The Spiritual You
by William Landon
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION
Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of
Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Other Scripture from the King James Version as noted by (KJV)
Copyright © 2000
All rights Reserved. No part of this book may be translated,
reproduced, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or
mechanical, including but not limited to photocopy, recording, or any
information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing
from the author.
The Spiritual Universe
The Three Part You
The Physical You
The Soul You
The Spiritual You
Religion and Spirituality
Doing and Being
The Spirit and the Law
Dividing Soul and Spirit
Unity in the Spirit
Female Before God
The spiritual component of human existence is simultaneously the most important and least understood aspect of our being. As we have traveled through the passage of time from eternity past to eternity future, the human race has become progressively more estranged from our spiritual roots and core. What this means in a practical sense is that we have become more and more estranged from ourselves. That is, the true self that God the Father created us to be. This estrangement has resulted in a progressive degeneration of human kind.
This is not a new, dire prediction but the fulfillment of a pronouncement that is nearly two thousand years old: "But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God -- having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them." (2 Timothy 3:1–5) Be assured at the outset of this book, I am not writing this to bring up prophecies of end time disasters. Such writings can be readily found anywhere. People have always had a lurid fascination with disaster and this is unhealthy. It is not my intent to contribute in any way to this fixation.
On the other hand, I will not shrink away from whatever truth the Father may choose to show me—whether it is pleasant or unpleasant. The purpose for writing this book is to hopefully bring the people who read it to a greater understanding and grounding of the true nature of ourselves and of our world. We waste a great deal of our energy and effort in worthless pursuits because we do not understand what is of value and what is not. We do not understand what is real and what is not. This situation has developed because we have lost a great deal of our connection with our spiritual roots.
From the Primitive
Perhaps the greatest factor contributing to the increasing distance between our understanding of the world and reality is technology and prosperity. I must quickly point out that I have nothing against either of these issues. In and of themselves, technology and prosperity are just conditions. They have no inherent goodness or evil in themselves. They are, rather, put to good or evil applications. In any case, it is futile to speak against either of these things. No nation or culture is going to go backward in technology and no one is going to walk away from prosperity.
We should, however, understand what these two conditions can do to our lives and our understanding of reality. With increasing technology comes increasing ease and comfort. Physical prosperity also contributes substantially to our ease and comfort. In and of itself this is not a bad thing. What is a very great potential for evil however, is how we allow this ease and comfort to color our perception of the world. If we are not careful about how we understand our accomplishments and situation in the material world we can be severely warped in our concept of reality.
This happens when we see our comfortable lives as either an indication of God's blessing on us and our lifestyle or as an indication of our own superiority. In the worst cases we may fall prey to both of these delusions. I firmly believe that the most difficult condition there is for people to survive is prosperity. In the primitive setting, people are concerned with basic survival. In this setting we see both positive and negative consequences. Primitive cultures should not to be held up as ideals of the way people ought to live. Neither should these cultures be seen as inferior to technological ones.
The Down Side
What we can see is both a positive and a negative in the primitive. The negative is that there is little higher aspiration in a culture living at the survival level. This is merely a fact of life. You cannot be just getting by in the area of the necessities of life and at the same time be writing symphonies and novels. One of the great gifts of technology and the prosperity that it brings is the creation of leisure time. With leisure time comes the opportunity to create beauty and to express cultural ideas.
We must try to get this aspect of human expression into a proper perspective. I have seen this truth mishandled on both ends of the spectrum. There are those who feel that the primitive expresses a purity and genuineness that is an ideal of humanity. Where I find this difficult to accept is in the fact that I have never heard this expressed by anyone living in a primitive culture. It is just no fun spending your whole life figuring out where the next meal is coming from. It is nowhere near ideal watching half your children die before the age of ten.
Primitive cultures represent life lived at the subsistence level. If we are to be honest with ourselves we will see that this is not necessarily an ideal. It is also not necessarily a sign of some sort of inherent inferiority.
The Up Side
The thing that primitive cultures have that is superior to technological ones is a sense of spirituality. When you live close to the edge it is quite difficult to fall into the false idea that you are in charge of your life and world. When we are constantly faced with danger and privation, we know that we are not the biggest influence at work in our world.
This is exactly what technology and prosperity insulate us from. Once my needs and fair number of my wants as well in the material are met I will probably become a little cocky. Why not? If I am capable of setting myself up so well, what need do I have for God? As my level of prosperity raises, my perception of a need for God drops. To the person rolling in material prosperity God often times just gets in the way. The primitive has no such opportunity to fail. When we live at the subsistence level we know that we are very dependent creatures. We may not know upon what we depend but we know that we are not in charge.
The person in a technological culture on the other hand is more and more convinced that they are in complete control of their world and their life. We control most every aspect of our lives. What we don't presently control our technology is working on controlling. What we cannot gain a technical control over we can control through our laws and regulations. Thus the fantasy of our "godliness" grows and grows in our minds.
Into this sea of good times comes the problem. As we draw ever further away from our mere survival level roots a very surprising negative appears. This is the increasing feeling that we are not as happy as we could be or should be. Or to put it more correctly, we are not content. This is very unnerving to us. For our whole lives we have been told that if we can have just a few more things we can be perfectly contented. If we have a little bigger car, a little bigger house in a little better neighborhood or a little better job with a little more income we will arrive.
But where have we arrived? If we are honest with ourselves we find that in pursuing these things we have arrived with bigger lifestyles and bigger bills. We have more stuff and we are still not content. We are not at peace—just more affluent. In the end, we have found (if we have found anything at all) that it was really peace that we have always sought. If we are honest with ourselves we have found that our quest for more material possessions has brought us no closer to being at peace.
When we look to the world for an explanation of this failure we get more halfway ideas and answers that do not satisfy. The world says: "You just don't have quite enough stuff yet." We may go through this loop several times before it dawns on us that we will never have enough stuff.
So now we know that mere physical possessions and the meeting of physical needs is not going to get us where we really want to go. If you have made it even this far you are miles ahead of most of the world. The sad truth is that millions upon millions of people never allow themselves to get beyond the "a little more stuff" stage in their life search. There are many people who will go to their graves never having questioned why life never lived up to expectations.
For the rest of humanity, another wide and bewildering sea of possibilities is opened up. This is the supermarket of soulish attainments. These are the attainments of mind and emotion. A near numberless array of possibilities exists that all promise to supply what is missing in the superficial world of material possessions. These options offer the promise of contentment through mental achievement (learn new stuff), activity achievement (do new stuff), self enrichment (get new reputation stuff), artistic achievement (create new stuff), and self discoveries (understand psychological stuff).
This is a good first step but it is only a first step. It is good to move beyond the merely physical but does this bring us the contentment we seek? Sadly, no. The problem with this new set of potential acquisitions is that they are still acquisitions. This is consumerism of the soul. While the practitioners and proponents of this level of living hold to its superiority over crass materialism they are still fundamentally mistaken. We tend to see pursuits of the mind (soul) as superior to grubbing around for material goods. But in the end, these mental pursuits are not superior, only different.
If we can maintain our honesty with ourselves we will come to a point in this non-physical pursuit of contentment where we will be forced to admit that we still "aren't getting it." I now know a lot more stuff and I am far more accomplished. I am more cultured and sophisticated but I am still not content in my life. There must be something more out there.
Its Not Religion Either
One subset of the soulish pursuit of peace should be mentioned briefly at this point. This is the pursuit of religious attainment. Understanding religious pursuits is important to our investigation of our spiritual identity. This will be one of the most important things we will look into not because it is the way to achieve peace but because religion is one of the most insidious traps in this journey.
Religion is the classic "near miss" in the pursuit of human spiritual fulfillment. We should always remember in any endeavor, the close call is always the most dangerous situation. The things that are close but not exactly right are dangerous because they look so good and are very nearly right. Through this closeness these counterfeits can make us think that we are on the right track while subtly leading us down a blind alley.
Religion is really a soulish pursuit because it plays on our mental and emotional being. These are soulish attributes of our makeup. The religious person classically engages in external actions that make them look good and caring or that produce a feeling of elation or joy. In the end, however, these things are fleeting and pass away. This is why we need to keep going back the religious group or organization for a refill. Like the addict that needs the next fix, the religious people never seem to get to a point where they have arrived.
The Brass Ring
Many people dropped out trying to achieve contentment through material possessions. Many more drop out looking for fulfillment in intellectual, religious and cultural attainments. For those who have had the drive and courage (and really—the touch of God) to see that their "life's emperor" in all his new clothes was really still naked, there is only one place left to look in our search for contentment. This is the realm of the spiritual.
When we speak of the spiritual realm we speak of something that many, many people have no idea even exists let alone what it is about. The idea of the spiritual has been so pounded out of us by our life of technically derived ease and prosperity and soulish religion that we are all but ignorant of it. In fact, mankind has achieved in these days a level of spiritual ignorance never before attained or even dreamed of.
Forgive me a little sarcasm but it is all too sadly true. In most peoples' life view the spiritual not only is unimportant, it doesn't even exist. Yet it is in this very realm that what we really seek after exists. For this reason, the spiritual realm is THE important part of our lives—whether we seek it, understand it, recognize it or not. The only difference between the person who accepts their need for a spirituality and one who doesn't is in their chances. The person who seeks for a spiritual answer has a chance to succeed in finding peace, contentment and true meaning in their life. The person who rejects the spiritual aspect of their life has no chance at all.
It is for those who come (or more properly, are brought) to the place of being able to see that their ultimate contentment rests in their ultimate completion in the spiritual that this book is written. This is not meant to be a "how to" book but only an encouragement. There are no "how to" methods in human spirituality. All that I am capable of doing is to testify and encourage. I can give some shape or definition to this journey and I can hopefully encourage people to go on in it, but I cannot tell anyone how to take the journey.
One of the most liberating and exasperating aspects of human spirituality is its subjectivity. No two human spiritual expressions are identical. There are some commonalities that we will look at but no one can tell you what your "spiritual you" should (or will) look like exactly. This individual character of the "spiritual you" arises because of the nature of our spirituality. Each one of us has been created to be spiritually individual—unique and rare. Further, we were not created beings with a spiritual component for no reason.
The human spirit is an integral part of our makeup. What is more, our human spirit is the deepest and most intimate part of who we are. As such, our spiritual part is primarily an issue between God the Father and ourselves. It is a part of us that is, in its most intimate and real sense, a part of us that is not and cannot be shared with any other human being. It is in the spiritual part of us that we carry on our personal relationship with God.
Yet Another Ocean
We can see from this that the acceptance of certain basic facts is necessary to proceed on this journey. It is my fervent and unshakable belief that there is one true spiritual reality or truth. While our human spirituality is subjective in its individuality, it is founded on a set of absolute and objective spiritual "facts." As we have become more disenchanted with our life condition a wide variety of spiritual expressions has arisen. It is into this ocean of options that we now plunge.
If we look at the buffet of possible expressions of human spirituality we see a wide assortment of proposed "truths." There is new age, Christianity, Satan worship, nature worship, the spiritual expression of native cultures and so forth. All of these expressions accept the existence of a human spirituality. But the differences in their basic assumptions about the true nature of human spirituality raises an unsettling prospect. All of these explanations may be wrong but they cannot all be right. We cannot say that all these diverse explanations of spirituality are correct. If one explanation holds that the universe is self generative and another that God created the universe, they both cannot be right. There is an ultimate spiritual truth that is right and all the others, at the points where the diverge from this truth, are wrong.
The foundational truths of the spiritual realm are fixed and therefore they allow certain realities and exclude others. When we consider what is true and what is fiction we cannot rest in the false security that all spiritual propositions are mutually allowable. What I will present here is the understanding of spiritual reality I have received. I would ask the reader to consider this understanding. In its favor I would point out that this view has nothing to sell, join or sign up for. I have, to the best of my ability, as God has equipped me, tried to keep ulterior motives out of this view. In many systems of spiritual understanding there is the underlying motive of personal gain. I have tried to avoid this.
