Heaven on earth—how is that possible?


In last month’s article we discussed man’s problem of being born “in Adam,” spiritually dead at our very core, separated from God’s life and power. But God… had a plan to reconcile us to Himself through Christ which included giving us a new life, His Life, by the Holy Spirit coming into us and becoming one with our spirit. Instantaneously we became new creations, alive to God with His power. Because we now have Spiritual Life in our spirit, God can now fill our soul with everything it needs for living life, resulting in our physical body moving the way He plans (2 Peter 1:3,4). Wow, what good news! This month, in the fifth of twelve topics of our discipleship-counseling process, we’re going to discuss how God designed us in such a way that we can experience our new Life (Christ in us!) in practical ways, all for God’s glory, and actually experience Heaven on earth.

So, what happens where?

The primary aspects of how God made us are found in Paul’s prayer for the believers at Thessalonica. In 1 Thessalonians 5:23, we read his words: “I pray that your whole spirit, and soul, and body may be presented blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”Let’s look at each one of these parts.

We are basically three part beings:

The first aspect of a person’s makeup is the spirit. This area is at the core of us and is our deepest area of life. It is here that the difference between a believer and an unbeliever is distinguished. It is in this area that our identity is determined, or we might say “whose family we are in…Adam’s or God’s.” It is the spiritual component in which we worship the Lord (John 4:24), where we fellowship with the Lord (Romans 8:16), and where the Holy Spirit dwells within us (1 Cor. 6:17).

The next aspect is the psychological part of man—the soul—which consists of three main components: (1) the mind or “the thinker,” which is our ability to be able to process information; (2) the emotions or “the feeler,” which is our ability to be able to experience or feel our thoughts— important to note, our emotions follow our thoughts; and (3) the will or “the chooser,” which is our ability to be able to make decisions.

The final aspect of an individual is the physical. This is, perhaps, the simplest to understand, but, in truth, it is very complex. David said in Psalms: “We are fearfully and wonderfully made.” Our physical body is material, and contains our spirit and soul which are immaterial. The body contains our senses (sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch). It also contains our organs (liver, kidneys, etc.). One organ worth mentioning is the “brain.” Our brain is the most complicated organ because it does so much chemically, working with our senses. Most importantly for us to understand though is that it also “stores information”—both facts and processed facts, or in other words, “what we will do when life happens.” We’ll discuss this more.

To sum it up:

As you can see, God made everyone with basically three functioning areas, each individual, yet working together. We could state it like this: “the spirit uses the soul to express itself through the body.” Now, it’s in this area that the world view of man and God’s view differ. The world’s view is that man is essentially a body, with a spirit and/or soul. God’s view is that man is essentially a spirit, who has a soul, and lives in a body. There is a very important distinction here in that the world primarily identifies with our physical body as what defines us. Our looks and behavior basically represent who, and how we are, where God primarirly identifies with us based on our spirit…and whether He’s in there or not! God is a spirit Being and we were created in His image…so we are spirit beings, too. He certainly knows our thoughts and sees our body move, yet it’s the spirit area of us that determines how He relates with us. Good thing, right? We are either alive to Him in our spirit, or not.

We were all born with a spiritual problem!

Romans 5:12 reads: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man (Adam), and death (spiritual separation from God) through sin, so death spread to all men (us!).” We are born with a spiritual problem: separated from God, with no spiritual life. The result of this explains everything! When we show up here on earth, it’s up to us to live life, attempting to fill our souls from the “outside.” Wow…what a task! Remember the soul? Well God created our souls to “thirst” for Him (Psalm 42:1-2, Lamentations 3:24, Psalm 63:1). His plan is to fill our souls with everything we need (love, acceptance, worth/value, security, adequacy, wisdom) from the “inside,” but He’s not in our spirit to do it, so it’s up to us. And guess where we look to fill our souls? The world, through relationships, achievements, possessions, etc. Paul describes it like this to the church in Ephesus before they became alive to God in their spirits: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world…— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” No wonder Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-29: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened…and you will find rest for your souls.” Our spirits were without spiritual life. No wonder our souls become weary!

