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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.
2 Timothy 2:1-14
-Paul wrote 2nd timothy around 64-67 AD.
-Accepted that this is the last letter Paul wrote
-July 18th 64 AD was the start of the great fire in Rome, Nero rumored to have started fire (probably didn’t) blame shifted to the Christians to quiet the rumors.
-The following account was written by the Roman historian Tacitus “Therefore, to stop the rumor [that he had set Rome on fire], he [Emperor Nero] falsely charged with guilt, and punished with the most fearful tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were [generally] hated for their enormities….. Accordingly first those were arrested who confessed they were Christians; next on their information, a vast multitude were convicted, not so much on the charge of burning the city, as of “hating the human race.”
-Paul in prison, convinced his death is imminent ch.4:6 “the time of my departure is at hand.”
-Paul was Abandoned by all in Asia ch1:15, faced his prosecutors (Nero) alone ch.4:16
V.1 – Not of this world?
–Abandoned, betrayed, imprisoned, stripped of his rights as a roman citizen, stripped of all human rights, and left for dead. You therefore be strong in….
-Politics, financial security, greatness of Rome, establishing laws that “honor” god, personal rights etc….
-Aware his time was close Paul chooses not to address any pressing issue of the world.
-Timothy a beloved son of Paul (spiritually) was pointed to the grace that is in Jesus
-Our children’s future does not depend on the laws we pass or an amendment but in the grace that is in Jesus.
-1st timothy is mostly about timothy’s calling or gifts, but 2nd timothy has mostly to do with character.
-Timothy was a timid man, had a weak stomach and enjoyed a good cry ch1:4. Paul pulled no punches. People will abandon you, ministry hurts, requires hard work and good character, and you will suffer. You therefore be strong in the grace that is in Jesus.
V.3-7 Character revealed
-we must endure hardship, not may, not could, but must.
-A distracted soldier is a liability to the men around him, Lance Armstrong is not remembered for all his charity and accomplishments.
-Character is revealed in a snap shot, but established between chapters. David ran at goliath because he had an established relationship with the lord, Saul only knew Samuel. We don’t read the day to day events in the bible only the moments that reveal, but we do not rise to an occasion, our strength is in HIS grace, and we are more than conquerors.
-Soldiers, farmers, and athletes are all familiar with pain, suffering and hard work
-A good soldier is not concerned with anything other than the battle in front of him/her. Hence Paul does not address the issues of Rome which may have included, at the time, the martyrdom and the torture of Christian people. He does not call for a new leader, or mention Nero by name. This was not Paul’s war.
-Consider Joseph, trials can make us bitter or better. We do not develop calluses to protect ourselves, we fight like Mexican boxers.
-Julio Cesar Chavez V. Meldrick Taylor. Chavez allowed Taylor, the younger quicker fighter, in range. In order to hit Taylor once Chavez got hit 3 times. Joseph suffered enough for multiple life times to land one big shot. Chavez got beat for 9 rounds straight, Meldrick Taylor can no longer speak properly. Joseph trusted in God’s plan when there is no way he could have known what he would do for a nation.
-Sometimes the hard work is sitting down before the Lord and meditating on his word, “Consider what I say, and may the lord give you understanding.”
-We must endure hardship, we must spend time with the lord. Bitter or better can hinge on the time we spend with our God.
-You can have my notes, but I’d rather have you turn the paper over to the blank side and have you take your own notes.
-God wants to meet with you, and the Holy Spirit wants to give you understanding.
V.2, 8-10 the bloody mess
-Lee Shaw called me to encourage me after Petey passed away. He warned me away from ministry and when I wouldn’t concede he said “it’s a bloody mess out here, and I’ll do anything I can to help you.”
-Commit these things to faithful men, not the most gifted, not the best looking but the ones who will not quit.
-Petey asked me to open his house for study… then to pull a trailer to set up at church…. then to a prayer meeting…. then to teaching the youth twice a month…. then to teaching the youth full time… then to be on the board…. then to teach on Sunday.
-Teaching someone who can teach others, proves extremely difficult and costly
-I was a man not worth committing anything to.
-“But I’m not called to be a pastor?”
-Are we called to be like Christ? Are we called to make disciples of all nations? Are we called to teach our wives and our children?
-Consider Stephen and Peter
-Peter spoke to the religious leaders in Acts ch.4
-Acts 4:13 “They perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men.”
-Stephen was called to wait tables, Stephen was the help.
-Stephen also addressed the religious leaders like peter did.
-Acts 7:54 “When they heard these things they were cut to the heart.”
-Stephen was a man of good character, a student of the bible ready in season.
-The religious leaders marveled because Peter and John weren’t that sharp, but when Stephen spoke they were cut to the heart.