I would recommend to any seeker after an understanding of their spiritual identity some general ground rules to guide your search. First, I would never accept any system of spiritual understanding that required the authorization or approval of men. If I can only be the spiritual person I was created to be by the authorization of some man or institution of men then I must reject this understanding.
Next, I would never accept any understanding of the spiritual that did not come with some kind of objective proof. The spiritual is just too important to be entrusted to hearsay. That is exactly what unsupported opinion is—hearsay. Surprisingly, millions of people entrust their spiritual understanding to just this kind of system. If you believe what you believe based solely on what the pastor says or what the guru says then you are a fool. I don't think many people would make an important financial or health related decision without first getting all the facts they could. Further, most of us would want some assurance that the people giving us the advice were competent and free from competing motivations.
Unfortunately, most people's standard for spiritual advice is much less strict. We seem willing to accept just about anything from just about anyone when it comes to teaching in the area of spiritual truth. This is one of those ironies in life that we place the least value on the things of greatest worth in our lives. This is another evidence of how far wrong we have gone in our understanding of life. In this I am not giving a stamp of approval to any set of "spiritual experts." I don't believe that any human institution confers spiritual understanding on anyone. What I earnestly recommend to spiritual seekers is to question every idea of spirituality. Further, we need to decide on a standard of spiritual truth then try every idea we consider against that standard.
In my search I have tried a good many things for my spiritual standard. The one I have always come back to and the one I now stand on is the Bible. If you don't like this standard then find one you do like. I am not selling Bibles. Be aware, however, that the standard you choose should be a rigorous and unchanging one. Your standard should be able to cover all situations and provide an unending stream of new insights.
As I mentioned before, I have tried a number of spiritual standards—Taoism, Hinduism, spiritism, the occult, religion and others. If the idea of the Bible as a spiritual standard offends you then try the other standards available. You should make every effort, however, to be as totally objective as you can in making your assessments. Do not reject the Bible out of hand.
The spiritual realm is deeper that we will ever be able to come to know. I do not feel led to present a discourse in the proofs of the Bible's accuracy and authenticity as a spiritual standard. In any event, the strongest evidence of my conviction of the Bible's truth and worth is the testimony that it is the spiritual standard I use. I would only ask the reader to put aside any preconceptions they may have gotten from Christianity or Judaism. I have found that few people and none of the institutions in either of these camps have much of a clue.
There are a good many people in the religious world who know the words in the Bible but their teaching and living show little understanding of the truths of the Bible. I maintain that if a person will approach the Scriptures with the idea of establishing and growing a personal one-on-one relationship with God they will be amazed and rewarded. This is a message that will not be found in any religious organization or fellowship.
In all my writings I quote heavily from the Bible. I do this to show the reader where I have gotten my ideas from. This is my "proof." This is done not to prove myself a Bible scholar—I don't consider myself a Bible scholar. I am only a seeker. I use Bible references because I hope to point the reader to this standard of truth so that they can seek for themselves. I would never ask anyone to accept any idea based on my presenting it alone. The Bible is referenced to show the basis of my understandings. If you don't accept the validity of the Bible then this proof will carry no weight with you whatsoever.
The Spiritual You
After many years of searching and many years of error and failure I have learned one very important thing. Our spiritual existence is an issue of personal relationship with the creator, sustainer and ruler of all that is—God. I have found that God is a personality (an individual) and that He has a definite plan and purpose for His creation.
What this means in its simplest terms is that our spirituality is a life issue. We are speaking here about life at its most fundamental and important level. The issue of human spirituality is the issue of human life. We can never add real value to our living nor can we be fulfilled in our lives without coming to some true understanding and acceptance of our spiritual component. This will only work if we arrive at an acceptance of the true nature and character of our spiritual person.
My experience has been that it was in seeking personal relationship with God that I have come to know who I am. This journey has been aided to a great measure by studying the Bible. This has been a study both in groups and alone. Though I must say that the vast majority of my study to this day is done alone. It is only in allowing God to show us His truth that we can ever have any hope of understanding reality to any degree. If we don't know the true nature of reality we cannot know anything.
The main criterion for our success in discovering our personal spirituality is in coming to see what God's purpose is for us and for our world. This is not God's plan as we would like it to be. This is not God's plan as the church organizations of men would like it to be. We must seek God's plan for the creation as God wants it to be if we hope to find anything at all about the truth. It is only in our coming into alignment with the Father's plan that we can find that elusive commodity that we started looking for in the first place—peace. You will never have contentment anywhere outside the purpose of God: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14:27)
A Spiritual Universe
What is Real?
Humanity has debated the real nature of the universe from the beginning of time. What is more, this debate will not conclude until the end of time. One thing that we should always keep in mind in regard to this topic is that this is not some abstract subject of interest and value only to philosophy professors, theologians and intellectuals. The reason we human beings have, from the beginning, wondered and debated about the real nature of the physical universe is that this topic is of fundamental importance to each one of us. How we choose to see the basic nature of the universe will color the rest of our personal belief system. It is our personal belief system that guides and forms our entire view of life.
We each must choose how to see the universe. Once we have done this we will build a concept of reality. This is not only physical reality but this basic concept will then extend to our understanding of psychological and spiritual reality as well. Take this example: The atheist starts with the basic premise that there is no higher power. This view of the universe forces such a person into an understanding that the physical universe is one dimensional—that is, what you see is what you get—and all that you get. From this concept the view of humanity as the supreme psychological force in the creation must follow. This leaves us with humanity being the god of its own existence.
We can see in this simple example a train of thought consisting of a beginning assumption and the beliefs or understandings that must follow. This is how we begin with a concept of the nature of the universe that colors the rest of our thinking. As we accept more and more ideas about what is real and what is the nature of reality, the more possibilities we simultaneously must exclude from our understanding. I cannot, for instance, simultaneously believe in a loving and caring creator God and a universe that runs itself.
How Many Realities?
At this point we should be clear on one important basic point. There is in today's thinking a view called relativism. One of the aspects of this understanding is that reality can be radically different for each of us. While this is true from the standpoint of our individual experiences and feelings it is a disaster to extend this idea to the universe at large.
In the sense of our perceptions, values and views we do create our own reality. We must not, however, allow ourselves to fall into the trap of self deification. This is what we do when we begin believing that how we see reality has any impact whatsoever on reality itself. There are many ways of seeing reality but there is still only one true reality. We may perceive reality any way we wish—but we may also be dead wrong.
The search for truth is not a question of bending reality to our perceptions but of bending our perceptions to the way things are. This is the search for the Father. Or more correctly, the search for a greater and fuller closeness with the Father.
The Bible's Universe
As I take for my objective basis the Bible, this forms my basic concept of the physical universe. Most people are familiar with the Bible's stand on the physical creation: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." (Genesis 1:1) In the biblical model, God is the author of all that is. This gives us two important boundaries on the physical universe. The first is that there is an ultimate source of everything. I have now excluded the possibility that the universe runs on the application mere physical law alone. This means that everything that exists and goes on in the creation has a purpose. This purpose comes from the fact that there is a guiding or controlling intelligence behind all of the objects and events in the universe.
The second boundary is perhaps not so obvious as the first but it is equally important. This boundary is that there is a dimension that is superior to the physical. If the physical universe was brought into being by someone (or something) then that someone or something is superior to the physical universe. The greater force produces the lesser—never the other way around. Additionally, a creator and a creation cannot operate independently from one another. This is why any man-made god is never any kind of a god at all. This is why man-made concepts of God never quite hit the mark. To put it simply, the knowledge of God must come from God.
If we accept that the physical universe was created by another force we need to resolve a further question. A created physical universe must have come from something that is superior to that universe. Additionally, it is almost certain that because the creator is superior to the physical then He must also be different from the physical universe in some way. This is the further question that the view of a created universe raises: What is the nature of this dimension that is superior to the physical?
The Bible clearly states that God's basic nature is spiritual: "God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." (John 4:24) If we accept that God is the creator of all that is then we have assented to the fact that the physical universe arose out of a spiritual beginning. This makes the spiritual dimension superior to the physical because the greater gives rise to the lesser. It is in this ordering of things by power and importance that we take our first step into seeing reality in an new and clearer way.
If the most important and powerful thing in the universe is spiritual then we may assume that the spiritual part of us is the most important part of our makeup. That is, if we have a spiritual part.
We need to explore this aspect of humanity briefly here. I will return to this aspect of our being (reality) in greater detail later, but it is necessary to establish clearly now, at the beginning, that we do have a human spirit. There are a number of people both inside and outside Christianity that feel that people are not born or created with a spiritual component. Some of the non-Christians would maintain that we never have had or will have such an element. Others accept this part of our make up readily. The same is true of the Christian community.
Another possibility that is occasionally raised in Christian circles is that we don't have a spiritual part initially but get one after we have been born again. All of these ideas need to be tested against what the Bible teaches. I believe the Bible to be quite clear on this point. It is an important point in our coming to discover who we really are. As such I would expect the Bible to be clear on the issue of human spirituality. In the area of human spirituality I have not been disappointed in the Bible's clarity.
The Bible is again very clear on this issue: "This is the word of the LORD concerning Israel. The LORD, who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundation of the earth, and who forms the spirit of man within him, declares:" (Zechariah 12:1) Also see Proverbs 20:27, Ecclesiastes 3:21 and 1 Corinthians 2:11. In both the Old and New Testaments the Bible takes it as a given that we all have a spirit part to our creation. This spirit part of us exists as part of our original makeup as human beings. Because reference is made to the human spirit in the Old Testament we can see that the human spirit exists before we are born again. The Bible's view of this truth is so matter-of-fact that many people may overlook it in their study of Scripture.
Another biblical evidence that we have a spiritual part is in how we are characterized at the creation: "Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." (Genesis 1:26) The evidence of a human spirit is found in the fact that two words are used by God to describe our character or makeup: image and likeness. The Hebrew word for image is tselem which refers to an empty image or semblance. This is the form of a thing without the substance. The word translated likeness is d@muwth which refers to a similitude.
It is in the second word (likeness or similitude) that we see that we were created with the same essential characteristics as God—that is, a spiritual nature. This should not be misconstrued to mean that we have any of the particular attributes of the Father such as omnipotence, omnipresence or a self generative nature. We do, however, have the same basic attributes that God has (mind, will, emotions, spirit). This means that we are first and foremost spiritual creatures. Later we will look into the spirit part of our existence. For now it is sufficient to see that the Bible clearly depicts us as beings with a spirit component in our makeup.
A Spiritual Perspective
So what is important about accepting that we have spirits and that this is our foundational part? As I have stated before, we have come so far from our spiritual beginnings that most people don't even think about their spirituality. Still more people don't even believe that we have a spirituality. It is because of this situation that I can best answer this question in the negative. If we do not see our basic spirituality we will never understand the true nature of either ourselves or our world. Without this understanding we will never find the truth to say nothing of ever finding peace and rest. Without a spiritual view and understanding we will never be able to correctly make any sense out of anything that we see or experience in life.
It is this very lack that causes people to be bewildered, confused and depressed about the events that take place in our world. What really gives rise to the anxiety in our minds about what is happening in the world? Surprisingly this anxiety is not so much the product of the events themselves but the fact that the events don't fit our reality model. For example: while students shooting students in our schools are traumatic things in themselves, it is not these events in themselves that trouble us so.
If we are honest with ourselves we must admit that the death or injury of someone we have never met and don't know is not terribly traumatic to us. If it were we would be in constant agony over the thousands of human beings that die every day. We should not feel ashamed about this either. Sorrow and grief are emotional states that arise out of a sense of personal loss. We cannot really experience these things outside of personal relationship. This is a good thing and it is a protection that God gives us so that we will not be overcome with grief.
So why do certain events, like school shootings, cause us emotional stress? Some small amount of stress comes from a generic compassion but no one is so compassionate that this is the major factor. The major part of the stress comes from the fact that these events do not fit into our understanding of the nature of reality. Quite simply, we do not understand these things and this distresses us. These events are constant reminders that our understandings do not account for certain realities.
