The only way to life is by holding fast to our Lord Jesus Christ, to Truth. I offer below words from St. John of Kronstadt on the vital topic of holding fast the faith. It is imperative that we as Orthodox Christians are striving to uphold the clear standard of faith as revealed and guarded by the Revelation of Christ in His Saints. If the questions that St. John asks below were applicable in his own times, we may state that they are doubly so in our own times.
How much more must we guard our hearts against the deception of sin that is on full display all around? How much more is it possible for us the through lack of watchfulness to be led into a place of lukewarmness and then take that for an authentic “Orthodox Christian” state?
Only repentance and an earnest will to be faithful to the Truth of Christ in His Church will heal us. Indeed, the saints spared nothing to be faithful to the Truth, may we at least have a small amount of their courage and faithfulness.
by St. John of Kronstadt
So were rivers of blood shed for the preservation of the Orthodox Faith by apostles, prophets, and martyrs; much suffering was endured be reverend fathers and other champions of the faith.
What about us, children of the Orthodox Church? Do we preserve this most precious heritage, the Orthodox Faith? Do we follow its teachings, commandments, rules, statutes, advice? Do we love to offer this service to God, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name (Heb. 13:15)? Are we renewed by it? Do we sanctify ourselves every day, do we correct ourselves, do we attain the perfection the saints attained? Do we perfect ourselves in our love for God and neighbor, do we cherish our faith, do we consider it the greatest mercy of God, the very first and greatest benefit of life the fact that we are fortunate to belong to the Orthodox Church, which is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church?
What is our answer to these questions, if we desire to answer honestly? To our shame we must confess that many, many Orthodox Christians not only do not have the Orthodox faith in their hearts and lives, but also do not have it even in their tongues, and faith has either completely disappeared from their lives or they have become completely indifferent toward any faith: Catholicism, Lutheranism, Judaism, Islam, even paganism. We hear from many people that you can please God in every faith, that is, as if every faith is pleasing to God, and as if God is indifferent to truth and falsehood, right and wrong. Look at the consequences of ignoring one’s faith, of the ignorance of the spirit and history of their Church, alienation from its life and divine services, the consequences of ignoring concepts of Orthodoxy, Heterodoxy, and other faiths!
A Christian as a member of the Church, must know his faith and try to live according to it, be saved by his faith, because the enemies of our salvation do not sleep, and seek our destruction at every hour; a Christian must not abandon his faith …
No other religion except Orthodoxy can bring man to moral perfection or holiness and perfect agreeableness to God, as evidenced by the history of the church and the incorrupt and wonder-working remains of the holy saints of God, and by the wonderful feats of the saints of the Orthodox Church … so it should be, according to common sense, only a perfect faith can bring one to perfection, with all divine powers, all the spiritual armor of God against the passions of the flesh, the world, and the devil.
If nowadays many Orthodox Christians live worse than Muslims and pagans … this truly impious life of the Christian must not in the least, of course, be blamed on the Orthodox Faith, which is unwavering in its principles of truth and holiness, according to the promise of the Savior Himself and the testimony of history. Such people, even though they came from us, were never one of us in essence, but only in name.
Yes, my brethren, only the Orthodox Faith purifies and sanctifies human nature stained by sin; it renews the corrupted, especially through the mysteries of baptism, repentance, and communion. It illumines those who are darkened and heals those who are wounded by sins … Would you like to be convinced of this? Read the lives of the saints, the history of the Church, and you will see firsthand all of these miracles in the lives of the saints.
Why does it not also effect such saving changes within us? Because of our lack of faith, or unbelief, because of our frivolity, corruption, and the impenitence in our hearts; because of the passions that grow stronger within us and have complete control over us, because of our falling away from the Church, and because many of us do not in the least instill within ourselves the spirit of the Church, and many others insincerely, weakly, and only slightly more formally belong to it.
For us to be true Orthodox Christians, we must first of all have a living, constant communion with the Orthodox Church; that is, we must partake in its prayers, teachings, and mysteries; we must diligently study our faith and be instilled with and live its spirit; we must be guided by its rules, commandments, statutes, and more important, we must restore within ourselves the image of true and deep repentance of a true Orthodox Christian according to the image of the saints, old and new, or better according to the image of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, Who said: For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you (Jn. 13:15), so that the Lord may say of us, as once he said of Nathaniel: Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit (Jn. 1:47). Amen.
From: Season of Repentance, Lenten Homilies of St. John of Kronstadt, Holy Trinity Publications.
Sermon on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, p. 92ff.