All who enter upon the good fight, which is hard and close, but also easy, must realize that they must leap into the fire, if they really expect the celestial fire to dwell in them. But, let everyone examine himself, and let him drink the cup of it with its bitter herbs, and let him drink the cup of it with its tears, lest his service lead to his own judgment. (Step 1:9)*

St. John is echoing here the clear teachings of the Scripture – both on the fight, and on the cup. In order to follow Christ, to fight ‘the good fight,’ we must wholeheartedly give ourselves to Christ and to the struggle to follow the commandments. We must be willing to hate everything earthly (Luke 14:26) for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. The ‘fight,’ then, to follow Him is both hard and easy – easy because the Grace of God strengthens us, hard because our fallen humanity struggles against following Christ. Following Christ is the most difficult, and most counter- cultural, life that man could possibly have. Virtually everything that Christ calls us to is hated by the world – and this is the life that we must throw ourselves into if we expect the Spirit of God to dwell within us.

The cup can be bitter – Christ prayed in the Garden to let the cup pass from Him, but then ended by saying, “Not my will, but Thine” (Luke 22:42). Christ paints the picture very clearly for us: “take up [your] cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). Following Christ is a cross because in order to follow Him we must put to death our own will, our own sins, and our own passions. We must put off the old man and put on the new (Colossians 3:9-10). May our Lord Jesus Christ pour out His grace upon us so that we may follow Him wherever He may lead us, from the depths of hell to the gates of the Kingdom.

Scripture verse for thought today: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God“ (Hebrews 12:1-2).

*All quotes are taken from The Ladder of Divine Ascent by Saint John Climacus, Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Boston: 2001.

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