A Primer on Virtue & Spiritual Growth Manual For Christians

By Cris Hernandez, Child of God

 

Table of Contents

Introduction

Part I – Preparation

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”  (Gal.2:20)

Chapter

1) Notes on Spiritual Growth            

2) Definitions 

3) All Human Needs Are Satisfied In Christ

4) Anatomy of Temptation that Leads to Sin and Bondage 

5) Understanding the Meaning of Virtue      

6) The Beginning of Spiritual Warfare; Knowledge of Good and Evil

7) The Purpose of Studying Virtues:  part 1- Obedience

8) The Purpose of Studying Virtues:  part 2- Knowing and Pleasing God

9) The Purpose of Studying Virtues:  part 3- Preparing for Heaven

10) The Acquisition of Virtues:  How To

 

Part II – Pursuit

“Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.”  Job

 Chapter

11) The Foundations of Virtue:  Fear of the Lord, Knowledge, Wisdom

12) The Pursuit of Virtue:  Faith, Courage

13) Recognizing Virtue:  Discernment, Remembrance, Watchfulness                      

-The “D” test for discerning goodness from evil

14) An Attitude of Virtue:  Peace, Abiding Prayer, Stillness, Hope 

15) Perpetuating Virtue:  Purity, Simplicity, Honesty, Integrity       

16) The Pleasure of Virtue:  Joy, Thankfulness, Praise      

17) The Essentials of Virtue:  Humility, Selflessness, Goodness

18) Sharing Virtue: Justice, Dignity, Mercy  

19) Virtue and the Human Will:  Self-Control, Patience, Gentleness

20) Empowering Virtue: Charity, Generosity, Hospitality

21) The Beauty of Virtue: Forgiveness, Kindness, Compassion

22) The Fulfillment of Virtue:  Love

 

“There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance – that principle is contempt prior to investigation” 

Herbert Spencer as quoted in “Alcoholics Anonymous” © 1939, 1955, 1976 by Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.

 

Introduction

            The purpose of this book is to encourage and to challenge fellow Christians to a life of greater intimacy with God.  The study of virtues is the means to this end.  This book defines virtues as the characteristics of God, the fruits of the Holy Spirit, that we can aspire to obtain as part of our own being.  To know virtue experientially, is to know God, and to know Him as if He were a flesh and blood companion of many years whose personality and characteristics are familiar and recognizable enough to be emulated.  To study virtues is to learn the ways of God such that His workmanship is readily discernible in us, in others, and in the world around us.

 

Hebrews chapter 4, verse 12 describes the Word of God as a razor sharp, double-edged blade that easily slices the meat off the bone.  In that spirit, this book aims to be a stiletto, a dagger that is just long enough, just narrow enough, and so very pointed, that it slides easily through the protective rib cage and goes straight to the heart.  Thus slain by His Word and crucified with Christ (Gal.2:20), a death to self that we might be alive in Him, the work of separating the flesh from the spirit can begin.

 

The pursuit of virtue is presented here as an exercise in spiritual growth.  Spiritual growth means increasing our awareness of the presence of God in our day-to-day lives while conforming our ways to His, from the core of our being outward.  Prior to examining individual virtues, spiritual growth issues will be reviewed in detail, including specific “how to” recommendations.  It is imperative that we prepare our hearts in humility and submission as well as being well practiced at confession and repentance prior to our attempt to learn virtue.  Since God is the goal of our pursuit, it is best understood upfront that encounters with God can be very humbling experiences.   His awesome holiness is so overwhelmingly powerful and pure, all our impurities and ungodliness become grotesquely obvious to us as we near Him.  First, our imperfections are exposed and then our faithless bravadoes and facades are completely stripped away from us, for no unclean or impure thing can exist in His presence.  Akin to being naked, defenseless, and completely humiliated, our flesh will want to grab familiar garb and lean on comfortable crutches rather than let go of worldly ways so that our spirit may move freely toward God.  We need to be prepared for this encounter or we will be no less devastated than Isaiah (Is.6:5) when confronted with the ugliness of sin which dwells in our flesh (Rom.7).  Prior to studying virtue and having a more intimate, intense relationship with God, we as Christians, as children of God, need to be fully assured that God loves us.  We need to know with conviction that Christ has provided the means for the forgiveness of our sins (1Jn.1:9), and that in Christ we are wholly acceptable to God and welcome into His presence, worthy of His blessings (Eph.4:20-24, Gal.4:4-7).

 

With the threat of devastation to our self-image now looming, the question as to why we should pursue a study of virtues begs to be answered.  Many reasons could be given here as to why Christians should be acquainted with the virtues, but the primary reason is unity with God.  Unity with Him is the ultimate purpose of this life God has given us; it is how we honor Him best.  Virtue puts our lives in accord with life as God intended it to be.  The resulting harmony of His purpose and our intent added to the indescribable joys and pleasures we experience as we grow in nearness to God, the source of all goodness, makes this endeavor the most rewarding life pursuit option available to us.   Also, part of the beauty of this pursuit is that it can be done while pursuing other life interests, and as long as the ways of God are given top priority, all other areas of life become richer, fuller, and more rewarding.  As Jesus said, His yoke isn’t burdensome or weighty (cf. Mt.11:28-30), and the pursuit engenders the fullness and abundance of life Christ promised (Jn.10:10).

 

Our study of virtues isn’t merely a discourse on individual virtues and love isn’t just presented as the supreme virtue.  Though Jesus clearly teaches us the supremacy of love in Mt. 22:35-40, the focus here is more in line with verse 40, where Jesus says that love is the fulfillment of the law  (also see 1Pe.4:8;  Rom.13:8,10; Gal.5:14;  Jas.2:8).  In this work, love is presented as the fulfillment of all virtues and as the supernatural life of Christ as expressed through us.  Presenting the interdependency of virtues and expressing the need for them to grow together, may be a new approach to some readers.  The study of the component virtues provides the building blocks, or stepping stones, that need to be in place as we are learning to love.  Two things to note here, first, this work is not meant to be merely a source of information or read as a mental exercise.  Virtues must be lived in order to be learned, and this requires practicing their expression as we tend to the daily circumstances of our individual lives.  Secondly, our pursuit of virtue equates to the pursuit of God, for God is love, and since God is eternal and infinite, it is important to understand that we will never in our time on Earth be finished with this pursuit.  As humbling as this can be, to believe otherwise may lead to unnecessary frustration from our perpetual failings, or worse, giving up the pursuit altogether.

 

The pursuit of virtue also involves spiritual warfare, for there is no way to grow spiritually without combating the demons.  Demons can be understood as any obstacle that prevents a soul from being wholly united with God and His will, as the rebellions and temptations we face when we attempt to surrender fully our human will to His divine will.  The Bible portrays demons as the legions of fallen angels who are loyal to Satan, having both intelligence and purpose (Mt.12:25-27; 2Cor.2:10-11; Eph.6:11-13; Rev.12).  Their aim is to defame God and desecrate all that is sacred.  They especially hate Christian souls who have a sincere and strong desire to worship God and honor all that is His.  Demons operate using the powers of suggestion and persuasion to communicate with human souls.  They tempt the children of God into acting outside of His will.  They easily influence ungodly souls who are not even aware that demonic suggestions are not their own ideas and therefore unable to separate evil notions from their own thoughts.  The greater their influence over a soul, greater is the soul’s potential for committing acts of heinous evil.  This work aims to prepare us for this battle by first revealing the demon’s tactics and then explaining how to overcome their assaults.  Lack of preparation here can likewise have devastating results.

