“By grace we become
what God is by nature”

By Greg Jones

Christians believe that the destiny and goal of the disciple is reconciliation into God – dwelling fully with God in the Kingdom. We have been called to follow Jesus on this way.

There is a term called ‘theosis’ which I like a great deal – it has to do with the process of becoming holy. Athanasius says, “By Grace we become what God is by nature.”

The journey towards eternal holiness begins thus in the natural birth of each human being, granted by God in creation the supreme gift of being created in God’s likeness, “giving them a portion even of the power of His own word,” as Athanasius writes. That process continues further, we believe, by gracious entrance into the mystical Body of Christ (the Church) through Baptism, where by God’s grace we’ve been included in that community of the Word’s special presence for the sake of the world. And just as the new birth of Baptism brings us into this gracious fellowship of the Incarnation, we are called to further mature within it into the full stature of Christ.

Wisdom commends that without our own effort at discipleship – our own effort to become mature disciples – our faith is almost certainly dead. In other words, disciples are called to unite our will, thought and action with God’s for the sake of our own growing up — for the sake of the world’s good — for the sake of the lost, oppressed, poor, hungry, sick and alone. In the process of our own maturation into fuller likeness of Christ, it is expected that we do what he calls us to do. It is expected that we follow the Master.

It is required that we repent of the sin of our own pride and willfulness which seeks to do us in from the moment of our natural birth, beyond the moment of our new birth, and unto the moment of our final breath.

Our Church teaches that discipleship requires membership in the community of the Body of Christ (the Church) that is active and living, including especially regularly partaking in the Eucharist, prayers, ministry and mission of the one Body, and enjoining the Body’s fellowship of grace and joy. It only makes sense that we who follow Jesus should be seeking to invite all human beings into this community of the Incarnate Word — not from a spirit of conquest but in a spirit of truly gracious love and invitation to union with the Word of God in Christ.

As we approach Lent – let us rejoice that we have not been left alone to stand blessed by our Creation in God’s image yet besmirched by our own desire to recreate ourselves according to our own will. Let us rejoice that the Word became flesh, taking on the power of corruption, defeating it, and offering us a place in which to dwell so that we might ever more become like Him in all ways – in this world and the next.

Lent is a time, I believe, to daily repent of one’s individual sin, but to seek daily new connection not only the implanted Word within, but to the Body of Christ – the Church – which itself is our locus of salvation and the community of the Kingdom on earth.

The Rev. Samuel Gregory Jones (“Greg”) was educated at the University of North Carolina and the General Theological Seminary, where he is on the Board. Greg is rector of St. Michael’s Raleigh, and author of Beyond Da Vinci (Seabury Books, 2004). He blogs at fatherjones.com.

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