“…BE IMITATORS OF GOD AS DEAR CHILDREN..” (Ephesians 5:1)

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

Christ is in our midst! He was, is, and ever shall be.

"Therefore be IMITATORS OF God as dear children. And
walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Him-
self for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a
sweet-smelling aroma" (Ephesians 5:1-2).

Holy Apostle Paul continues offering guidance to the faithful and followers of Christ by beseeching them "to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love" (Ephesians 4:1-2). His message continues to be the same for Christians throughout time and place. How Christians, and specifically Orthodox Christians, believe and act. How one believes must affect how one lives; one’s faith or belief should influence his/her conduct i.e., to "walk in love, as Christ…"

"Walk worthy of the calling." He explains further what he means by "walk": To walk in love; to walk in the light; to walk in wisdom as people of God. "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you." (Ephesians 4:32). To walk implies a slow steady pace; a daily but consistent spiritual progress; more of a marathon, not a sprint.

"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:8-9). The Holy Apostle Paul continues his admonition to the children of God by saying, "See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is" (Ephesians 5:15-17).

The aim of one who follows Christ is not so much to abandon the world, but to keep oneself in Christ. The Orthodox Christian is one who remains steadfast in his/her faith and in the new life in Christ. Although, as Christians, we live in an ungodly secular world, the true believer must not surrender to the world. "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 5:12).

We, the contemporary Christians, who stand for good must be prepared to wage constant battle with the forces of evil and not stand idle and indifferent.
We believe, and we see it daily, that the wicked forces still have a great deal of influence in the world. This dangerous situation will continue until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again in glory. It is incumbent for all believers of Christ to stay strong in the faith and not yield to any outside evil influence or temptation.

The evil one has not ceased his attacks on the Holy Church and the followers of Jesus Christ for all two thousand years of its existence. The persecution of Christ and His Church, of which He is the Head, will continue until His Second Coming. For centuries his attacks were manifested through the pagan Roman state and other enemies of our Savior. Then wicked forces within the Church began to appear in the form of heresies and heretics. These attacks were insidious and even more dangerous because they attempted to subvert, corrupt, divide, confuse, distort, create mistrust, and turn one Christian against the other. This is not hyperbole, but a reality. We can look at the result of this evil today. See how Christians are divided and how the Christian Gospel, the Good News, has been deliberately distorted by these evil forces. There are at least 35,000 Protestant denominations throughout the world that share a common Scripture but cannot come to a mutual interpretation and understanding. Christ unites the Christian people by His Truth, by His Divine Gospel, and does not divide! Jesus Himself warns us: "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand" (St. Matthew 12:25).

Christians today must be aware of their surroundings at all times and in every place including the Church. Jesus warns us, "Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves" (St. Matthew 7:15). One cannot be too careful or let his guard down at any time. We live in a world of deception and so-called ‘confidence men’ who deliberately desire to take advantage of our innocence and trust. The holy Apostle advises, "Beloved, DO NOT BELIEVE EVERY SPIRIT, BUT TEST THE SPIRITS, WHETHER THEY ARE OF GOD; because many false prophets have gone out unto the world. By this, you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit THAT DOES NOT BELIEVE THAT JESUS CHRIST HAS COME IN THE FLESH IS NOT OF GOD. AND THIS IS THE SPIRIT OF THE ANTICHRIST, WHICH YOU HAVE HEARD WAS COMING AND IS NOW ALREADY IN THE WORLD" (1 jOHN 4:1-3).

Be strong, be alert, remain steadfast in the Faith, and loyal to Christ our God and Savior. Do not deviate from the Truth and the Gospel of Christ and stay close to our Holy Orthodox Church. Do not allow anyone at all to corrupt our HolyTradition and defend Christianity as the Christians of the early Church did. They were willing to be imprisoned, tortured, and even killed for the Lord and His Church. Millions of Christians have given their lives over the centuries and millions will continue to do so now and in the future. Don’t be stupefied or gullible. Remember that the devil can take all kinds of forms and shapes, including by presenting himself as "an angel of light." Do not be deceived! Instead, pray that the Almighty God will give you the gift of discernment and be able to see through the devious snares of the evil one. Study the Holy Scripture, pray daily, receive the Sacraments as often as possible and the sacred writings of the Holy Fathers and Mothers of the Church.

Let us pray to the Lord. Kyrie eleison,

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of
the Holy Spirit. Amen.

O Christ our God,
At all times and every hour, in heaven and on earth,
You are worshipped and glorified;
You are long-suffering, Most Merciful, Most compassionate,
You love the righteous and have mercy upon the sinners;
You call everyone to salvation
through the promise of future blessings;
Receive, O Lord, our prayers at this hour
And direct our life toward your Commandments,
Sanctify our souls, make our bodies chaste;
Correct our thoughts, purify our intentions;
And deliver us from every grief and pain that comes from evil,
Encompass us by Your holy Angels,
So that guarded and guided by them
We may attain to the unity of the faith
And to the knowledge of Your inapproachable glory,
For You are Blessed unto the age of ages. Amen.

___________________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

– Saint John Chrysostomos

+ + +

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+ Father George

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