 

The author is a firm believer that unity in Christ and expressing the love of God are far more important than strict adherence to the doctrines that serve to divide His disciples.  Accordingly, an effort has been made to walk lightly around theological issues, choosing certain words that are less likely to be the cause of theological debate, while defining others within this text so that the reader knows the author’s intended meaning (2Tim.2:14).  For example, “unity” will be used frequently; “salvation”, “theosis”, “justification” and “sanctification” are used sparingly.   It is the author’s prayer that the purpose of this text, for us all to grow in nearness and likeness to our Lord Christ Jesus, not be compromised by our doctrinal differences.  As Christians, we all read the same book; therefore, the Bible is liberally referenced in this text as an inerrant and authoritative source of Truth.  Again, it is the author’s prayer that any current differences in our understanding and application of scripture not become an impediment to our pursuit of virtue.  The author also invites the readers to read around, or translate into their own framework of beliefs, any statement herein that is a matter of doctrinal interpretation in order to keep from dismissing the intent of the text altogether.  Likewise, if the author’s definitions don’t match the reader’s definition, the reader is invited to switch the pairings of words and their definitions throughout the text.  Giving priority to meanings instead of demanding that a particular word convey the same theological concept for all Christians is one way to keep from compromising our unity in Christ.  The author prays for your indulgence for the rewards of virtue are great.

 

Also, please do not take the aforementioned warnings lightly, learning to live in the spiritual realm has inherent dangers, whether from agitating the demons or from adverse reactions to encounters with the holiness of God.  To proceed without proper preparation is analogous to getting married without first being willing to make a faithful commitment, or having children without first being willing to put aside selfish, self-serving ways in order to rightly provide for them.  Lack of preparation here can be similarly painful and harmful to self and others. It is quite intentional that the first 10 chapters of this book all concern preparation for the 12 that follow.  It is also recommended that this undertaking not be done alone, the use of a mentor is highly recommended, as is having someone to provide feedback and compare notes.  Before proceeding, a few more specific precautions:

  • Do not compare yourself or your progress to others, you will either become smug and conceited, or disillusioned and defeated; learn to be satisfied with simply pleasing God.  Comparing ourselves to others always leads to sinful pride or an erroneous sense of inadequacy.
  • Do not believe any suggestion that the pursuit of virtue is futile, unrewarding or unfulfilling, all such suggestions are from the demons and are contrary to the Word of God.
  • Keep your primary focus on Jesus and the examples of the saints who have gone before us, do not dwell on your successes or failures; again the result is either pride or frustration.
  • As we grow spiritually and learn to recognize the goodness of God more readily, it should become easier to compliment and encourage others as we learn to live our lives in the fullness of His love.  Likewise, ungodliness also becomes more apparent.  Do not succumb to self-loathing or the temptation to point out the failings of others, and do not lose heart when those who were once esteemed begin to appear all too human.

 

The author would also like the reader to understand that these lessons were originally prepared so that the author could learn about virtue.  The author does not claim to be a “paragon of virtue”, but rather a soul who came to Christ as an adult and has had to unlearn a wealth of sinful habits in order to learn of virtue.  There are many un-referenced sources in this work because the author pursued many topical studies prior to formulating the idea of writing a book.  These sources include books, magazines, preachers on the radio and television, pastors and priests during worship services, classes, friends, and so on.  One last note; the scripture passages following the chapter texts contain lessons to be learned as taught to me in my personal travels and studies, they aren’t meant to be literal or condensed translations.

 

I pray ye well.

 

Cris Hernandez

Child of God

email:  aprimeronvirtue@yahoogroups.com

 

 

Copyright Information:

King James Version (KJV):  public domain (http://www.biblegateway.com/cgi-bin/bible)

New American Standard Bible (NASB*):  © Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation

New International Version (NIV):  © Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

(* Unless otherwise noted, scripture passages quoted within this text are from the NASB)

The Philokalia: (Vol. I © 1979 The Eling Trust; Vol. II © 1981 The Eling Trust; Vol. III © 1984 The Eling Trust; Vol. IV © 1995 The Eling Trust; Vol.V unavailable to the author)

Concerning scripture contained within quotes taken from The Philokalia, “All Biblical passages have been translated directly from the Greek as given in the original Philokalia.  This means that quotations from the Old Testament are normally based on the Greek Septuagint text.”   (from the translators of the Philokalia)

Note:  text within the quotes from the Philokalia and elsewhere contained within brackets “[example]” is from the author.

 

The author extends his appreciation to all his teachers whose thoughts are contained within this text as well as to those who supported him while these lessons were being prepared.

 

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Chapter 22 – The Fulfillment of Virtue – Love

Love:  the sacrificial nurturing and caring for another person, body, soul and spirit; the life of Christ within us expressed outwardly

Love is the fulfillment of virtue in that it encompasses and employs all other virtues.  If we have learned our lessons from the previous chapters, we already have all the necessary ingredients of love in our hearts (1Cor.13).   Here we learn to blend them all together into a single thought and expression.   Love singularly fulfills virtue with the fullness of God, leaving no quarter for any semblance of evil or sin.  Showing love is how we care for the needs of others, whether this means the basics of food, clothing and shelter, or the soulful needs for learning, growing and emotional support, or sharing the spiritual bread and water of life.  The fullness of love is expressed when we surrender our wills to our Lord and allow Him to live His life through us, for God is love (1Jn.4).

 

The love we speak of here is not to be equated with the romantic or erotic passions that are a part of the normal human desire to mate; the love we speak of here doesn’t require “to have and to hold” another.  Likewise, love is neither the extent to which another pleases us nor a mere bodily response to physical and emotional sensations.  Love is neither an excuse to sin nor does it legitimize ungodly, reckless behaviors that endanger self or others.  The love of God that we are to express to all souls, especially in our closest relationships, always upholds the virtues we have learned in the preceding chapters.

 

To love others means knowing the Truth of God and living life accordingly.  It is letting our knowledge of Truth govern all our interactions, drawing upon His wisdom to provide us with the answers as to how best to tend to life.  We also love by sharing Truth and wisdom with those we’ve been given to love.  Our fear of the Lord brings His presence into all our relationships, ensuring our conscience is in accord with His goodness while stripping away the fantasies and delusions that lead to a myriad of maladies that compromise healthy interaction.  As we grow spiritually and mature in our Christ-likeness, we learn of His wisdom.  Doing so gives us broader and deeper insights into our life choices which in turn leads to making godly and productive decisions that are more rewarding than their fleshly alternatives.

 

Our love for others is based upon our faith in God, His power and His provision; we needn’t be overcome by our personal shortcomings or difficult circumstances.  Our faith leads to a courage that gives us the ability to maintain our virtue and bring the goodness of God to bear upon any situation.   Abiding in the Holy Spirit, we have the power to act according to His will; we are blest accordingly.  In addition, to exercise the virtue of love is to practice remembrance and watchfulness, knowing that any given moment is an occasion to express the love of God and lay the groundwork for a more godly future.   We recall the goodness of our Lord, how He has cared for us in the past so that we might fully trust in Him in the moment, and in turn demonstrate His love by loving those around us.  Likewise, we practice watchfulness and are able to recognize the hand of our Lord in our current circumstances so that we might join in His work while avoiding the pitfalls and traps the demons use to lead us astray.  The pursuit of virtue develops our power of discernment such that we can more easily see the way of our Lord, learning to love others as He loves us and prevent succumbing to fleshly lusts and evil temptations.