The Flesh:

The flesh is not referring to physical flesh, but a mindset or attitude from which a person operates, out of their own strengths and resources, in order to get a sense of fullness and contentment, in their soul. Paul refers to the flesh often in his letters to the churches, and its insufficiency to satisfy us, or fill us the way only God can (2 Cor. 1:8-9; 2 Cor. 12:7-10; Phil. 3:3-9). Most importantly he states in Romans 8:8 “Those who are in the flesh (still in Adam) cannot please God.” So we might sum it up like this: man’s basic problem is that he is separated from God and therefore, without Life!

God’s solution…salvation!

So because God created us for a relationship with Him, He had two problems to solve: (1) penalty for our independence (sin); and (2) no Life (Holy Spirit) in our Spirit. He addresses both through Christ!

Ephesians 1:7 states:In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace…”, and in Romans 5:10 we read:For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Finally Paul addresses the lack of spiritual life in Romans 8:11: “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” Problems solved! But it gets better! At the moment of salvation, God literally (spiritually) transferred us out of Adam’s family and placed us into Christ and His family (Col. 1:13). The result of our death, burial, and resurrection with/in Christ (Romans 6:4, 5), is that we become a new person with a new identity (2 Cor. 5:17). Saul (pre-salvation name) was renamed Paul when he received the Holy Spirit, and a new identity. We don’t get a new name like Paul (maybe we should!), but the same transformation and identity occurs!

So what about the Flesh?

What about the flesh (mindset or attitude from which a person operates, out of their own strengths and resources, in order to get a sense of fullness and contentment, in their soul)? The one who has been saved still has to deal with flesh. Because the flesh is primarirly an attitude (not a person), it is still present, mostly as facts and processed information (flesh patterns) stored in our brain. Throughout Galatians chapter five and the first part of Romans chapter eight, the problem of the flesh for the saved person is revealed as an ongoing problem.

Why is the flesh such a problem?

We are instructed in Galatians 5:13: “Do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh.” And in Galatians 5:16: “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” So why is the flesh such a problem? Let’s look at the problem Christians face by examining two types of people and how their “Life Messages” (April publication), or programming, contrasts with God’s will for us to walk by the Spirit.

Negatively Programmed Flesh:

When major life experiences and people in an individual’s life have been primarily negative, the individual learns negative ways to deal with life. The result of many major negative experiences is the mind having a distorted view of God, self, and life. This is because each person develops “beliefs,” or a grid through which he evaluates life. When the experiences are predominantly negative, that grid distorts one’s perception. The result of a distorted view of life is a distorted emotional response (i.e., anxious, worthless, incompetent, insignificant, unacceptable, “a failure,” hopeless, helpless, unloved, used, and so on). Because of the distorted thinking and negative feelings, the response is to resort to the flesh as the best way to deal or cope with life’s situations (i.e., self-pity, escapism, withdrawal, drugs and alcohol, fits of anger, etc.). The goal of the flesh in this case would be to avoid further pain and rejection, and maintain the perception “I’m safe.” This feels or seems to be natural, as it is the only way to live based on the perception of life learned from the experiences of life while “in” the flesh. Along with the distorted view and emotions that follow, stress related physical health problems can develop. But not all the situations in life are negative. They are usually a mixture of both negative and positive. What happens when life experiences are predominantly positive?

Positively Programmed Flesh:

The result of mostly positive experiences and many positive influences leads to the mind being distorted so that the view of God, self, and life, even though positive, still doesn’t line up with the new truths of God regarding who we are in Him. The emotions corresponding to our distorted views would look good to most people (i.e., strong, confident, competent, significant, successful, secure, worthy, loved, etc.). The problem though is that they are based on a strong self-centered concept, and self-effort. In this case, relying on flesh to deal with life leads to attitudes such as pride, judgmentalism, self-righteousness, and performance-based acceptance, or, in other words, “performaholics”! The goal of the flesh in this case would be to generate and/or maintain love and acceptance, as well as the perception of “I’m good, or okay.”

