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Rejoice That We Are Subject to the Divine Powers That Be!
Inspirational Application Ideas from the Christian Science Bible Lesson on:

9—15, 2020

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

Do you feel safe and sound? Would you say you’re on solid ground? What is your confidence based on? Do you rely on genetics and environment for good health; a good job as a source of supply; a safe neighborhood to protect you from crime; the faithfulness of a friend or loved one to be with you through hard times?

As reliable as those, or any other human sources, may seem, they are in fact, subject to change. In human experience, change is inevitable. Even that which you thought you could count on doesn’t always endure, or pan out. There are some people who are optimistic, and try to see the good all around, and those who distrust everything and are skeptical and pessimistic. Whether one is more of a pessimist, optimist, or somewhere in between, conventional wisdom would say there are no guarantees in life, and pretty much anything could happen. However brave one may appear, the uncertainty of events, fuels an undercurrent of fear.

There is only one truly reliable protection. That’s God. The final citation in this Lesson-Sermon calls for us to rejoice that we are subject to the divine powers that be (S31). As such, we could truly believe in a time that Isaiah foresees in the Golden Text where violence is no longer heard in the land, nor wasting or destruction.

While Isaiah is speaking specifically of armed conflict, we can also apply this promise to battle on a different scale, but every bit as threatening. I’m speaking of the battles going on in our struggles with temptation and sin, as well as the microscopic battles that seem to go on in the body when combating disease. Any battle between good and evil, health and sickness, life and death are attacks against our well-being, and oneness with God.

As you read the Responsive Reading what do you notice? We see that all creation is looking to God for the fulfillment of every desire. There is the promise that eventually our fears, sorrows, and “hard bondage” will be taken away, and that we shall no longer be oppressed. Those who seem to be in power now will be unseated. The earth will be at rest, and break forth into singing. God promises that His word is irrevocable, permanent, and absolute. God is able to transform any form of desolation into everlasting consolation.

Now, think deeply, and ask yourself: Where do I look for fulfillment of my desires? What sorrows and fears do I long to be delivered from? In what areas of my life feel like I’m serving with hard bondage? In what areas of my life do I feel oppressed? Do I believe there is a power that can break oppression in my life? Is it even possible to be completely at rest, and quiet to the point where I feel relieved, and elated enough to break into song?

The so-called powers of this world are many, and they claim to have the ability to run our lives, and determine our experience to the point where we believe there is nothing we can do about it. As you may have already guessed, the Bible has a ready response to our feelings of helplessness, and a correction to those who think they can get by on their own savvy.

While all worldly solutions to life’s challenges are variable, the law of God and His word is fixed. His command is law, and shall stand forever. Nothing can ever undo what God ordains.

Does that sound too good to be true? To mortal sense it does. As you study this week’s Lesson-Sermon you will find several illustrations to help you place your faith and understanding on solid ground.

Section 1: Substance Is Eternal

According to The Student’s Reference Dictionary, substance is that which exists by itself; something that isn’t imaginary, but which really exists. The word “substance” comes from the Latin substantia—meaning “being or essence,” and from substant—meaning, “standing firm.” While most would consider matter, or that which can be perceived by the senses, to be substance, in Christian Science we lean toward the idea of substance as essence, or the idea and spiritual nature of a thing. Material things are changeable, the spiritual essence of things is not.

Most of us would agree that there are very few constants in human experience. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus is credited with saying, “The only thing that is constant is change.” The author of Ecclesiastes would disagree: “I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever: nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it…” (B2). God is the source of all that is good and eternal including spiritual qualities. While it’s true that norms of human behavior change, spiritual qualities have a potency that remains constant. Paul furnishes us with a partial list that begins with love (B1). Keep in mind here that “love” is a verb. It’s something we do. The rest of the list gives us ways in which to do it. Joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance are all ways we can express and reflect love.

Because human nature is more inclined to be self-serving than giving, it may seem a strain to consistently live these qualities, but in his letter to the Romans, Paul urges us to be transformed from materially based thinking to the solid ground of spiritually based thinking (B3).

The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, whole-heartedly agrees. She understands substance to be only the real and eternal, “incapable of discord and decay” (S1). In Christian Science, the only true substance of anything is God (S2).

