“Have I surrendered to the will of God, or am I still acting like the boss? Bob Dylan, Are you Ready.
An epidemic of the modern disposition is the search for spirituality without sacrifice. This is reflected in modernity’s disdain for absolutes (even though secularism, a fundamental of modernity, is ultimately absolutist in its expression) and its intolerance of doctrine or dogma (specifically those of a revelatory nature). In a generally Christian context, this modern spirit is expressed in the many and various purportedly Christian groups which promise instant salvation and even spiritual power; instant forgiveness with no life of repentance, spiritual joy without the cost of suffering, understanding without the labor of wisdom, and truth without the confines of revelation. And a sad message soon emerges, if one is honest and considers the ideas through to their end – God has no consistent message (besides of course that he loves you and wants you to be great!) and truth is relative. A god who constantly contradicts himself is a lair; or worse yet a schizophrenic.
Yet, in the air we breath hangs this message – you can’t put God in a box! Is not God free to develop his revelation to us, is not the Spirit alive and working today, could he not lead us into new insights and decisions? The coulda, shoulda, woulda, arguments could go on and on.
The Christian message has always been clear, the only New thing is Jesus Christ. He has been revealed once for all to the saints, i.e. true Christians (cf. Jude 3). The Revelation is unchanging, that is nothing will be added to it in this age, it is the same, yesterday, today, and forever (cf. Heb. 13:8). The Holy Spirit ever confirms this eternally New revelation. For how could something of God become “old” and outdated? If indeed we find it does not resonate with our hearts, the problem is not the message of the revelation but the old man … corrupt according to deceitful lusts (cf. Eph. 4:22). We have been given everything, every revelation, from the Father through Christ Jesus by the Holy Spirit, by which we are being saved. Our task is to stand fast and hold the traditions that were taught (cf. 2 Thess. 2:15), once for all. The only next event which will be truly new is the Second coming and until then we hold fast to the clear revelation of Jesus Christ in His Church.
Even people who profess Orthodox Christianity are not free from the modern spirit of “I can do it my way!” I have referred to this in past posts.
The true Christian message is that of the narrow gate, and the Christian way of life is difficult (cf. Matt. 7:13-14). It is entered through many tribulations (cf. Act 14:22). The wide gate and the broad way lead to destruction. It is easy and deceptively satisfying to walk on the broad way.
Our will in its fallen condition seeks the way of ease and false pleasure (for there is a true and Godly pleasure, but it is attained at a cost); it seeks christs that will tell it that it can be saved without labor and trials. It flees from the starkness of its state, and seeks to clothe itself in the fading fig leaves of worldly gratification. It seeks a false spirituality of “self-help” to placate the gnawing reality of its nakedness. Yet it simply weaves the garment of its own sad destruction. And the enemy of our salvation is ever so ready to help its hands in the task!
St. John Cassian tells us this, “Between the two desires of the flesh and the spirit, the will of the soul stands in a middle position, not free from blame, nor delight with the wickedness of sin, nor finding content in the pains of virtue. It seeks relief from fleshly passions, but only on the condition of not bearing the consequent pains without which it is impossible to possess what the spirit longs for. It would obtain chastity of body without punishment of the flesh, purity of heart without the toils of watchings, it would abound in spiritual virtues and yet retain fleshly easy, it would possess the grace of patience with no irksomeness of contention, practice the humility of Christ, but with no loss of worldly honor; combine the simplicity of the religious life with the following of secular ambitions. It desires to serve Christ to the accompaniment of praise and the favor of men; to profess the narrow way of truth without even the least offense to anyone; in a word, its aim is so to pursue the award to come, as not to lose that which is here and now. Such a will can never bring us to reach true perfection … for when yielding up our wills to this condition, we are ready to allow ourselves to fall away little by little to such remissness …” (Selected Writings).
The human will in its fallen condition would have the Resurrection without the Cross; it would have “new revelations” from false prophets, which confirm its desire for worldly ease and safety. It strives to serve two masters, hoping by “straddling of the fence” to keep a foot in both doors. Yet Christ the Lord says, No one can serve two masters (cf. Matt. 6:24).
The indecisive will with its desire for the spiritual road of least resistance is incompatible with true spiritual life. A majority of modern Christian professions promise the award to come, as not to lose that which is here and now. There are some in Orthodoxy who would have this message proclaimed too, but it is a false message that only ends in the lukewarm, which is, as the Lord said, subsequently spit out (cf. Rev. 3:16).