 

Since our love has the Word of our eternal Lord as its foundation, we are blessed with an unshakeable stillness that fosters the trust of God and our fellows as we walk in His ways.  We become worthy of being entrusted with greater responsibilities that lead to even greater deeds with even greater rewards.  The peace of our Lord sates our souls with a sense of fullness and satisfaction, freeing us from trivial neediness or grotesque wantonness, allowing us to tend to all His creation with unsullied motives.  By abiding in the loving ways of the Holy Spirit, we become a beacon of light for lost souls in a darkened world, showing others His way, reaping love from teaching others these lessons.  As we see others being touched with His goodness, we in turn become acquainted with the encouragement of hope that lets us know all things are possible in Him and that there are always better things yet to come.

 

Our love for others is expressed with purity, cleansed from sin, free of self-serving motivations and without selfish, fleshly lusts; love is holy unto the Lord.  Its singularity of purpose and intent keeps us focused on God, undeterred by demonic distractions while caring for and providing nurture for those around us.  The absence of duplicity in our motives brings simplicity into our lives; we live free of the complications and chaotic consequences of sin.  Our expression of love will be honest, in accord with the Truth of the Word of God and without any traces of deception or delusion.  Our integrity will prevent our love from being compromised by worldly temptations, dire circumstances or mistreatment; it will be tireless and ever-present, not succumbing to frustrations, tedium, futility, fears, impatience, or any other irritant that might otherwise exhaust our souls.

 

Our love will be expressed with joy, for our hearts will know the goodness of our Lord and be gladdened.  We will enjoy the elation that accompanies praising and worshipping God in all that we do, being energized by His presence because pleasing the Lord is also our pleasure.  Our love will also be expressed with thankfulness, free of complaints, criticisms, and unnecessary characterizations, for such thoughts only serve to compromise our virtue by impugning our ability to give thanks to God in all things.  The absence of ingratitude in our lives leads to an absence of resentments; we will not isolate ourselves away from individuals and communal activities due to any ill feelings towards those around us.  Instead, we will abide in an appreciation of His blessings, beginning with life itself and including all the wondrous things that fill His creation, finding joy in our loving interactions with others, ever thankful for His saving grace.

 

Our love will be expressed with a humility that has the life of the incarnate Christ as its source.  Our inspired deeds will not be cause for self-aggrandizement, but rather be cause for giving thanks for His presence, His trust in us, and the talents and virtues He gives us that make it possible for us to create a trove of treasures in Heaven.  Our care and nurture of others will be done selflessly, for our love is enabled by the fullness and abundance of our life in Christ who has at His disposal everything we need.  We are His children and we have been given an inheritance of His Kingdom in the Holy Spirit.  Therefore, we are empowered to give without thought of recompense, reward, or recognition since God exists without need for anything and our life is in Him.  Our love is an expression of His goodness, an outward manifestation of His indwelling righteousness that finds satisfaction in pleasing Him with purity born of total submission to His divine will.

 

Our love will extol the virtues of justice, dignity and mercy.  Abiding in Him, we will be motivated to ensure that justice prevails upon our every domain, that fairness and equality are upheld in deed and not merely in rhetoric or litigation of questionable worth.  We will be willing to hold the guilty accountable for their transgressions so that they may learn the error of their ways and come to repentance, thereby protecting the innocent, preventing the creation of more victims and abbreviating the perpetrator’s list of offenses.  Our words and actions will lovingly uphold and affirm the dignity of all human souls, recognizing that all are precious in His sight and are never devalued by the application of secular standards of worth.  Instead, being ever mindful of Christ’s love for us and the sacrifices He made on our behalf, we will share with others the same mercy He has shown us.  We give to the ungrateful, forgive the impenitent, serve the undeserving, respect the contemptible, share with the selfish, and teach the ignorant.  Ultimately, we love the unlovable as Christ first loved us.

 

Our love will be tempered with patience rather than being compromised by rash actions or quick tempers, and we will not express impatience even when harried by demons.  Our love is eternal, a constant in time, always on our agenda and is never importune when abiding in His will and exercising godly discernment.  We will learn to love with acceptance; meeting people where they are at and helping them grow from there, and do so without condemnation or criticism of their shortcomings, being mindful of our own need for His forgiveness.  We do not usurp the province of God; we teach Truth with gentleness, firmly trusting the Holy Spirit to communicate any necessary conviction of ungodliness.  We will learn self-control so that our love is not negated by thoughtlessness or impulsive reactions, but is preserved by the stillness of unshakable faith and an uncompromised trust in God.

 

Our love will be manifest in acts of charity, the giving of our means and ourselves wherever our Lord calls us to serve, returning to Him a piece of His bounty that He has entrusted to us.  The love in our hearts will compel us to give generously and joyfully, for we know that sharing His goodness with another may just be the warm introduction to God a lost soul needs to find their way home to Him.  Our love is shared with others with hospitality, being considerate and kindly, welcoming guests and not treating others as unwanted, obtrusive, or otherwise unworthy of our time or effort.

 

Our love will be a constant in all our relations because we have learned to forgive another’s shortcomings in the same manner God has forgiven us, completely and unconditionally.  Our love for others will shine with a godly kindness that cheers the disheartened, restores hope in goodness, and reorients the recipient’s heart toward the benevolence of God.  By loving others, we will learn of compassion and be moved to redress another’s suffering and pain, and learn of the miraculous healing powers God has made available to us when we live virtuously.

 

Love is all the above, twined and threaded into a single thought and expression, in obedience to His will, and with proper discernment, rightly balanced for the unique considerations of any given situation.  Love gives His will top priority and is willing to make sacrifices for the benefit of another.  Love has purpose, to please God, to spread goodness instead of evil, and to help the lost find their way home to Him.  By living love, we find the abundant life Christ said would be ours in Him (Jn.10:10).

 

God has given us a most wondrous example of the many aspects of love being expressed singularly in the salvation history and summarized in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”  Let us now seek to understand His love by attempting to discern the components of love found in this verse and see the attributes of God that are the virtues we aspire to attain.   First, a word of caution; contrasting how God loves us against how we are to love God, and then against how we are to love one another, creates some difficulties due to the uniqueness of the Almighty; comparing the infinite with the finite certainly leads to unequal findings.  However, God has given us many examples and shown us how to love despite our shortcomings and limitations (Micah 6:8), and has likewise empowered us to do so (Acts 1:8).  To use the excuse, “I’m only human” may be true for the secular world, but for the children of God it is a lie because we have the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit enabling us to commit acts of love worthy to present as gifts before the King.