-Stephen the table waiter….. -Acts 6:8 “and Stephen full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.”
-Paul suffered as a criminal because he chose to serve God
-We do not suffer for the sake of suffering, but for the elect. Not for the sanctity of marriage, not for the greatness of America, not because “America was founded on god,” not because of health care, not for anything of this world.
-We must not cling to the edifice of a decadent past, we may yearn nostalgically for a time when America was a God fearing nation, but I don’t know that time and neither will my kids if there ever was a time like that.
-Pick a side and lose the rest of the people on the other side. John Wayne is the worst actor ever, I probably just upset someone (like my dad). Let the Gospel offend and let those of this world fight for it. We fight for the elect and must cautious not to alienate those chosen by God by picking sides in any arena other than that of our faith.
-John Wayne is fine……
-“Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David was raised from the dead.”
-Our God conquered death, we need not fret over…. anything.
V.11-13 Faithful departed
-Baptized into his death
-Romans 6:4 “Therefore we were buried with him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life
-martyrdom, “The context here seems rather to point to physical death as the highest point of suffering for Christ. The reference then is to the martyr’s death now viewed from the standpoint of the crowning day.” (Hiebert)
-Stephen, Paul, Peter, James etc. were faithful to the end. The worst punishment our society can place on a person is death, but death has become a crowning day.
-Paul suffered for the sake of the elect, he endured chains and trouble but it’s worth it. Notice Paul only encourages timothy to press on. He does not waiver. This is a dying man’s last letter he will write to a beloved son, had it not been worth it certainly Paul would have told his Son to walk away.
-This passage is more speaking towards (I believe) the millennial reign, which is found in revelation.
-regardless, in this life or the next, it is worth it. “O taste and see that The Lord is good”
-That means YOU must taste and see, you must meet with the lord. Saul confronted with an enemy ran to a medium to raise Samuel. Saul was not familiar with inquiring of the lord, and that is the only thing that separates Saul from David.
-If we deny him he will also deny us. When a human tries to comprehend the free will of man and the sovereignty of God it is merely a guess, and when religious people guess wrong then proceed to teach it, it is always disastrous. Continue in the faith
-No matter your condition spiritually and no matter what you believe we cannot change God. When we sin or transgress his grace is sufficient.
-where sin abounds grace abounds much more
-God is always faithful and he does not change
-Sin has already been paid for and there remains a road or way for you in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
-I don’t pick my kids up when they fall, because they have to learn to get up. I will not talk to the coach to get my daughter more playing time though I have paid for it, she must earn it through hard work. I challenge them in their weak areas to teach them to overcome. I charge my son with the protection of the girls when I’m out of the house, because he will one day need to fulfill that call. The sports they play are tools for me to help them develop a foundation. I challenge their thought to teach them to think freely and understand. I listen so they can develop a voice….. I try to listen.
-When I want to teach them to be strong in the grace that is in our God, I confess my failures to them, ask for forgiveness when I have wronged them and so they see that HE remains faithful even when we are faithless.
-Our future will not be through legislation nor will we see things get better, our war will become our kids if they make that choice.
-Character must be developed not talent, the Faithful departed are men and women of character.
- Stephen (not a pastor) was called to serve tables, but did so much more. What is your idea of the pastoral staffs job description?
- God picks leaders based on character, in what areas can you build character?
- What is the greatest gift we can give our children or our future children?
It’s not enough for a Christian to feel “desperate for God”. That phrase has become popular in our conversations and worship. It’s a good phrase, but it falls short.
It seems that for many Christians, feeling “desperate for God” has somehow become a stopping point. There is no following through to be dedicated to God.
I am desperate for God. As I write this, I currently feel desperate for God, but what will happen as a result of my felt desperation? Will I rise early and stay up late seeking God? Will I be more careful to avoid time wasting activities in order to see God. Do I really believe that Jesus is all I need? If I believe that, then why do I sometimes fall so short in being dedicated to God?
Jesus addressed seven churches in Revelation, chapters 2 & 3. He gave them the remedies to correct the problems that existed among them.
As we consider what Jesus told them to do, it’s important to consider what He didn’t tell them to do. They were in desperate situations, and Jesus gave them the remedies.
Jesus didn’t tell them to:
1. Buy a new book about how to be desperate for God.
2. Drive somewhere to receive an anointing that only certain people can give you.
3. Seek to be “refreshed” by attending a certain event.
4. Pray that the Spirit would fall upon me in a fresh new way. (to solve my problems)
I am not opposed to new books, receiving prayer, attending events, or praying to be filled with the Spirit.
Consider the exhortations that Jesus gave to these churches:
Revelation 2:5 (NKJV) Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place–unless you repent.
