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 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!
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.