Friday, November 27, 2009

Choosing Grace Over Self-Effort

A life that is pleasing to God only comes through His grace.  Saint Theophan tells us that when you have matured in you spiritual life, you will be able to "choose grace through your own consciousness and free choice."  Then grace will lead you to make the changes within yourself to live according to His will.

It is most important to understand that our most important spiritual act is to desire God's grace.  As Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness , for they will be filled.  Think what it must be like to be both hungry and thirsty at the same time.  This is the kind of desire you need to have for God.  If you are not careful, without this desire, you will be misled by your own self-will and pride. You will rely on you self-effort alone not be able to live a God pleasing life no matter what actions you take on your own accord.  True virtue, living according to God's will, comes when it is God's grace working from within.

Saint Theophan says,
Inner regulation begins only when you choose the side of grace, and make the ways of life in the spirit of grace the inviolable rule of your life....A center will also form within you, a powerful center,...  This drawing of every thing to one center and directing of all to one goal is the inner rebirth which you have so fervently desired.

Choosing grace means giving up your reliance solely on your own will.  You cannot make yourself virtuous.  Only God can.  Based on an intense desire for God, His grace will be given to you.  As you receive it, a powerful center will form in you.  A God pleasing life will come out of this center.

Once you have chosen to follow grace and this center is firmly established in you the Theophan tells us "God will begin to draw toward this center all of the other forces of your nature, both intellectual and spiritual, and govern their entire action, retaining within them that which is good, and destroying that which is bad. This drawing f everything to one center and directing of all to one goal is the inner rebirth." 

Once this happens then everything proceeds from this center and you will find "the most perfect harmony, and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will overshadow the inner temple of your nature."

With this working of God's grace within you, your soul is permeated with grace and develops a radiance. Saint Theophan says, "A person who has received grace shines inwardly as a star, not just with a spiritual light, but also with a material one.  This inner brightness in such people often bursts out and becomes visible to others."

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