God’s Word: Sanctification, fortification, rest
By Jackie Morfesis
There is a deep wound that many faith believers, even devout Christians, do not see right before them. I will use an analogy to illustrate my point. We spend both time and money to pursue, to see, to support those we love and adore and those who intrigue us. We read autobiographies and biographies about celebrities, the famous, the notable. We go to concerts (or at least we did prior to the pandemic). We want to know every last detail about those who bring joy or excitement to our lives, both communally and personally.
Yet, the one who came to save our souls, who suffered for us, who was crucified for us, how often do we bother to read His life story? Of course, I am talking about the Lord Jesus. I see in many ways the New Testament as the story of the life of the one I love more than anyone. Why wouldn’t I want to know everything about Him?
In all fairness, I must partially lay fault on our own churches. Yes, our own churches. I grew up Greek Orthodox Christian. And the Eastern Orthodox Christian faith has many riches, treasures and a depth of spiritual experience that draws many converts. But in every denomination, just like every person, has its strengths and perhaps unique challenges.
I did not truly dive deep into the Word of God until I explored other parishes and developed relationships with those outside of my own church. It was as if a door that had been closed so tightly by tradition had been opened. As I read verses like Psalm 119:105 — “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” — I could tangibly feel my heart open, even break, if you will. And I could feel my spirit strengthen because I was being fortified by the Word of God. I became hungry for God’s Word, so hungry that I play contemporary worship music in my home so that I can hear scripture and in turn memorize it.
When our Lord was tempted in the Bible, what did He do? He rested in the Word of God. Imagine that. The Word resting in the Word. And we, too, should be resting in the Word of God. It is not only something that we hear within the divine liturgy of our services or within the sermons of other churches. The Word is something that should be ingrained in the very cells of our bodies. On our tongues. On our lips. In our minds. And most deeply in our hearts. When we pray, when we battle in the Kingdom, it is the Word of God that sustains us. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
The Word of God fortifies us like food. When we love God, we hunger for Him and His Word. As Jesus tells us in John 6:33, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” I have made a conscious choice to fill my mind with and meditate on God’s Word. And He, in turn, feeds me.
There is nothing wrong with tradition or ritual. Nor with observing the holy days. Nor, for some, in venerating (not worshiping) the saints and martyrs. Nor in the beautiful prayers and hymns passed down to us by the church fathers, monastics and saints of the faith. Of course not.
However, there is something very tragic about claiming to be Christian and not knowing the words that our Lord and Savior spoke not only in history but for all eternity. This is not only tragic on an intellectual level in terms of knowledge and learning but also in terms of the soul. Yet it is something that can be remedied, according to John 17:17: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.”
When I think of the legions of darkness, I think they must all be rejoicing at God’s children who indeed love Him yet do not even bother to listen to Him by opening the Bible or a prayer book except during service. In actuality, the legions of darkness know God’s Word better than most Christians. They distort the Word to their own advantage. Even they believe in God. But it is not enough to believe in God. We must at our very core hunger for Him and know that only God and His holy Word can truly feed our souls, heal our hearts and save us.
Jackie Morfesis has a BFA in fine arts and an MA in liberal studies and teacher certification from Rutgers University. She held a Rotary Scholarship to Greece in the arts and humanities. An artist, poet and educator, she is a Greek Orthodox Christian and involved with prison ministry in the Charleston area.