 

By sending His Son into the world, we are given an unadulterated glimpse of His wisdom (1Jn.1).  With this insight, we develop a fear of our Lord with greater depth and appreciation.  We are also given the means to His knowledge and wisdom through the words and acts of Jesus.  The presence of our risen Lord in our lives enables us to love Him with a rock solid foundation of faith that leads to divinely inspired courageous actions or restraint tempered by self-control born of a godly conscience.  His plan of salvation also provides for us after His departure; at Pentecost He blessed us with the power of the Holy Spirit who now lives within us, allowing mankind to abide in His presence as Adam and Eve once did in the Garden of Eden, today on Earth and then eternally in Heaven.  The indwelling Holy Spirit helps us develop an ever-present spiritual awareness that leads to the virtues of watchfulness and remembrance of Him.  His presence brings peace and hope to souls ravaged by sin.  By pursuing purity made available though Christ, we come to know the serenity of stillness and the unspeakable beauty of Heaven while yet on Earth.  The love of God is expressed with such simplicity in John 3:16 that virtually no prior doctrinal teaching is required to understand it, and children are able to come to a saving knowledge of Him at very tender ages.  This verse challenges a soul to take a soul-searching self-assessment, the beginnings of honesty, of the ability to acknowledge Truth that leads to developing integrity based on knowledge of His Word.

 

The proclamation of the coming of Christ is cause for joy in Heaven and on Earth.  It gives His children much cause for thankfulness and praise as the glory of God shines with blinding brilliance in His presence.  In the perfect timing of His arrival, we see the patience of God in the many years He prepared the world by sending prophets as documented in the Old Testament books.  The Son of God coming down from Heaven to dwell among us is an act of humility on a scale that can only be understood as the love of God.  He likewise generously expresses the selfless and sacrificial qualities required to manifest goodness for the benefit of others.  His love shows us mercy because we were yet sinners when He died for us, demonstrating His acceptance of us despite our sinful state.  He affirms our dignity by saying we are worth all that Christ sacrificed and achieved for our sakes (Rom.5:8).  His charitable plan likewise provides the means for our forgiveness.   His ultimate sacrifice, dying for all our sins, upholds the justice of God, for the lawful penalty of sin is the agonizing death of total separation from God, a death His mercy makes unnecessary for any human soul to suffer. Instead, the hospitality of God invites us into His home of many rooms that Jesus now compassionately prepares for us (Jn.14:2).  In the meantime, Jesus tells us to “Go and do the same” (Lk.10:37) with the gentle assurance that He is with us always, “even till the end of the age” (Mt.28:20).

 

 

Scriptural References:

 

Love

Mt. 5:43-48, Jesus instructs us to love all souls with perfect virtue

Mt.22:36-40, Jesus teaches us to love God above all things and then one another

Lk.6:27-38, Jesus tells us to love others unconditionally as our Father in Heaven loves us

Lk.10:25-37, Jesus teaches us to love our neighbors with mercy and compassion

Jn.14:15-21, Jesus says our love for Him will help keep us attuned to God

Jn.15:9-17, Jesus commands us to follow His example in loving sacrificially

Rom.12:9-21, our love is zealous, energetic and humble in overcoming evil with virtues

1Cor.13:1-13, if our love isn’t rightly motivated then all our service is corrupt

1Jn.3:16-24, if we love in Truth, our hearts will be stirred to action by our virtues

1Jn.4:7-21, our love for God and others identifies us as children of God abiding in Him

 

 

Commentaries:

 

Love:

“When the intellect begins to perceive the Holy Spirit with full consciousness, we should realize that grace is beginning to paint the divine likeness over the divine image in us.  Artists first draw the outline of a man in monochrome, and then add one color after another, until little by little they capture the likeness of the subject down to the smallest details.  In the same way the grace of God starts by remaking the divine image in man into what it was when he was first created.  But when it sees us longing with all our heart for the beauty of the divine likeness and humbly standing naked in its atelier, then by making one virtue after another come into flower and exalting the beauty of the soul ‘from glory to glory’ (2Cor.3:18), it depicts that we are being formed into the divine likeness; but the perfecting of this likeness we shall know only by the light of grace.  For through its power of perception the intellect regains all the virtues, other than spiritual love, as it advances according to the measure and rhythm which cannot be expressed; but no one can acquire spiritual love unless he experiences fully and clearly the illumination of the Holy Spirit.  If the intellect does not receive the perfection of the divine likeness through such illumination, although it may have almost every other virtue, it will still have no share in perfect love.  Only when it has been made like God – in so far, of course, as this is possible – does it bear the likeness of divine love as well.  In portraiture, when the full range of colors is added to the outline, the painter captures the likeness of the subject, even down to the smile.  Something similar happens to those who are being repainted by God’s grace in the divine likeness:  when the luminosity of love is added, then it is evident that the image has been fully transformed in the beauty of the likeness.  Love alone among the virtues can confer dispassion on the soul, for ‘love is the fulfilling of the law’ (Rom.13:10).  In this way our inner man is renewed day by day through the experience of love, and in the perfection of love it finds its own fulfillment.”

St. Diadochos of Photiki (5th C.); The Philokalia, Vol. I, pg. 288 #89

 

“If, as St. John says, ‘God is love’, then ‘he who dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him’ (1Jn.4:16).  But he who hates his neighbor, through this hatred, is separated from love.  He, then who hates his brother is separated from God, since ‘God is love, and he who dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him.’”

St. John of Karpathos (7th C.), The Philokalia, Vol. I, pg. 321

 

“Perfect love… loves all men equally.  It loves the good as friends and the bad as enemies, helping them, exercising forbearance, patiently accepting whatever they do, not taking the evil into account at all but even suffering on their behalf if the opportunity offers, so that, if possible, they too become friends.  If it cannot achieve this, it does not change its own attitude; it continues to show the fruits of love to all men alike.  It was on account of this that our Lord and God Jesus Christ, showing His love for us, suffered for the whole of mankind and gave to all men and equal hope of resurrection, although each man determines his own fitness for glory or punishment.”

St. Maximos Confessor (7th C.), The Philokalia Vol. II, pg. 60

 

Chapter 19 – Virtue and the Human Will – Self-Control, Patience, and Gentleness

Self-control:  exercising one’s will to avoid sin; the ability to pause momentarily and consider the goodness of God before taking action as opposed to acting on impulse; prudence, moderation, self-restraint, sobriety, propriety

Patience:  willingness to wait without emotional disturbance and without forcing one’s will upon circumstances or others; intentionally allowing time for exercising faith rather than acting in haste; waiting faithfully without anxieties for the hand of God to move; seeking divine discernment prior to making decisions or taking actions

Patient Endurance: steadfast, serene pursuit of holiness despite all distractions or shortcomings

Gentleness:   having a firm foundation of faith that is not easily shaken or perturbed; maintaining purity of heart and godly motivations when temptations arise; absence of self-serving anger or wrath; prevailing over the incendiary events that would otherwise lead to ungodly motivations and behaviors

Acceptance:  the ability to perceive circumstance and events as neither agreeable nor disagreeable, but rather receiving all as being sent or allowed by God and therefore possessing the potential for greater good for all those who love Him

Stillness (dispassion):  the ability to abide in the Holy Spirit despite demonic attacks or chaotic circumstances; the ability to diffuse the aggravating aspects from irritations and remain undisturbed while addressing life events; the ability to adapt to people and situations without denial or judgment, allowing the current status to be the starting point for the work of God; level headed; being in tune with the Holy Spirit; impartial but not indifferent toward the world around us

 

 

We have thus far spoke of the human will in terms of surrender, of using our power of choice to subject our decision-making processes to the lordship of Christ, choosing His will rather than acting on our own desires.  Here we learn of the virtues that help our human will conform to the will of God.  Self-control, patience and gentleness empower our human will with goodness from God so that we are able to act in obedience and avoid sin.  Recall that the human will is exercised with every decision we make; willpower is acting in human fortitude and continence while willingness and surrender means freely giving God authority over our decision-making processes.  Self-control is ever necessary in that it precedes all other virtues whenever we have time to think before acting.  Patience is the willingness to refrain from acting on base passions while maintaining our emotional saneness when aggravated by irritants.  Gentleness is the understanding that God is ever-present and in control, and applying this knowledge such that we do not become upset or dispirited when circumstances become difficult.  Instead, we maintain our hope in His goodness and abide in His love.  Together, these three virtues give us means to express kindness and compassion rather than succumb to outbursts of the flesh.  They are with us all the moments of our lives; self-control in the immediacy of the moment, patience for the duration of the temptation, and gentleness as the continuous, unperturbed stillness of grace from times past into eternity.