Revelation 2:10 (NKJV) Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
Revelation 2:16 (NKJV) Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.
Revelation 2:25-26 (NKJV) But hold fast what you have till I come. 26 And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations–
Revelation 3:3 (NKJV) Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.
Revelation 3:11 (NKJV) Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.
Revelation 3:18-20 (NKJV) I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.
All the remedies that Jesus gave them required them to seek Him. Jesus didn’t “fix” them. He told the to “stop doing the bad stuff, quit neglecting the good stuff, and re-dedicate yourself to doing what is important”.
It’s a healthy thing to realize your deep need for God. Jesus said, “Without Me, you can do nothing”. (John 15:5) Most Christians agree to that statement, but we fall short in living like we believe it.
Revelation 2:17 (NKJV) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.” ‘
May I encourage you…being desperate for God isn’t enough. It’s just the starting point. Decide to turn your desperation into dedication, and Jesus will meet you in ways you’ve never known.
A wise philosopher has said with truth that “knowledge is power”. Koheleth was equally realistic, however, when he said, ” In much wisdom is much grief, and he that increases knowledge increases sorrow’ (Ecclesiastes 1:18).
In this “present evil age”, (Galatians 1:4), knowledge not only opens the eyes, it fills them with tears; for the more discerningly we perceive, so the more painful mystery we find underlying human life. Yet the old adage is wrong which naively avers that “where ignorance is bliss ’tis folly to be wise”. Such bliss of ignorance is the “fool’s paradise”, which never lasts long, and “great is the fall thereof”.
There is a knowledge which opens the eyes to that which transcends all mere human discovery, and which at the same time comforts the heart with divine reassurance concerning the present mystery of things. Christ has come- Son of God and Savior of men. In Him is the answer to our human sin problem. In Him is the answer to our race’s heart cry after God and the basic truth of things. In Him is the answer to the groping and sighing of the soul after peace and joy and certainty and ultimate self fulfillment.
To know Christ as the Calvary Sin-Bearer, and as the risen Savior who personally indwells the heart, is of all knowledge the most blessed. Already He is the clear answer to many of life’s most poignant problems, and He is the implicit pledge of ultimate divine answer to them all. Compared with knowing Him, all other knowledge is insignificant, incomplete, and eventually unsatisfying, as every philosopher who ever lived has realized before he died.
Jesus is the way, and the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by Him. To know Jesus as a living reality in the heart is life eternal and heaven begun below.
Jay Sidlow Baxter, from his book “Going Deeper”, 1959.
God calls His people to different tasks, and He gives them different gifts by which they may serve Him, but gifting is only one side of this equation. God gives the calling and the gifting, but we must grow into these callings, and we must develop the gifts He has given us. We must also grow in the grace of God.
Let me offer a hypothetical example. A young man is called to be a leader in his church. He senses that calling even as a young teen. The sense of it is strong, and he is sure of it. But with that calling, the young man must grow spiritually. He must respond appropriately. There must be self discipline. There must be growth. Most importantly, he must learn to live in the grace of God for himself. He must be OK with who he is as a person. His victories must be tempered with the knowledge that God’s grace has enabled him. His failures must be met with a sureness that God’s grace pardons him because of Jesus. He must be sure to pay attention to God’s timing.
Let me offer an illustration. A young boy wants to be a soldier. He is intelligent, and a committed patriot. He studies weaponry and battle tactics. Because the army (church) is short on soldiers (servants), he is enlisted and outfitted. He is committed, but he hasn’t grown enough (matured enough) to be effective. He stumbles with boots that are four sizes too large. The gun is too heavy to carry. He fatigues in the battlefield because he doesn’t have the strength to carry the over-sized backpack. Instead of being an asset, he now becomes a liability. Not only can he not do his job, but he endangers his fellow soldiers who have to constantly rescue him. His comrades cannot depend on him. They may even begin to resent him; not because they don’t like him, but because instead of helping, he actually makes warfare (ministry) more dangerous (difficult).
The world is full of negativity and sadness. That is a huge understatement. Even the Church has plenty of sad challenges within its four walls; God’s people are not immune to tragedy and setbacks. I have pastored since 1989…I have seen much within the church that can break one’s heart. Many times, my heart has been broken over the effects of sin within the church.
It seems that in the minds of some church leaders, the solution to sadness and negativity is to never talk about it. I think that the motivation to encourage people is a good intention. People need to be encouraged, and church is a great place for that to happen.
All that being so, I am concerned about what I believe is an unhealthy trend in many churches. There is a deliberate avoidance in talking about sin or judgment. The Body of Christ isn’t warned against straying from God, but instead is taught about how Jesus can improve your life. The unbeliever isn’t warned about fleeing the wrath to come, but is told that Jesus will fill the emptiness of their heart.