In either of these scenarios, whether negatively or positively programmed flesh, when a person depends upon his own strength to cope with present pressures and past rejection, the result is ultimately conflict and frustration, and flat out weariness!

So does God want to strengthen or weaken my flesh?

Good question…but it’s a “trick” question! God doesn’t want to strengthen or weaken our flesh, but to reveal its insufficiency, so that we might exchange the Self-life for Christ Life! Paul says it best in Phil. 3:3: “For we are the real circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” Further, God spoke directly to Paul about this in 2 Cor. 12:9 when Jesus said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power (Christ’s resources in me) is made perfect in weakness (my flesh revealed as insufficient).” Paul responds, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak (my flesh revealed as insufficient), then I am strong (Christ life in me is sufficient).”

The Marvelous Exchange!

We just discussed what it’s like when a Christian relies on his flesh to live life, instead of living from the Spirit. It’s a life of conflict and frustration, and being worn-out! Certainly not the “abundant life,” or “life to the fullest,” right? Well let’s look at what God is doing as we choose to depend on Christ moment-by-moment.

Our mind is being renewed to the truth of who we are now: Col. 3:10 tells us to “…put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” The things of the world no longer control or define us. We see this in Romans 12:2: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”

Because our mind is being renewed, our emotions are gradually healing. We find this is many places throughout the scriptures: Psalm 23:3— “He restores my soul…” Psalm 107:9— “For He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.” Jeremiah 31:25—For I will satisfythe weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.”

Our will (what we want to do), or decision making, comes from God as we walk by the Spirit, rather than from our flesh and its “want to’s.” Gal. 5:16 tells us, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh.”

So as we walk by the Spirit, Jesus living His Life through us (filling our soul, moving our body) is the abundant life, or life to the fullest!

Aren’t you glad?

With all these truths revealed, aren’t you glad that God made us in such a way that:

  • We’re not one “glob” inside…moving around based on what we’re feeling like.
  • We have a spirit in union with the Holy Spirit.
  • We have a soul that gets weary and burdened at times…BUT, in our spirit we are never weary or burdened because that’s where God lives and He wants to fill or replenish our soul.
  • Our body (behavior, looks, performance)is not the problem; it moves based on the choices made in our soul.
  • Oh…and by the way, ALL FOR GOD’S GLORY!

Next month we will further discuss God’s desire for us to live in a moment-by-moment attitude of surrender to Him.

My Feelings Don’t Define Me!

Man on top
True Life Discipleship Counseling has had an influence on my thinking regarding the difference between having a soul and a spirit. Knowing that I am a tri-part being (body, soul, and spirit) has made the Scriptures come to life for me and has also made it much easier to understand God’s Word, especially where it proclaims my new identity and union with Christ.

In my spirit, the deepest level of my being, I am one with Jesus, who is my very LIFE! In 1 Corinthians 6:17, it is written: “but he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” Because Christ is now my very Life, He is my Source for everything. The liberating and exciting truth of this reality truly is infinite and eternal!

True Life has always emphasized to me dependency and reliance upon Christ moment by moment as I walk in faith. So whatever I am thinking in my mind, or feeling in my emotions, does not define me or who I am in Christ. Because Christ is righteous and holy, I am righteous and holy in the deepest level in my spirit. Because Jesus is The Prince of Peace, I already have His peace deep in my spirit even if at times, in my soul(my mind, will, and emotions), I am not experiencing that peace or the reality of Christ living through me. I can cease striving to become what I already am in Christ! I can cease beating myself up with guilt when I get my eyes and dependency off of Christ. What glorious freedom! Living the Christian life is no longer about me living for God, but it truly means living from God!