Mary Baker Eddy saw Spirit’s transforming power to be instrumental in causing an inevitable change from materially based thinking, to a metaphysically based view of everything. This view sees God as the Cause of every effect (S3). Citation S4 is one of my favorites: “Metaphysics resolves things into thoughts, and exchanges the objects of sense for the ideas of Soul.” She goes on to explain that the ideas of spiritual sense are just as real as material objects seem to be. But here’s the amazing part—the spiritual ideas don’t ever change! They are “good and eternal.”

Section 2: Faith

How can spiritual objects be considered more substantial than material objects? For that matter, how do we even know that spiritual objects even exist?

Well for one thing, we won’t figure it out through human reasoning. Intellectual reasoning can get very complicated. It’s full of variables and contingencies. It’s like building a house on sand, as Jesus explains in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 7: 24-29). If not through intellectual means, how do we understand it? Through faith—“the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (B4). Biblical expositor William Burkitt (1650-1703) observes this faith as, “a confident and firm expectation of the good things which God has promised, giving the good things hoped for, a real substance in our minds and souls… Reason and nature could never have known them, had not God in his word first revealed them.”

This faith is an example of standing on the firm underpinning of the rock, rather than slipping and sliding on the loose sand of myriad intellectual contingencies.

As our textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, explains, faith is the state, “in which spiritual evidence, contradicting the evidence of material sense, begins to appear…” (S5). Material testimony can be shaken, but spiritual understanding is founded on the “divine rock.” The further we go in spiritual understanding, so-called material knowledge will decrease, and through spiritual sense we will apprehend things as idea rather than object.

Section 3: True Substance Is Consistent

As noted earlier, true substance is incapable of discord and decay. This isn’t true for anything material—be it an object, or a thought. Material beliefs are constantly changing, and material resources are subject to decay and discord alike. James tells us that every gift from God, however, has neither “variableness,” nor “shadow of turning” (B5). Modern day minister Mark Dunagan explains James’ allusion as “Seasonal variations, eclipses, phases of the moon, clouded skies, and the shifting shadows seen hourly on the sundial…[whereas] God’s character and nature are unchanging.”

I saw an “infomercial” the other day warning that most of the water we drink—out of bottles or tap—is not as healthy as we think. The message was clear that we couldn’t trust the water no matter what the source. Beyond being a sales pitch for a water purification product, it places seeds of fear that even when we try to do the healthy thing by drinking water, we may be unwittingly harming ourselves.

The children of Israel needed water on their forty-year journey through the wilderness. On occasion water came out of a rock to sustain them. But one time, after searching for three days, they came upon a well in which the water was undrinkable (B6). After praying for direction, Moses was led to a tree “which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet.”

This has both practical and symbolic application for us today. We can know that our health, resources, and survival are insured by God’s love for us. Spirit is the only true substance and Spirit is our Life (S7). Additionally, whether speaking of literal resources, or metaphorically about ideas, in Science, God is Good and God is All, therefore all that God does is good. As a fountain cannot send both sweet and bitter waters, neither can God permit both good and evil (S8). That means that good ideas are good through and through. There’s nothing bad or inconsistent in God’s gifts.

Mary Baker Eddy is great at making her point through asking questions. As we look at citation S9, how could anyone ever consider the “mutable and mortal” to be substance when compared to the “immutable and immortal”? Well, someone might if they were ignorant about God and God’s laws. Our Leader says that it’s ignorance that produces discord, and “a right understanding of Him [God] restores harmony” (S10).

Our textbook explains that in Science the belief that there is more than one law in operation is key to the problem. If we believe there is more than one God or something other than God, we run into trouble. God’s laws are consistent and final. They have no element of evil in them. Materialistic thinking believes in many persons, and that each one has their own opinion. This too, leads to trouble (S11). Just as Moses sweetened the waters, we can put an end to the bitterness in human relations, and in every arena of life. Our antidote for bitterness is Truth and Love. When we exercise love, and maintain truth through God’s help, the bitterness and inharmony are neutralized (B12).

Section 4: Lord, Help Me!

Now we’ve been considering how wonderful it is that God, being All and good, has nothing to do with evil, nor does He allow it. But we know that in human experience we sometimes run into situations that do their best to knock us off of our foundation and shake us to the core. The age-old questions arise — “Where is God in all this? How could God allow this?”

The psalmist was certainly aware that there are times when the horror of a situation feels overwhelming. Now there are those who, inadvertently invalidate such terror by declaring coldly that God has “nothing to do with it,” and that in Spirit we are always safe. While that declaration is true in an absolute spiritual sense, getting to the full realization of that spiritual state while in the midst of the material horror seems an impossible task. We should also remember that both Christ Jesus and our Leader, Mary Baker Eddy, instruct us to “salute the thought” of those we intend to help, rather than coldly invalidating their feelings.

