstrations, and by walking in the light (S16). Just as we need to look where we’re walking, we need to cast our gaze spiritually one step beyond where we are in order to move in the proper direction. Isaiah’s call to arouse the slumbering thought comes while it’s still dark. So it doesn’t matter how much of a mess we think we’re in, God is always a “present help in trouble” (S17).

Section 4: Don’t Believe the Picture of Death

The emphasis most Christians put on John 3:16 (B12) is (to paraphrase) God loved us poor sinners so much that he sent His only Son to take our sins on his shoulders and die for us. That is not at all how we look at it through the lens of Christian Science. God knows nothing about worldly sinners because He didn’t create them. The man God created is spiritual, immortal, sinless, and healthy. Jesus, being fully aware of his perfection as the offspring of God, comes to us to show us that we are God’s offspring as well, and that not only are disease and sin powerless over our true natures, but death is powerless as well because God is our Life. Jesus truly is “the light of the world” (B13). He showed us through his healing power, and by his own victory over death that we are immortal.

An example of Jesus’ power over death is the healing of Jairus’ daughter (B14). It’s interesting to note that the name “Jairus” means “God will enlighten.” In Mark’s rendition, this man came to Jesus as his daughter was about to die. We can only imagine this father’s anguish. Here was a ruler of the synagogue who may have felt pressure to be critical or doubtful of Jesus’ mission, yet he had the humility to recognize that Jesus was the only hope his daughter had of surviving. We know that after Jesus agrees to go with the father to attend to his daughter, Jesus stops to heal someone else amid the crowd. At this point the father must have been anxious to say the least. When they are finally getting underway again, the news comes that it’s too late, his daughter is already dead.

At that point Jairus would certainly feel as if he were in the dark of confusion, if not total blackness. Yet he finds the light of hope as Jesus compassionately assures him to be unafraid, and to simply believe. When they arrive at the house, Jesus rejects the clamor of the mourners and heals the girl. It was another proof that even in the midst of the darkness of death, the light can shine through (B15). Albert Barnes tells us that the Hebrew concept of “the land of the shadow of death” is a poetic one:

The idea is that of death, as a dark substance or being, casting a long and chilly shade over the land – standing between the land and the light – and thus becoming the image of ignorance, misery, and calamity. It is often used, in the Scriptures, to describe those regions that were lying as it were in the penumbra of this gloomy object, and exposed to all the chills and sorrows of this melancholy darkness.

As dark as that concept is, the light of God pierces the gloom, and shows us the path of life.

Our textbook assures us that we can find the life-giving power of Truth and Love as we walk in the light. and follow Jesus’ example (S18). The understanding of Christian Science will lead us to the understanding of eternal harmony. But the opposite belief that man is mortal, and lives in a material body, leads to death (S19). Mary Baker Eddy logically reasons that if sickness and death were true, there would be no way to stop what God has ordained. But if God didn’t make them, they can’t be real, and death is only an illusion (S20).

This isn’t mere theory. Jesus proved the nothingness of death and Mary Baker Eddy has, and so have many others. Science and Health states categorically, “… what appears to the senses to be death is but a mortal illusion, for to the real man and the real universe there is no death process” (S21). Jesus’ example is practical and provable (S22). This section closes with one of my favorite citations: “Whatever is governed by God is never for an instant deprived of the light and might of intelligence and life” (S23). That’s the powerful truth of immortality.

Section 5: “This is Life eternal…”

The scriptures tell it like it is: “There is no God like thee in heaven, nor in the earth…” (B16). The key to realizing and proving this is to walk with God with “all [our] hearts.” This isn’t a blind faith. It’s a sincere, conscious assurance that God is All and there is none else. We don’t allow for any other possibility. When we know God is All, fear dissolves (B17). God doesn’t make us cowardly, discouraged, or afraid. He gives us power and a sound mind. Barnes says, “The state referred to here is that in which the mind is well balanced, and under right influences; in which it sees things in their just proportions and relations…” We owe this ability to see through death to Jesus whose mission abolished death and brought immortality to light. Paul speaks truly when he reminds us that, “the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (B18).

Jesus taught that the true knowledge of God as he taught it “is life eternal.” Mary Baker Eddy underscores that this is not a future promise, but a present fact (S24). She fully expected that we would all be able to comprehend this, and to deny the claims of the flesh is a great step in reaching that goal. As we’ve said, there is a tendency these days to be happy with a little bit of the light, and also, to be politically correct, saying that there are many ways to reach this understanding. But we have to face what is written: “There is but one way to heaven, eternal harmony, and Christ in divine Science shows us this way” (S25).

We achieve this through spiritualization of thought (S26). The marginal heading for citation S26 is “Immortal memory.” This indicates that we aren’t mortals working to become immortals, but that we always have been immortal, and spiritualization reminds us who we’ve always been. Through spiritual progress, the mortal belief is dropped for the immortal reality (S27). Again, the mortal doesn’t turn into an immortal. Mary Baker Eddy points out that mortals and immortals are not alike. When immortal man appears, the mortal belief vanishes (S28).

Section 6: Our Marching Orders

The last section of this week’s Lesson reiterates the necessity for “walking in the light of God” [Hymn 565?]. Barnes says to walk “worthy of God” (B19) is to live in such a way that we bring honor to God, living lives that bring no disgrace through misconduct, but living according to his commands, carrying His principles into every area of our lives.

The Epistle to the Ephesians further punctuates the need to walk as children of light in the Lord (B20). Dunagan points out that the imagery of darkness and light illustrates the uncompromising nature of this demand. There is no gray area here. Behavior has to conform to our identities as children of God. In citation B21 the identification of God as “immortal” comes from a Greek word meaning incorruptible. That is “a simple uncompounded essence” (Clarke).

Our textbook entreats us to learn of this “real and eternal” uncompounded essence (S29). Christian Science is the light that reveals the possibilities of immortal man (S30). If we think of ourselves as mortals, walking in the light may seem fairly demanding, and immortality may seem far out of reach. But if we remember that man is God’s expression, we realize that we are already immortal, and there is no limit to our development (S31).

The Lesson closes with a solid fact: “Man, being immortal, has a perfect indestructible life” (S32). So turn to the light of God and walk on!

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