[ VERSE OF THE DAY's Pentecostal Feature ]
Achieving Your Potential in Christ:
X   Theosis   X
Plain Talks on a Major Doctrine of Orthodoxy
By Fr. Anthony M. Coniaris
Edited by G. A. Henry

Achieve Your Potential: Theosis (1)

Achieve Your Potential: Theosis (2)
       X There is Greatness in Us
       X Your Best Friend
       X "Amartia": Missing the Mark
       X Theosis: Our Potential
       X Theosis: Positive Aspect of Salvation
       X Theosis is...
       X Saved for Theosis
       X From Egypt to the Promised Land

Achieving Our Potential in Christ: Theosis (3)
Achieving Your Potential in Christ: Theosis (4)

The Bible and Theosis

Man Does Not Become A God

What Theosis Is Not

Achieve Your Potential: Theosis (2)

ON A NATIONALLY SYNDICATED call-in television program, two interview guests - both doctors - were discussing the subject of abortion. Addressing the doctor who was against abortion, a young female caller expressed the opinion that the human fetus was not really a human being at all, only potential human life.

The doctor echoed the words of the Psalmist as he responded almost thunderously, "Ma'am, that's not potential human life. That's human life with great potential."

X There Is Greatness In Us

The Bible tells us that it was God who formed us in our mother's womb. And when He formed us, He placed within us the highest possible potential: theosis, union with God. Part of man's tragedy is that this great potential remains only a potential and is not fully developed. Man is indeed a frail creature, but he is endowed by God with a fantastically great potential.

"What lies behind us, and what lies before us, are small matters compared to what lies within us" says Ralph Waldo Emerson. All of us are born equal. Our job is to outgrow equality by reaching out to achieve our potential in Christ. There is greatness in us!

X Your Best Friend

Henry Ford was having lunch with a friend one day. The friend asked him, "Who is your best friend?" Ford took out a pen and wrote on the white napkin before him these words, "Your best friend is the person who brings out of you the best that is within you."
      X That makes Christ your best Friend.
      X That makes the Church your best friend.
      X That makes the Bible your best friend.
For their purpose is to help you achieve the great potential God has placed within you.

Gloria Steinem, feminist leader, said once, "By the year 2000 we will, I hope, raise our children to believe in human potential, not God." Human potential not God! The truth is that without God you not only lose your human potential; you end up in hell. With God, your potential becomes heaven itself where "eye has not seen what things God has prepared for those who love Him" (I Corinthians 2:9).

The tragedy for most of us is that we die before we are fully born. We die with so much unlived life in us. We have a hundred acres of possibilities and only about one-half acre under cultivation. We are a picture of unfulfillment. As Oliver Wendell Holmes puts it, "Many people die with their music still in them."

X "Amartia": Missing the Mark

In the New Testament, the Greek word for sin is "amartia." Translated literally, it does not mean "to break a rule." It means rather "to miss the mark, the target, the bull's eye." That is the great tragedy of sin which occurs when a person doesn't measure up to his or her full potential and fails to become all that God created him to be. Thus, sin is to miss the target, to fail to claim and develop the fantastic potential God has placed in us. For, man is not only hell bent, the potential God has placed in us makes us also - and even more so - heaven bent. As St. Paul writes in Romans 5:20, "Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more."

X Theosis: Our Potential

Orthodox theology calls the potential for which God created us: THEOSIS. Don't be frightened by this word. It's really a very simple concept, namely, the core of the good news of Orthodoxy is that we are called to share in the very life of God.

Salvation in Orthodox theology is much more positive than it is negative. It means not only justification and forgiveness of sins; it means also - even more so - the renewing and restoration of God's image in us, the lifting up of fallen humanity through Christ into the very life of God. Christ forgives us and frees us from sin and death that we may proceed to fulfill our potential, which is to become like God in Christ and to share in His life.

Christ came to save us from sin to participate in the life of God. In other words, we are saved from sin for theosis, which is our great potential. Jesus came to earth to tell us:
      X"You give Me your time, and I will give you My eternity.
      X You give Me your weary body, and I will give you rest.
      X You give Me your sins, and I will give you forgiveness.
      X You give Me your broken heart, and Ill give you healing.
      X You give Me your emptiness, and I will give you My fullness.
      X You give Me your humanity, and I will give you My divinity."

X Theosis: Positive Aspect of Salvation

Theosis is the positive aspect of salvation. To describe theosis we can us the following words:
      X transfiguration of man,
      X putting on Christ,
      X restoration of the image of God in us,
      X restoration of communion with God,
      X participation in the life of God,
      X participating in the kingdom of God,
      X incorruption,
      X receiving the Holy Spirit,
      X becoming temples of the Holy Spirit,
      X ascending to the throne of God,
      X being by grace what God is by nature.

X Theosis is...

To describe further what our potential - theosis - is, we can say the following:
X Jesus came to lift the fallen all the way from the gutter of sin to the throne of God in theosis.
X Theosis is what God wants for us who are created in His own image: to become like Him in whose image we are made.
X Theosis is a personal sharing in the life of God through faith, prayer and the sacraments.
X Theosis is the rich potential God has placed in each baptized person.
X Theosis is the name for the process of salvation, initiated in baptism, by which we are Christified, i.e., united to Christ and changed into His likeness.
X Theosis is the transfiguration of our life-style, implying concern for our neighbor, mutual sharing, love, stewardship of ourselves, our possessions and of the earth.
X Fr. Georges Florovsky wrote, "Theosis means no more than an intimate communion of human persons with the living God. To be with God means to dwell in Him and to share His perfection."

XSaved For Theosis

Christ the Savior came to redeem us from sin that we might proceed to acquire the gift of theosis which He offers us by grace. Salvation does not end with the forgiveness of sins; it begins there. It is at baptism that our journey to God, to theosis, begins. Salvation is not only a matter of "Are you saved?" It is also a matter of "Are you being deified? Are you growing in Christ?"

We are saved from sin for theosis. "Original sin," said Fr. Georges Florovsky, "was not just an erroneous choice... but rather a refusal to ascend toward God." Salvation is an ongoing process that leads from initial salvation in baptism, through sanctification, and on to "deification by grace."

XFrom Egypt to the Promised Land

Vladimir Lossky said, "What does it matter being saved from death, from Hell, if it is not to lose oneself in God." St. John Chrysostom writes, "It is not enough to leave Egypt (sin and death), one must also enter the Promised Land (theosis). Between Egypt and the Promised Land lies a desert." Hence the need for ascesis (struggle, discipline, war against the passions) in our journey through the desolate desert of sin and death toward theosis (the Promised Land).

Theosis is a beautiful word, but what does it say to those who are trying to cope with a terrible illness, or struggling to make a go of a sour marriage, or to those who are burdened with anxieties and cares? Theosis has everything to say to struggling humanity. It tells us that we have the capacity through the presence of God within us to transcend and overcome any and every difficulty in life, including the greatest one of all: death. Theosis tells us that we are not paupers or beggars, but sons and daughters of God, sharing His glory, partaking of His Nature, destined to inherit His eternal kingdom. Theosis tells us that "yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us" (Romans 8:37). Theosis tells us to "hang in there" no matter how hard the struggle or the temptation because God has great things in store for us. As St. Paul says, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18).

X Prayer

Lord, thank You for the tremendous potential You gave us by grace when we were baptized. Sustain us, strengthen us, uphold us in our journey from the slavery of Egypt to the Promised Land of theosis. Amen.

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Last updated on May 27, 2000