The difficulties of breaking with the ways of sin

Overcoming our old selves

August 12, 2021

priests blessing

In our lives, we have said many things that we later regretted. We have committed many missteps and wasted massive amounts of time and energy. At last, we are ready to turn the corner and start our journey home to our Lord. But why are we hesitating so much? Why are we going around in circles? Perhaps we are too afraid to break from our old selves.

We have gathered today in the temple of our Lord to reunite with Him, embrace His love, and turn our backs on our ways of sin. We come to make our confession before a priest. But what do we say? The Lord expects to hear from us just three words, "Lord, forgive me." Yet some people have said to me honestly, "Father, I am not ready to say that." Many go on for hours lamenting the perceived hurts and wrongs that others have inflicted on them. Sometimes, they argue their point vehemently and with enthusiasm. Alas, none of it is of any relevance. The Lord made all the arguments and said everything needed when He called us to follow Him to the Kingdom of Heaven. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened!" (Matthew 11:28).

Yet we stick firmly to this earth and continue to fight our earthly battles. We find it a lot easier than turning our lives around. We hold our old selves close to our hearts, we cherish sinful ways. Our sins do not need to be as gross as drugs or adultery. They may be a lot more subtle, like seeking retribution for a perceived wrong, injustice, or hurt. As we claim justice or assert our rights, we lose our connection with Christ.

Archimandrite Sophronius (Sakharov) reminded us in his writings that we as Christians are called to die for this world. Letting go of our old selves and embracing a new life will be our most arduous and formidable feats. It gives us shivers to think, "what if we die for the world and not resurrect again for heaven? What if we give up all we have and do not get anything in return?"

Yet we would be spared of these fears if we put our full trust in Christ. Instead, we seek refuge in the logic of this world. We theorise, philosophise, or turn to psychology for our comfort. We look for reassurance in the work of our limited minds. As a result, we find ourselves entrapped more deeply in our sins and infirmities. If only we were humble enough to cry out to the Lord, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24).

The devil will always find ways to deceive us. We have no hope of defeating him by reasoning or entering a debate. But Christ had already defeated our enemy. There is no need for us to engage with him in any way. Instead, we should find refuge in Christ and say as He did, Go away from me, Satan (Matthew 16:23).

We appeal to Christ to help us reign in our passions and yearnings. We find this help at Church, the infirmary where we find healing. We do not come to be heroes, but only to reunite with God. Here, we find everything we need. We accept His blood and His Body for the nourishment of our soul weakened and deformed by sin. We partake in the Communion and go out into the world in peace and to live with God. We must be careful not to lose our connection with Him. We hope to join the new Israel on its way to Jerusalem in heaven. Yet our Jerusalem is in our hearts. We do not need to travel far. Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all the rest will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:33). So let us all persist in our quest for inner peace and our Jerusalem in heaven. Acquire a peaceful spirit, and thousands will be saved around you.

"Peace I leave with you," says Jesus Christ to all of us. Let us keep this peace in our hearts at all times as we follow Him.

Archpriest Andrey Lemeshonok

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