Monday, April 11, 2016

You Can't Climb to Heaven until You Renounce the World


Hello. My name is Father Athanasios Haros and I'm the Pastor here at the Transfiguration of Our Savior Greek Orthodox Church in Florence, South Carolina. I'm your host for Be Transfigured Ministries. Here at Be Transfigured, as we say, we invite you to live a new life in Christ. We feature our sermons and our Bible studies and other special events in the life of the Church. We do it to inspire you to join us living a new life in Christ. I hope you'll join us. I'll be back in a moment after this video to share some information about our ministry.

As we are celebrating today the memory of a holy man in our Church history, St. John of the Ladder, we call him, St. John the Climacus, because he wrote a book called On the Ladder of Divine Ascent. Today, the Church commemorates this holy saint.

This book that he wrote, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, I put these different steps in your Church bulletins but I want to begin this morning by drawing your attention to the first step. If you have your bulletins, look at your bulletin. Step number one on the divine ascent, how to get to heaven, step number one, it says on the renunciation of the world.

We are in the middle of our Great Lenten journey, a period of increased fasting, a period of increased Church attendance, a period of increased prayer, a period of increased scripture reading, a period of increased helping of the poor. All of this, my brothers and sisters, if we are living the life of the Church, all of this has been given to us this many weeks and we still have a couple of weeks left so we can focus on this first step that St. John is reminding us of. Until we can renounce the world, we cannot climb to heaven. I'm going to say that again because it's incredibly important. Until we are able to renounce the world, we cannot climb to heaven. We cannot, my brothers and sisters, hold on to the earthly things to our comforts, to our wealth, to the ways of life of the world, and still try and reach heaven. It is not possible.

That's what our Great Lenten journey is about: understanding, accepting, embracing, and practicing renouncing the world. That was the message last week when we talked about the holy cross. We talked about our suffering. This week, we're going to look further now with the understanding that we want to get to heaven and that we have chosen to let go of the worldly things. It's a big presumption because it holds us so strongly.

We are so bound to our worldly things. We are so bound to the way we want to do things in life. We live in a culture, as we know, that reinforces this mentality. We live in a culture that reinforces the idea that we can have whatever we want whenever we want it, as much as we want it. Anyone that we see that doesn't agree with us, we find ways to get them out of our way so we can have and we can collect and we can gather all of these worldly realities to our life. That includes sometimes even in the face of sickness.

As I mentioned last week, the Cross is an understanding of suffering. In this morning's Gospel, you see a man whose son was suffering and it says that he bought his son to the apostles and the apostles couldn't save his son so he comes to Christ and he says, "If you can do anything, your apostles couldn't do anything," as if to tell God, "Why is it not happening like I want, God?"

If we're honest with ourselves, we will admit that we have been in the same place as this father many times in our life. It may not necessarily be with physical illness but if we are honest with ourselves, just how many times have we placed ourselves in the position of saying, "God, it hasn't happened yet like I want it to. Come on, God. Can't you do something for me?" It could be a job, it could be a relationship, it could even be something as simple as building a new home for our family. We find ourselves constantly impatient with what God has to offer us because we want it now on our terms. We want health, we want wealth, we want comforts now. We don't want to wait.

Our Lord, being the complete loving and patient God, says, "Oh, you faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me." God is ever so patient with us, my brothers and sisters. Even in those moments of complete selfish begging that we do in front of our icons, we want it now, we want it on our terms, even at those moments when we're completely ignoring what God has asked us to do in life, He turns to us and says, "How long am I going to be with you until you realize that these worldly things are not what's going to bring us happiness?" These comforts in life are not going to be what sets us on a firm foundation for the future. In the patience of God, He's going to say to us, "How long am I going to bear with you, my children, until you realize that you have to be willing to let go of all these things if you want to join Me in heaven," the Lord is saying.

He says, "Bring him here to Me." There's the center, middle section of the Gospel, which is the dialogue between Him and the boy and the demon and the fathers. The demons throw the boy into the fire and he's suffering and the boy is healed. God was going to heal him but He wanted the people to understand that we have to have patience in life when it comes to the things that we are asking from God. The apostles pull him privately and they say, "Excuse me, God, Lord. Don't you remember you told ..." This isn't how it's written in here but you can imagine how the apostles are thinking now. "Remember, Lord, you told us that we had the power to cast out demons. How come we couldn't cast out this demon?" Our Lord says, "This particular kind of demon can only go out through prayer and fasting."

It is only when we have the patience to put our complete faith in God, it is only when we're willing through fasting to let go of all of the worldly pressures in our life, all of the worldly desires in our life, only then will this demon be able to come out of us. That's what Great Lent is all about, renouncing the world, patiently praying to our Lord. What did the father say? "I believe. Help my unbelief." That should be our call, my brothers and sisters. You wouldn't be here this morning if you didn't somewhat believe. You wouldn't be here this morning sitting in this Church if there wasn't some kernel of faith in your heart.

You know, as a parenthesis, I love the way the modern Greek translates this particular verse. The modern Greek says, "I believe. Help me, however." [GREEK] "Help me, however, because my faith is weak." It is in prayer and fasting in this wonderful Great Lenten journey that the Church gives us that we are going to strengthen our faith, my brothers and sisters. It is in this prayer and fasting of this Great Lenten season that we're going to learn that we don't always have to follow the ways of the world to put our children and our families on a sure foundation for the future. God is our foundation.

Just as one final reminder, St. Paul reminding us that God in his ultimate patience came and set up a covenant for us. He made an oath because he knew that we were weak. St. Paul says, "Thus, God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise," that's us, "the immutability of his council, confirmed by an oath that by two immutable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope," St. Paul says, "we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, in which enters the presence behind the veil where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus having become high priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek."

The Lord has given us a promise, my brothers and sisters, and He doesn't go back on His promises. The promise is that He is going to bring us with Him to heaven. That is our hope. Our hope is not in a college education or in a good job or a sizable estate to hand down to our children. That is not our hope. That is the hope of the world. As St. John of the Ladder writes, In just step one, on the renunciation of the world. We cannot climb up to heaven until we're willing to leave all of these things beside.  Through prayer and fasting, we can accomplish just that and we can cast that demon out of our life and be raised with Christ into heaven.

That's our call this week, my brothers and sisters. In your daily prayers, throughout the day at noon every moment on your lips should be the words, this week, "I believe, Lord. Help my unbelief." God has already promised to strengthen that belief through prayer and fasting, which is our Great Lenten journey. Glory to God for all things.

Well, I'm back and I hope this video was an inspiration to you. I hope it helps you live a new life in Christ. Please share our message of hope with your friends and family and invite others to live a new life in Christ. Find more information about Be Transfigured Ministries by joining us on our website at You can also find many of our videos on the Orthodox Christian Network, our partners at As we say at Be Transfigured, until next week, God bless you and don't forget to live a new life in Christ.

Be Transfigured is a production of the Transfiguration of Our Savior Greek Orthodox Church in Florence, South Carolina and presented by the Orthodox Christian Network. Contributions in support of this ministry may be sent to Be Transfigured, 2990 S Cashua Dr, Florence, South Carolina 29501 or online at our website at

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