 

Self-control

 

Self-control should be the most short-lived virtue yet the most frequent aside from the pervasiveness and all-inclusiveness of love itself.  Self-control occurs in the brief moments between impetus and action; it assumes circumstances that require its use and it gives us just enough time for our thoughts to ascend to the heavenly realm, to commune with the Eternal instead of succumbing to patterns of mindless and base reactions or demonic suggestions.  Self-control is momentary mastery over the body, especially the tongue.  Self-control is a prelude to all expressions of virtue since all actions above mere instinct require time for our mental processes to access our knowledge, exercise discretion and remember the lordship of Christ Jesus.  Self-control would be indistinguishable from willpower if it persisted, but properly used, it gives way to other virtues as soon as the transition can be made safely, without progressing from temptation to sin.  Therefore, self-control is an integral component of spiritual warfare, giving us the time to don “the full armor of God” (Eph.6:10-19) in our battles against the preponderance of evil and its attempts to infiltrate our souls or infect others through us.

 

Self-control is a gift of the Holy Spirit that we use as a spiritual defense mechanism to preserve our holiness.  It is likewise needed to further the sanctification of our bodies and souls so that our spirit isn’t subject to the capricious assaults and temptations the demons hurl at us.  Self-control is essential in preserving our dignity because it is our first line of defense against the degradations of sin born of impetuosity.  Self-control keeps our thoughts, words and deeds in the spiritual realm by not letting the body or soul dictate decisions, keeping us aloft in the Holy Spirit instead of condescending to the flesh.  Self-control is a spiritual blessing that gives us the power to uphold our morals and ethics instead of succumbing to the lustful cravings of our bodies or the base passions of souls; fleeting desires that inevitably prove to be detrimental as they run contrary to the ways of God.  The earlier in life that we learn self-control, the less likely we will develop sinful habits that compromise our ability to control our own will.  Learning to say “no” to temptations when young helps prevent losing the ability to say “no” to sin altogether, a state which is symptomatic of addictions, obsessions and psychosis.  However, if the freedom of choice is lost, it can be regained though intense spiritual effort and methodical growth; a restoration process normally requiring help from others unless one is blest with a miraculous healing.  Learning self-control, like all virtues, takes practice.  To make it a habit, we learn to pause for reflection and prayer before acting.  Doing so likewise requires a sincere desire to choose the ways of God instead of contenting ourselves with sating the desires of the flesh.

 

Patience

 

Patience begins as self-control ends; it assumes circumstances that call for its practice.  Protracting self-control becomes willpower and willpower is not desirable because it precludes reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit.  Therefore, as we begin to practice self-control we should likewise learn to follow through by immediately acknowledging our dependence upon His grace and pray for patience.  Patience is recognized as giving priority to our trust and hope in His Word instead of letting trying situations cause an abrupt end to abiding in His peace.  Self-control overcomes the outburst; patience prevents the tirade following the momentary disturbance (see chapter 4 “Stages of Sin”), allowing us time to reorient ourselves towards God and consciously reestablish our abiding in Him before responding.  Patience gives us time to seek His wisdom and exercise discernment so that we do not compound an already difficult situation with our own sin.  Patience gives us the option of choosing to stay in His will, to bring His peace, beauty and compassion into our world instead of giving way to our own lowly expressions of the flesh.  By engaging life’s irritants and temptations with the goodness of God, we can turn trying times into spiritually productive opportunities for others and ourselves.  When situations call for patience, we are being given a chance to practice our virtues and learn new lessons in the ways and depths of the love of God.  Patience can turn an ungodly predicament into a glorious moment showcasing the goodness of God; therefore it is an essential element of any Christian ministry.

 

While exercising patience, a variety of other virtues may need to be practiced in order to share our abundance of life in the Holy Spirit.  For instance, if suffering an injustice is the cause of our disturbance, bringing the influence of godly justice to the situation can quickly send the demons fleeing, whereas inflicting our own fleshly sense of self-restorative justice invites a host of self-serving demons into the fray.  When we seek our own way and abandon the virtues patience affords us, our motivations will appear to others as anger, worry, disdain, disgust, wrath, bitterness, malice, or vengeance.  None contributes to the glory of God; none furthers the cause of the gospel or invites His goodness.  Without patience, sin is a virtual inevitability as we regress to creating more situations that exacerbate the need to exercise self-control.

 

Habituating patience prevents creating regrets.  By practicing patience, we avoid the tendency toward sins born of passions and agitations, thereby eliminating the power source behind the behaviors that compromise and strain our relationships.  We are to fellowship with other Christians and light the pathway to God for all peoples.  Without patience, our pure intentions will be overcome by common frustrations, resentments and callousness, and all these impede our ability to share the love of God.  Learning patience allows us to love others with the continuity born of abiding in the Holy Spirit, an uninterrupted growth that leads to a bountiful harvest of His fruits.  Practicing patience helps us reap the rewards of healthy and mutually supportive relationships.  When there are lapses in our patience, we should thank God for the beautiful recourse we have by seeking forgiveness and forgiving others.

 

When tempted to lose our patience, remembrance restores our trust in His providential care as we recall the fact that God makes all things work to the good for those who love Him (Rm.8:28).  His goodness is for all His children, not just select individuals; patience gives the mercies of God time to integrate into the fabric of our lives whereas impatience is outside the will of God and therefore counter-productive to goodness.  We need to remember that God is eternal and meets our needs, and us, in the moment; with patience we understand that goodness will prevail eventually and eternally.  Patience brings an eternal perspective to our immediate circumstances, allowing us to see the eternal rewards of goodness rather than getting lost in the intensity of trying moments and succumbing to the carnal desire of the flesh.  Sins of passion, the source of many lifelong regrets, tend to take us down multiple paths of self-degradation simultaneously.  There is the shame and guilt resulting from the deeds themselves, as well as a compromised self-image from being the kind of person who does such things.  It is hard to think well of ourselves when we habitually fail to keep our relationships healthy, wholesome, supportive, affirming and sin-free.  Acting on impulse or expressing impatience devalues others by failing to respect their dignity.  Whether using someone to satisfy selfish needs or venting frustrations at another, it can be excruciatingly painful when God brings these ungodly motivations to our attention (cf. 2Sam12:1-23).

