How good do you have to be?

August 14, 2016 § Leave a comment

How good do you have to be to get into heaven. Perhaps you asked yourself:” Who could do all that the Lord commanded?”

As the Lord on earth said, “There is none good but one, that is God” (Mt. 19: 17, Mk. 10: 18).

Obviously, none of us can do all that the Lord commands. Truthfully, of ourselves we cannot do anything the Lord commands. This is because, like it or not, of ourselves we are nothing but evil, and everything we do is from evil and contaminated by evil. Even the apparent good we attempt is in its heart evil.

But, as if of ourselves (that is, when we allow the Lord to work through us), we can do some of what the Lord commands. And fortunately, we only have to do some of what the Lord commands. Notice what is said in TCR 520:

 Man is born with a tendency to every kind of evil, and if he does not partially remove evils by repentance, he remains subject to them, and if so cannot be saved.

We can be saved if we partially remove our evils by repentance. Realistically, this is all we are going to achieve in this life, and even in the next. What is important is that we acquire a habit of repentance. This allows the Lord to work in us and through us. It allows us to cooperate with the Lord.

TCR 522 goes on to explain:

 Every evil if not removed remains with a person; and if a person remains in his evils he cannot be saved. This is self-evident. What I have said before makes it obvious that no evil can be removed, except by the Lord working on those who believe in Him and love the neighbour.  …  But the question may be asked: how can a person enter into that union? The answer is that he cannot, unless he removes his evils, at least partially, by repentance. We say that the person should remove them, because the Lord does not bring this about directly without co-operation on the person’s part. This too was fully demonstrated in the same chapter, and in the following one on free will.

Further in TCR 523:

The saying goes that no one can keep the law completely, and this is even more difficult, because the person who breaks one of the Ten Commandments breaks them all. Yet this manner of speaking does not mean what it sounds like. For it must be understood to mean that a person who acts deliberately and from conviction against one commandment acts against the rest. This is because acting deliberately and from conviction is utterly denying that it is a sin, and if anyone else says it is, he dismisses his opinion as worthless. If anyone thus denies and dismisses sin, he pays no heed to anything which is called a sin. This is the position reached by those who are unwilling to be told anything about repentance. On the other hand, those who by repentance have removed some evils which are sins, reach the position of believing in the Lord and loving the neighbour. The Lord keeps them determined to abstain from further sinning; so if through ignorance or some overwhelming longing they sin, this is not counted against them, since they did not intend it nor convince themselves that it was allowable.

[2] I can support this statement by the following experiences. In the spiritual world I have met many people whose life in the natural world was no different from others’; they wore fine clothes, dined elegantly, engaged in business deals like other people to make profits, went to the theatre, joked about lovers as if lusting for them, and more of the same sort. Yet the angels held some of them guilty of sinful evils, and others they did not hold guilty of evils, declaring one group innocent, the other guilty. When they were asked why, when both groups had done much the same, they replied that what they looked for in all cases was the aim, intention or end in view, and they distinguished cases on this basis, so that those who were excused or condemned by their end in view, they themselves excused or condemned. All in heaven have good as their end in view, all in hell evil.

As you can see, if we are striving to cooperate with the Lord by repenting of some of our evils, then the Lord is holding us in the intention of keeping all the commandments.

It is worth remembering that people who die as little children and who have no actual evil in them, grow up and become celestial angels.  But even they are not perfect. They get so accustomed to being good that they begin to think that it is they and not the Lord who is good. So, from time to time, they are let down into the world of spirits and into their evils enough to see that without the Lord, they are nothing but evil. And when they regain their humility they are raised up again. (HH 342)

The spiritual angels wear cloths because of their lustifulness (SD 4719).

The angels in heaven both see and perceive the evils and falsities that sometimes arise in themselves (HH 487).

We are not good of ourselves. We are not perfect. And we most certainly have not kept all of the Lord’s commands. Still we can be saved and live in heaven. All we have to do persistently try to repent, that is:

  • Examine our intentions and thoughts and find some evil love
  • Shun that evil love by avoiding to act on it because it is a sin against God.
    • The sin against God is important.

As we strive to avoid acting on evil intentions, the Lord works in us reforming and regenerating our will and understanding. He saves us, and withholds us from our evils. We only ever partially repent of our evils. The important part is that we are trying to repent.

Now how much repentance constitutes “partial” repentance?

The answer, I believe is found in TCR 530:

If real repentance is practised from time to time, in fact as often as one prepares oneself to partake of the Holy Supper, and if one thereafter refrains from one or two sins one caught oneself committing, this is enough to start the process of making it real. Anyone at that point is on his way to heaven, for that is when a person begins to become spiritual instead of natural, and to be born anew under the Lord’s guidance.

