by Alexei Laushkin
The following account between Saint Seraphim of Sarov, a 19th century Russian Saint, and Count Nicholas Motovilov (click here) is well worth taking the time to read in full. Count Nicholas asks the venerable Saint what the aim of the Christian life truly is. The answer, acquiring the Holy Spirit.
Count Nicholas asks how does one do this? The answer from Saint Seraphim is instructive:
What do you mean by acquiring?” I asked St. Seraphim. “Somehow I don’t understand that.”
“Acquiring is the same as obtaining,” he replied. “Do you understand, what acquiring money means? Acquiring the Spirit of God is exactly the same. You know very well enough what it means to acquire in a worldly sense, your Godliness. The aim of ordinary worldly people is to acquire or make money. The acquisition of God’s Spirit is also capital, but grace-giving and eternal, and it is obtained in very similar ways, almost the same ways as monetary, social and temporal capital.
Starting a week one often wonders how do you live a fully Christian life? Considering the words of St. Seraphim is very instructive. You invest in it. You invest time, energy, and focus on that which is life giving. You turn from sin and put on the opposing virtue, you cultivate that which is not natural for sinful man.
Why would you not make time for that which will come back to you seven fold and instruct you in all virtue?
The gospel is the good news that the fallenness of man has been paid for and accounted for by God’s son, namely Jesus Christ himself, who was fully God and fully man. We are saved by faith alone. That is very good news, than the process of new creation which begins in this life and is culminated in the life to come.
In that space as Christians we are invited to grow into the fullness and maturity that the apostles and the saints and God’s people have always prayed for and sought. Eugene Peterson’s Long Obedience in the same direction. We are invited to grow, that’s not the good news, but it is what the good news enables. A true journey away from self and towards Christ.
Sanctification isn’t obtuse, it’s an orientation of a fully Christian life, and it has it’s own markers, mainly a growing dependence on Christ it happens by putting into practice and journeying towards the an all holy and all mighty God through Jesus Christ and with the help of the Holy Spirit.
The Christian life is lived against the world, the flesh, and the devil, and as such each day and each moment is a chance to live out our full and true orientation in that life.
Imagine if you started your week tangibly investing in the notion that you would love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength. And all you did this week is every day ask, as though you were building a small muscle, Lord how do I orient towards you fully in this instance, how do I give you my heart with this stress before me, Lord I don’t have time for devotion, but I can say ‘have mercy on me a sinner.’
The investments are small orientations to a life you already live, not major changes that could not be sustained with your current practices and commitments. It’s a slow and growing obedience, much like changing from a child to an adult, these are changes that grow and strengthen our identity as a Christian, and they begin with realizing such a trajectory is meant for us.
We will not always struggle with the same sins and temptations. We will not always find our reading of scripture dry, or are commitments half hearted, but all of this work is about a slow growth in dependence as it relates not just with our thoughts and values but as it is reflected in our lives and cultivated virtue. This is not our righteousness before God, our righteousness before God is Christ, but Christ’s relationship with the Father helps to orient us towards a fully Christian life.
Saul was not who he would become in St. Paul. Peter was not who he would become in St. Peter. David was not who he would become as King David. Each came on a journey which required obedience and a cultivated inner orientation. As we start the week, let’s pray for such inspiration and small steps towards obedience.
Alexei Laushkin is a Board Member of the Kingdom Mission Society, Vice-President of the Evangelical Environmental Network, and writer of the Foolishconfidence blog. His views are his own.