Many of us look around us today, and take in the culture, the liberality, the lack of morals, and we groan. In my lifetime, and I’m not that old, I’ve seen many changes. I remember when it rebellious to publicly get drunk, today one need only browse Facebook to see people boast of their revelries. I remember when it was a sad occasion when people got divorced, and there was a general belief that people should try to keep it together. Today they are discussing auto-expiring marriage licenses in Mexico, ones that you need to actively renew if you want to remain married. At one point, virginity and then monogamy were valued and extolled, today we usher in an era of “friends with benefits”, “open marriages” and we do not need to look far to see the sexual explosion and exploitation. The list could go on. What scares me is that underneath all of this is the spirit of ungodliness: a pluralistic, secular, atheist world.
It’s all fine and good to lament, but let’s try to move past the superficial groaning for a few minutes. The scenario being described is not much different from the world in which the Apostles lived. In their time, elaborate parties, sensuality and hedonism reigned supreme. They were godless in that their gods were so very much like them. Their gods would come down and have intercourse with men and produce demi-gods. Their gods could get jealous, angry or excited, their gods were pretty much the same as them.
So what happened? How did the world go from such an extreme there, to the stereotypical Puritanical system, back to the extreme that we are in?
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth
– John 16:13
The Spirit of Truth came.
Great. So what is that Truth? The Truth is that this “person” that came to earth, Jesus, is actually God. And if this person is really God, and really telling the Truth, then that means that this God that the Jews were worshipping was the real God. More than this, if there is a God, it means that we were created. If we were created then it means that we have some kind of relationship with this Creator. What is that relationship? Well, now we have to look at the Spirit of Truth that spoke and worked through the OT Church, and at the words of Christ when He was on the earth. Because if it is true, then there are consequences. This is why the first thing that Saint Peter speaks about after receiving the Spirit, is the testimony concerning the coming of the Spirit and of Christ.
Let’s just step back for a minute and look at some realities. The twelve apostles, really, they were pretty much nobodies. Really, they were fisherman and tax collectors, nothing super impressive. Somehow, though, these men turned the world totally upside down. Can you imagine today, if a young youth who has not finished even high school, working out of a 7-11 and a bunch of his buddies invade Wall Street and tell them “You ought to change your ways and be less corrupt!” Can you imagine anyone really caring that much? Yet, historically, we know that the Christians flipped the world around, to the point that Blessed Augustine wrote a defense of why Christians weren’t responsible for the fall of the Empire!
How did they do that?
It’s because they spoke the Truth.
The truth has a way of convicting people, because regardless of their decisions, their opinions, their lifestyles, they are aware that something isn’t “right” or “true” about it. If the truth was entirely relative, then why is society working so hard to plead with people to “tolerate” everything? If there was no sense of moral conviction about things, then why do people with one lifestyle tend to only associate with people of the same lifestyle? It’s because it’s more comfortable. If you put someone in front of something less comfortable, they are forced to evaluate their own realities, and they do not necessarily want to feel like their reality may be that they are in error.
If the Apostles did not witness the Resurrection, if it was not true, then there was no point for them to preach at great cost to themselves. Show me a person today who is cheerfully willing to die for a lie.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
– 1 Corinthians 15:3-8
The Apostles were preaching what they really witnessed, or they would not suffer for it, and then die for it. All of the Apostles but John were murdered for their beliefs. Murdered. We call it martyrdom, but let’s not forget what it really was – it was cold-blooded murder. People aren’t willing to suffer that for fun. This same Paul that wrote these words speaks elsewhere of the immense suffering he underwent for the Gospel. Why? Because it’s true! Why would anyone voluntarily suffer? They can only do it if it’s True.
Now, because of that belief in the Gospel, the Lord sent them the Spirit of Truth: the Spirit that would reveal things to them, illuminate them, that will ‘teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you”. The Spirit that is our Comforter, and that enabled the Apostles and the Saints to endure suffering for the sake of what is right. The Spirit gave them boldness and conviction and authority.
That is what made Twelve ignorant men convert the whole world from a life of so-called “liberty”, to a life in Christ (real freedom). That if this Christ Who came, Who was touched and beheld and was killed, then there is a reality that we have to deal with. Is He God or isn’t He? And if He is, then things are no longer a matter of opinion, there is now a Truth with Whom we need to be confronted.
So the question that’s begging to be asked, is “where is that Spirit” today? My friends, is it not because we are not letting Him work? Is it because we lack Him? Do we not sometimes “quench the Spirit” (Rom 12:11)? Do we live according to the Truth in order that our lives convict the world with Truth? Do we even know what is the Gospel? Do we even know what Christ said or did? Do we believe in the Baptism and Chrismation we received? Are we afraid to speak the Truth?
I can speak with authority that I have seen in my life the work of the Holy Spirit, and of this I can testify. Each of us needs to work on this, because the gifts of the Spirit have not changed. The role of the Spirit has not changed.
So, our duty as Christians is to “acquire the Spirit”, in acquiring the Spirit, we can change the world all over again. Our Lord said that in the latter days, “Because sin will abound, the love of many will wax cold”, and He also said “By this men shall know that you are mine, in that you love one another”. Let us, for the sake of ourselves, for the sake of the world, and for the Love of the Spirit (Who is God), acquire the Spirit of Truth.
If we do this, then like when Peter preached the Truth:
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
– Acts 2:37-38
Let us learn the Truth ourselves, my friends, so that we are changed, and the world will change. Because at the end of this, we are not a bunch of nobodies, we are Christians, and in Christ we have infinite value.
On how to acquire the Spirit: please, I plead with you, read a short book called “Acquisition of the Holy Spirit’ by St. Seraphim of Sarov.