OK, the blog title may be a bit of an overstatement. Or maybe not. For the past eight years, Rev. Mark Pendleton has been developing a spiritual-growth program called “Begin a New Life,” based on Swedenborgian, Biblical teachings about the path of repentance. It’s finally ready for public release, and you can find it here: www.beginanewlife.info.
Now, a caveat: I have not actually used this program directly. But because it is squarely based in New Church teachings on the life of repentance, I regularly follow its steps, without the worksheets but often with pencil and paper in hand, and a list of the Ten Commandments beside me.
If there’s one thing I would emphasize from the information on the website, it’s the importance of praying directly to the Lord Jesus Christ in this process, rather than to a vague idea of God. The chapter from True Christian Religion on repentance – from which the bulk of the program is derived – puts it this way:
Confession ought to be made before the Lord God the Saviour, and then prayer should be offered for help and the power to resist evils.
The Lord God the Saviour ought to be approached, because He is the God of heaven and earth, the Redeemer and Saviour, whose attributes are omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence, mercy itself together with righteousness; also because man is His creation, and the church is His sheep-fold. The New Testament contains in many places His command that man should approach, worship and adore Him. He instructed us to approach Him alone in this passage of John:
In truth I tell you, anyone who does not go into the sheep-fold through the gate, but climbs up another way, is a thief and a robber. But he who goes in through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. I am the gate, anyone who goes in through me will be saved and will find pasture. A thief only comes to steal, slaughter and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and plenty. I am the good shepherd. John 10:1, 2, 9-11.
The reason one ought not to climb up another way is so as not to approach God the Father, as He is invisible, and therefore unapproachable and incapable of being conjoined to man. That is why He came into the world, and made Himself visible, approachable and capable of being joined to. This was exclusively so that man could be saved. For unless in approaching God we think about Him as a Man, all ideas about God are vain; they collapse like the power of sight directed towards the universe, that is, into empty space, or towards nature, or the objects inside nature that stand in the way.
God Himself, who from eternity is one, came into the world, as is perfectly plain from the way the Lord the Saviour was born: He was conceived by the power of the Most High through the Holy Spirit, and as a result His Human was born of the Virgin Mary. From this it follows that His soul was the Divine itself, which is called the Father, since God is indivisible; and that the Human so born is the Human of God the Father, which is called the Son of God (Luke 1:32, 34, 35). Again, it follows from these facts that when the Lord God the Saviour is approached, God the Father is also approached. That is why when Philip begged Him to show him the Father, He replied:
He who sees me, sees the Father. How is it then you say, Show us the Father? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me? Believe me, I am in the Father and the Father is in me. John 14:6-11.
All this is included in the readings that accompany the program, but in case someone skips straight to the worksheets, I think it’s important that that be put front and centre. This whole process is about acting as if from your own power, and in that process realizing that it is really only through the Lord God Jesus Christ acting in you and through you that you’re able to overcome anything, that your heart can change.
I can’t overstate the importance of the life of repentance. It’s taught over and over and over throughout the Bible. It’s the most basic thing that is required of us to live faithfully. I’d go so far as to say that if you’re not repenting, you are not living as a Christian. Where this program is so useful is that it helps us to do that consciously and specifically, rather than saying in general terms, “I’m a miserable sinner” without realizing or addressing any of the sins that do dwell in us.
Mark has agreed to run this program here in Dawson Creek; I’m hoping to invite him up for some time this fall, and I’ll be sure to let you know when we work out the exact dates.