If We Believe in Christ, We Believe in His Words

Instructions for the Spiritual Life, Part 4

Part 3

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Some Christians think that they believe in Christ and follow His teachings, but in fact they neither believe in Christ nor follow His teaching. If they truly believed, they would live by faith; but they don’t live the way Christ commanded. Whoever truly believes in Christ also believes in His word. But some Christians don’t quite believe His words: They believe in some, but not in others. For example, it’s said of our Lord Jesus Christ that He came to destroy the works of the devil, that He deprived him of his power and gave Christians a weapon against him—His Cross, before which the devil trembles and shakes, unable to bear to gaze upon its power. But some Christians don’t believe this. They’re ashamed of the Cross of Christ and don’t properly make the Sign of the Cross over themselves, but instead wildly flail their hand about, which arouses not fear in the demons, but laughter, because they don’t fear such flailing. This is what the great Church teacher St. John Chrysostom says about it.

And in our times, there are Christians who don’t even recognize the existence of demons at all, and thereby testify that they believe neither in Christ Himself, Who drove out demons, nor in the Holy Apostles, who were given such power over the impure spirits by Christ, nor in the teaching of the Church, which, through the Fathers and Church teachers, clearly depicts how evil and vile these spirits of malice are, and what trickery they use to seduce Christians.

The book of the ancient Fathers, called The Prologue, speaks about this. St. Niphon, who became a monk at a young age, lived a virtuous life in labors, fasting, vigil, and prayer. And he was vouchsafed to receive the gift of clairvoyance from God for such a life: He knew the secrets of human hearts, openly spoke with angels, and saw demons. Having built a church in honor of the Most Holy Theotokos, he converted many unbelievers to faith in Christ.

Unable to endure St. Niphon turning so many pagans away from his charms, the devil also plotted to turn Christians away from the Church. By demonic suggestion, some ludicrous games were organized in the city, and Christians started gathering there, leaving church. It was revealed to St. Niphon by the following vision what moral danger young Christians were facing. He saw satan, who, having turned his demons into men, sent them to the city in a large crowd. Some of the demons banged timbrels, others clanked, others played panpipes, and some wore masks.

This crowd went to the city to entertain and amuse the people. At the same time, St. Niphon saw the demons driving Christians to the games with iron rods, and others drew them with hooks driven into their hearts. And if any of the Christians paid these buffoons, their names were recorded and sent to satan, saying: “These Christians have now become your tributaries and will be condemned with us.” St. Niphon tearfully returned to church. When they asked him why he was so sorrowful, he told them: “Listen, brethren! Whoever has fallen in love with these games has fallen under demonic enticement.” After that, he forbade the demons, and they disappeared (The Prologue, December 23).

And note, brethren, the temptation that our cities and villages are exposed to, where they arrange traveling shows and circuses for empty and seductive spectacles. If The Prologue calls games with timbrels and farcical performances demonic, then what should we call the performances they put on in our traveling shows and other places made for entertaining spectacles?

The above story says that demons used timbrels, fifes, bells and whistles, and various ridiculous performances to seduce Christians, and doesn’t the same thing happen in our cities, and often enough in our villages too?

The demons organized such games there in order to distract Christians from the Church. Is it not for the same purpose that they organize similar performances here, and at a time when Christians are called to church for prayer? Is this not a profanation of the sanctity of the Lord’s days and of Christian worship, when the sounds of timbrels and other musical instruments, the cries of children’s voices, the applause of the audience of all ages are heard in entertainment halls at the same time when the faithful are called to prayer by the sound of bells in church, and when hymns of praise are sung in church in honor of Him Who abolished the devil’s charms with His Cross and granted joy to the world by His Resurrection?

In the above story it’s said that the devil envied the fact that the inhabitants of the city of Persin, having abandoned service to him, began to gather in church to pray and hear Christian teaching. Is it not out of the same envy that he arranges temptations for Christians in our cities and villages, where piety has noticeably begun to increase lately, where the people have started go to church and extra-liturgical talks more than before, and where they give their children soul-profiting books to learn to read and write?

In the above story it’s said that the demons wrote down the names of those Christians who paid minstrels for performances and sent these lists to satan as evidence against Christian on the day of the Dread Judgment.

May the lovers of spectacles who use their savings to pay actors fear this! Let them give the excess of their gains not into the hands of satan unto their reproof, as the story of the Fathers talks about, but to Christ the Savior, by the hands of elderly widows, infirm elders, and in general everyone who truly needs help, of which there are many among us.