Turning to God
This uneasiness is one of the answers to another age old question—Why does a loving God permit such terrible tragedies? There are several reasons but the one that bears on our present discussion is that such things point to the inadequacy of many of our concepts of the nature of reality. These kinds of unsettling events are permitted (in part) to drive us to the acceptance of our need for God.
Certainly God could use any number of mechanisms to turn us to Himself. Many would be more efficient and pleasant than the negative events we see in the world everyday. However, God has placed a limitation on Himself. This limitation is that we can only come to the Father by choosing to do so. It is by the exercise of free will choice only that we can seek and find the Father. A limitless being such as the Father could not have it any other way if the physical universe is to have any meaning at all.
What I mean by this is that God can do anything. It is for precisely this reason that we must operate with free will if life in the physical universe is to have any meaning whatsoever. The Father knows full well that He could force our love, obedience and acceptance of Him as our Father. But this would be a hollow exercise in absolute power. For this reason the Father chose to create us in His image and likeness. Our possession of a free will is another attribute of being made in the likeness of God. Only God and human beings have a free will. A free will is essential if any creature is to operate beyond the level of instinct.
The Consequences of a Physical Model of the Universe
The best argument I can give to illustrate the importance to our living that rests in the model of the universe we adopt is in considering the consequences of this choice. Most people adopt or accept a model of the universe that is presented by either science, some philosopher or some religious leader / institution. In general, we make this acceptance without giving the issue the measure of careful thought that it deserves. This carelessness leads to some very unfortunate consequences in the lives of the people who do not choose carefully. This is a decision that will effect every facet of our lives here and hereafter yet most people do not see or understand this.
What a purely physical model of the universe ultimately breeds is inescapable frustration and hopelessness. Consider this—if the universe is nothing more than a huge mechanical system functioning within the constraints of physical law, what is the purpose of life? If all we can hope for in this world is to produce and consume and then to pass out of existence, why bother? It is the almost total lack of hope that the purely physical model of the universe offers that convinces me that the people who hold to this view of the universe have not thought the implications out carefully.
If we have no hope of anything better than to live a finite existence governed by the laws of chance and physical interactions then we are truly hopeless. In this event suicide becomes the only intelligent option. I am entirely serious about this. If I cannot hope for anything beyond the merely physical then I would rather not bother. In the end the pleasure can no more than just equal the pain and my life goes nowhere. I start out with nothing in the physical and I end up with nothing: "Naked a man comes from his mother's womb, and as he comes, so he departs. He takes nothing from his labor that he can carry in his hand." (Ecclesiastes 5:15) If we will consider the matter honestly and carefully we must reach the inevitable conclusion that a purely physical universe is a universe without hope and without meaning.
The Religious View—Judgement
A view of the universe, if it is to contain the possibility of any hope at all must include some concept of deity. We were created to seek and need something beyond ourselves. This is a something that we cannot satisfy from either ourselves or even from one another. No, we know intuitively and inherently that we need something beyond our humanity to become complete. This is where religion has entered the picture to make its pitch.
We inherently know that if our existence is to have any hope and meaning there must be something beyond ourselves and beyond the physical to seek for. We may see this as advanced alien cultures or higher spiritual consciousness or as some form of deity. The something higher we need is, in reality, God. Once again, there are many conceptions of reality possible but only one is true. If we come to this point we must beware of the god portrayed by the religious institutions of the world. In this characterization I include all such institutions Christian and otherwise.
I raise this caution as a Christian. In fact, I am not nearly so put off by the non-Christian religious theories as I am of the Christian ones. The non-Christian religions and the religions that call themselves "Christian" but deny the biblical basis of Christianity are not any real threat to the serious spiritual seeker. I base this idea on the fact that if we seriously seek our true spiritual core these religious understandings will eventually fold up. They must fail because they have no basis in eternal truth. Every one of these theories, if pushed hard enough, will eventually fail. This failure will be exactly the same as the non-spiritual system failures. That is, these religious ideas will not be able to explain all that we see and experience in the world and in our lives.
The Universe of Law
By far the most serious threat to spiritual seekers are the legalistic institutional "Bible-based" Christian religions. The seriousness of this threat comes not from how far these concepts of God are from the truth but from how close they are. The religions that label themselves as "Bible-based" are characterized by certain common strengths and weaknesses.
The greatest strength that these religious expressions have is their correct understanding of salvation. I believe that this is an expression of God's immense love for humanity. The Father knows that the first essential step in anyone's redemption and growth is to be reconciled to Him. If we never make this first step everything else in our lives will be academic. It will not matter at all how much you learn about the Bible or how many good deeds you do if you are not reconciled to God. This is the truth that Jesus proclaimed to the religious leaders of His day: "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life." (John 5:39–40)
This verse lets the cat out of the bag somewhat but now is as good a time as any to begin thinking about the Father's ultimate goal for us. This ultimate goal is simply that we may have life and have it to the full. The truth about "Bible-based" Christianity is that beyond salvation it is not life based. Institutional Christianity, even the so called "Bible-based" brand is not life based, it is law based.
What these religious institutions offer the spiritual seeker is a little life through salvation and a life lived in this world through observing external laws. This type of "spirituality" is consistently spoken against in the Bible: "Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"?" (Colossians 2:20–21) If you bring nothing else away from this discussion about spirituality then please take this: Life is an internal issue and not an external one. All life shares certain common attributes. Among the most basic is that we all receive life from an external life source (parents) and this life is deposited within us (it is lived internally). Lions are not lions because they observe the "lion law." Lions are lions with all that this entails because of the operation of the lion life within them.
No living thing on this planet lives its life because of something going on outside of itself. If we are going to have a real spiritual life it must have its roots in something internal that God does and is doing within each of us. This shows us three features of real life: that it is internal, that it comes from God and that it is an individual issue between each of us and God. We will look into these things in greater depth later.
The Universe You Live in
If we can see the spiritual roots that lie below the surface of the physical universe we can begin to understand what is real. Without this basic understanding we are condemned to lives lived in misunderstanding and futility. This is a misunderstanding that comes from both external deception and internal (self) deception.
One of the first and most important realizations we must accept is that we are not God. This always sounds funny but most of the human race lives their lives as if they were God. This is the kind of living where we assume that we are in control of our lives. We will go where we want to go and do what we want to do. We are in control and we can have it all our way if we are smart enough or cleaver enough or tough enough or persistent enough.
You see this dream reality pandered to everyday in our advertising—be the person you want to be and live in the world you want to have. Be assured of this—no matter what you may feel about advertising, it is driven by only one thing—effect. If advertising is not effective it does not last long. We can see a great deal about the condition of the human race from what we respond to in advertising. It truly is a window into our soul. One of the things we see quite clearly is that we believe that we can manipulate our universe. We believe this is true, if not of the entire universe, then at least it is true of our little part of it.
So one of the first misconceptions we must shed is that we have control over our world, our family or our situations. The one thing we do control are the decisions we make. After this however we are confronted with consequences that we do not control. We can only control our response to these consequences.
If we do not come to accept this aspect of reality we will spend (or misspend) our lives doing what so many in the world do—manipulate. The human race lies, cheats and twists its way through life in the vain effort to make this false reality come true. We try our utmost to make the people around us do what we want them to so we can get our way. We deceive ourselves into thinking that we are doing this for the good of all—because what we want is the "greater good." In the end however, we only want what we want because we want it. Further, in the end we do not get what we want and wind up stressed out, miserable and destroyed because we spent our efforts seeking after that which we could never have in the first place. We grind ourselves down against each other being selves seeking for ourselves.
If we can come to the point of seeing the folly and evil of this condition we have made a good first step. This is the good beginning because it positions us to see our true state. We are not in control of even our little part of the universe. It is only in our surrender to the working of our Father in our life that we can come to rest. Our true state is one in which we are dependent on God the Father. As we grow in our relationship with the Father we will see more and more clearly (and be able to accept) this dependence. This is good to see and accept because it is the true nature of our existence.
The Three Part You
What is a Person?
Another of those central questions that has come down through the history of human thinking is this: "What does it mean to be human?" Human beings have always sought for definition about who and what we are. I would like to defer for the time being the deeper question of who we are and concentrate here on the more mechanical issue of what we are. By mechanical I do not mean only physiological attributes. I am not interested in this present discussion in biological structures such as glands, blood vessels or bones. What I would like to look at in this chapter are the general physical and metaphysical components that make up a human being as the Bible presents our makeup.
Again, keep in mind that the Bible has no superficial parts. We cannot understand everything in the Bible but if we accept the Bible as our objective spiritual guide we must see this fact: There are no unimportant parts in the Bible. At the deepest level of detail, every word in the Scriptures is significant. All the parts of the Bible do not all apply to each of us at all times. There is an individual program the Father has for each of us. Different parts of the Bible are key to us at different times in our walk, but all of it is important. The significance of this on our current discussion is this: If the Bible tells us we have a certain component to our makeup then we have that part. If the Bible speaks of different parts of our human makeup then these different parts have different functions and are all necessary for our being the complete people God intended us to be.
This is another of those issues of biblical truth that for whatever reason the organized church does little teaching on. The lack of institutional teaching on this issue at first glance may appear a mystery. Why would the organizational church be threatened by our gaining the knowledge of who and what we are? There is, however, a possible explanation of why the institutional church does not deal more forcefully and plainly with this issue.
The basic who and what of humanity is lost in much of Christian teaching today because of an emphasis on doing rather than on being. If you examine contemporary Christian literature you will find an overwhelming emphasis on doing. We can find all kinds of books written today instructing us on how to do any number of things. We can find books on how to raise our families, be better husbands and wives or how to serve the church better. All doing, no being. The messages coming out most pulpits is consistent with this emphasis. We are taught a great deal about how to do but little (if anything) on how to be. But before we can do anything effectively we must have some understanding of who we are. This is being.
The Legacy of A Physical View
It is vitally important that we come to a place of understanding about this issue of who we are. We need to know what goes into our makeup if we are to relate constructively to God, to our surroundings and to each other. The understanding of our makeup contributes to our being able to understand why we do the things we do. This understanding allows us to not only see why we do the things we do but also why we do them the way we do. In understanding how God made us, we grow in understanding the forces that act in our lives. Through this we begin to understand our proper place in the creation.
This spiritually oriented view is found in very few places in the present world. This is the legacy of humanity's increasing emphasis on the material and psychological. The institutional church is an organization of this world. It is made up by and for men and therefore can be nothing other than a worldly entity. This fact undoubtedly will shock and anger many people. We have come to accept without question that the institutional churches of this world are God's agents on earth. To question what they do, how they do it or the correctness of their claims as God's chosen instruments is unacceptable in many circles.
Yet, we can see clearly in most (if not all) church organizations a lack of teaching on the spiritual. We get teaching on how to be good and how to do good things. We even get teachings on how to be saved. What we don't get is how to let the Father grow us up to be the people He created us to be. What you will find in organizational church teaching is a very worldly teaching sprinkled with some of the things of God.
We will look into this area in more detail later on. For right now I can only commend the reader to seek the Father's council on the issue of organizational religion. We can all trust our loving heavenly Father to show us what is good and profitable for each us.
Race, Gender, Nationality
The question of what makes up a human being in its most fundamental sense goes beyond superficial, physical issues such as race and nationality. This question even goes beyond what some may consider deeper issues such as gender. These issues are only important if you are going to confine your view to the physical realm. If you confine your thinking in this way, you stand no chance of ever answering the question of what a human being truly is. If we are successful in this examination of the true nature of human beings we will have to go beyond the physical and even beyond the psychological.
We find only peripheral mention of race and nationality in the Bible. Further, Scripture never sees these issues as points of great significance. The opposite is the case: "But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.'" (Luke 2:10) Race is not even considered a big issue in the Old Testament. David's grandmother (Ruth) was from Moab. The Moabites were despised by the Israelites but that did not seem to bother God. This is a point the Israelites never seemed to grasp.
This lack of distinction becomes even more clear in the New Testament. The most concise and powerful statement of this fact comes from Paul: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28) Christ is the great equalizer of all people. In Christ there are none of the distinctions that appear so important in this world. Distinctions of class, wealth, gender and race shrink to insignificance before Christ. If we insist on seeing ourselves or our brothers and sisters in Christ in these physical terms we are not seeing the spiritual nature that resides in each of us. Even in the psychological we cannot see the true spiritual nature of each other. If we insist on even seeing the unsaved world in these terms we miss the point. To God's mind, there is only Christ and everything else.