 

Patient endurance is a steadfast patience that outlasts wily demonic schemes.  It is a long-term patience, providing continuity of grace from one temptation or trial on to the next until there is a resolution.  It maintains hope while seeking His mercy and grace.  Remembrance of Christ and His patience with us when we tarry to repent or forgive, gives us an example to follow.  Such remembrance also provides motivation to share with others what He has so mercifully given us.  Patient endurance leads to purity by consistently bringing the goodness of God to bear upon the people and the circumstances of our lives, progressing in the work of God rather than always starting from scratch.  By abiding in the Holy Spirit and building upon past efforts, patient endurance acts as a bridge that traverses the torrents of sin as we progress along the path to the abundant life Christ promised us.

 

Gentleness

 

Gentleness means having a firm faith that allows us to remain unperturbed and unshaken under difficult or stressful conditions.  To be gentle, we must be willing to part with all demeaning, hostile, violent, or irreverent motivations.  In the letters of the New Testament, when gentleness is spoken of, it is frequently used when giving instruction on how to correct or counsel others.  When we are called upon to counsel another, we are to be gentle, exercising both tact and diplomacy.  Also in these passages are lists of behaviors that are contrary to gentleness or otherwise negate this virtue.  These lists can be used to gain a better understanding of what it means to be gentle by outlining what we must avoid to learn gentleness.

 

In Galatians chapter five, gentleness is included as one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit.  Prior to this reference there is a long list of behaviors that are contrary to virtue.  These “deeds of the flesh” are “immorality, impurity, sensuality, envying, drunkenness, carousing”, and “boastful, challenging one another, envying one another”.  From Colossians chapter three, we add “passion, evil desire, greed” and “anger, wrath, malice, slander and abusive speech” to our list.  From 1 Timothy 6, we learn that conceit, evil suspicions, “morbid interest in controversial questions”, and strife all compromise gentleness.  Then in 2 Timothy 2, we extend this list to include haughtiness in our speech, “worldly and empty chatter”, jealousy, succumbing to “foolish and ignorant speculations” or “selfish ambition”, or being quarrelsome.   In 1 Peter 3, we are instructed to avoid “returning evil for evil or insult for insult”.  When we are free of all these motivations and behaviors, we can then begin to practice the virtue of gentleness.

 

Gentleness is the virtue we must learn prior to attempting to correct or counsel our brothers and sisters in Christ.  If we allow gentleness to be compromised by anything listed in the previous paragraph, our attempts to help others will most likely be rejected in both the short and long term.  Gentleness firmly asserts correct teaching without asserting our personal feelings, proclivities or preferences upon another.  Gentleness likewise negates any belittling of another with insulting, shaming, or self-promoting words.  It likewise prepares us to remain unperturbed when our efforts to share the gospel are countered with irreverence, rebuttals, or personal attacks on us.  Gentleness replaces all manner of anxieties and inner turmoil when we keep our focus on the example of Jesus in remembrance of His Word.  When practicing gentleness, our motivations will be seen as compassionate and sincere attempts to enlighten and care for others.

 

Learning acceptance removes the hindrances that compromise the virtue of patience while its practice leads to stillness.  Acceptance employs remembrance to disconnect whatever fleshly cause and effect patterns we’re accustomed to using.  As normal as it may seem to us to get upset, angry or agitated by common irritations, the causality factor is a learned response that can be replaced with acceptance.  To do so, we thankfully remember the goodness God has shown us, recall our higher calling and bring to bear the great power of the Holy Spirit upon our circumstances, restoring peace within ourselves first, then outwardly toward others.  Trying circumstances are great learning opportunities and act as a gauge of our progress; pressure squeezes us and brings out things that calm days don’t, and then by reflecting on our responses, we can measure our growth or check our immediate spiritual condition.  Acceptance avoids classifying events or circumstance as either good or evil, and does so without excessive elation or anxiety that might otherwise be customary.  Instead, we try only to discern what God would have us do in the moment while trusting that His grace will overcome as we abide in His love.  Acceptance is born of our knowledge of God and from understanding His plan for us as revealed in scripture.  We recall our great inheritance in Christ and contrast that with the puniness of our momentary discomfort.  Acceptance acknowledges the economy of God and trusts in His provision, placing greater value on His blessings than the acquisition or loss of material things, or our level of comfort or suffering.  By doing so, we can gracefully accept success and failure, gain and loss, pleasure and pain, and do so without compromising our virtue.

 

Acceptance is a virtuous alternative to the stresses, anxieties and worries that erode the quality of our relationships.  Acceptance is contrary to the ambitions of jealousy, envy and greed, and therefore eliminates the troublesome situations and sins born of these selfish motivations.  Acceptance gives others the same leeway to err that we so nonchalantly give ourselves, and in doing so we witness the affirming love of Christ and humbly remember He has shown us the same indulgence.  Acceptance understands that everything and everyone doesn’t have to be exactly to our liking in order to be righteous and good and in the will of God.  Acceptance is mindful of the fact that God is control so that when things don’t go as anticipated, we understand there may be lessons to learn or issues of greater importance than our individual likes and dislikes.  Learning acceptance gives us the ability to maintain our prayerful abiding, the peace of our Lord, our stillness.

 

Stillness is a heavenly calm, a dispassionate state of prayer characterized by being totally engrossed and absorbed in the presence of God and having all conscious awareness solely focused on Him.  Stillness is also the ability to disconnect the cause and effect relationship between the irritants in our lives and the disturbances they produce.  For example, the sound of a baby crying; many people find the loud, continuous wailing a source of agitation, but to a parent of small children, the clamor becomes a routine reminder of a child’s need for love and attention, invoking warm thoughts of caring for one’s own small child.  We can look at bothersome adults the same way, needy people crying for love and attention.  We, as children of God, whose lives are wholly sated in the abundant life of Christ, needn’t be agitated by such outcries, but rather, out of His love for us, be kindly toward everyone without becoming distraught over whatever is being asked of us or when targeted by malice.   Learning how not to become agitated by another’s selfish, inconsiderate or unruly behavior is necessary for learning how to love the otherwise unlovable (Lk.6:35).  To do so, we need to remember that God alone is the source of all the love and affirmation we need, that His justice will prevail over whatever indignities we suffer on His behalf, and that we reap wondrous rewards when sowing His blessings in submission to His will.

 

Ongoing stillness requires godly discernment, acquiring the ability to assess immediate circumstances with an eternal perspective, and using this understanding to subordinate temporary satisfactions and comforts for the greater good of pleasing God.  The desire to do this comes from understanding our righteousness in Christ; from knowing our spirit has been born anew in the Holy Spirit, replete with the desires and the means to express goodness in word and deed.  In Christ, we also have the willingness and desire to forsake ungodly temptations lest sin spoil the warmth and fullness that comes from abiding in His love.  Likewise, we have full confidence in God to supply all our needs.  When we remember how He provided for Moses’ people for 40 years in the desert, we should have no doubt that He can and will provide for our needs as well (Ex.16).  As we progress in stillness, as our peace in our Lord becomes more pervasive, we should take note of our progress.  We should notice fewer outbursts of anger, fits of worry, lusts for gossip, or any other fleshly tendencies.  When we become aware of this, we should express our thankfulness to God.  In these moments, we also see the difference between flesh and spirit, and by contrasting the fruits of each, we learn to appreciate a life lived according to His grace.  Seeing His effects on the circumstances and people around us, we rightfully acknowledging that apart from Him, nothing so good is even possible.