It seems to me that partial repentance would be doing enough to start the process of making it real. It is the minimum need to be saved.

Or perhaps, the phrase partial repentance refers to easy repentance discussed in TCR 535-537. Easy repentance  is done by those who do good deeds for religious reasons. The motivation, religious reasons, is essential. Without the religious motivation the good deeds are natural and not spiritual.

Easy repentance does not involve self-examination and is described as follows:

TCR 535:

So I propose to describe an easier kind of repentance. When anyone is turning over in his mind some evil deed, and intending to do it, he should say to himself: ‘I am thinking about this and I intend to do it, but I shall not because it is a sin.’ This has the effect of blunting the thrust of hell’s tempting and preventing it from advancing any further.

 

 

Article in New Church Life

May 26, 2016 § Leave a comment

New Church Life (May-June) 2016 just published an article submitted by me. Their introduction to it is:

The Rev. William H. Clifford offers a theory that the Lord’s redemption is accomplished through a series borne out in the way the revelation is revealed to us in the successive volumes of the Writings – through the subjugation of the hells, the ordering of the heavens, and the establishment of a new church. (Page 254)

Here is the link to the magazine:

See More

New Church Life is a monthly magazine devoted to the teachings revealed through Emanuel Swedenborg. It is the official journal of the General Church of the New Jerusalem and has been published continuously since 1881.
NEWCHURCH.ORG

Mercy

May 9, 2016 § Leave a comment

Psalm 32: 2 says:

Blessed is the man
whose sin the LORD does not count against him
and in whose spirit is no deceit. (NIV)

 

In the True Christian Religion, paragraph 278 we learn that the spiritual meaning of this verse is:

The Lord is merciful to those who do evil.”

The Lord who is pure Divine love is, of course, merciful to everyone — the evil as well as the good. But not everyone, as strange as it may seem, wants the Lord’s mercy. To receive the Lord’s mercy, there must no deceit.

The Psalmist says that his sins were forgiven:

Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the LORD”—
and you forgave
the guilt of my sin. (Ps. 32: 5; NIV)

By acknowledging his sins, by not covering up his iniquity, by confessing his transgression the Psalmist removed deceitfulness from his spirit. When we refuse to acknowledge our sins, cover up our iniquities, and keep silent about our transgressions, we deceive ourselves into think that our evils are good. There is nothing wrong with them. And so we remain in them.

We cannot deceive the Lord. He knows the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. We can deceive ourselves, and perhaps others, but not the Lord.

If we remove our deceitfulness, the Lord’s mercy can flow into us, and He can reform and regenerate us. We must not only acknowledge our sins and confess our transgressions, we must also stop doing them. The Lord said to the woman taken in adultery, “Go and sin no more.”

If our acknowledgment of our sins and the confession of our transgression is of the lips only they are not genuine. There is still deceit in us, for we are saying one thing and doing another.

It is not enough that our words and our actions agree. Our heart must also be in them. As long as we lust, and hate, and lie, and steal in our hearts (even though we do not actually do them), we are deceiving ourselves.

The Lord can not change our loves, our desires, our lusts in a moment. For they are the only life we know. But as we continue and persist in examining ourselves and shunning our evils as sins against the Lord, He can and will remove those evil loves and desires. He will purify our hearts and remove all deceitfulness. His mercy will reign over us. Not in an instance, but “little by little.”

 

 

Temptation

March 15, 2016 § Leave a comment

True Christian Religion 126:

it is by means of temptations that conjunction is effected. For in temptations apparently man is left to himself alone, although he is not; for God is then most nearly present in man’s inmosts and sustains him; therefore when man conquers in temptation he is inmostly conjoined with God

As-If-Of-Self

March 5, 2016 § Leave a comment

 Divine order requires that a person should adjust himself to receive God, and prepare himself as a receiver and dwelling-place for God to enter into and live as in His temple. This a person must do of himself while still acknowledging that it is from God. He must make this acknowledgment, because he does not feel the presence and working of God, although it is God who by His intimate presence performs all the good of love and all the truth of faith in a person. Every person must and will advance in accordance with this order, if he is to become spiritual instead of natural. (TCR 105)

Righteousness and Redemption

March 3, 2016 § Leave a comment

TCR 96.[Chadwick] . . .Yet the truth is that the Lord’s righteousness, being of such a nature and origin that it is purely Divine, could not be linked with any person, so that it could not cause anyone to be saved, any more than the Divine life can, which is the Divine Love and the Divine Wisdom. The Lord enters into every person with these, but unless that person lives in accordance with order, though he has that life within him, it contributes nothing to his salvation, giving him merely the ability to understand truth and to do good. Living in accordance with order is living in accordance with God’s commandments. When a person so lives and acts, he acquires righteousness for himself, not the righteousness that comes from the Lord’s redeeming, but the Lord Himself as righteousness. These are the people described by the following passages, as well as others.

Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of the heavens. Matt. 5:20.

Blessed are those who undergo persecution for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens. Matt. 5:10.

At the completion of the age angels will go forth and separate the wicked from out of the midst of the righteous. Matt. 13:49.

The righteous in the Word mean those who have lived in accordance with Divine order, since Divine order is righteousness.

[2] Righteousness itself, which by His redeeming acts the Lord became, cannot be ascribed to, impressed on, fitted on or linked with a person, otherwise than light to the eye, sound to the ear, will to the muscles of one who acts, thought to the lips of the speaker, air to the breathing lungs, heat to the blood, and so on. Anyone can see for himself that these things have an effect and are accessory without being linked to the organ. But righteousness is acquired the more a person applies it, and he applies righteousness, the more the love of what is right and true inspires his dealings with his neighbour. Righteousness dwells in the actual good, or the actual service, which he performs. For the Lord says that every tree is recognised by its fruit. We recognise another person by his actions, if we pay attention to the end and purpose of what he wills, and the intention or cause behind his actions. This is what all the angels observe, and so do all the wise people in our world. In general, every plant and shoot the earth puts forth is recognised by its flower and seed, and the service which its seed performs; likewise every metal by its worth, every stone by its quality, every piece of ground by its, every food by its, every land animal and every bird of the air by its. Why not man too? The quality and origins of a person’s actions will be disclosed in the chapter on faith [336-391].

Over Coming Evil

February 28, 2016 § Leave a comment

Recently I was reading in True Christian Religion about omnipotence. We have from the Lord’s omnipotence the ability to resist and overcome our hereditary inclinations to evil, and those evils we have made our own by our doing.

Think about that. If Divine Omnipotence is helping us to overcome our evils, how can we fail? Isn’t this a comforting thought!

It is common in our Western culture to believe that we are born into certain inclinations and therefore we cannot do or be otherwise than what we are. But the Lord tells us differently. We are born into the inclination towards every kind of evil. We are not held accountable for these inclinations. We are only accountable for those inclinations we make our own by acting them out, by doing them. The more often we do them, the stronger they become, and the less desire we have to get rid of them.

Still the Lord preserves our freedom to look to Him and seek His help to overcome our evils, or we can look towards ourselves and avoid His help.

If we look to ourselves and seek to overcome our evils from our own abilities, we will fail. We may suppress our evils so that outwardly we appear to be good and moral to others; but inwardly we will be ravaging wolves. We may not even be conscious of our true evil nature, since all evil sees itself as being good.

If, on the other hand,

  • we look to the Lord,
  • learn His truths by reading His Word,
  • examine our desires and actions,
  • shun evils as sins against the Lord,
  • and do good;

then the Divine omnipotence will resist and overcome our evil desires.

Even though the Lord’s omnipotence is working in us to overcome our evils, this does not mean that our struggle with evil is easy or quick. The love of self, the love of the world, various lusts and addictions are a lifelong battle. The Lord removes them “little by little,” since a sudden removal will leave us empty without anything we love or identify with.

We should be comforted to know that if we keep getting up from our failures, if we keep persevering in looking to the Lord, He will not fail to reform and regenerate us.

TCR 68. (vii) MAN HAS FROM DIVINE OMNIPOTENCE POWER AGAINST EVIL AND FALSITY, AND FROM DIVINE OMNISCIENCE WISDOM ABOUT GOOD AND TRUTH, AND FROM DIVINE OMNIPRESENCE IS IN GOD, TO THE EXTENT THAT HE LIVES IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE DIVINE ORDER.

The reason man has from Divine Omnipotence power against evils and falsities to the extent that he lives in accordance with the Divine order is that no one, except God alone, can resist evils and the falsities they produce. For all evils and their falsities come from hell, and there they hold together as a unit, exactly as all kinds of good and so truths do in heaven. As I said before, in the sight of God the whole of heaven is like one man, and in the opposite case hell is like one monstrous giant. Thus acting against one evil and its falsity is like taking on that monstrous giant or all hell. No one can do this except God, because He is omnipotent.

[2] It is plain from this that unless a person approaches almighty God, he can do no more against evil and so falsity than a fish against the ocean, a flea against a whale, or a speck of dust against an avalanche – much less than a locust against an elephant, or a fly against a camel. Moreover, a person has so much less power against evil and so falsity because he was born into evil, and evil cannot act against itself. The consequence of this is that unless a person lives in accordance with order, that is, unless he acknowledges God, His omnipotence and the protection this gives him against hell, and unless he on his part also fights with the evil in himself, for both of these are part of order, he must inevitably be plunged into and drowned in hell, and there buffeted by evils, one after the other, like a rowing-boat by squalls at sea.

TCR 69. The reason why the wisdom about good and truth a person has from Divine omniscience is in proportion to the extent to which he lives according to the Divine order, is that all love of good and all wisdom about truth, in other words, all the good of love and all the truth of wisdom, come from God. This is borne out by the confession of all the churches in Christendom. It follows from this that a person cannot have inwardly any truth of wisdom except from God, since God has omniscience, that is, infinite wisdom. The human mind is, like the heaven of the angels, divided into three degrees; so it can be raised to a higher degree and one higher still, or be depressed to a lower degree and one lower still. To the extent, however, that it is raised to higher degrees, it enters into wisdom, because it enters to that extent into the light of heaven, and this could not be brought about except by God. To the extent it is raised into that light, a person is truly human; but to the extent that it sinks to the lower degrees, it comes into the deceptive light of hell, and the person is to that extent not human, but an animal. This is why man stands erect on his feet, with his face upturned to heaven, able to raise it to the zenith; and why an animal stands on its feet parallel to the ground, and fully faces that, so that it can only with difficulty lift its gaze to heaven.

[2] A person who lifts up his mind towards God, and acknowledges that all the truth of wisdom comes from Him, and at the same time lives in accordance with order, resembles someone standing on a lofty tower watching a densely populated city below him and seeing what goes on in its streets. But a person who convinces himself that all the truth of wisdom comes from his own natural enlightenment, that is, from himself, resembles someone living in a cellar under that tower, watching the same city through narrow holes; he can see no more than the wall of one house in the city, and study how the bricks in it hold together. Again, a person who draws wisdom from God is like a bird flying high, spying out everything in the gardens, woods and villages round about, and flying towards things that can be of service. But a person who derives what belongs to wisdom from himself, without believing that this still comes from God, is like a hornet flying close to the ground, and, when it sees a dunghill, flying up to it and taking pleasure in its stench.

[3] Every person, as long as he lives in the world, treads a path mid-way between heaven and hell; and he is in equilibrium, that is, he has free will to look up to God or down to hell. If he looks up to God, he acknowledges that all wisdom comes from God, and his spirit is really present among the angels in heaven. The person who looks down, as everyone does whose evil puts him under the power of falsities, is in his spirit really among the devils in hell.

TCR 70. The reason why a person is by Divine omnipresence in God to the extent that he lives in accordance with order, is that God is omnipresent and where He is present in His Divine Order, He is so to speak in Himself, since, as shown before, He is order. Now since man has been created to be a form for the Divine Order, God is present in him, but fully only to the extent that he lives in accordance with the Divine order. If he does not live in accordance with the Divine order, God is still present in him, but in his highest regions, giving him the ability to understand truth and will good, that is, giving him the faculty of understanding and the inclination to love. But in so far as he lives contrary to order, so far does he close up the lower regions of his mind or spirit, and thus prevent God from coming down and filling the lower regions with His presence. So God is present in him, but he is not in God. It is the general rule in heaven that God is present in every person, evil as well as good, but a person is not in God unless he lives in accordance with order. For the Lord says that He wills that a person should be in Him and He in the person (John 15:4).

[2] The reason why a person is in God if he lives in accordance with order is that God is omnipresent in the universe, and in every part of it, in the inmost of each, since these are in order. But in parts which are contrary to order, which are only those outside the inmost, God is omnipresent by a continual struggle with them as He strives continually to bring them into order. For this reason in so far as a person allows himself to be brought into order, so far is God omnipresent in his whole being, and consequently so far is God in him and he in God. The absence of God from man is no more possible than the absence of the sun, by way of its heat and light, from the earth. But objects on earth are only affected by its influence to the extent that they receive the heat and light radiated by the sun, which happens in spring and summer.

[3] This comparison can be applied to the omnipresence of God. A person is so far in spiritual heat and at the same time spiritual light, that is, in possession of the good of love and the truths of wisdom, as he is subject to order. But spiritual heat and light differ from natural heat and light. In wintertime natural heat is lost by the earth and things on it, and natural light is lost at nighttime, because the earth by its rotation and orbit around the sun causes the seasons and times of day. This does not happen with spiritual heat and light, for God is present supplying both by means of His sun, and this does not change as the natural sun appears to do. It is the person himself who turns away as the earth turns away from the sun, and when he turns away from the truths of wisdom, he can be compared to the earth turning away from the sun during the night; when he turns away from the kinds of good of love he is like the earth turning away from the sun during the winter. Such is the correspondence between the effects and services performed by the sun of the spiritual world and those performed by the sun of the natural world.

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