The answer to the question "What is a human being?" in its most fundamental terms is this: Human beings are creatures created in the image and likeness of God. It is the world's lack of acceptance of this foundational truth that has prevented people from understanding their true identity. Every person who accepts this truth is on their way to being able to see the truth of who and what they are.
Three Part God, Three Part Man
There are several applications to the phrase "Created in the image and likeness of God." At its most basic level, this means that we are made along the same pattern as God's pattern. We cannot say that we are made the way God is made because God is not "made." Nonetheless, God exists in three parts (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). Further, the Father has a mind, will, emotions and Spirit. It makes sense that the biblical view of people would show us as having three basic component parts.
Human beings as the Bible describes them are creatures possessing a body, soul and spirit. These are the basic component parts of each of us: "May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thessalonians 5:23) I would like to reserve the in-depth look at what makes up these component parts of us for later. I defer this study because the detail of the makeup of these parts of each person deals more with who we are than what we are.
The most fundamental analogy of the parts of human beings in the Bible is the temple and its forerunner, the tabernacle. The temple was laid out in three main areas: The outer court, the temple and the Holy of Holies. Each of these areas from the outside in were areas of increasing spirituality. This carried through from the outer court where much activity was allowed on through the temple to the Holy of Holies where the presence of God dwelt. The Holy of Holies was so sacred that heavy restrictions existed as to who could enter it. This restriction included not only who could go there but also when and for what purpose they were allowed entry.
It is not without reason that the New Testament refers to our bodies as God's temple: "Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16) The New Testament writers understood the analogy between the physical temple in Jerusalem and the makeup of a human being. The purpose for the construction of the temple was to provide a place for God to dwell. This was done although the Jews knew that God was too great to be enclosed in any structure built by men: "But will God really dwell on earth with men? The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!" (2 Chronicles 6:18) The temple was, rather, a type or symbol of the ultimate intention of God. This intention was and is to this day, to make children for His household by placing His very life into them to be their life.
The Bible's instruction linking the physical temple with our being is most significant. You can be sure of this: that when a teaching is given this clearly and as often as this one—it is important. These three areas of the temple correspond to the three basic components of a human being. The outer court is the representation of the body. This area of the temple was further divided into two parts, the court of the Gentiles and the court of the people. This was done to allow Gentile believers to worship without defiling the temple. There is good reason for this subdivision from an allegorical standpoint as well. This is one of the biblical evidences that our physical makeup consists of two components—physical bodies and a non-physical part of the body part called "the flesh."
The temple building itself represents the soul or personality of a person. This is the first part of a person that is not physical. We know we have personalities because we can see and sense what comes out of personality. This output comes out as ideas, actions and emotions.
The Holy of Holies is the most secret and mysterious part of the temple. Like this area, its human counterpart is the most mysterious and deepest part of us. This part is the human spirit. Our spirit is the most challenging of the parts of a person to understand. This difficulty arises from two factors. First, the Scriptures use the word for "spirit" interchangeably to refer to God's Spirit, the Spirit of Christ and the human spirit. Secondly it is difficult to grasp the full meaning of the idea of spirit by our finite minds. This problem arises because of the very nature of spirit. It is only through the working of the Spirit of God that we can know any of this: "but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God." (1 Corinthians 2:10–11)
As we can plainly see, each of us has a physical presence or manifestation. The body is obvious, being the visible component of the three parts of our makeup. We shall see later, however, that even the body has a metaphysical attribute. This metaphysical attribute needs to be recognized and accepted if we are to come to the complete understanding of who and what we are. But more about that later.
The body, of course, is the outer physical shell of each of us. We see this in numerous places in Scripture: "Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering." (Mark 5:29) Our body is the container of the essence of each of us. The body is that part of us that communicates between the metaphysical parts of us (soul and spirit) and the physical world. In one sense, the body is like a space suit or diver's suit. The body contains our essence and allows us to exist, have interaction and contact with a physical world.
Soul and Spirit
Most people will concede that along with a physical body humans have attributes that are not physical. But what are these attributes made up of? In that non-physical part of our being is there one part or two? Might there be even more than two non-physical parts to a human being? I will not deal with any possibility of more than two non-physical parts of people (excepting the flesh that is in us but not "of" us) because the evidence from the Bible points only to two parts of each of us that are not physical. The first of these parts is the soul: "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28) It is obvious from this verse that Jesus accepted as fact that we have both souls and bodies. It is further evident from this verse in Matthew that the soul part of us is not subject to physical death. No person can destroy your soul.
But there is another non-physical part of our being. "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12) In this verse from Hebrews we see the further distinction of the soul and the spirit. This is an important distinction to have in furthering our growth and understanding of God's working in our world and lives.
Another evidence in the Scriptures to the existence of two non-physical human attributes is in the language of the Bible. As we have seen earlier, the Hebrew uses different words for spirit and soul. The words ruwach (spirit) and nephesh (soul) show that a clear distinction exists in the Old Testament writers' minds between these two aspects of humanity. The same distinction exists in the New Testament Greek. Here the words pneuma (spirit) and psuche (soul) are used showing an understanding of this same distinction.
There are two major non-physical aspects to any person's life. These are the psychological and the metaphysical. The functions of personality (intellect, feelings and decision making) reside in our soul. In our spirit resides the ability to communicate with God, discern right and wrong and apprehend spiritual distinctions and revelation. In general terms, the soul is our personality and the spirit is our connection with God. When our spirit part is fully functional it becomes the nature of who we truly are. Before we are made fully functional spiritual beings we have a nature that comes from our worldly connection (body).
The soul is the part of us that forms our personality. This is the part of us that thinks, reasons, makes decisions and expresses emotions: "I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me." Lamentations 3:20) Our minds or mental faculties are found in the soul. The soul is also the part of us that makes decisions. This is the functioning of our will and is another part of the soul. Our emotions are the final aspect of our humanity that reside in the soul. The soul is the part of us that allows us the capacity for reasoning, feeling and independent thought and action.
It should be obvious from the component parts of the soul that this is the part of our makeup that is most fiercely contested between God and Satan. It is the soul that is the engine of our actions. The body carries out what the soul directs it to do, either good or evil. Because the soul is the source of our decisions, direction and power it is the part of us that everyone seeks to control or influence.
Our soul itself in its native form is innocent. Remember that innocence does not equate to goodness. The true meaning of innocence is the absence of good and evil. When God created Adam and Eve, they had no knowledge of good or evil. They were innocent. It is obvious from Adam and Eve's example that innocence is no protection from making wrong choices (sinning).
The soul is like an innocent though very powerful child. The soul will drive the body based on the agency influencing it. This influence most often comes through our mind. This is why Paul says: "Those who live according to the sinful nature have their desires set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires." (Romans 8:5) The soul controls the body. What the soul purposes the body will try to carry out. I say the body tries because the soul can bring to bear a much greater influence than our physical bodies can withstand. We see the outcome of this overpower condition in stress related illnesses and nervous disorders. But what controls or influences the soul?
The spirit of a person is the nature of the person: "The lamp of the LORD searches the spirit of a man; it searches out his inmost being." (Proverbs 20:27) As Paul noted in Romans 8:5 above, it is the nature or spirit in us that has a great influence on the direction our soul takes in making decisions. This is either the sinful nature or the Spirit of Christ. There is no third alternative. The term "human nature" is a misnomer. There is no such thing as human nature. Our nature can only be good or evil. This is why the tree in the center of the garden of Eden was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In creation there is no choice between good, evil and "something else."
When we are born, we have a corrupted nature. This is nothing less than the spirit of Satan dwelling in our flesh. This is what happened at the fall. When Adam and Eve accepted the lie of Satan over the truth of God they allowed the Evil One into their physical bodies (eating the apple). When this happened they were forced to live under the competing pulls of their conscience (God's leading) and temptation (Satan's leading from the flesh).
When Adam was created not all of his spirit facilities were functional. Only his conscience was operational. This was done by the Father so that man might seek Him. The remaining spirit functions were left to be quickened if the man chose to enter into God's plan for him. Without a fully functional spirit man was fated to be more strongly influenced by the Satan nature in his flesh than by the still small voice of his conscience and the knowledge of good and evil in his soul-mind.
Consequently, we are capable of nothing good in our natural state. This does not mean that we do not do some things that are pleasant or even beneficial. What I am speaking of here is goodness as God accounts goodness. This is right action that proceeds out of right motivation and that is done in obedience to God. Right action, motivation and obedience are the components of complete godly action and are the true definition of "good." Such good action is always entirely other-centered.
The indwelling of Satan prevents us in our natural birthed state from engaging in this kind of goodness. With a partially functional spirit, there is no pure influence to direct the soul. In this state all of our actions are to some greater or lesser extent tainted by self interest. The direction to act rightly as a natural way of living cannot come from the partially functional spirit or from the body in this condition.
This does not mean that an unsaved person is totally impervious to good influence. Direction toward good is still available to the unsaved from the external influence of God on them. Every person on earth can be touched by God. Satan has never been given the ability to completely block a person from hearing God. If Satan were so empowered no one could be saved. What it means to have a Satan nature is that apart from God no one has any native goodness: "All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." (Romans 3:12)
What We Are
The understanding of what goes into making us human beings will be integral in our growing in the Lord. We cannot properly understand anything that occurs in our lives or world if we do not have a correct understanding of ourselves. We are created in the image and likeness of God. God desires that we allow Him to grow us to be like Him in all ways. This is a growth toward being like God inside and out. God's finishing and perfecting of us comes from His completing and renewing us. In this we will be made not only with the same basic component parts as God but with His nature as well.
Once we know what we are we can then move to the larger issue of who we are and what the Father's ultimate intention for us is. It is only in our accepting this ultimate intention of God that we can be complete and find peace.
The Physical You
It seems that in all my writings over the past few years I have started out with this same topic—the basic makeup of human beings. I feel the need to come back to this elementary topic for two reasons. The first reason is that this teaching is critical to making sense out of anything that is taught about the spiritual reality. The second reason is that this teaching is found in very few places in our world today. It seems appropriate to me to include this teaching in each of these books so that each one may stand on its own. If this is the only one of these books you read or if it is the first one you read, you need to be exposed to this teaching. I know that it is unlikely that you have had this teaching in any institutional church or school of theology. If you are not so exposed then reading this book will be frustrating and unproductive.
I take this position knowing that in the end, it is the Father and His revelation of the truth to each of us that really matters. If this book is part of your coming to know the Father more deeply it is only because the Father has elected to use this instrument. I firmly believe that you can come to know the Father by no other means than seeking Him directly with all your heart. You have no inescapable need to read any book or listen to any speaker or teacher: "As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit just as it has taught you, remain in him." (1 John 2:27)
Further, if you are born again, you already have the fullness of Christ dwelling in you: "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority." (Colossians 2:9–10) This means you have all of God that you will ever have in you right now. The only thing we lack now is the full understanding and expression of what God has already done in us. In this I refer not to spiritual understanding but to conscious understanding. Included in the "all the fullness" is all the understanding: "For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ." (1 Corinthians 2:16) We are possessed of the fullness of God in Christ in our spirit. We just need to allow the Father to grow us in expressing this fullness in our physical form and personality (body and soul).
The Physical Body
This book marks a departure from the usual treatment I give to the physical part of our being. I usually devote only a small portion (a paragraph or two) of my discussion of human makeup to the physical. I have done this because the fact of our having a physical body is beyond debate. However, I feel led here to take a more detailed look at our physical being. We all accept the obvious fact that we are physical creatures, but have we ever considered this part of our being in any depth? By this I do not mean to study the body in a medical or philosophical sense but in a biblical sense.