Applying these foundational truths that True Life has emphasized in my life is now positively affecting my body with the lessening of stress and its various forms, as I am experiencing Christ’s peace more consistently in my life and I am literally more physically healthy and in better physical shape now in my 50s than when I was in my mid 20s! This wonderful ministry has shared these essential truths in my life, and I’ve been brought into the reality and victory of knowing Jesus as my very LIFE as a result.

Dave L. Cedar Lake, IN

book “We are designed so that if we will give our volitional consent, God will control our spirit, our spirit will then control our soul, and our soul will control our body. This is God’s plan; and for it to work, Christ must be at the control center.”

 

Title: Handbook to Happiness
A Biblical Guide To Victorious Living

Author: Dr. Charles Solomon
Purchase: gracefellowshipinternational.com

From Death to Life

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Dead man walking. Ever heard the phrase before? One definition of the phrase is “any person in a doomed or untenable situation.” This basically describes man’s spiritual condition upon conception. “Unfair!” you may shout. What has he even yet done to deserve such a fate?” The sad, but true answer is nothing. He had to do nothing more than simply inherit the spiritual condition of his parents, who inherited that of their parents, and so on, all the way back to Adam.

Dead to God, Alive to Sin

What exactly is this spiritual condition? Paul writes, in Romans 5:12, “… through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men…” When Adam and Eve chose independence from God by eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they experienced spiritual death—at the very core of their beings, they were separated from God’s life and power. At this point, their condition changed; their human spirits, which had been alive to God prior to the Fall, were now dead to God and alive to Sin. It is this dreadful condition into which we are all born. Just as a genetic predisposition to a physical condition may be inherited through one’s genes, our spiritual condition is also a matter of who we were “born in.” Since we were all “in Adam,” when he sinned, we sinned. When he died spiritually, we died spiritually and were left to our own resources. When he was condemned, we were condemned. When he became a sinner, we became sinners.

Death Sentence

So, man, even before birth, is sentenced to death, and lives life futilely trying to avoid the pain of this reality, searching for meaning and significance in situations, circumstances, and others, which only results in a life filled with conflict and frustration. As the years pass, and no fulfillment is found living from his own resources, man is left wondering what the purpose of his life is. What he really needs is to be rescued from his hopeless situation and to be given a new set of “spiritual genes.” He begins to cry, like Paul, “Wretched man that I am? Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24)

God’s Remedy

Adam and Eve’s sin, in choosing to live life independently of God, was no surprise to God. In fact, He had a wonderful plan to restore them and their descendants (us) to Himself from before the foundation of the world. Paul tells us in his letter to the Ephesians, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ.” Because of God’s great desire to be in relationship with mankind and that we be connected to Him as our very Source of living, God sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross as our way out of our hopeless situation. When we choose to accept this indescribable gift, we experience salvation from our hopeless situation, and at that moment, God takes us spiritually out of Adam and places us into Christ’s life—eternal life. Eternal life is something we enter into and become a partaker of at the moment of salvation. It is receiving a new life altogether—Christ’s life. Colossians 1: 13-14 tells us that “He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Essentially, Father God did the impossible—He rescued us from our life in Adam and transferred us into Christ.

So where were we when Christ died, was buried, resurrected, and ascended? Since God placed us “in Him,” we, too, participated in His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. Paul speaks of this death of our “Old Man” in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” It is only through faith in this glorious exchange that we can experience the victorious abundant life that Jesus came to give.

A Moment-by-Moment Choice

Why is it, then, that our lives as Christians often seem anything but victorious? The answer to this lies in the fact that now we have a choice to make in every situation and circumstance in our lives. We must ask ourselves—Am I going to go back to living out of my own strength—my old ways of doing life—or am I willing to allow Christ in me to live through me? It is a moment-by moment choice to live out this truth of exchanged life, a Christ-centered life rather than a self-centered life that “puts no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3), that will allow us to experience the reality of our identity “in Christ.” We rejoice in the liberating truth that because we are now “in Christ,” we are new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17), having passed from death to life.

