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Sub Title – Are You Primarily A Soulish Person, Or A Spiritual Person?
God sometimes teaches us with illustrations and visible examples. Jesus used illustrations of farming and nature to make his points. The Apostle Paul spoke of athletics and the military, as well as alluding to the human body.
The writer of the Book of Hebrews also used the illustration of the human body to present a spiritual truth.
Hebrews 4:12 (NKJV) 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 writer of Hebrews speaks of the nature of God’s Word; that it can cut through our thoughts and intentions. It can reveal our true motives compared to what we might be saying. We may verbalize something that is a 90% good thought with a 10% selfish motive. To the human listener, it may sound 100% good, but God’s word opens us up like a surgeon, and shows us what’s inside of us.
The writer makes two comparisons; he compares two groups of two things that coexist but are not the same. He says that soul and spirit can be divided, and he says that joints and marrow can be divided. A consideration of the dividing of joints and marrow will show us a spiritual truth, so we will start there. We’ll start with that which is visible and knowable.
Marrow grows in the bone. It is not bone, but it grows in the bone. I won’t go into what bone marrow does, but suffice it to say this: marrow grows in the bone but it is not bone, it is marrow.
Here is where things get amazingly interesting: Marrow is separated from bone by a porous membrane one cell thick. That is the thinnest of membranes possible. There is virtually almost “nothing” separating bone from marrow, but it is separated, and one is not the other. I spoke to four physicians about this, including an oncologist and a retired surgeon who teaches.
The writer of Hebrews uses that anatomical truth to illustrate this spiritual truth: Soul and spirit are as close as they can be, but they are not the same thing. They almost are the same thing, but they are not the same thing.
That observation begs for definitions, and this is where things can get tricky, but here is what I think.
The soul of a man is that which pertains to all the intangible aspects of that natural (not born again) man. The soul speaks of desire, thoughts, passions, emotions, and the appreciation for art, music, movies. The soul wants things, rejects other things, likes and hates things, feels things, etc. It is that part of you that isn’t physical. It’s that part of you that gets really happy or miserably sad.
The soul can be moved by a good movie, inspired by the Olympics, or enraged at injustice.
Here is another verse that seems to point to the triune nature of man.
1 Thessalonians 5:23 (NKJV) Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Some say that body and soul are synonymous while others make a differentiation. I am obviously in the camp that believes humans are triune creatures: body, soul and spirit.
For all that the soul is… it isn’t spirit. The spirit seems to be that part of man that is made alive when one becomes “born again”.
John 3:3-8 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
I’ll leave you with this observation, and try to develop in more in my next article, but I’ll end with this thought: If soul and spirit both exist, but are different, then how can we know the difference between a soulish experience and a spiritual experience?
I think that many people wrongly interpret soulish experiences, thinking they are spiritual experiences.
(This will meander a bit…please read it through and connect the dots)
I’ve been a pastor since 1989. Most of the pastors I am friends with genuinely love people. They sincerely care. There are other pastors that I have met that seem to be more concerned with being celebrities, but they are in the minority of my personal circles.
If my experience with other pastors is accurate, my conclusion is that pastors care about people. That means they feel things…emotional things…spiritual things…and they think about things…and are concerned about people…and situations…and potentials for danger…and possibilities for greatness…and the list goes on.
Good pastors don’t just work with their minds and bodies…they also work with their hearts. Their hearts are their most valuable asset, and perhaps their area of most vulnerability.
Good pastors are anointed men. When they speak, it can sometimes seem larger than life…and that’s because it is larger than life. There is an anointing from God upon them. When they are doing their thing, it’s other worldly (Heavenly). The Apostle Paul said, “we have this treasure in earthen vessels”. The pastor is only a clay pot, at best. The treasure is Jesus, and the treasure is the Gospel message. Sometimes people confuse the treasure with the clay pot. If a pastor is really “bringing it”, some people erroneously focus on the man instead of on the treasure. There seems to be a fine line between the two.
A good pastor is an honest man, and seeks to be transparent…and he lays his heart out there…and sometimes he makes people feel like they have become his confidantes. Most people I know crave intimacy and honest relationships. A good pastor might seem to be offering that on an individual level, when all he is really doing is trying to be transparent from the pulpit and make a point about the frailty of man and the greatness of God.
(I hope you are still reading…I’m going to connect the dots soon)
A good pastor has wisdom from on high. He can counsel in many ways…sometimes from the pulpit or sometimes face to face. It can be an amazing thing to receive a word from the Lord through a pastor.
A good pastor is an encourager…he encourages people to have faith and to be everything that God intends them to be…and he sometimes genuinely believes more for a person than they believe for themselves.
A good pastor is a good listener…he isn’t in a hurry to find a solution to your problem. He knows that you are more than a problem to be solved…you are a person to be understood and loved.
