First, dearest friends, we would spring from the Gospels, where Christ the Divine Logos, the Word of God, speaks directly to us, in his words. In the Gospel of St. Matthew, Our Lord introduces us into a lot of divine truths about the inner life of God, about the Kingdom of God which He has come to establish, an about the purpose, which he wants to see accomplished in our lives. From there we understand that it has been the desire of God to unite the Trinity with Humanity. It is the natural character of love, not to be content, till he is one with the one loved. And so God wanted, from the very moment of creating us, to be one with us, and this is why He sends His Son to us. But what do we know about God, what do we know about this person whom we have accepted to unite ourselves with and what does uniting ourselves with him entail? To the first question, the scriptures give us many answers, among which are two specific ones I would like to mention. In 1John 4:8, we are told that GOD IS LOVE, and in Hebrews 12:29, we are told that THE LORD OUR GOD IS A CONSUMING FIRE. Some people have taken the passage from Hebrews 12:29 to mean that God is a fire we can use to consume all our enemies or fight against them, a destructive fire, but not only is this not compatible with the idea of a God who is love, it is also not in any way implied in the passage of Hebrews 12, when read in the context. And so we have our answer, the God who has called us to him, who has desired to give us his all in a deeply profound unity, is a God who is A CONSUMING FIRE OF LOVE. What does this mean?
It is precisely, at this point that our Lord Jesus Christ furnishes us with the answer. In Matthew 13:44, Our Lord told us a parable, about the kingdom of Heaven. ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, the one who finds it buries it again, and so happy is he, that he goes and sells everything he has, in order to buy that field’. There are two salient points to note here. This soul found a treasure, and went back to sell all he owns to purchase it. But sell all he owns??? This indeed goes to show us that coming close to God involves losing something, coming close to the Kingdom of God involves a ‘selling’ of something. It is only those who have experienced divine holiness that would know that the process of sanctification wrought by the Holy Spirit in our lives involves a shedding of a lot of things, a denial of a lot of things, not just for the sake of denying them but for the sake of the kingdom. Finding God therefore is like finding a treasure, as related in this parable. But losing all those things ‘WE OWN’ is not easy, it is painful and involves sacrifice. We should pause and consider that our Lord said that this man practically sold ALL HE OWNED. Now, that must have been hard. But why is it hard? Because we are approaching a consuming fire of love, this fire therefore burns away everything that is contrary to the nature of this fire. The more we come closer to this fire the more we are being ‘purged’ of our weakness and our imperfections, the more we are being purged of our unworthiness, our ungodliness, because the Spirit is at work in us to make us perfect as our heavenly Father is (Matt.5:48), to wrought in us that divine will of God, our sanctification. (2Thess.4:3). That is the more reason why the writer of Hebrews does not speak of enemies or battles in its 12th chapter, but of the nature of the kingdom, an indication of the removal of everything that can be shaken, that is, created things, and only those that cannot be shaken will remain. Cf. Hebrews 12:27-28. This is the main reason why the road to the kingdom is narrow and rough. (Matt. 7:13). It is not a wide and easy road, and so it involves self-denial and mortification.
Do I speak of something new? Of course not, Matt. 16:24 says ‘if any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me’, Matt. 18:8 says ‘If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it from you’, in Matt. 19:16-22, the man who had riches approached and asked for a way to be saved, our lord looked at him and had compassion on him, for he had many riches, he therefore asked him to go and sell all he owned and give the money to the poor, but no, that was hard, and so the man went away sad. Now we all have many ‘riches’ that prevent us from experiencing the kingdom of God in our lives, and just the way a rich man will find it difficult to enter the kingdom, so would we. Remember that Christ is not basically talking about being rich but being attached to certain behaviors, attitudes, sins and imperfections which we consider as treasures or riches for us, probably because we derive pleasure from them or due to our weakness as humans, a consequence of the Original sin we were born with. Rom.3:23 says we have all sinned and come short of the Lord’s glory. And James 3:2 says that in many things we all err. And the Bible says about the Kingdom, ‘But nothing unclean shall enter, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood’. And so, we all are in a constant need of the Grace of God, which is the life of God in us, to constantly purify us and make us holy, more like Him. Psalm 51:9 therefore says, ’Purge me with hyssop that I might be clean’. Another name for ‘purge’ is ‘purify’, from the Latin purgare. This cleansing is not an imaginary cleansing, it is an actual one, and it involves us. It involves us making effort, it involves sacrifice, it involves a burning away of the exigencies, the rubbish that prevent us from being who God made us to be. As St. Paul also says in 1Cor. 9:27, ‘I suffer my body and control it, lest after preaching to others, I myself should be rejected’.
So my friends, our God is a consuming fire of love, so intense is this fire that as we draw near to him, we are being made holy by the purifying fire of his love, we are been ‘purged’ of anything that is contrary to the nature of God. And this burning away is painful, it is hard. This ‘purging’ is likened to selling all we own, the things that we are attached to, and hence enslaved to, so that we automatically become slaves of Christ, servants of the most high. That is what happens in our sanctification by the Holy Spirit, and so far as the Spirit is still in us, this process of sanctification that involves a purging, is still on, till we are perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect.
Please drop your comments, as I prepare for part 2!!!