While it’s true that in dire circumstances prayer has saved many and prevented harm and injury, there are also times when, for many people, help doesn’t appear to come. The psalmist knew full well the stress of violence against him. He made no apologies for crying out to God for help. He acknowledges that his fear and trembling are overwhelming, and prays that he could sprout wings and fly away to safety (B7). Joseph Benson (1748-1821) writes, “the psalmist, who saw himself in the extremest danger, and knew that his very life depended on his immediate escape, wishes for the swift wings of a dove, that, with the utmost speed, he might fly from the destruction which threatened him.” Have you ever been in a position when horror overwhelmed you?

The story of Amnon and Tamar is quite bluntly an account of brutal sexual assault (B8). This ancient story could have been taken right out of today’s headlines. Notice here that the attack in this case isn’t prevented. Amnon confuses love with lust, and schemes to defile his sister. Afterward his lust turns to hate, and he casts her out. Naturally, she is devastated. In case anyone is unfamiliar with the story, though not in the Lesson, Amnon’s sin is leads to his own violent death. But that doesn’t help Tamar.

When something so terribly unjust and foul is upon us what can we do but “cry unto God most high?” (B9).

Another story of a vicious attack on innocence is in Revelation (B10), where the great red dragon lies in wait to devour the child of the woman clothed with the sun. In this case the dragon is cast down, and the woman is given eagles wings so she can fly to safety. The dragon continues the attack by casting a flood to carry her away. But the earth helps the woman and swallows up the flood.

Here we have two stories with quite different outcomes. The story in Revelation is allegorical, but the meaning is clear.

Mary Baker Eddy didn’t attempt to sidestep these extremely difficult challenges. From the story in Revelation, she tells us that even the most distressing circumstances can be like entertaining “angels unawares” (S13). She assures us that the Christ idea cannot be silenced, and that we can expect help in all times of trouble (S14). Human belief that claims to be separate from God is a fiction. If we believe that fiction, the very opposite of God’s man and true goodness seems to be the norm, and evil appears to go on unchecked (S15). However, evil cannot prosper if God is real. The foul actions of lust and hypocrisy are eventually slain by the innocence of Truth and Love (S16).

Please don’t feel as you read this section that evil will ever go unpunished, or that you are expected to not be upset about injustice. Truth does destroy error, and though you may never see the final outcome against error, remember the Founder of Christian Science writes from experience, “…God will recompense this wrong, and punish, more severely than you could, him who has striven to injure you” (Mis. 12:5–8). She goes on to say, “Never return evil for evil…”

In Christian Science we master all evil propensities, even our own. We conquer these evils with goodness (S17). We can be assured sin will ultimately destroy itself. “Human hate has no mandate and no kingdom. Love is enthroned” (S18). That means error is dethroned! Science and Health assures us that Love will win, and error “will vanish in a moral chemicalization” (S19).

Once I was neutralizing sulfuric acid from a battery by adding baking soda. The resulting reaction was a whole lot bigger than I expected. In this same way as evil is uncovered, and we pour in Truth and Love, there may be a time of disturbance, but built on the foundation of true substance, we will emerge the victor.

Section 5: Triumph over Discord

These violent eruptions and upheavals sometimes seem to take form in sickness. In Luke’s gospel there is an account of boy who suffered violent seizures. Jesus’ disciples were knocked off of their pins so to speak. They were taken in by the scene before their eyes and were unable to heal the boy. Jesus expressed his disappointment at the disciples’ lack of faith and asked that the boy be brought to him. As he was coming, the boy was seized by another attack. Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and healed him (B12).

Jesus was totally unfazed by evil’s bluster. He went on to send his disciples out to prove themselves as healers. No doubt they had learned from his example, and they returned with joy as they recounted to him their victories (B13). Jesus said he saw Satan “as lightening” falling from heaven. Theologian Albert Barnes (1798-1870) paraphrases Jesus’ words: “I saw at your command devils immediately depart, as quick as the flash of lightning. I gave you this power – I saw it put forth – and I give also now, in addition to this, the power to tread on serpents…” After this command, the Master blesses them telling them their “names are written in heaven.”