A good pastor seems to be able to move forward when other seems stuck…he has navigated through his life well enough to be further ahead than he was five years ago. Paul told Timothy…”Let you progress be evident to all”. A good pastor’s progress in life is evident.
(Dot connection now follows…)
If all that is true, then here’s where it can get weird for some people and their pastor. I’ll list a few things numerically.
- Your pastor cannot be your best friend. Yes he is a good listener, and genuinely cares about you…but that doesn’t put him in the BFF status. It just doesn’t. Love between brethren is one thing…but being best friends is something altogether different. Please allow your pastor to choose his own personal friends as he continues to be genuinely friendly with as many people as he can be.
- Your pastor cannot tell you every decision to make. He has had to work out his own salvation with fear and trembling…through his own tears, doubts, disappointments, poor decisions and good choices, etc. He has failed and succeeded on his own. Now you have to do the same for yourself. He will be there to give you general counsel, and to pray for you and support you, but you have to pray and make your own decisions. Spiritual growth is costly, and there are no shortcuts. Pay the price.
- Your pastor cannot be blamed for your lack of spiritual progress. He encourages you to be all that you can be, that is true…but maybe he sees that you don’t have the calling to be the next Billy Graham, and so he gently suggests that your strengths lie elsewhere. I have heard men say that they are called to be (fill in the blank), but for the last twenty years, their pastor has held them back. If God has called you to something, no one can hold you back…but there is wisdom in the multitude of counselors. If none of your friends are affirming you in an area, maybe your strengths lie elsewhere. Don’t blame your pastor. He can’t hold you back if God has called you…he doesn’t have that kind of power…but maybe God hasn’t called you.
- Your pastor cannot be expected to choose you to be his confidante. It’s great that you care about your pastor, and want to be there for him, but please allow him to choose his own confidantes and counselors. Instead, if you sense that your pastor isn’t looking for another confidante, pray for him instead. He needs it. Let him choose his own confidantes.
- Your pastor cannot set the trajectory of your life for you. He cannot decide what you are going to be. He cannot be expected to tell you what your life purposes are in any kind of detailed sense. Every Christian is here to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever”, but the details of how that works out is between you and God.
Alistair Begg says, “The best of men, are men at best”. Most pastors I know wouldn’t even consider themselves the best of men. Martyn Lloyd Jones, the great British preacher said, “I wouldn’t walk across the street to hear myself preach”. Most of my pastoral friends would say the same thing.
Dear Christian…your pastor can’t do a lot of things for you, but he can do some things very well. Receive him for what he is, a pastor. If God makes it to be anything more, that’s great.
Ephesians 4:11-12 (NKJV) And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…
Some thoughts for fellow followers of Jesus…
The ten second sound bite version of what I am writing is this: If you blew it, and have a mess on your hands, let God fix it. You thought you could be in control and do things your own way, and now you have a mess. In your flesh, you made a mess. What makes you think that in your flesh, you can fix it? Better to walk in the Spirit like you should have to begin with. Walk in the Spirit, and let God fix it.
The longer version of the same story line is as follows…
Sin is a nasty thing. It promises much, and delivers little. The consequences are always bigger than the gratification. It never seems as bad as it really is…until later.
We get used to sinning. We minimize it. We get de-sensitized to it. We agree in our heads that something is wrong, but we do it anyway, intending to stop.
There are sins of commission: we do things that we know are wrong.
There are sins of omission: we don’t do things we know that we should.
The sin in a Christian’s life can run the gamut of not reading your Bible (dumb…you need God’s Word, heart, and direction) to something much more obvious, like substance abuse or sexual immorality. We can be committing little sins, like being disagreeable, or we can be committing bigger sins, such as being violent and a striker. A sin of omission might be that you don’t think that church attendance is important, and eventually find yourself isolated, alone, unchallenged, un-encouraged, etc. There are numerous examples of sins of commission and omission.
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Filed under: Christianity
, Decision Making
, Dying To Self
, God's Will
, Good Intentions
, Self Awareness
, Spirit Filled Life
, Spiritual Blindness
, Spiritual Growth
Years ago, I read those words on an invitation to a church event.
The sponsoring church did everything they could to convince me that I ought to attend their event.
They promised that I would laugh. There is nothing wrong with laughing. In fact, the Bible commends a good laugh. Proverbs 17:22 tells us, “A merry heart does good, like medicine…”.
They promised that I would cry. I can be an emotional guy, and have been known to cry in public. Sometimes a good cry is very cleansing to the soul. Jesus wept. (John 11:35) Crying can release a lot of tension and emotion. There is nothing wrong with a good cry.