 

Prolonged stillness leads to purity, for purity is the goodness of God without any interruptions or corruptions.  The chaste and reverent behavior of stillness helps bring errant spouses back to the ways of God (1Pe.3:1-2).  Painful as it may be to see our closest loved ones stray from goodness, we only follow them if we forget about acceptance and succumb to the temptation of forcing our own wants and desires upon them.  Instead, we trust in God and abide in His goodness.  Should the question arise during such a crisis as to whether or not we are in the will of God, here again, we may need the assistance of another to help us rightfully discern our own motives due to our intimate involvement.  However, if we lose our stillness, we are assured of acting in the flesh and not the spirit.  The same actions can have markedly different results depending on whether or not we are trusting God in the moment and abiding by His grace.  Others see our stillness in our gentle resolve and are likewise soothed.  Stillness serves to negate the power of temptations in us so that we might avoid perpetuating the path of another’s sinfulness (or our own), essentially tripping the traps of demonic schemes and rendering them totally ineffectual, clearing the way for the grace of God.

 

Scriptural References:

 

Self-control:

Ps.19:13, David prays to keep his self-control and not to be overcome by sinful habits

Ps.32:9, self-control is governed by wisdom and discernment

Ps.40:9, when worshipping God, David gives precedence to praise over self-control

Pr.10:19, speech governed by self-control is a sign of wisdom

Pr.25:28, without self-control we have no defense against temptations

Pr.29:11, self-control is a sign of wisdom; an unrestrained temper identifies the foolish

Pr.29:18, self-control requires knowledge of God and leads a soul to godly happiness

Mt.5:37, instruction to control speech, to be direct and concise with responses and inquiries

1Cor.7:5-9, marriage is recommended for all who lack the self-control to remain celibate

1Cor.9:24-27, learning to control bodily desires helps us overcome temptations

Gal.5:16-26, the fruit of abiding in the Holy Spirit gives us self-control

1Thes.5:4-8, full days while sleeping full nights leads to sober, self-controlled living

1Tim.2:15, virtues are preserved by self-restraint

2Tim.3:1-5, self-centered souls who lack self-control are to be avoided as evil

Titus 1:7-9, self-control is a quality necessary for church elders and deacons

Titus 2:2-8, self-control as sensibleness, temperance or reverence; sign of maturity

Jas.1:26, immoderate speech signifies the absence of true faith

Jas.3:1-12, control the tongue to control the body

1Pet.1:13, instruction to practice sobriety and self-control in obedience

1Pet.4:7, use the remembrance of death’s nearness to remain self-controlled and sane

1Pet.5:8, to emaciate devilish influence, stay alert and practice self-control

2Pet.1:5-11, self-control allows us to be useful and fruitful as disciples of Christ

 

Patience:

Ps.25:1-5, those who wait for our Lord will have nothing to be ashamed of

Ps.37:1-9, waiting patiently for the Lord without fretting allows us to enjoy His blessings

Ps.40:1-3, the restoration of souls comes by waiting patiently upon our Lord

Ps.147:11, our Lord shows favor towards the faithful who wait patiently for His mercy

Pr.19:11, taking time for discernment prevents angry haste and allows for forgiveness

Pr.20:22, we are delivered from evil when we wait for God instead of avenging ourselves

Is.40:27-31, be mindful of the power of God who gives us strength; wait for His justice

1Cor.4:5, patience means not condemning others and trusting in Christ to execute justice

1Cor.13.4-7, love requires both patience and patient endurance

2Cor.6:3-10, Christian ministry requires both patience and patient endurance

Gal.5:16-26, patience is a gift that comes from abiding in the Holy Spirit

1Thes.5:14, St. Paul instructs us to be patient with everyone

2Tim.2:24-26, have patience towards adversaries in hope that they come to repentance

Jas.5:7-11, like the prophets of old, be strong and wait patiently upon our Lord

2Pet.3:8-9, our Lord has shown us great patience waiting for our repentance

 

Patient endurance:

Lk.21:12-19, patient endurance through trials is the way to the abundant life in Christ

Rom.8:22-25, our hope in Christ means patiently enduring while awaiting our reward

1Cor.9:11-14, financially supporting gospel ministers helps them endure

1Cor.10:13, patiently endure temptations until God shows a way out of it

2Cor.1:3-7, the greater our need for patient endurance, the greater comfort He provides

2Thes.1:3-4, thank God for those who endure hardships in the furtherance of the gospel

2Tim.4:3-5, fulfilling Christian ministry requires soberly enduring attacks on the Gospel

Heb.12:1-11, remember Christ when enduring either persecution or godly discipline

Jas.1:2-4, enduring trials with joy leads to a more perfect and complete faith

1Pet.2:20, patiently enduring persecution with virtue merits commendations before God

 

Gentleness: 

Ps.18:31-46, the gentleness of God sustains us through all trials

2Cor.10:1-7, Christ is gentle; as He is so also are we in our battles against the flesh

Gal.5:19-26, gentleness is the fruit of abiding in the Holy Spirit and contrary to the flesh

Gal.6:1-2, gentleness is required when correcting or reproving others

Eph.4:1-7, gentleness begets loving tolerance and preserves unity and peace

Php.4:4-9, instruction to let gentleness replace anxious desires

Col.3:1-17, gentleness is contrary to evil desires that evoke that wrath of God

1Thes.2:1-7, leaders should desire gentleness over selfish ambitions or selfish ways

2Tim.2:15-26, gentleness helps lead others to repentance and freedom from evil snares

Jas.3:5-18, gentleness is a sign of understanding and wisdom

1Pet.2:13-24, gentleness is the right response to those in authority

1Pet.3:1-9, gentleness is precious to God; it is a godly example that wins souls

1Pet.3:13-22, reverent gentleness is our defense against intimidation and slander

 

Acceptance, stillness, dispassion: 

Ps.23, David’s song of serenity, stillness and fearlessness in the presence of our Lord

Ps.37:5-9, be still in the righteousness of our Lord; forsake the angst of envy

Ps.46:10, cease striving for things and remember the providential care of God

Ps.51:10-13, enjoy the steadiness that comes when the worries of sin are absent

Ps.112, stillness comes from trusting God and knowing our inheritance is eternal

Pr.17:27, verbal restraint and stillness come from understanding the ways of God

Pr.23:4-5, instruction not to be anxious concerning the acquisition of wealth

Is.32:17-20, righteousness brings stillness, security, enlightenment and a quiet confidence

Zeph.3:16-17, a pronouncement of the stillness to be had in our Lord

Rom.8:28, loving God brings goodness to all things and negates angst over circumstances

Rom.14:1-4, accept fellow Christians without contempt for their shortcomings

Rom.15:1-6, accept those weak in faith; offer encouragement and praise God together

Rom.15:7-13, we are to accept our brothers and sisters in Christ as He has accepted us

1Cor.2:11-15, our acceptance is to be done in Truth using godly discernment

Eph.4:29-32, keep pure hearts and exude grace so that no lack of acceptance is shown

Col.3:5-11, accept and affirm fellow Christians with dignity; be free of malice

1Thes.4:9-13, St. Paul instructs us to make stillness our ambition in loving one another

Heb.10:32-36, remember our great eternal inheritance and gracefully accept trials

1Pet.3:1-6, exhibiting the grace of stillness helps bring the errant to repentance

 

Commentaries:

 

Self-control:

“Self-control is common to all the virtues, and therefore whoever practices self-control must do so in all things.  If any part, however small, of a man’s body is removed, the whole man is disfigured; likewise, he who disregards one single virtue destroys unwittingly the whole harmonious order of self-control.  It is therefore necessary to cultivate not only the bodily virtues, but also those which have the power to purify our inner man.  What is the good of a man keeping the virginity of his body if he lets his soul commit adultery with the demon of disobedience?  Or what is the good of a man controlling gluttony and his other bodily desires if he makes no effort to avoid vanity and self-esteem [sinful pride], and does not endure with patience even the slightest affliction?  At the judgment what crown will he deserve, when a just reward is given only to those who have accomplished works of righteousness in a spirit of humility?”

