Monday, September 29, 2008

The Struggle Ahead

The Struggle Ahead

by Mike Wingert


Christ taught humanity obedience by receiving the baptism from St. John the Baptist, but His teaching was not limited to this. Baptism signals a very important moment in the journey of a Christian. Many mistake baptism to be solely a decision one makes to undertake the Christian life. This is not the case. The true focus of the baptism is the process of setting aside something for holiness. This act can be seen in the pre-Christian Hebrew rite of the mikv'ot. As Christ teaches that we must believe and be baptized, we can see that the decision-making is not the focus of baptism, for conviction lies in the realm of belief. The focus of baptism is simply the process to set holiness in motion.

It is this setting aside one for a life of holiness that places a target on the back of the believer. "Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world." (1 Peter 5:8-9) As St. Peter has written in the Scriptures, the devil seeks to attack those who walk with God. It is for this reason, that the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch always remembers the Denho (Epiphany) before the Great Lent.

After the account of the Denho, Christ had received the baptism, and by being "led" to the wilderness, shows us that after the baptism, we too will face the harshest of temptations. Being led shows us that this is God's work, that just as Christ faced the attacks of the dark one, so too will we. Baptism is not the end all (a.k.a., "once saved, always saved") as some think - it is the beginning of one's Christian journey. Baptism is that which advances us into the next phase of our Christian life.

The devil assails those who walk with God. It is what happened to Adam and Job for example.

Some theologians who focus on splitting of Christ's humanity and divinity (claiming each an independent nature), explain that Christ, in His humanity endured temptation. Then questions for them arise, asking: even while Christ was human, He was God in the flesh -- how is it that he was tempted then because St. James says that God cannot be tempted by evil; so how does that work?

When referring to Matthew Ch. 4, the verb, nethnaso is both passive and future tense. How does this impact the teaching? The fact that it is passive voice shows us that it is the intention of the devil to comment the act of tempting; it does not proclaim the success of one yielding to temptation.

As can be read in Matthew Ch. 4, Christ triumphs over the devil's attempts to tempt Him. With this action, Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, teaches us that we too will be assaulted by the devil, who will offer temptations to us. The Athonite monks refer to these suggestions of temptation as logismoi. This is what we will face on the road of our walk with God. As we are attacked by these logismoi, we should find comfort in the teaching of Christ, that even though we will be assaulted by the devil, by following Christ's humble ways, we too can triumph over our struggles. Having received the holy baptism, the love in our hearts beckons a duty of us all, to conquer our weak imperfections, and continue walking the path to God.


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