And yet, I objected to their flier, and to their promises. I still do. This was a Christian outreach, and yet they were promising to deliver these emotions to me. They presumed to know what I needed. There appeared to be no room for the Holy Spirit to do something else. What if what I needed was a fresh dose of somberness in the presence of a perfectly holy God? It wasn’t on the agenda for the night.
My assumed responses were pre-planned and predicted. They tutored me about what I would experience. They planned my responses in advance. Their goal was to get me to laugh and to cry. They were sure that they could make it happen.
Increasingly, I see Christians confusing emotional experiences at a church, with a God experience in the Holy Spirit.
There are many ways to evoke emotions in “Christian” settings. The right music or no music. The right lighting or having only candles. There are many ways to affect emotions towards a desired goal.
Both true and false messages can evoke an emotional experience. Some pastors teach the Word of God, and are humorous. Other pastors read a passage, and then tell funny stories, neglecting to teach or apply God’s word to the listener. Often, both men can be equally funny, but many Believers can’t tell that there is any difference. This is extremely alarming to me.
It seems that many in Christendom are lacking the spiritual maturity to discern whether God or man has spoken to them.
I have been walking with Jesus for 30 years. I have seen true signs and wonders, and false signs and wonders. I have seen emotionally impacting Spirit led preaching, and I have seen emotionally human inspired preaching. I have been moved to tears by “boring” preachers who were excellent teachers, and who revealed Jesus to me. I have been bored to tears by emotional speakers that taught me nothing.
I have seen crowds of people moved by the Holy Spirit. I have seen other crowds moved by pep rally worship leaders and charismatic, talented speakers.
In many cases, an emotional experience is the goal for a Christian event, rather than a revelation of who Jesus is.
My concern is not about how people express themselves in the presence of God. There is great latitude concerning that. My concern is about what causes a certain response. Is it the incredible Spirit of Perfect Holiness, or is it a church culture where certain behaviors are predicted, arranged and manipulated? Is it God, or is it man?
Dear Christian brother/sister…is your desire for Christ the great motivation of your life, or do you simply have a desire to laugh and cry at church? If you prefer somber worship, is it because you are overwhelmed with God’s awesomeness, and words don’t suffice, or is it because you just need some “quiet space to chill out”? If you prefer emotionally charged worship is it because you need a place to “get crazy” and pump your fist in the air, or is it a demonstrative, Spirit led joy in the presence of our great God?
Christian, beware of pre-programmed emotional experiences that any group or church might insist you need. Jesus is what you need. Sometimes, He will take us to the highest heights of ecstatic worship. The very next day, His Spirit may move you to sit and stay silent. He knows what you need. Not you. Not the preacher. Not the worship leader. Not me.
Let Jesus decide if you will laugh, or if you will cry.
I just returned from another week in Mexico. I have been there 10 out of the last 14 days. This last week was not fun. The first 24 hours I enjoyed my usual portions of tacos, rice, and egg dishes, but Wednesday night, we found a “nice” restaurant that served “Enselata de Cheffe”. That sounded good, so I ordered it. I didn’t stop to check that “Enselata de Cheffe” translated into “eat this and you’ll be sicker than a dog”. Yup, the next two days were spent in my hotel room doing what sick tourists do. Let the reader beware.
I appreciate good food, and will go a bit out of my way for a good meal, the word “bit” being somewhat relative depending on what I am craving. So yeah, I can be a bit snobby when it comes to food. I have really grown (no pun intended) to appreciate the fine dining found in the Napa Valley.
But I was thinking about food critics, and how over the top and extreme restaurant reviews, etc., can be. A good meal is one thing. Extreme, opinionated diatribes about food…me no like. At some point, it seems ridiculous. Chef wars? No thanks. Baking competition? Uh, no…unless I am judging. 🙂
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The Bible is an oft quoted book, but the sad truth is that many who quote it don’t understand it. They start from a premise, already having their minds made up about something. They then read the Scriptures, and twist God’s Word to fit their preconceived ideas. The result of this kind of thinking is erroneous.
Such was the case with some Sadducees that conversed with Jesus.
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Mark 2:15-17 Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him. 16And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?” 17When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
All men have sinned, and fall short of God’s glory, but not all men recognize that fact.
These Pharisees didn’t realize that they had just as much of a need to sit with Jesus as did the people they despised. The tax collectors and sinners were willing to sit with Jesus, and spend time with Him. The self righteous Pharisees didn’t see their need of sitting with Jesus. Read more »
Matthew 12:22-24 Then one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and He healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw. 23And all the multitudes were amazed and said, “Could this be the Son of David?” 24Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, “This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.”
When the topic of Jesus comes up, opinions will vary greatly. It has always been that way. Discussions about Jesus always reveal what is in people’s hearts.
In Matthew 12, Jesus healed a demon possessed man that had been brought to Him. The two responses to this healing couldn’t have been farther apart.
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