St. Makary (Nevsky), Metropolitan of Moscow and Kolomna
Translation by Jesse Dominick



Michael11/14/2022 6:50 pm
Afanassy, what exactly is your point? Is there anything particularly grievous about cutting off your hand and foot, given what you stand to lose if you continue to sin on their account? Cutting off the source of a particular sin, that which causes one to err, on the other hand may often be even more painful and harder to accept than the cutting off your limb. Therefore Christ's words ring true, even if their meaning can't be trivialized into a literal commandment to dismember yourself. If your pride and infatuation with your own cleverness drives you to interpret the Scriptures in whichever way you please, including in ways that run contrary to the tradition and teaching of the Orthodox faith, then perhaps you should seriously consider that sense of self-exaltation to be exactly the limb Christ was talking about, that you would be better off without. Second the priest you commented about, was absolutely correct to condemn the Prot nonsense that are Bible Studies. As Orthodox Christians it is both of paramount importance and benefit of us to conduct daily Bible readings. Nobody in the history of the Church has ever disputed this. Bible stuides on the other hand, means something else entirely. They are a type of personal exegesis that is inseparable from the Protestants' individual based approach to religion. The key difference is that the Orthodox Christian reads the Bible in faithful submission to the canonical teachings of the Orthodox Church, whereas the Protestant reads on the basis of his/her own subjective interpretation.
Afanassy11/4/2022 9:34 am
Thank you, Jesse - - - What you have hit upon actually opens up a bigger picture. And part of that "bigger picture" may also stem from St Paul's comment, that "All things are permitted, but not all things are of benefit." 1 Cor 10:23 (NASB). And here is where I am going to get into trouble: "BIBLE STUDIES"! Many modernist, liberal jurisdictions here (USA) have Orthodox priests who came from a Protestant background, and who conduct (perhaps inadvertently) Bible Studies in a Protestant style, and outside the worship (Divine Liturgy) of the Church. From an Old-Calendar Greek Priest, a friend of mine: "God Forbid! There is no such thing! The Word of God cannot be separated from the Word of God!" [N.B. - The first "Word" means Holy Scripture; the 2nd "Word" means Our Lord.] He went on, with increasing excitement and a bit of hyperbole: "This is impossible! Take him out and beat him! The Word and the Word are to be loved and cherished, and can only be understood by the Orthodox IN the worship environment, bathed IN the Holy Spirit! What is the matter with that idiot? Study? What kind of relationship would you have with your wife if you "study" her? She will think you are crazy. And so it is with Our Lord and his message: you are to absorb Him and to love Him and His Message, by the mouth of a Real Priest with his Real Orthodox Explanation. That's all. Nothing more! Now go away." Having survived his salvo, I apologized and crawled out of his presence to lick my wounds. And so you can see, dear Jesse, that you are absolutely right: "...the obvious meaning is that His words must be believed according to their Orthodox understanding". And so: NO "Bible Studies", lest you cut off your hand or pluck out your eye! (^_^).. =============================
Jesse Dominick11/2/2022 11:12 pm
Afanassy, there's nothing in the article that says or implies that Christ's words must always be understood literally. It says they must be believed, and since this is by an Orthodox saint, the obvious meaning is that His words must be believed according to their Orthodox understanding, whether that be literal or symbolic for any given passage.
Afanassy11/1/2022 8:18 pm
Thank you, Jesse - - - The concept of "literally" was certainly implied. The author made no attempt to distinguish allegorical usages from literal ones, so the implication is that he meant "literal". Can you find any amelioration of this statement?: "Whoever truly believes in Christ also believes in His word. But some Christians don’t quite believe His words: They believe in some, but not in others." Cleary, therefore, he meant to say that one must believe EVERYTHING as written, everything as stated, everything that came out of the mouth of Our Lord as provided in Holy Scripture. ===================
Jesse Dominick11/1/2022 3:19 pm
Afanassy, note that the word "literally" is nowhere to be found in the article.
Afanassy11/1/2022 6:49 am
Article: "Some Christians think that they believe in Christ and follow His teachings, but in fact they neither believe in Christ nor follow His teaching. If they truly believed, they would live by faith; but they don’t live the way Christ commanded. Whoever truly believes in Christ also believes in His word. But some Christians don’t quite believe His words: They believe in some, but not in others." Is that really a problem? Does this author mean to imply that we should obey ALL of Our Lord's teachings literally or we don't believe in Christ? For those who have studied Semitic cultures and writings similar to Holy Scripture, it is apparent that hyperbolic language is often used to make point dramatically, but no one would take it literally. For example: "“And if your hand or your foot is causing you to sin, cut it off and throw it away from you; it is better for you to enter life maimed or without a foot, than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye is causing you to sin, tear it out and throw it away from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fiery hell." Matt 18:8-9 (NASB). I don't see a whole lot of one-handed or one-eyed Orthodox Christians walking around, so by the author's recipe, either they don't believe in Christ or they don't wish to obey his word, right? (^_^). So, there has to be a limit here. There has to be some discernment.... ================
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