I talk about this a good bit. People get tired of repeating themselves and others get tired of hearing the repetition. The thing is, we actually need this repetition. If we don’t continually repeat things, we forget them, or we fall away from the practice.
For example, if you’re into physical fitness like me, you know the constant repetitive practice of physical exercise, while not always exciting, will eventually create a better and more healthy lifestyle. If you will discipline yourself enough, eventually it becomes less of a discipline and more of a lifestyle.
This is one of the reasons liturgical worship is used in the historic Church. The things we repeat are the things that stick in our minds, hearts, souls and bodies (lex orandi, lex credenda). By the way, think about that as it relates to what kind of media you consume on a repetitive basis…
Anyways, repetition. What’s my point, you may ask?
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed or not but things in our world seem to be in constant flux. Everything changes on a daily basis it seems. Sometimes, it feels like everything changes moment by moment. In this ever-changing and constantly innovating world in which we live, it can feel like there is nothing to hold on to that remains the same. It feels like the whole world has gone mad and taken us for a ride and we just honestly want to make it all stop and hold on to something that’s not moving.
The Church has become like that as well.
In the one entity that should be eternal and unchanging, there has been constant change. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we shouldn’t use electricity and have indoor plumbing in our churches. I’m not suggesting we don’t take advantage of advances in technology that can help us. What I am saying is that new is not better when it comes to innovations in the Church. The Church should never adapt to the world and “modern man.” The world should be adapting to the Church.
The Church does not and should not change. Doctrine and dogma do not “develop.” There is a difference in finding new ways to say what has always been said and completely changing what the Church has always said. The Church is eternal and does not change precisely because Her Bridegroom is eternal and does not change. As the writer of Hebrews reminds us in Hebrews 13:8,
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
Because He does not change, the Church should not change.
It’s sad to me that those who wish to innovate the worship of the Church (which indeed changes the theology of the Church) always have such negative things to say about those of us who hold to tradition. We are “rigid” and “creating division.” My response to that is the faith does not change so, in the reasoning of the innovators, the faith must be rigid and create division. I believe it was our Lord Jesus who said, in Matthew 10:34,
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.”
Does that mean that Jesus is a quarrelsome guy? No. Rather, His message creates conflict with the world and its so-called values. If we follow Christ as He is to be followed, there will be conflict. Even with others who claim the name of Jesus.
I heard a sermon recently by Fr. Josiah Trenham that has prompted this train of thought and thus this post. In that homily, Fr. Josiah, in talking about our forefathers in the faith who have held fast and unchanging, said this, “Novelty is the soil of heresy.”
Marinate on that for a minute.
That statement reminds me of what we read in Jude 3,
“Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”
Even in the 1st century, just a few years after the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of our Lord, they were already having to remind the faithful to hold fast to the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Jude did not say, “It’s cool. I know times have changed so we can do what seems good to us now.” No. He said to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” The faith hasn’t changed and neither should our approach is what he’s saying. Don’t be tempted to novelty and innovation. Don’t be tempted to appease the world.
It’s too easy to fall away. Again, the writer of Hebrews in chapter 2:1 says,
“Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.”
Lest we drift away from the faith once for all delivered to the saints and the things we have heard, remember, “Novelty is the soil of heresy.” The writer of Hebrews again exhorts us in 10:23,
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”
Hold fast without wavering. Why? Because He who promised is faithful. Christ is faithful. He hasn’t changed a thing. Why should we? Who is it that has changed, us or Him? It ain’t Him.
Why is it that, over and over in the New Testament, the writers talk about holding fast if we aren’t tempted to fall away?
“Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.” – 1 Corinthians 16:13
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” – 1 Corinthians 15:58
“Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.” – 2 Timothy 1:13-14
“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” – 1 Timothy 6:12
Christ, in John’s Apocalypse, tells the church in Sardis (Rev. 3:3),
“Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come to you.”
And again, to the church in Philadelphia (Rev. 3:11),
“Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.”
Dear brothers and sisters, God’s Word has not changed. The Son has not changed. The deposit of the faith has not changed. Our charge is to hold fast to the faith once for all delivered to the saints (that’s called Tradition) and not to give in to the impulse to be constantly innovating and changing and trying to make God fit into what we want and are comfortable with. As you seek for His Church, ask yourself this question: “Who has changed and who has not? Who has held fast to the Faith without wavering?” I’m not saying that all churches are perfect. That would be foolish to assume. After all, the Church is made up of you and me and we are imperfect sinners. But, who is that keeps innovating and changing things?
