Perhaps you have thought at one time that there is something missing in your life, a type of longing, but you have been unable to place your finger on it. You think that, as a Christian, this longing should eventually disappear and be filled with “knowing God” or maybe that it should be filled with some sort of ministry success, be it family, job, church or just personal accomplishments that you believe Christ has called and is calling you to.
You might have been told that this “God shaped hole” is awaiting this personal relationship with Christ via your “justification” in Christ. Or, maybe your leaders are less systematic and they choose different wording such as: “you are now guilt free.”
The reason this path of becoming a witness and knowingGod is not fulfilling is because it is rhetorically engineered by those that have capitalized on heterodoxy. They themselves have been sucked into this path just like every Protestant has, but since they are entrepreneurial or have another type of leadership skill, their zeal for the “becoming a witness” and “knowing God” turns into a type of legalism. And you are their law! You are their fuel for this chase that they are on to find fulfillment in Christ. And you do the same to others, only you do not have a fulltime ministry, thus you are left a bit confused and empty.
Perhaps you have not bought in to the witnessing aspect and are left with “knowing God.” You have read a number of books and have had many conversations with intelligent Christians but you feel you can go no further and you are now seeking other avenues of fulfillment, be it hobbies, entertainment, or some other cultural phenomenon. You are simply not too sure that knowing more doctrine is going to fulfill this emptiness that’s harbored within your soul. You may have even come to a point of spiritual depression!
There have been countless Protestants leaders such as Martin Lloyd Jones and C.J. Mahaney that claim our emptiness is to be cured by repeating to ourselves the Protestant doctrine of Justification. This is somehow supposed to ease our guilt in Christ, which these men teach is the crux of our longing, being “guilt free.”
The Orthodox Church does not teach such doctrines, that guilt is inherited from the fall of Adam and Eve and that Christ came to “pay the price” so that we could be free from guilt. This is not taught within the Bible, although one can construct such a doctrine from compiling selective Bible verses and various presuppositions. There is no guilt transferred through humanity. What is transferred is mortality. We shall all die at some point, and there is even sin that leads to death, as the Scriptures teach. This death is unnatural. We were not originally designed for death! What the Orthodox Church teaches is that we begin to assimilate into the “natural” man, that is, the man of Christ Jesus who as St. Paul says, is the “new Adam.” When we are baptized, we are baptized into His death and resurrection! We begin to withdrawal from the ways of the devil, being released from his bondage through the cross. And we begin to take on the properties of Christ, of His divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).
The Orthodox way of life becomes much more of a healing process with God than an intellectual process with God. Man does not begin to “know” God, rather man begins to become him; Not in the ontological sense, where a man becomes a separate authority and power, but man “becomes” in the spiritual sense. So rather than WWJD (what would Jesus do), which is a form of legalism, where man puts together a construct to mimic Christ, man, now, through this theosis, begins to naturally live Christ out in his or her life! You begin to live like Christ not because you have to or even because you want to but because you are led to, because you are fashioned and formed to live as Christ lives. Through the sacramental life one begins to take matter away from the devil and begins applying the matter to eternity. This requires, prayer, meditation, liturgy, listening to the Word, and the center of the sacramental life, the Eucharist – the very sacrificial embodiment of Christ’s broken body and blood. These things any person can do regardless of age or mental capacity, thus fulfilling the law of Christ when He says to humble yourself as a child in order to enter the Kingdom.
The antithesis of the gospel is that we chase after autonomy and pride, but to turn to Christ and receive the gospel is to submit to authority and humility. The sacramental life helps us to accomplish this. It helps us to become humble, submitting to simple yet sacred elements instituted by Christ rather than intellectual constructs that tend to puff us up in to even more arrogance.
Just because I perceive to know something about Christ does not mean that I have a relationship with him. St. Paul says that “knowledge puffs up” but love edifies. Do you want to fulfill that emptiness in your life? Then give up your legalistic pursuit and begin to submit to the very movement of his people and become a part of this people, this movement toward heaven. As St. James says, flee from the devil and he will flee from you!