We are possessed of a physical body to allow us to exist in the physical dimension. This body was made by the Father out of the same material that the rest of the physical universe is made of: "the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being." (Genesis 2:7) Our physical component started out as a purely physical shell to contain the non-physical part of us. It is essential to have such a container because we are, in a sense, really out of place in the physical universe. We are spiritual beings in a physical environment.
None of this should be taken to be demeaning of our physical bodies. While various religious groups through the ages have portrayed the body as "dirty" this is not a biblical view: "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." (Psalm 139:14) The Psalmist knew by divine revelation that his physical creation was a wonder. Our own modern medical science holds to this same understanding—we are wonderfully made in our physical being. God Himself makes this pronouncement when he says about the creation: "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning -- the sixth day." (Genesis 1:31)
On each day of creation the Father pronounces His work "good." But after creating humans (on the sixth day) He pronounces it "very good." We need to keep our balance in this matter. Those who would brand the physical human body "dirty" are defaming what God has proclaimed "very good." Those who would deify the physical body at the expense of the soul and spirit are superficial and shallow. The proper perspective is this: The universe was made for humanity, not humanity for the universe. At the other end of the scale the physical body is transient (mortal) and its purpose is only for a season. This makes the body of significantly less importance than the parts of us that are eternal (soul and spirit).
The Spirit of Life
We all should know that the physical body alone does not have life and animation. If we look at a dead body we see that it takes more than mechanical pieces (organs etc.) to make life. A dead body may have all the physical parts of a person or animal but it does not have animation. The part of us that gives us animation is separate from our physical being. This is what the Bible refers to as the "breath of life" (Genesis 2:7b).
This other part of our make up came through the Father's impartation to us of the "spirit of life." This is not the Holy Spirit and it is not our human spirit. Rather, it is the animation that the Father bestows on all living, animate things. This exists to some extent in every living thing including plants. However, there is a higher life that exists in animals and humans.
The life spirit part of living things comes from the Father and returns to the Father after physical life ceases: "When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth." (Psalm 104:29–30) And again: "For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son -- both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die." (Ezekiel 18:4) In the end, there is only one source of life spirit in all creation—God. All life comes from the Father and belongs to Him. Apart from the Father's giving of life there is no life anywhere.
So we can see that in the Bible's view of life there is an animating spirit that comes from the Father. This is what gives the physiological components of animals and people animate life. So where is this "life force" located? It is reasonable to assume that there should be one point at which the spirit life and the physical creature meet. In one sense it is not found in the physical but in the spiritual. However, there must be some connection between the physical and the spiritual for the two to interact. This occurs in the blood.
The Bible states this clearly: "For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life." (Leviticus 17:11, also see Lev 17:14, Det 12:23, etc.) In some way that I have no complete understanding of, the life spirit that animates each person and animal is contained in our blood. We can see this in the function of our circulatory system. It is the blood that carries oxygen to all the parts of our body. "Air", "breath" and "wind" are all words associated with the spiritual realm. Note that the words for "spirit" in both the Hebrew (ruwach) and the Greek (pneuma) are also the words for "breath."
Physical Body / Metaphysical Body
We could not cover our physical makeup completely without looking at perhaps the most curious aspect of our physical being. This is the non-physical part of our physical bodies. The idea that we have a non-physical component to our physical body is a concept that raises a great deal of criticism, hostility and objection in many circles. This is an idea that is largely derided especially in Christian circles. However, I believe this idea has a great weight of scriptural evidence to back it up. People who consider themselves open minded thinkers should give this idea careful consideration and resist the temptation to reject it out of hand. I will not go into this area in depth now because it is a book-length topic at the least. I only wish to mention this attribute of our being for the sake of completeness.
There are several strong biblical evidences for the presence of something metaphysical incorporated into our physical being. One of the most pervasive of these evidences in the Bible is the practice in both the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament of using different words to refer to our physical being. In the Old Testament Hebrew several words are translated "body." Among these are etsem and geshem which refer to an external body and the words nidneh and nadan that refer to a sheath. These words are usually translated "body" in the English. There is also another word (basar) which is translated "flesh": "And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years." (Genesis 6:3—KJV)
In the New Testament Greek we find the parallel to this word usage with the words soma (body) and sarx (flesh). In both cases the distinction between these two physical attributes is that the words for "body" refer to our physical existence. The references to the "flesh" point to some conscious, willful personality that is in opposition to God's will and work in our lives. Yet this personality is never shown in the Bible as being a part of our soul-personality. Consider this example: "For if ye live after the flesh, (sarx) ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, (soma) ye shall live." (Romans 8:13—KJV parenthesis mine)
In the Bible's use of these two terms it is clear (I believe) that one of these components of the body is the force that prompts us to sin (sarx or flesh) and the other is the instrument to carry out that sin impulse (soma or body). I feel that an open minded study of the Bible will show that this dual nature of our physical makeup is taken as a given in both the Old and New Testaments.
One last aspect of our physical existence should be touched on here. This is the issue of physical life. The evidence for a three part humanity that comes from God's tripartite nature and the three part temple is joined by one more general biblical evidence. This evidence comes from the fact that the concept of "life" in the Bible is really made up of three concepts. In the New Testament Greek three different words are translated as "life" in the English. These three different "lives" relate to each of the three parts of our humanity—body, soul and spirit. The word that refers to our physical life is "bios."
The word "life" and its various derivations appear 184 times in the King James Version of the New Testament. Of these instances, 178 of them are one of three Greek words: bios, psuche and zoe. We can gage the relative importance of an idea in the Bible by how often it appears. It is a commonly accepted view that the more often something is mentioned the more important it is. Of the 178 instances of these words for "life" only 5 are the Greek word bios. This is the word in the Greek that refers to our physical or biological life. This tells us that our physical body life, as the Bible considers it, is not a terribly important aspect of our overall life.
This fact puts the Bible and modern humanity at odds right to start. Our present age is concerned with physical life to the point of obsession. We glorify looking good and feeling good. We will expend enormous sums of money and effort to preserve life—often times with no consideration of the quality of that life. I believe that this activity has its roots in the fact that we no longer consider any aspect of living except physical existence.
The Physical in Perspective
It is not my intention to demean physical life or to minimize the impact of physical suffering. What we need to consider most carefully however, is the relative importance of the various aspects of life that we possess. Keep in mind that the physical life was always intended to be transitory: "Then the LORD said, "My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years." (Genesis 6:3) For this reason, our attempts to prolong life after a certain point will always be labor lost. It is this specific point that accounts for the Bible's view of the relative importance of our physical life. In the Bible's perspective, importance is based on a thing's staying power. In other words, that which is eternal is what is important. If a thing is destined to pass away how important can it be?
There is nothing wrong with the attempt to improve the quality of people's physical life. There is, however, a great deal wrong with being so absorbed with the physical that we fail to deal with the far more important aspects of our living. These are the aspects of living that will go on forever. I doubt that anyone would care to argue the fact that our eternal components are of far more importance than our finite parts. Yet most people live as if they have no concern beyond the immediate. This is folly in the extreme.
The fact of most people's lives is that they devote 99% of their efforts to 1% of their living. Most of humanity is too busy or too short-sighted to much care about eternity until it is too late. How sad it is that most people will not devote any effort to eternity until they are in it. These are the people who are more concerned about who will win the next World Series than where or in what condition they will spend eternity. Most of humanity fobs off any consideration of eternity and spirituality with the idea that this part of our lives is the job of the pastor or the priest. Many more people even feel that this part of their lives is the responsibility of great-aunt Edna or some other designated church-going family member.
What we do when we consider our spiritual life in this way is nothing less than to thumb our noses at God. We may not see it this way now but the day will come when we will be forced to see it thus. Then it will be far too late. Our physical bodies are an important part of our being in this world. The Bible understands this: "After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church --" (Ephesians 5:29) The Bible never has advocated the neglect or abuse of the physical body. The only position the Bible takes on this aspect of our living is that we should keep in its proper place with respect to the other parts of our existence.
Our physical bodies are a definite part of our existence in our present condition. As such we must deal with our physical being. However, if we are to live completely we must also consider the condition of the other parts of our being.
The Soul You
Our soul is the first aspect of our being that is non-physical and eternal. It is in the area of our soul that I see that almost everyone accepts the existence of the non-physical realm. There is within humanity an almost universal acceptance of the fact that we have a soul. We find some differences between people in the understanding of what makes up our soul but most of us accept that we have one. It is our soul that is the seat of our individuality. We can see from the fact that the Father created us with a soul or personality that it was His intention from the beginning to make us as individuals: "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." (Genesis 2:7—KJV) I use the KJV translation of this verse because it is more accurately translated in the King James than in the New International Version. The NIV uses the word "living being" in place of the word "soul." The Hebrew word used in Genesis 2:7 however, is nephesh.
The word nephesh can be translated "living being" but is more often translated "soul." For the purposes of our present discussion, soul is a more meaningful rendering of this verse. I say this because the soul is the place where we have our faculties of mind, will and emotion. It is these faculties that make us the individual that each one of us is. Another collective expression for the qualities of the soul is "personality" or our "psychology."
The soul, like the body, is a part of human makeup that is not greatly debated. Most people readily accept that humans possess the faculties that the Bible shows as being resident in the soul. As we have touched on briefly before, even though the soul is non-physical its existence is generally accepted. It is critical to see from Genesis 2:7 that it was the Father's full intention that we be individual creatures—each one of us is to be unique and precious.
Individual Before God
I have made this point many times in the past and continue to hold to this understanding—we are all unique individuals because this is the Father's intention for us. The unique character of each human being, both in physical appearance and in personality, is a wonderful illustration in the visible world. This is an illustration of how the Father sees each of the people that He has made. It has always been the Father's intention that we should relate to Him in a personal way. The only way we can ultimately relate to the Father in a personal way is individually—one-on-one. It is for this reason, more than any other, that each of us is unique.
No other class of living things has this uniqueness. Our loving heavenly Father has given us this sign as an evidence and a reminder that we are seen quite differently in His eyes from the rest of what He has made. Contrary to the view popular in some quarters, all life is not equal. The world is very confused and mistaken on this point. We see this confusion in the fact that the ability to take an unborn human being's life is seen as a legally protected right yet the taking of an unborn eagle's life is against the law. This dichotomy is contrary to God's will.
People are meant to be each individual and precious before God. Yet we treat each other with more destain and abuse than we would ever tolerate being heaped on members of the animal kingdom. It is this individual nature of each human being that is lost in most of the dealings in the world of people. We constantly treat each other by generalization and by lumping ourselves and others into groups.
It is this kind of collectivization of people that marks organized religion as being in error. The entire point of gathering together in denominations is the get the "likes" together and to exclude the "unlikes." Religion always deals with people by groups, never as individuals. There is no biblical evidence that this is God's preferred way of dealing with humanity.
I base my belief that God's desire is to deal with each of us individually both on our unique makeup physically and psychologically and on God's desire for fatherhood. The Bible is full of evidences that God wants, more than anything else, to be Father to us: "Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, `I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" (John 20:17) It is important to note here that Jesus refers to God as His Father and ours before He refers to Him as His God and ours. In the Bible importance is indicated by the order in which things appear when mentioned together. The primary is always stated first.
If we can see and accept that God's first wish is that we should enter into the family relationship with Him then we must accept our basic individuality. Fathers do not deal with their children collectively but individually. The father-child relationship is one that is deep, intimate and personal. To make such a relationship possible requires first, a Father that wishes this relationship and second, children who are unique and individual.
It is through the functioning of our soul personality that we have this individuality. God created us as "living souls" so that we would be fitted to be children in His household. To be sure, we need other attributes as well but more about that later.
What our soul really represents is our "expresser." The soul is what makes each of our natures come out as the unique expression that is us. In other words, the soul is the part of us that is our "self." I express myself the way I do because of the way my mind, will and emotions are constituted. The same is true for each of us. All of the talents, short-comings and idiosyncrasies that each of us demonstrate are generated by our souls.
This is how you can have a world with only two fundamental prime movers expressed in an infinite variety of ways. There are only two sources of action in the world—Satan and God. These two personalities are the "prompters" of our actions. We express the prompting of either one or the other based on our choosing. This is the function of the human will which also resides in the soul.