I DO believe that Jesus improves the life of His followers, and that he DOES fill a believer’s heart, but that is NOT the full preaching of the Gospel, nor is it the full counsel of the Word of God.
I think that some pastors are failing.
I don’t say that because I feel superior to anyone. I say that because some pastors are not teaching their congregations all of God’s Word, but only selected portions. In doing so, they are not making mature disciples, but only meeting the felt needs of the people. They are teaching from the Bible, but they are not teaching the Bible. There is a huge difference between those two practices.
Chicken Legged Disciples and the search for deeper teaching…
I am a follower of Jesus.
Like you, I am faced with choices, desires, options, and possibilities. Some options are obviously contrary to the heart of God, and so I know not to consider them as viable. But what about those other options? What about my desires, dreams, and hopes? Everyone has them, or had them at one time.
As a follower of Jesus, there are many paths that are considered acceptable by my church culture. If I want to pursue something, and it has a “Jesus element” to it, then I usually get approval by most people that I know. There are other activities that are considered good and acceptable by my popular culture, and are not obviously “wrong”, and so once again I receive a nod of approval.
Following Jesus is completely contrary to the two scenarios that I have just described. Neither public approval nor my church culture approval is enough to validate a trajectory for my life. My own desires, predispositions, and tendencies are not to be the compass for my existence. Someone has said that, “the enemy of the best is the good”. It is incredibly easy to be a few degrees off regarding what one ought to be doing with their life. A few degrees off doesn’t seem like much when a pilot first takes off, but obviously, the further he flies, the more off course he gets. Such can be the outcome of a person’s life. We can be well intentioned, but way off course. We can “land” in a place that is distant from where we should have landed.
To some I may sound idealistic. To others, legalistic and confined. I have considered those possibilities as well. I have wondered if I ought not allow myself to be more free, to follow the impulses and passions of my heart.
As I understand it, following Jesus is neither a matter of pragmatism, or logic. Pragmatism dictates that we ought to do the things that “works”. Logic is the thing that seems obvious.
A Christian man might be a very talented athlete, with a great possibility of a professional career. Pragmatism and logic would dictate that that is the course he ought to pursue, but it may not necessarily be the path that God has chosen for him. Just because a man can follow a path and be successful at it doesn’t mean that he should. Two examples of this come to mind: Jim Elliot, and Eric Liddell. Both men were incredibly gifted athletes, but both set aside their athletic pursuits to pursue a greater prize.
People undoubtedly called Elliot and Liddell foolish for choosing Christian service over athletic careers, but both men stayed their courses as they felt led by God, and their lives and deaths have become models of faith for the Christian Church. Pragmatism and logic would have dictated different paths for Elliot and Liddell. Their personal passion for sports, coupled with their athletic talents would have seemed to be evidence of an athletic career, but the Spirit of God had a greater plan.
Let me conclude with some scripture that points to what I am suggesting.
Philippians 3:12-14 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
John 8:29 And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.
Both Paul and Jesus could have been incredibly successful in the eyes of the world if they had chosen different paths. Paul would have been a shaper of culture, a great author, and a philosopher. Jesus could have changed the temporary course of history for Israel by driving out the Romans, and He would have been an amazing king.
Aren’t we glad that neither of them chose the good instead of the best? Aren’t we glad that they did not allow pragmatism and logic to dictate their actions?
Dear reader, if you are a Christ follower, don’t miss the best because you choose the good. Don’t allow pragmatism or logic to dictate you life path. Just because you can do something well, and because you have a passion for it doesn’t mean that those pursuits should be the focus of your life. God may allow you to pursue some things as part time hobbies, but keep the main thing the main thing.
On Sept. 11, the U.S. embassy in Libya was attacked by terrorists. Our government said that Muslims were outraged by a video which mocked the Prophet Mohammed. (I saw the video. It was very disrespectful and wrong to make). In the view of our government (at least in their words) they claimed that the religious mocking of a highly esteemed person of Islam actually provoked the murder of innocent civilians.
What might our government say about this very similar mocking of Jesus Christ by Jamie Foxx? Jamie Foxx’s words were very clearly the language of the Bible regarding Jesus. The Christian faith considers Jesus Christ as God, not just a prophet.
I would bet my lunch money that though Christians will object to this verbally, no embassies will be burned, and no one will be murdered. Something to think about.
I will be looking online to see if Jamie has an explanation for his statement.
Juxtaposition: an act or instance of placing close together or side by side, especially for comparison or contrast.
Here is Jamie’s statement regarding Obama.