Where God is Not

Here is a little more of my translation from Russian of the works of St. Dimitry of Rostov. In this piece, he addresses how to abide with God and conversely how a person separates himself from God. The reader will note that St. Dimitry makes it very clear that where God is not allowed to work there begins the work of the demons. I believe that this passage has important application to current events. If something or someone is willfully working against the clear holy things of God, then this is indeed the work of demons. He teaches that just as a Christian is striving to become one with God, so those in active rebellion are becoming one with the demons. Begin translation –

Where God is, there is all good; where God is not, there is only evil. When God is with a person, then all his works are good and all things work for good, but when God is not with a person, all his works are evil and all things work for evil. If God is with us then no one can be against us; if God is not with us then all our enemies rise up and overcome us.

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If God is with us then even cobwebs become like fortified walls for us; if God is not with us then even fortified walls will be like gossamer and fail to protect us. The person who is with God – to him all is good, but the person who is without God, to him all is bad. So, who is God with and with whom is He not? To this, the answer is simple: whoever works good and is a God-pleaser – in this God abides, and whoever works evil and displeases God – God is not in this. Thus, God is with a good person, but He is not with the evildoer.

It is, of course, true that God as Everywhere-present and the Filler-of-all-things, with His almighty, all-encompassing, and all guiding power, is near every person; He is near the evil, and He is near the good. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust (Mat. 5:45). He holds the life of all: the good and evil, the righteous and sinners, for in Him everyone lives moves and has their being (cf. Acts 17:28).

But His special grace, His merciful salvation, which helps, covers, and guides, does not abide with every person. It resides only with those who in heartfelt love and fear turn the eyes of their mind to Him and always behold Him as if present before them, according to the words of David the prophet: I foresaw the Lord ever before me (Ps. 15:8).1

Thus, for the sake of His presence and for love and fear of Him, every deed, whatever is spoken or thought, is done in a God-pleasing manner, every spoken word is honest, and all thoughts are good and profitable. For such a person all of life is lived in good works and a soul-saving manner, as if before the All-seeing Eyes of God, and he often repeats within himself the words of the prophet Elijah: The Living Lord, before whom I stand (cf. 1 Kings 17:1).2 Or it may be said in this manner: the Living Lord, before Whose All-seeing Eyes I walk, stand, sit, work, eat, drink, speak, converse and think. Everything I do, I do before His most-bright eyes; therefore I dare not do something wicked, or say, or think anything impure, so that He, in displeasure, would not strike me suddenly and unexpectedly with all my lawlessness. In this manner, where a person contemplates God with the eyes of the mind, there God abides. He draws near to those who themselves draw near to Him; He is present with those who seek His presence, and He gazes upon those who gaze on Him.

Such a phenomenon is in some respect like a mirror. Whoever looks in a mirror sees a face reflected in the mirror, but when he turns from the mirror he also turns from the face he beheld in the mirror. In a similar manner, our Lord God turns to those who turn to Him and gazes upon those who gaze upon Him. His face turns from those who turn away from Him, and He does not gaze upon those who do not look to Him, for they are those who do not desire to see His presence in themselves.

Where God’s presence is not, where people do not have God before their eyes nor do they look to God, something else is at work – the presence of demons. In such a place is demonic wickedness and swinish living; here humans relinquish their humanity, for they become like demons or like the possessed swine, perishing and drowning in the depths.

At some point, Judas lost in himself the presence of the Lord, and he squandered his heartfelt love for the Lord; he ceased to have God before his eyes. And even though with his simple fleshly eyes he looked upon Christ, he had long since turned the eyes of his mind away from Christ. He began to look to the Jewish Sanhedrin and discuss a price: What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you (Mt. 26:15)? In this state, when Judas completely ceased gazing upon and fearing God, what happened to him? Satan entered into Judas, and he became like a demon. According to the words of the apostle, the one who clings to the Lord is one spirit with the Lord, so, in a similar manner, the one who clings to demons is one spirit with the demons. An evil person is the same as a demon, for he who unites himself to demons becomes of one spirit with demons.3

When a person ceases to gaze on God and stops fearing Him, not even thinking about God in his mind, and when he behaves as if He does not even exist, then such a one begins to live godlessly. He forgets the fear of God and goes after unrighteous thoughts and iniquitous gain; he reaches his hands to what is not his, even to the holy. He stretches out his hands to thievery and robbery, and he infringes upon those close to him and begins to seek their destruction. The person working all this is nothing less than a demon, for in him, as in Judas, Satan enters and he becomes one spirit with Satan. What a great evil it is not to keep God before your eyes!

1Note: The Septuagint (LXX) chapter and verse numbering of the Psalms varies from the Massoretic Hebrew (MT), in most cases by one digit. The Septuagint numbering is used throughout this book.

2Note: in the St. Athanasius Academy Septuagint (SAAS), 3 Kingdoms 17:1.

3Cf. 1 John 3:8

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