Be wary of those who call good bad and bad good,
“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” – Isaiah 5:20
May we run to His Church, the ark of our salvation and may we remain steadfast, rigid and immovable! If we do that, if we are true to Christ, our Savior and King, then we will have the same joy as St. Paul,
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” – 2 Tim. 4:7
Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee!
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed or not but, recently, in our country and around the world, there is a push for what has been called “cancel culture.” Don’t you just love how the media labels things? Anyways, this whole cancel culture thing is really kind of scary and utterly ridiculous. It’s honestly like watching a bunch of 6-year-old children on the playground arguing.
“You’re not playing the game right.”
“Nuh-uh, you’re not playing the game right.”
“I don’t want to play with you anymore.”
“I don’t want to play with you anymore.”
“You’re mean and I don’t want to be around you.”
“You’re mean and I don’t want to be around you!”
“I’m taking my toys and going home because you’re not my friend anymore.”
“Nuh-uh, I’m taking my toys and going home because you’re not my friend anymore!”
I mean, really, isn’t this was it mostly sounds like? What a bunch of weak people we’ve become. We can no longer have a disagreement with each other without trying to completely humiliate and destroy one another and we act like, if we can just pretend like it never happened, all the bad things people do will just go away. It’s silly. This goes for all ends of the political spectrum. But, sadly, we see this in our own lives, don’t we? I mean, if we’re being honest with ourselves. I heard a priest preach a homily about something like this recently and it got me thinking and digging into Holy Scripture.
I think I have a solution to this whole problem. Let’s cancel ourselves.
Seriously, let’s cancel ourselves. Before you get all triggered, let me explain what I mean. As a race (the human race), we have gotten really full of ourselves. Our hubris is at an all time high, I feel like. I could be wrong. Humans have been pretty full of themselves for a long time. Maybe I’m just seeing it more because I’m paying attention or because this is the era of history in which I currently live.
We could use a strong dose of humility in our world today. But let’s not be too quick to just say, “Oh the world is so sick, and those people are so whatever.” In truth, it’s not just the world that is suffering from pride or the people you disagree with or don’t like. It’s us too. We could use a strong dose of humility in our own hearts as well. We could certainly use a big slice of humble pie in the Church today.
I dare say that, if the world is ever to value humility, the Church must illustrate it and live it first. Sadly, even in the Church today and indeed in our own hearts, self reigns. I mean, if we’re being honest. Unless I’m the only one…
If we truly understood who we really are and would spend more time praying and confessing our own sins, we’d have a lot less time to be prideful. I want us to consider a text on this one. St. Paul, who was perhaps the greatest missionary and theological mind that has ever lived, knew a thing or two about pride. And, he knew how poisonous it is to life in the Spirit. Consider that he called himself the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). So, in light of our discussion about pride, let’s consider part of St. Paul’s letter to the Colossian Church.
We find, in Colossians 3:1-17 the following,
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all. Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
St. Paul starts off by saying if then you were raised with Christ; this is important. If you’ve not been raised with Christ or don’t know what I’m talking about, I urge you to go and find the nearest priest or pastor and ask them what it means to be in Christ. He tells us to set our minds on things above, not on things of the earth. I want to be clear here. St. Paul is not talking about stuff. There is nothing wrong with stuff, per se. The problem is that our minds and hearts get attached to the stuff of this world and we lose our eternal perspective. You and I will live forever, body and soul. The only question is, will we live forever under the blessed gaze of our Lord Jesus in His presence or will we live forever in Hell. This stuff that you’re so attached to now and that attracts so much of your attention will one day be gone. But you will live forever. Choose wisely.
Then he tells us why. He tells us that we are dead. If you are in Christ, the old man is literally dead and your life, my life is hidden in Christ. If nothing else will kill pride (well, should kill pride), meditate on that fact. The only reason you and I have life is because of Christ. The truth about who we are apart from Christ should keep us humble. But who we are in Christ kills self. The only confidence we can have is in the grace of God given to us in our Lord Jesus.
Verse 5, St. Paul says it flat out, “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth.” That is aggressive. If we are honest with ourselves, the reason we suffer from pride is because we want to. We don’t want to put our flesh and our desires to death. We are quite comfortable with ourselves.
Therein lies the problem.
We would rather have our own idea of comfort here than put ourselves to death in order to live in and with Christ.
Brothers and sisters, we will not progress in our spiritual lives unless we cancel ourselves. Unless we put to death our own selfishness and pride, Christ cannot reign in our hearts. Put on tender mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, forgiveness, and love. Let the peace of God rule in our hearts and the word of Christ dwell in us richly. Give glory to God alone for who He is making you in Christ Jesus!
Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee!