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Abiding safely in Christ

From the April 2016 issue of The Christian Science Journal

First appeared as a Web Original on December 3, 2015

The security we all yearn for is found only in the teachings of Christ. When Christ Jesus said, “If ye abide in me” (John 15:7), he gave us the prerequisite for his every promise of good, including “There shall not an hair of your head perish” (Luke 21:18). How similar this is to the Psalmist’s vital qualification, “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High” (Psalms 91:1), which precedes all his assurances of protection found in this well-loved psalm. Both statements indicate that our mental abiding place is more important for our security than our physical location. However surprising this might sound, it is one of the strong teachings of the Bible that is borne out in so many escapes from evil circumstances told in its pages. 

The questions to ask ourselves—as the Bible might put them to us—are: Do we dwell in the valley of materialism, or are we attaining daily more of the mountaintop of spirituality? Do we pray to hold to, or abide in, the consciousness of Christ, God’s true idea as expressed in the life of Jesus, or allow ourselves to stay in the materialistic consciousness of Adam, representative of a false concept of God’s man? As people who wish to help our world, we cannot be unmindful of these differing mental conditions upon which the promise of our safety (or the lack thereof) is based.

Our great Exemplar, Christ Jesus, practiced spirituality throughout his life, and as a consequence we don’t find any record in the Bible that he was afraid. He never believed in any evil thing, but he called things evil. He identified evil actions and the people who did them, but he never swerved from the spiritual fact of one God, one perfect creation, and one power, the power of the Godhead as taught in the Old Testament. He didn’t abide in fear. He didn’t accept disease or death as realities, as part of God’s creation. And because he did not make room for such events in his consciousness, he did not succumb to them in his life or in his body. 

We have the Bible’s account of Jesus walking safely through a menacing mob intent on throwing him off a cliff. It’s apparent that nothing could convince him that his life was in danger or threatened with extinction. He slept peacefully in a ship on a stormy lake, while his disciples were frightened by the waves and feared for their lives. Nothing could terrorize Jesus, for as the writer of Hebrews says, he was “without sin” (Hebrews 4:15), without material-mindedness. He did not believe in a power apart from God. By contrast, it is our believing in evil’s reality that makes us believe it can endanger us and subject us to its conditions.

Jesus had no worldly weapons to defend himself. His defense was in the goodness he lived, his reflection of God. His every thought abode in Christ, in the imperishable Truth he embodied. Throughout his career he taught that the kingdom of heaven, the realm of reality, is within man and forever intact. He knew his safety was in his demonstrated spirituality, in the living of the Christly qualities of purity and innocence, and not in reliance on physical weaponry. Jesus proved the security innate in one who gives evil-mindedness, alias the carnal or mortal mind, nothing to prey upon, for there was no materialism in Jesus. He said, “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me” (John 14:30).

The only world there is for each of us is the world of our own consciousness.

If we feel the influence of fear, so prevalent in today’s world with its threats of mass destruction, we can find security from such terror in the realization that the true selfhood of each of us lives in divine Love, wherein is no fear and nothing to intimidate or frighten the man of God’s creating and preserving. As our consciousness turns sincerely to God and more and more faithfully stays with God, and we learn to live the divine qualities every day, mortal mind will find less and less in us to prey upon. And we will know that we are already eternally safe. The realization of the spiritual facts of being is the most effectual prayer for safety. Spirituality is our best friend and our best protection from mortal-mindedness. This spiritual-mindedness calls for consecration, loyalty, steadfastness, and devotion of thought to God from everyone who names the name of Christ in Christian Science. Lives consecrated to God, Spirit, are seen in secure living.

The first step in destroying any false ideology that promotes violence is to impersonalize it, deprive it of a believer. To personalize evil gives it reality, and results in war and terrorism among our fellow beings. The new warfare demanded by Christ Jesus is to see that the belief and the believer are one, and that that one is the belief that there is an individual who believes wrongly and thus acts wrongly. You are on firm ground when you see that the false belief has no believer, no identity, no agent, and no medium. Then you destroy it as wrong, mistaken thought by disbelieving in it. And you give proof that you disbelieve it when you banish it from your own consciousness and hence from your experience.

The teachings of Jesus exposed the real criminal—the carnal mind—as a murderer and a liar (see John 8:44). Fundamentally the terrorist is always the carnal mind, the illusive, unreal “mastermind” behind every conceivable trouble. It represents a suppositional material mentality opposed to God, the only Mind. Just as we would not knowingly shield a murderer in our house, so we must deny room in our consciousness to aggressive, destructive thoughts. We are then able to prove that evil is powerless, that it is a self-constituted lie unknown to God and to God’s man. Becoming conscious of the forces of good and expressing good, we can prove the seeming forces of evil to be nonexistent. In this way we can hold crime in check, as Mary Baker Eddy instructs us to do (see Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, pp. 96–97).

The only world there is for each of us is the world of our own consciousness. Science and Health states: “The physical universe expresses the conscious and unconscious thoughts of mortals” (p. 484). For the world to be a safer and better place, we need to police the world of our own consciousness, banish hurtful, lustful, destructive, materialistic thoughts, and allow only Christly thoughts to dwell therein.

Just as leaven transforms the whole lump of dough, so every Christly thought entertained in our consciousness will help leaven the whole mass of human thinking, and in that way fear’s grasp on mankind will be lessened until it finally disappears. This is following Jesus’ example, of whom Mrs. Eddy says: “Out of the amplitude of his pure affection, he defined Love. With the affluence of Truth, he vanquished error. The world acknowledged not his righteousness, seeing it not; but earth received the harmony his glorified example introduced” (Science and Health, p. 54).

Saul of Tarsus might be given the unenviable distinction of being one of the world’s earliest terrorists. “Breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1), Saul persecuted others out of a misguided sense of religious zealotry. What Saul did not yet realize was that such extremist thinking was not truly his own. His thoughts had been hijacked by the supposititious carnal mind. He had lent his sense of identity to mortal concepts opposed to the way God had made him. 

But the divine influence, or Christ, which our Leader tells us is "ever present in human consciousness" (Science and Health,  p. xi), was awakening him. At first the light of Truth blinded him when he perceived the evil he had committed, but then it opened his eyes to see the good he could do. With an enlightened consciousness of himself, he became known as Paul the Apostle. As a genuine follower of the Christ, he successfully bound “the strong man” (the carnal impulse in his consciousness) by bringing his thoughts into obedience to the Christ, which showed him his true God-given selfhood. He proved that he had mastered the carnal impulse to give power to evil when he escaped all sorts of danger (see Acts 28:1–5, II Corinthians 11:25).

The evil influence in human consciousness is called the devil or carnal mind. What counteracts this evil influence is the divine influence, ever present to some degree in each human consciousness—yes, even in that of the hard-core criminal or terrorist. It is this ever-present transformative power that enables a wrongdoer at any point to “depart from evil, and do good” (Psalms 37:27). Although this divine influence may be deeply buried by materialistic thoughts for a time, it cannot die. This divine influence is the Christ, or true consciousness of spiritual selfhood, casting out the errors of hatred and fear from human thought and so from the body and personal experience. The Bible assures us, “Greater is he [the divine influence, or Christ] that is in you, than he [the anti-Christ, the devil, the murderer] that is in the world” (I John 4:4).

Our mental abiding place is more important for our security than our physical location.

The divine Love that stayed the hand of Paul from committing new atrocities and changed his thought from persecutor to follower of Christ can do the same for every individual. Everyone is to be saved through the power of Christ, imparting the knowledge of man’s unity with God. Armed with spiritual truth, we are able to disarm the criminal, the terrorist—in other words, the carnal mind—because we disallow this false, ungodlike mentality any expression in our world, the world of our consciousness, knowing that it has no place in God’s universe. And we pray to know and see that this same divine Love is able to save everyone from committing acts that are harmful to others and to themselves.

A few years ago, my wife and I were walking home from a church meeting. It was a May evening, and it was still relatively bright at 9:30 at night. We were strolling down the Mall in London, and there were few people around. Two young men approached us, asked the time, and then drew their switchblades. One of them demanded my briefcase, which contained the only copy of the church talk I had just given—and would be giving in other locations. I was not afraid, but felt a firm mental rejection of the demand to hand him my papers. I told him in unmistakable terms that he would not get my briefcase. He seemed to understand my firm stand. The other man had turned to my wife, and she gave him her handbag with her passport and driver’s license. She told me that even though she gave up the bag, she said out loud to them what she was thinking—“You are honest”—a kind of protest of their innocence as God’s man. We walked home and prayed further. The passport and driver’s license were needed in order for us to travel farther. About a week later, my wife received a phone call saying that the bag had been found and in a circuitous way was sent to a woman in another city whose address was in my wife’s wallet. The bag with its passport and driver’s license was returned to us. Only some cash was missing.

The reason terrorism seems so prevalent today may be that Christian Science is uncovering as criminal the elemental nature of the carnal mind, which is inherently self-destructive in its instincts and has no paternal interest in its offspring, its illusive conception called mortal man. The carnal mind has been rightly called by Jesus “a murderer from the beginning,” and this is made evident in either the slow process called mortality or in acts of violence. Speaking of the error of these latter days, Mrs. Eddy tells us, “The looms of crime, hidden in the dark recesses of mortal thought, are every hour weaving webs more complicated and subtle” (Science and Health, p. 102). But the light of Truth will shine into the secret chambers of mortal thoughts, reveal their intents, neutralize them, and make them ineffectual.

Not partaking of God’s nature as supreme Mind, the so-called carnal mind is not real consciousness and thus has no intelligence. We need not let ourselves be mesmerized into accepting that non-intelligence can defeat the wisdom of the one divine Mind. The webs of mortal illusion are without power to catch or bend that thought which is alert to the nothingness of material sense and equipped with Christly intelligence. Our “intelligence gathering,” based on divine Mind, reveals mortal mind’s intentions and defuses them with the power of disbelief.

The Lord’s Prayer includes the affirmation “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever” (Matthew 6:13). Terrorism would argue that God has no kingdom and therefore does not govern. But the kingdom does belong to God—it is the place where God reigns. And that kingdom is expressed in our consciousness—yours and mine. That is where God’s control takes place; that is where God works in us “both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). That is where God asserts His presence, where He expresses His power and makes it known on earth. And no mortal mind can make us believe that there is reason for hatred or fear in God’s kingdom, or in man’s true consciousness.

Mary Baker Eddy tells us with assurance that no mortal picture can ever be real. The dream of mortality may offer its fears and manifestations of evil, which seem very real, but we are free to awaken to the absolute truths of God, His omnipotence and His omnipresence, of which the Bible affirms: “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27). We are secure in God, and there is no security anywhere else. Our oneness with God is indestructible, and the real man, our true spiritual selfhood, is always untouched by evil, because man coexists with God.

The warfare we are engaged in is only a stage of the age-old struggle in human consciousness between Spirit and the flesh, between Truth and error, which began in the Bible allegory with the subtle serpent, alias mortal mind; and the warfare ends prophetically in the destruction of that self-same serpent, symbolized in the last book of the Bible, Revelation, as a big red dragon. As divine Love destroys the error called evil in individual consciousness, we gradually approach the end of all worldliness and the final spiritualization of all things. The end of our believing in mortal mind is the end of all matter, and there is no other way of doing away with materiality.

Instead of looking at a world of material sense filled with pictures of destruction, brutality, and human woe, let us accept Mrs. Eddy’s invitation and behold the world of infinite Love. She states, “I have a world of wisdom and Love to contemplate, that concerns me, and you ….” And she concludes, “... I earnestly invite you to its contemplation with me, and to preparation to behold it” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, pp. 321–322).

What our Leader invites us to contemplate is not a dream world, but the world of existing reality, the only world there is, the world God made. The truth of the Bible promise is ours to demonstrate and behold: “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ” (Revelation 11:15). Then every consciousness will abide eternally and safely in Christ and be Christly.

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