St. Diadochos of Photiki (5th C.); The Philokalia Vol. I, pg. 266 #42

 

“The person who courageously closes his senses by means of the deliberate and all-embracing practice of self-control and patience, and prevents sensory form from entering the intellect through the soul’s faculties, easily frustrates the wicked schemes of the devil and turns him back, abased, along the way by which he came.  The way by which the devil comes consists of material things which seem to be needed for sustaining the body.”

St. Maximos the Confessor (6-7th C.); The Philokalia Vol. II, pg. 204 #79

“A perfect man is one who by means of self-control fights against temptations subject to his will, and who endures with patience trials that are contrary to his wishes.  And an entire [whole] man is one whose practice of the virtues is completed by spiritual knowledge, and whose contemplation does not remain without practical effect.”

ibid. pg. 233 #94

“‘Break the arm of the sinful and evil man’ (Ps.10:15), by which I mean the sensual pleasure and evil from which all vice arises.  Break it through self-control and the innocence born of humility, so that when your actions are assessed and judged, no sin will be found in you, however rigorous the search.  For our sins are eradicated once we come to hate what causes them and to do battle against it, repairing earlier defeat with final victory.”

St. Theognostos (8th C.?); The Philokalia Vol. II,  pg. 359 #4

 

“Let chastity be as dear to you as the pupil of your eye, and then you will become a temple of God and His cherished dwelling place.  For without self-restraint you cannot live with God.  Chastity and self-restraint are born of a longing for God combined with detachment and renunciation of the world; and they are conserved by humility, self-control, unbroken prayer, spiritual contemplation, and freedom from anger and intense weeping.  Without dispassion, however, you cannot achieve the beauty of discrimination [discernment].”

ibid. pg. 367 #37

 

Patience:

“The saints are full of goodness, compassion, kindliness and mercy.  They manifest the same love for the whole human race.  Because of this they hold fast throughout their lives to the highest of all blessings, humility, that conserves other blessings and destroys their opposites.  Thus they become totally immune to vexing trials and temptations, whether those due to ourselves and subject to our volition, or not from ourselves and beyond our control.  They wither the attacks of the first type through self-control, and repel the assaults of the second type with patient endurance.”

St. Maximos the Confessor (6-7th C.); The Philokalia Vol. II, pg. 282-3 #92

 

“When you have been given faith, self-control is demanded from you; when self-control has become habitual, it gives birth to patient endurance, a disposition that gladly accepts suffering.”

St. Thalassios (6-7th C.); The Philokalia Vol. II, pg. 329 #64

 

“May God save us from punishment by giving us the strength patiently to endure whatever terrible things befall us.  Endurance is like an unshakable rock in the winds and waves of life.  However the tempest batters him, the patient man remains steadfast and does not turn back; and when he finds relief and joy, he is not carried away by self-glory:  he is always the same, whether things are hard or easy, and for this reason he is proof against the snares of the enemy.  When storms beset him, he endures them with joy, awaiting their end; and when the heavens smile on him, he expects temptation – until his last breath…  Such a person knows that nothing in life is unchangeable, and that all things pass.  Thus he is not troubled or anxious about any of them, but leaves all things in the hands of God, for He has us in His care (cf. 1Pet.5:7); and to Him belong all glory, honor and dominion throughout the ages.  Amen.”

St. Peter of Damaskos (11thC.); The Philokalia Vol. III, pg. 224

 

Gentleness:

“‘Learn from me’, He said, ‘for I am gentle and humble in heart’ (Matt.11:29).  Gentleness keeps the soul’s incensive power [passion] in a calm state; humility frees the intellect from conceit and self-esteem [sinful pride].”

St. Maximos the Confessor (6-7th C.); The Philokalia Vol. II, 62 #80

 

“Certain things stop the movement of the passions and do not allow them to grow; others subdue them and make them diminish.  For instance, where desire is concerned, fasting, labour, and vigils do not allow it to grow, while withdrawal [time spent alone with our Lord, or “quiet time”], contemplation, prayer and intense longing for God subdue it and make it disappear.  The same is true with regard to anger.  Forbearance [acceptance], freedom from rancour, gentleness, for example, all arrest it and prevent it from growing, while love, acts of charity, kindness and compassion make it diminish.”

ibid. pg. 73 #47

 

“In this way God’s grace, our universal mother, will give us gentleness, so that we begin to imitate Christ.  This constitutes the third commandment; for the Lord says, ‘Blessed are the gentle’ (Matt.5:5).  Thus we become like a firmly-rooted rock, unshaken by the storms and tempests of life, always the same, whether rich or poor, in ease or hardship, in honour or dishonour.  In short, at every moment and whatever we do we will be aware that all things, whether sweet or bitter, pass away, and this life is a path leading to the future life.  We will recognize that, whether we like it or not, what happens happens; to be upset about it is useless, and moreover deprives us of the crown of patience and shows us to be in revolt against the will of God.  For whatever God does is ‘wholly good and beautiful’ (Gen.1:31), even if we are unaware of this.  As the psalm puts it: ‘He will teach the gentle how to judge’ (Ps.25:9) or, rather how to exercise discrimination [discernment].  Then, even if someone gets furious with us, we are not troubled; on the contrary, we are glad to have been given an opportunity to profit and to exercise our understanding, recognizing that we would not have been tried in this way were there not some cause for it.”

St. Peter of Damaskos (11thC.); The Philokalia Vol. III, pg 94-95

 

Acceptance, stillness, dispassion:  

 

“Stillness helps us by making evil inoperative.”

St. Mark the Ascetic (5th C.?); The Philokalia Vol. I, pg. 128 #30

 

“If you wish to be in control of your soul and body, forestall the passions by rooting out their causes”

St. Maximos the Confessor (6-7th C.); The Philokalia Vol. II, pg. 310 #64

 

“You will not be worthy of divine love unless you possess spiritual knowledge, or of spiritual knowledge unless you possess faith.  I do not mean faith of a theoretical kind, but that which we acquire as a result of practicing the virtues.  You will achieve true compunction only when through self-control and vigil, prayer and humility, you have withered the propensity to sensual pleasure congenital to the flesh and have been crucified with Christ (cf. Gal.2:19-20), no longer living the life of the passions but living and walking in the Spirit, filled with the hope of heavenly glory.”

St. Theognostos (8th C.?); The Philokalia Vol. II, pg. 367-8 #39

“In addition to voluntary suffering, you must also accept that which comes against your will – I mean slander, material losses and sickness.  For if you do not accept these but rebel against them, you are like someone who wants to eat his bread only with honey, never with salt.  Such a man does not always have pleasure as his companion, but always has nausea as his neighbor.”

Ilias the Presbyter (12th C.); The Philokalia Vol. III, pg. 39 #49