In Christian Science, we follow what Jesus taught, knowing that true life, substance, and intelligence are spiritual, and therefore, all errors are destroyed (S20). Mortal mind pretends to govern the body, but it is no more than a liar talking to itself and believing its own lie. The body can’t talk for itself, and we have no cause to believe it (S21).

In Science, good never causes evil or creates a mind susceptible to believing it. All destructive activity is a lie (S22). Going along with the analogy of lightening falling from heaven, Mary Baker Eddy reminds us that electricity has no intelligence, and neither does it convey intelligence (S23). Only divine Mind conveys thought, and it does so without traveling through a material belief of nerves. Christ speaks to human consciousness bringing divine messages and “dispelling the illusions of the senses” (S24). Citation S25 is a fitting way to wrap this up: “Let discord of every name and nature be heard no more, and let the harmonious and true sense of Life and being take possession of human consciousness.”

Section 6: Be Not Deceived, but Be in Command

Jesus gave the disciples power and authority over the enemy with the knowledge that nothing could harm them. We might say the disciples had divine authorization. John, one of the most trusted of Jesus’ disciples, directs those of all generations to “believe not every spirit” (B14). John Calvin (1509-1564) explains his view that in St. John’s usage, the word “spirit” is almost a derogatory substitute for the real thing. In this case “spirit” signifies:

…him who boasts that he is endowed with the gift of the Spirit to perform his office as a prophet. For as it was not permitted to any one to speak in his own name, nor was credit given to speakers but as far as they were the organs of the Holy Spirit, in order that prophets might have more authority, God honored them with this name, as though he had separated them from mankind in general.

This gives significance to Paul’s being grieved by the protestations of the damsel (B16). She was not speaking under the authority of the Holy Spirit, but under the influence of “the father of lies.” William Burkitt observes: “the father of lies sometimes speaks the truth, though, never for truth's sake, but for his own advantage: here what the devil said was truth, but it was for devilish ends…”

The false spirit yielded because it was an imposter without a foundation—without substance. Sometimes we run into imposters as well, that seem in every respect to be telling truth, but we are to “try them” all to determine their veracity. To “try” the spirits, isn’t to believe or indulge them, but to discern the truth about them. Can you think of any time in your life when you were fooled by an imposter?

Science and Health tells us that, “Truth is God’s remedy for error of every kind” (S26). Science destroys only what is untrue, so we never need fear putting anything to the test. Our spiritual mindedness equips us to discern the difference between an imposter, and one that is true. We need not be concerned for long though that error will deceive us, because error cannot evade the law of God (S27).

Citation S28 gives us a word of encouragement. “You command the situation if you understand that mortal existence is a state of self-deception and not the truth of being.” This is significant because error is incapable of deceiving us. It can only deceive itself. Truth sweeps away the lies like cobwebs. Think about it. Can you think of a situation when something seemed so real to you one minute; and when the truth was known, it vanished almost instantly?

Human beliefs begin to disappear even if the tiniest bit of their story is seen to be false. Take your time reading citation S29. It is a perfect description of the difference between an insubstantial lie, and the substance of truth.

Section 7: We Are Subject Only to God

So, we ask again: Do you feel safe? Is your trust in God? Or is it in men, the world, and materially based thinking? The Scriptures underscore that the Lord is the one and only power (B17). The only way to stand on solid ground, and to honestly declare with Hosea that we have found true substance (B18), is to recognize God as the only power and only reality.

Our textbook reinforces our conviction that Spirit is the only substance, invisible yet indivisible—not a multitude of wavering theories, but one solid and eternal rock of Truth (S30). The final citation in this week’s Lesson (S31) has the tone of the battle cry of a freedom fighter. It calls for us to stand on the solid ground of true substance recognizing no other power as able to do us harm. We are not afraid; we are not impressed; we are not fooled. We “rejoice that we are subject [only] to the divine ‘powers that be.’ Such is the true Science of being.”

[Warren:] Mine precious GEMs to enlarge your" treasures of Truth and Love" from each Bible Lesson. They are "perfect gifts …from above," meant for you and yours! .(James 1:17) For more than two decades Warren Huff has enjoyed freely offering Christianly scientific application ideas from insights shared by Bible scholar Cobbey Crisler, poet Ken Cooper and others.] Blessings are "bound to abound" to all whenever we daily invite the application of priceless, inspiring gems from God's Word to "enrich the affections of all mankind and govern them" ("Daily Prayer," Church Manual, Mary Baker Eddy)


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