It is because the soul is the seat of our will that the battle for our lives is waged in the soul. I can express either intellectual forces through my mind or feeling forces through my emotions but which ones I express and how I express them are governed by my will. I express these things physically through my body but the body only does what it is told to do by the soul. Our will is further governed itself by the spiritual force that we elect to follow by the operation of our free will.
It is the operation of free will that sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. As we have spoken of before, having a free will is a big part of being made in the image and likeness of God. It is in the possession and exercise of free will that we are given power over Satan: "If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." (Genesis 4:7) It is because of our possession of a free will that we have the final say over what leading we follow.
The problem that most people have with the free will issue is in what it does to responsibility. If we accept that we have a free will to choose the course of action we will follow, then we must also accept the responsibility for that choice. We will never be able to legitimately say that "the devil made me do it." Further, we can never say that "God made me do it" either. It is because of the link between unencumbered free will and responsibility that most people shy away from accepting the full truth about the operation of our free will.
Until we come to the acceptance of the reality of our situation regarding free will choice we will suffer under the weight of a conflict. This is the conflict between wanting to be in charge of our own lives on the one hand and not having to take the responsibility for our actions on the other. This is a situation that will never be resolved peacefully.
The False Self
We have mentioned that the soul is the seat of our individual personality or self. In actuality there are two selves competing for expression within each of us. The first one we will look at is a false self. I often refer to this expression of our "selfhood" as the "independent self." This is an expression of our individual character based on a lie. The character is real and the expression is real but the premise on which it operates is false.
This false premise is what I call the original lie. This is more commonly referred to in church circles as "original sin." Either way, it is important to see how this lie warps and (if we allow it) destroys our life. The original lie is the false understanding that we are capable of being the god of our own life: "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:5)
When Satan told Eve this he was saying, in essence, that if humans are armed with the knowledge of good and evil (soul knowledge) they would be the equal of God. Being the equal of God, we could run our own lives and operate as completely autonomous beings. This is the basis of every humanistic approach to life. Humanism operates under the false premise that humans can master their own problems and shortcomings—primarily through knowledge.
This fallacy often holds that there is no spiritual dimension to our makeup. This makes the soul the highest human function. What this understanding fails to grasp is that we were never fitted to be the master of our own existence except as far as we make free will choices. We are only the master of our choices. The most fundamental choice we make relates to the master we choose to live under: "But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. (Romans 6:17–18)
Paul makes it clear that we are always slaves—either to sin or to righteousness but always slaves. This is a key point. We see here plainly that we were never equipped to be the god of our own lives. This is not a statement of failure for the human race. It is a statement of fact about the way we are made. Look at it another way—my car cannot climb trees. This does not mean that it is a bad car. All this shows is that my car was never outfitted as a machine to perform this function. For the function that it was design for—carrying people and things down roads—it works quite well. The same is true for us. When we work as we were designed to work we do well and we have peace. When we try to do things we are not equipped to do we fail.
The God of Our Own Religion
One of the most common errors that people make is trying to do things they were never equipped to do. This is one of the most common reasons that people do not find peace in this world. This error applies equally to the humanist and to the works or law based born again Christian. When we try to achieve fulfillment by our actions (doing) we are trying to be the god of our own life. In this we will always fail. We must fail because we never had and never will have the resources to do this.
Many Christians feel that trying to be the god of our own life is a failing unique to the unsaved world. However, the greatest practice of this "self godhood" is probably found in the organizational hierarchical churches of men. In the religious setting the error of self or soulish godliness is the hardest to see and reject. Most religious organizations urge their members to fulfill their being by doing good works. In this way we are told that we can "walk like Jesus walked"—doing good.
The religious institutions of men cannot even imagine that we, as human beings on our own, are totally incapable of doing "good things." This is another instance of setting ourselves up to fail. We cannot do good things as God accounts such things because we can never, in ourselves, do a good thing with a good motive. As long as we are doing something with an eye to getting—even getting God's favor—we are doing for ourselves. This is not a "good work" as the Father accounts such things. In the Father's economy, the only thing that may be truly good is the good act done from the pure motive of interest for the other person and for the other person only. Try as we might, we cannot do this out of our own resource.
You see, there is only one source of goodness in the universe: "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good -- except God alone." (Mark 10:18) If even Christ, when He walked the earth, would not dare to declare Himself "good" how dare we do this? No, the only good works in the universe are the works of God. These are not good things done by people operating on their own. When we speak of the works of God that are not done directly by the Father we are referring to something quite different. These are the works of God performed BY God operating THROUGH yielded human beings. Just as it was two thousand years ago so is it still—only God alone is good.
The True Self
The true or real expression of our "self" is what I refer to as the "individual self." This is the self that is the unique, individual person that the Father made each one of us to be. I call this the true self because it is the expression of our individual existence that is in agreement with the Father's desires for us.
This self comes out of our surrendering to the expression of Christ from our spirit through our soul. It is in this way that each of us can be the unique expression of Christ that the Father made us to be. Please be clear at the outset that I am not claiming to be Christ. I am not claiming that anyone can be Christ. But I emphatically maintain that each person who chooses to, may be an expression of God's life through Christ. This is the operation of the Father's life from within us powering our being and expressing itself out through us as us.
This is what Christ is—the life of God that is available to anyone who will receive Him: "So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit." (1 Corinthians 15:45) The catch is this—To receive the life of God you have to surrender your life. A person can only have one life in them at a time. We can express different leadings but we can only have one life.
The true self has two aspects to it. One is the life and the other is the expression of life. Every person who is born again—who has accepted the gift of life through Christ—has the life of God in them as their only life. This is a permanent condition and can never be reversed or annulled. There are, however, two leadings that we must always (in this life) choose between. These are the leading of Christ in our spirit or the leading of Satan in our flesh. It is because of these two competing leadings that we can express both good and evil actions. This goes back to the human soul being a battle ground between the competing influences of God and Satan.
A concept that is always a "hot button issue" with humans is the idea of self-denial. This is perhaps the most misunderstood aspect of the "soul you." Most people mistakenly believe that self- denial involves the destruction or repudiation of either our physical being or of our individuality. We have already seen that the Father's desire for us is far from the destruction of our individuality. Quite the contrary, God's original intention is that we should be individual and unique. Others assume that self-denial involves some sort of suffering and privation. This is true only if you consider coming out from living under a false identity as suffering or privation.
We were born into a world of false ideas of who and what we are. It is in the clinging to this false identity that we experience the anxiety and stress involved with our being set free. The "self" we are asked by the Father to deny is the false notion of the independent self. I will never deny that there is stress and anxiety involved in the process of being liberated from the tyranny of the old, original lie. However, this is not unlike the pain that we would experience following a life-saving surgery.
There is a common experience that we all have. This is that we were all brought up with a false idea of who and what we are (or were). The only people who will ever break free of this false perception are those who seek the Father to be liberated from it. Additionally, there are an infinite number of levels of liberation that we can experience. The ultimate level of our liberation is the level that God has for us. This is the full understanding that we are fully, completely and eternally the children of God. But this can only be realized through our willing co-operation with the Father. God will not do it without our co-operation and we cannot do it without God.
The Soul and Sin
Many people think of sin as being primarily associated with the physical body. True, it is the physical body that carries out the sin impulse in physical actions but this is only the last part of a much larger event. Seeing the body as the sinful part of us is superficial. The Bible shows us clearly that the real origin of sin is the soul: "Don't you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man `unclean.' For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man `unclean'; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him `unclean.'" (Matthew 15:17–20) The physical body is only the agency by which we carry out the desires of the will.
The soul is the part of us that chooses and this is the real power we have been given—the choice. Taken further, we should understand that the basic spiritual leadings between which we choose come from beyond ourselves. This goes back once again to the original lie. This is why the original lie is a lie. We cannot, as human beings, operate on our own. Humans lack any capacity for spiritual leadership in and of ourselves. The spiritual leadership we have must come from either Satan or God. These leadings come from outside our soul but strongly influence the functioning of our soul.
If we elect to follow the leading of Satan from our flesh (not our physical body but our flesh) then we will have our soul led in one direction. If we choose God's leading then we will be led in the opposite direction. The leading of Satan acts on our soul by way of false thoughts and understandings. The more we give in to these falsehoods the more our thinking and understanding are clouded. This causes us to draw deeper and deeper into a fantasy world of rationalization and denial.
This is a fantasy but please remember that this does not mean that it is in any way weak. The power of deception is great in all of us: "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9) Human kind has a long history that demonstrates the awesome power of self-deception. Every person in the world is prey to this possibility—both the saved and the unsaved. As long as we have a free will we have the ability to choose the leading of deception. The Father will never give us only the appearance of free will. If you can choose, it means that you have real options to select between. There can be no greater distinction to choose between than the distinction between truth and falsehood.
As we mentioned in regard to physical life, the New Testament Greek differentiates between three aspects or kinds of "life." The word that refers to our soul or psychological life is psuche. Of the 178 times that the three types of life are mentioned, this word is used only 40 times. This is greater than the five times that biological life (bios) is referenced. However, we can see that this aspect of our living, along with the biological aspect, is not considered as our primary "life" from the biblical perspective.
Our souls are important to be sure—nothing that God has done is unimportant. However, we will fall short of total fulfillment if we see our psychological being as the highest or most important part of our existence. The soul is eternal and by this attribute alone it should be seen as being of great importance. Yet there is something higher that we must come to some understanding of if we are to have any hope of arriving at the place where the Father intends us to be.
The Spiritual You
The Life That is Real Life
Up to this point we have nibbled all around the central aspect of our being. This was necessary to build the foundation we need to look at the part of us that is the core of our true being. The word used in the New Testament to refer to this aspect of life is zoe. This Greek word refers to "God's life" or the life that can truly be called life. Whether we like it or not, and even whether we believe it or accept it or not, we are spiritual creatures. We are spiritual creatures now and we will be spiritual creatures for all eternity. It is this ultimate truth about our existence that makes our spiritual life so important.
As human beings in this physical dimension and in this time and place we need to cut through much interference to get at the reality of our existence. We have had our views and understandings clouded by religion, government, philosophy, psychology and especially our own self-centered wants and desires. The muddle of humanity seems endless and hopeless in its depth and magnitude: "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:24) But there is an answer: "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus," (Romans 8:1)
I see in humanity a desperate situation that is hopeless and helpless. We don't see the truth and we are lost in an ocean of "solutions" that don't work. We squander our lives seeking that which does not last and in the process lose the only thing that has true and lasting value—life and relationship with God. This situation is by no means as hopeless as it may appear however. The same thing that gives the situation hopelessness also holds the key to its solution.
The reason people are sold into the bondage of hopeless living is that they choose to be so sold. By choosing to see life only in its physical and psychological dimensions we shut ourselves off from the life that is real life. We do this when we either reject the validity of the spiritual dimension or when we seek after false spiritual expressions. So you see, the Father really did create us in His image and likeness and in power. This was not done primarily when He gave us bodies or even souls but it is found in the combination of our having souls and spirits. Our status in this world comes from God giving us a spirit capable of containing His zoe life and a soul that has the ability to freely choose.
With the components of a human spirit capable of receiving and containing God's Spirit and an ability to choose to accept that Spirit, we became the most potentially blessed creatures in the universe. This is a blessing that is not even permitted to the angels of God and the holy people of old: "For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it." (Matthew 13:17) And again: "Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!" (1 Corinthians 6:3)
How can we be so blind as to trade off the eternal inheritance of our place in the Father's house for what amounts to beads and trinkets? We are, in this tiny space called time, given an opportunity that will never come again—to accept the Father's offer to be Father to us. To allow us—who are nothing in ourselves—to become the sons of God. I am sorry that I have not the words to give adequate expression to the glory of this gift from God. I do not (nor does anyone) have the power of persuasion to convince anyone else of the worth and beauty of this opportunity. This is because the will must be totally and completely free. Please consider, however, that the opportunity to accept God's offer to be our Father is one that is here now but will never again be seen in all the dizzying expanse of eternity.