Next month we will further discuss God’s desire for us to live in a moment-by-moment attitude of surrender to Him.

From Cacophony to Peace…

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Angry words buzzed around my mind like a kicked hornet’s nest. Loser. Backward. Crazy. They wouldn’t quiet enough for me to hear my counselor’s voice. My mind was so astir with condemnation it could not take in truth. Then she showed me a picture on the paper—a diagram, really. Circles. I could handle circles. Slowly, the bees died off enough for me to hear her speaking. Spirit. Soul. Body. Taking the focus from the words in my head to the lines on the paper brought enough quiet to my mind to listen to her explanation. Sessions went on that way for quite a while—cacophony, drawing, understanding—until I learned I could trust the process. I was to see many more diagrams over the months, even a slide show. God used my counselor, her persistent discipleship, and the curriculum to draw me to His heart in a way I’d never been able to experience. Today I am grateful for the diagrams etched on my brain. When the cacophony comes and I feel alone, God reminds me of those drawings and gifts me peace.

Deb L.—Joppa, MD

Partnership with Local Church

Beginning in March, True Life was excited to partner with the Bel Air campus of Central Christian to offer one of our favorite mini-courses. Fifteen “Dream Team Leaders” (ministry heads) participated in this 8-week study entitled Breaking Free from Anxiety and Depression. Showing believers how to break free from self-life and enter into Christ’s life to experience true freedom, this personal growth course had a great impact on this dynamic group. Bonnie P. shared this about her experience:  I always want to deepen my experience of knowing “Christ as Life.”  In scripture, He gives us His Words for doing just that.  Besides my desire to grow personally, I want God to be able to use me to share His TRUTH in His Word with others, and True Life Discipleship Counseling is a great way to help me be better equipped to lead others to Christ!  I am thankful our church presented this opportunity for us to have a sampling of what True Life is about and I look forward to learning more!

Brittney N. added this about her involvement: The True Life class was a huge blessing, something I wasn’t expecting. When I was asked to go through the class, I honestly was thinking “oh this is another thing on the schedule, another night I have to be somewhere.” But I am so thankful that this class was offered at Central BA. I’ve grown deeper in my relationship with Christ and my understanding on how I was created — feelings, emotions, everything. What I learned at True Life helps me on a daily basis, in any situation, and encourages me to always relate things back to Christ. Ron and Debbie did a fantastic job of being friendly, open, and honest — not afraid to delve into the real issues we all face (depression, anxiety, forgiveness etc.). They handled every topic so earnestly, with hearts wanting to serve. I’m excited to see how much of an impact this class makes on our WM campus. Thanks again True Life!

If you would like to know more about this course or others offered by True Life, be sure to visit our website at www.onetruelife.org and click on the “Training” tab.

Also, if you would like to know more about the ministry of Central Christian, whose mission is to lead people to discover and fulfill their purpose in Christ, visit their website at www.cclife.tv.

Accepting Applications for True Life Institute

Burnt out from “doing” the Christian life? Ever feel like a failure as a Christian? Want to grow in your relationship with Jesus? If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, perhaps you would benefit from participating in our True Life Institute, scheduled to begin this fall. This structured personal growth program helps individuals deepen their understanding and experience of “Christ as Life.” Through classroom instruction, group discussion, and personal study, this 18-week course shares life-changing truths about the believer’s identity in Christ, concept of God, surrender, forgiveness, victory over sin, and other teachings which further an individual’s understanding of what it really means to experience “True Life from the new heart that Jesus gives.” We invite you to prayerfully consider joining us for our next session. We have begun accepting applications for a limited number of participants. For more information, go to our website, www.onetrue.org and click on the “Training” tab.

classic christianity

“From God’s point of view, the problem of man is not just that he is a sinner in need of forgiveness; his greater problem is that he is dead and in need of life.”

Title: Classic Christianity
Author: Bob George
Purchase: Christianbook.com