The only thing that stands between us and the eternal inheritance of an all surpassing worth is us. This is a wonderful opportunity and a terrible truth. This is perhaps THE terrible truth. Of all the billions of people who will never taste the wonderful gift that God offers they will all have one thing in common. That commonality is that they missed the blessing because the choose to miss it. There will be no blaming of God, Satan, men, religion, parents, governments or any worldly thing. If you do not take your place in the household of God is it because you chose not to. The Father has prepared a place of each one of us and it is His desire that we should all accept that place: "This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." (1 Timothy 2:34)
Every human being that ever was, is now or ever will be has all the necessary equipment to become a child in the Father's household. We all have a human spirit and we all have a free will. We must have these things because having them springs out of the purpose for our creation.
I have alluded to this before but now I can state it plainly—the entire purpose of our creation has always been for one purpose only—to contain the life of God to be His children and to express that life (zoe) out of us into the world: "For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." (2 Corinthians 5:4–5) You see, our purpose was not to have beautiful physical bodies or to be successful in business or popular or powerful in this world. Our purpose was and is and will ever be this one thing—to be the well loved children of our heavenly Father. It was for the raising of a family that the Lord called the universe into being. We can see that this is so because we are shown that God had this in mind before the physical universe was created: "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will --" (Ephesians 1:4–5)
What we ultimately are to be will never be fully seen in this world because the physical body has no part in that ultimate reality. We are fundamentally spiritual beings not physical ones. This is seen in the fact that the physical body is not eternal. The ultimate revelation of the true reality is only fully perceived in the spiritual realm: "So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body." (1 Corinthians 15:42–44) But still, we can have a glimpse of what is to come. We do this by abiding in and surrendering to the working of the Father's life in us. If we do this the Father will reveal the parts of the spiritual truth that His love deems that we should see. In this way the Father's life working out of our spirit transforms and renews our soul.
Getting the Life
Many more people recognize the need to go beyond their physical existence than actually achieve that worthy goal. Why is this? The answer is, as we have said before, there is only one way that brings us to the spiritual reality. The life that is real life is found in only one place—God. Just as all physical life (bios) comes from a common source, so there is only one source of spiritual life. You cannot get real life from nature or from our ancestors or from any kind of self-exertion. If you want real life then come to the acceptance of this reality—it is to God that you must go: "On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." (John 7:37–38)
Please consider this statement made by Jesus Christ. There is only one source of life—God. Further, there is only one way to the Father—Christ. Put away all the old arguments—I don't want your money, I don't want your membership, I don't want anything that you have or think you have. There is someone, however, who wants something from you. That someone is God. It is God's cherished ambition that you should become a child in His family. To this end, the Father wants something from you. The Father wants your life. He wants your life so that He can give you His. This is where many people balk.
There is, however, no getting around this one. God is not our servant. What we want in our soulish self-centered self is God's power and blessing and our own independent life. I must tell you plainly that this will never come to be: "And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever." (Genesis 3:22) The Father will not permit it and in truth we could never handle it. No, this is contrary to our creation and the Father's intention for us. Many people in Christianity try this approach to life every day—and every day they fail. We do not fail in living independently because of God's meanness but quite the opposite, we fail out of His love.
When we try to acquire God's life for our own personal purposes we are living out of our souls. This is what we more commonly understand as living by our wits. When our primary (or only) reliance is on our mental abilities or the strength of our will we are living by our soulish attributes. These things may appear to bring us success for a while but in the end they will fail. We have no resource that is strong enough to carry us through life and through eternity.
The sad fact is that too much of life is totally beyond our control. Even with vast material resources we cannot manipulate life to our satisfaction. This is because we cannot buy, conjure up or fabricate life. Life cannot be created out of any soulish resource: "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life." (John 5:39–40) Even study of God's word is not a source of life. Only God is the source of life. If you want the life that is real life, you must get this from God and you must get it God's way.
The Father enforces this part of His plan for the creation by the way He made us. When we were created we had everything we needed with one exception. We had no moral guidance that was internal and incumbent in ourselves. Our human spirit was largely inert and our soul is amoral. The Father set this situation up to drive us to a source of spiritual and moral governance beyond ourselves.
We need this initial push if we are ever to seek God. If we were complete and self-contained we would have no motivation to seek God. Without this motivation we would never find God. In addition to the need for an external spiritual governor, the Father gives us a real choice of sources to receive this guidance. We can be falsely completed by following Satan's leading from our flesh or we can be truly completed by receiving God in our spirit through Christ. If we elect to follow the flesh we have a false father who leads us into spiritual death. If we choose God then we have a real Father who gives us the life that is real life.
We have seen that the Bible clearly shows that we are all created with a human spirit component: "I will not accuse forever, nor will I always be angry, for then the spirit of man would grow faint before me -- the breath of man that I have created." (Isaiah 57:16) This verse from Isaiah also shows us that it is really our human spirit that is to be the ultimate source of true life for us. It is from our spirit that our true life is to spring according to the plan of the Father. The word "breath" in this verse is the Hebrew word n@shamah and refers to breath, man's spirit or living, breathing things. I see this as an evidence that it was God's intention that the ultimate source of life for us should be from our spirit.
The human spirit contains the faculties of conscience, fellowship and intuition. These are the faculties by which we can have two-way communication with the spiritual realm. It is through the human spirit that we carry on our personal relationship with the Father. Through this relationship we speak to God and He speaks to us. In this way, if we permit it by our surrender, the Father directs our life and actions.
There is one preliminary event that must occur before we can begin walking with and learning from the Father. This event is to have our human spirit activated or enlivened. It is the failure to submit to this necessary initial action that dooms many spiritual seekers to failure and death. As we have stated throughout this work, there is only one source of life in all creation—God. If you seek for any other source of spiritual resource you will not find the spiritual but the soulish. You will not find the spirit of life but the spirit of death.
Only God can activate our spiritual part by placing His life in our spirit. This is done by the agency of Christ: "Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." (John 6:32–33) Jesus was always very clear about this point. There is only one way a person can get the life that is real life—they get it by accepting Christ to come into their life and to be life for them. The life of God is bound up in His Spirit and that life-giving Spirit is Christ: "So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit." (1 Corinthians 15:45)
When the Father created us He made us to be dependent on Him for our life. This is why we were not created to be self-contained and complete in ourselves. If we had a fully functional human spirit there would be no need in our lives for anything else. This is contrary to the Father's desire for the creation. Children are not born independent and complete on their own. Each of us needed parents to give us physical life. In the same way, we need a spiritual Father to give us spiritual (true) life. This is why humans are born into this world with fully functional physical bodies, fully functional souls (personalities) and incomplete or partially functional human spirits.
When Adam was created he was made "a living soul": "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." (Genesis 2:7—KJV) In this verse we see that God implanted in us a soul and spirit (breathed) but we were at that time only "a living soul." We had a body and a psychological personality or individuality but we were not yet fully functional spirit beings. Our spirit component at this stage is only a potentiality, not a reality.
Of the attributes that reside in our spirit only the conscience was fully operative. We know this because when Adam and Eve sinned they knew that they had done wrong. This is evident because they hid from God. This is the "death" that God had warned Adam and Eve about when they were instructed not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When they took on the knowledge of good and evil they were cut off from communion with God (intuition and fellowship). Now humanity could only have communication with God from the outside—God speaking to people through the mind. This is essentially one-way communication—God speaks to us but we do not speak to Him in a relational way.
For people to enjoy full relationship with the Father we would have to be enlivened spiritually. This would require that God place His Spirit in our spirit to spark the full function of our spiritual being. This is why Christ becomes absolutely essential to our having real life and real functionality. It is through the operation of Christ, as the life-giving Spirit, that God makes our spirit functions alive: "I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being," (Ephesians 3:16) You can also see this in 2 Corinthians 1:22, Galatians 3:5 and Ephesians 2:22. Our "inner man (being)" is our human spirit. The only way that this faculty can be animated is by the action of God's Spirit on it. We can never awaken our spirit by intellectual or physical activity. These things cannot touch the inner person. Only Spirit speaks to spirit: "Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit." (John 3:6)
It is in this way, placing His life in our spirit to be life for us, that God carries out His fondest desire. This fondest desire is that we should allow Him to be Father to us. This is the real truth of Christianity. The process of being reborn is something that occurs between the Father and the individual child believer. The greatest disservice that we ever committed against ourselves was to attempt to institutionalize this event.
If you are turned off by the concept of Christianity or of being born again you should ask yourself something. You should ask yourself if you are turned off to the idea of having a personal relationship with God. Or are you turned off to the institutional baggage that many in organized churches claim as requirements for your relationship with God? The plan of God is intensely personal and unincumbered. It requires only the acceptance of your need for another life. This, in itself is not easy, but neither is it as complicated as the organizations of men try to make it.
If your objection to the plan of God is the plan of God then you can stop right here and go back to living by your wits. This is part of the Father's plan as well: "What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath -- prepared for destruction?" (Romans 9:22) The sad fact is that there are those who will never come to the Father to receive life. They are doomed to destruction and nothing will prevent this from happening. All that religion does is give these people convenient excuses and a place to hide from God.
These people are quick to point out the incorrect parts of organizational church but they never come to see that organizational church is not now nor has it ever been an obstacle to the earnest spiritual seeker. Yes, the church organizations do provide their share of interference but this is nothing that cannot be overcome by the Father. In the end, if we choose not to accept the Father's gift of life, it is because we wanted to go our own way. Such people only echo the words of Satan in Milton's Paradise Lost when the devil says "It is better to rule in Hell than to serve in heaven."
Life and Death
Just as spiritual life is true life, so too it can be said that spiritual death is true death. We do not know the reality of life and death from our worldly experience. True life and true death can only be known in the spiritual realm. God was absolutely correct when He told Adam and Eve about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: "but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." (Genesis 2:17)
I will not try to cover up the reality of spiritual life. Coming to spiritual life is not painless and it is not without its share of anxiety and heartache. But it is attainable. The person who chooses to accept the Father's offer of life has available to them the resources of the Father. God has absolutely no interest in investing in our failure. With the Father rests the only successful living that we can ultimately have. We will have to submit to the pain of dying to ourselves but this is more bearable once we let the Father show us that living in our soul wasn't really working anyway. If we can come to accept this reality then making the exchange is much easier to do.
Religion and Spirituality
The Great Deception
The subject of religion is a topic of the greatest importance in any discussion of human spirituality. Of all the forces that challenge our growth in the spiritual and our relationship with God the Father, religion is the arguably among the greatest. The challenge of religion is that it is so close and yet so disastrously far from the truth. There is no such thing as "almost spiritual." It was for this reason that I stated very early on in this discussion that there is only one absolute truth about reality. In the search for true life there is no such thing as "close enough." In the spiritual you either are or you aren't.
Before we go too far into a look at religion and its failure to produce spirituality we need to get two facts firmly planted in our understanding. These essential facts are the proper relationship between God and us and the dynamic that governs life and spiritual growth. This is of critical importance because one of the most potent forces of the religious establishments of men to oppose our spiritual growth is to blur and confuse these very distinctions. It is in the muddying of the truth of how we come to have life and how we grow in that life that religion exercises some of its greatest control over peoples' lives. These misconceptions are the great deceptions of the practice of organizational, hierarchical religion.
The proper relationship between God and ourselves is as a Father to His well-loved children: "He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young." (Isaiah 40:11) This simple relationship, once it is understood and more importantly accepted, disarms most of organizational religion's claims to power in the believer's life. It is only the Father that has life and gives life, no one else. Further, the proper relationship between life and growth is that the Father gives us both life and growth: "As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit just as it has taught you, remain in him." (1 John 2:27) Again, once this is seen and accepted we can be free of the restrictions that the organizations of men try to exercise over our relationship with the Father.
Most people don't give religion much thought. We generally have a fuzzy view of what religion is, exactly. Most people see religion as being church buildings, pastors and priests. Religion is, to most people, the rites and rituals, the organ music and the pageants at Christmas and Easter. We have some vague idea that religion is about being on good terms with God and doing nice things once and awhile. But what really is "religion?"
There are a number of ways that you can define religion but I think the most realistic definition is the one that captures the practice of religion. After all, the truth of anything is what it does or what it produces—in short, it is the practice. Religion is really not about the outward trappings or facades that we see. The practice of religion is wrapped up in doing things to either be good or to appear to be good. Religion is an external practice. If you ask anyone they will most likely tell you that being religious means going to church buildings and doing good things and not doing bad things. However, religion is really about trying to achieve holiness or righteousness out of our own efforts and resources.
When we try to achieve holiness out of our own doing we are really playing God. In religion we try to be the gods of our own lives. I can make this assertion flatly because the Bible tells us that we cannot be holy out of our own resource: "Say to the Israelites, `You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy." (Exodus 31:13) The Father tells us on several occasions in Scripture that it is HE who makes anyone or anything holy. No human being that ever lived or ever will live ever had the ability, in themselves, to be good. Surprisingly this includes Jesus Christ when He walked this earth as a man: "So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me." (John 8:28)
It does not, in any way, demean Jesus to say that He could do nothing good apart from the Father. This very fact was an important part of Jesus' testimony. This is why Jesus so often refers to Himself as the "Son of Man." This reference is an assertion on Jesus' part that He had, while on the earth, all the pressures, temptations and limitations that we have. Yet He triumphed and lived a perfect human life. How could this be? The one important thing that Jesus had in greater abundance than any born again believer since His day was a surrender to the Father's working in Him and an understanding that He (Jesus) had no real life of His own apart from the Father.
All religious activities are external actions. While none of this is necessarily bad, it is also not necessarily going to do anything good at all for anyone spiritually. The major failure of religion, spiritually, is that it approaches our relationship with the Father from the outside in. In religion, the actions are supposed to work on us somehow to make us into the people we are supposed to be. Or at least these good deeds are supposed to make us nicer than we were in the past. In real spirituality, the work is done on us first from the inside. This inner work then produces a change in us that is reflected finally in works done in the external world. Trying to produce a change in us through external works is like trying to push a string.
In reality, religion is a deception. In religious practices and the institutions that promote these practices there is something much different from change going on. What religion really is trying to do is to help people keep from being changed. Religion is the performance of external works to make us feel good about our present condition so that we will not feel any need to change. This is the entire objective of religion—to control people and to promote a static life situation.
The greatest evidence of this static condition is the almost total lack of personal growth that is seen in most people in church institutions. I have been in a number of church institutions. In the institutions that I associated with for periods of several years or more I noticed a curious thing. What I noticed was after I had been there for a period of time that both myself and the people around me had the same problems as when I came. This is one of the issues that the Father used to drive me to seek an alternative to religion.
You see, change as it relates to growth is a life phenomenon. I had to ask myself a very hard question. This was: "If Christianity is really the way, why does it seem so ineffective?" Lets face it, if our faith is to be of value shouldn't it produce some change (growth) in us? If Christianity is the true way, then I would expect it to have some positive impact on my life. I don't mean that I expect all my problems to go away, but I do expect to grow in how I deal with these problems. I expect that I should be able to deal with the problems in my life more effectively.
Everyone must decide for themselves. But for my money, religion does nothing to help us live more effective lives. Religion, as it pertains to growing us in relating to our circumstances and situations, is the original "band-aid cure for leprosy." As I mentioned at the outset, this is evidenced in the fact that I never found that religion brought peace and rest into my life. Religion never did anything more for me than any other man-made activity. Certainly there were times when I felt good after having gone to the church building. But this feeling was very transitory and never empowered me to deal more effectively with the issues in my life.
If it is true that religion is incapable of producing life change in me then what does it do? If religion is ineffective at providing people with real tools to deal effectively with their life issues why has it survived for so long? We should understand how religion and its institutions relate to our lives if we are going to deal constructively with this aspect of our world. After all, dealing with the various conditions in our world is a large part of what spirituality is about.
For the first millennium and a half of the Christian era the organizational church held a draconian sway over peoples' lives. How did they manage to do this? How did the institutional church come to have such power? There were, at this time secular governments with bigger armies and more resources than the institutional church. The vast majority of the population were receiving very little in the way of real life assistance from the church organization. So why did the institutional church have such power over people?
The church had power because they had convinced the majority of the population that they (the church institutions) were indispensable to anyone having eternal life. The early Christian organizational church became the self-proclaimed "keeper of the keys" for God's kingdom. The church institution set itself up squarely in the path of the spiritual seeker and proclaimed that the only way to God was through them. This gave the organization a huge amount of power in the minds of people of all social classes. You may have been a big shot in medieval Europe but you still had to go to the church institution if you wanted to avoid spending eternity in hell.
This is why the rulers of those times aligned themselves with the church. This was not a love relationship. The secular rulers did not like the organized church's calls for money. They probably liked even less the clerical meddling in the affairs of their countries—but they did not dare openly oppose the institution. If you were excommunicated you had no possibility of ever making heaven. This was more of a risk than most people were willing to take.
With the advent of the Renaissance and the radical new ideas that it brought, the grip of the church organization began to weaken. In addition to new ideas, the reformation brought a sort of free enterprise aspect to religion. Between the new ideas about the nature of the universe and reality and the upsurge of denominationalism the organizational church's political power began to ebb away. Even so this power was never destined to disappear completely.
The idea that the church organization is somehow an indispensable part of God's plan for salvation has remained fixed in the minds of many people. For this reason, down to this day, it is not difficult to find people with ideas about God that are no less than medieval. I have had people tell me, in all seriousness, that I would go to hell if I did not attend a church institution. We must never underestimate the power of the church teaching that has come down from the middle ages to today. This is a teaching so persistently presented that it is deeply ingrained in many peoples' understanding.
In point of fact, most people are contented to let the institutional church proclaim the rules that supposedly govern the spiritual realm. Most people would just as soon let the religious community put out the most outrageous hog-wash about the nature of human spirituality. Why? As we have stated before, we are willing to buy the religious institution's line because it allows us to go on our own independent way trying to run our own lives. We can have this "privilege" at the very reasonable cost of ten percent plus a few "good deeds." Unfortunately, the actual cost is much, much greater than that.
Church not Organization
You may have noted something in the previous portions of this chapter as regards my writing style. It would have been somewhat less cumbersome to refer to the organized church simply as "the church." This may have been better writing but it would not have carried the truth I am trying to put forth. In too many peoples' minds the organizational expression of Christianity is "the church." This is that legacy from medieval times that I spoke of earlier.
It is because people cannot distinguish between what the Bible refers to as "church" and what "church" has come to be in most people's minds, that I feel compelled to do this. I can only state this bluntly—The church organizations of men are not the Church of God. I can make this statement because of the way the Bible uses the term "church.": "To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ -- their Lord and ours:" (1 Corinthians 1:2)
The Greek word translated "church" is ekklesia. This term carries the understanding of "the whole body of Christians scattered throughout the earth." The biblical reference to "the church" is commonly seen to mean "the called out ones." We can see this more clearly by looking at the two words in Greek that make up this word: ek and kaleo. Ek is a preposition which is usually translated "of" but in the Greek it carries the further connotation of being "out of" or "from." This indicates that something goes out from something else and carries the nature or essence of the source.
The word kaleo is the verb "to be called." The full connotation of this word is: "to be called i.e. to bear a name or to receive the name of." In the biblical context, to bear someone's name was an indication of having their nature and being able to act with their authority. To me this speaks loudly of an issue of life and not an issue of organization. The church of Christ is a reference to people not to an organization. In short, there is simply no way that the Bible's use of the word "church" can be legitimately construed to be a reference to any kind of an organization except to the extent that the children of God gather to fellowship. There is no government, structure or hierarchy spoken of or implied in this word in the Bible.
The real Church of God is not a physical or even a psychological entity. The Church of God is a spiritual entity. This should come as a surprise to absolutely no one, after all: "Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." (John 4:23–24) Unfortunately, this comes as a surprise to just about everyone. The true Church of God is a mystic, spiritual body that is bound together by all of its members having the same Spirit in them being life for them. The members of God's family are bound together by the fact that we all carry the same life in us as our one, true life. The Church of God is a family relationship with nothing to join except that family.
The People of God
Being the people of God is an issue of life and living. Except God's family, there is nothing to join to be part of the Father's household, nothing to sign up for, no box tops to send in. It has nothing to do with the organizations of men. As such, the organizations of men can have no legitimate control or authority over the living out of our lives as the Father's children. This is where the religions of men and their organizations fail so terribly. The community that we know as "the church" was hijacked—probably from the outset.
The church, if it did not start out corrupted, very soon became corrupted: "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel -- which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ." (Galatians 1:6–7) We can see from Paul's letters that the Christian church did not get out of the first century intact. The original Christian church very soon became a man-made organization. The church organizations of men are institutions that are set up to control other human beings. This is not a new thing in the religion game. People controlling (or trying to control) other people through religion is as old as time. This was one of the main complaints of Jesus during His earthly journey: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to." (Matthew 23:13)
If you examine the Gospel accounts of Jesus' life you will find that He spent far more time debunking religion than He did in speaking against the general acts of sin in people's lives. Why did Jesus put more emphasis on religion than on sin? The answer is simple—religion is more dangerous to people's spiritual health than are their individual acts of sin: "Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you." (Matthew 21:31b) Christ was blunt with the religious establishment of His day on this point. God can deal with any of our sins—but He refuses to deal with the self-righteous rebellion that comes out of religion. In saying this I am not promoting sin. However, we must understand that religion is a far greater malignant scourge in the realm of spirituality than is sin.
What makes religion so poisonous to our spirituality is that it offers us alternatives to the Father's one, true plan for life. In doing this religion works just like a vaccine. In medicine, a vaccine is usually made from dead pathogens. These organisms stimulate our immune system to produce antibodies but pose no serious threat to us because they are dead. After this process, if we do encounter the real, living pathogen we are ready to resist it.
The same process occurs in religion as it pertains to our spiritual growth. Religion is the dead expression of God's truth. It is dead because it never goes into the life issues of spirituality. Instead religion deals in dead works: "Many will say to me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, `I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" (Matthew 7:22–23) By encouraging people to work their way into God's favor, the religious prevent or delay people coming to know God properly.
Many people don't want to hear anything about Christ or being born again because they have been vaccinated against these things by religion. The lack of real effect in people's lives and the hypocrisy that religion fosters are a real turn off to many. This reaction is excellent because the phoney "solutions" for living that religion offers should be a turn off to anyone with the clarity of vision to see them for what they truly are. Many people within religion do not want to consider a personal relationship with the Father because of the false and mistaken teachings they have received in the church institutions of men. They too have been vaccinated.
What these institutions have accomplished is to place barriers in people's way to spiritual awakening and growth: "Jesus replied, "And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them." (Luke 11:46) The religious institutions of men have contributed to the crippling of the spiritual journey of many by their emphasis on external law, external works and the participation in rite and ritual. All these things are promoted by church institutions out of the motivation of providing a means for the institution to control its members.
The Cycle of Failure
What religious institutions do in their attempt to control the membership is to doom the entire process to a cycle of failure. In the broadest view, this is so because the religious institutions of men operate outside the plan of God. Outside the plan of God there is no success. More specifically, the failure of religion lies in its reliance on law and works. These two external commodities force people into operating by self-effort and guilt.
Self-effort and guilt can only breed failure. Remember that the plan of God is to have people allow Him to place His life in them to be their only life. The Father does this by means of His Son, Christ, the life-giving (quickening) Spirit. This plan can only be carried out internally (in our spirit) by the direct touch of God. You can see from this simple statement of God's plan for humanity that there is no necessary place in it for any organizational working.
This is precisely the problem that religion has with the understanding that I present here. If you embrace this message of truth then the religious organization (any religious organization) has no claim on you or your life. If you accept this truth you can no longer be bludgeoned into supporting the institution financially or with your time and efforts. The institution is not willing to take the chance that the Father may still have you support them. No, the organization wants the power to make (persuade) you to support them and to do so in the way they want you to.
The organization (any organization) runs on a system. As such these institutions cannot deal with life. Life is spontaneous and unpredictable. Organizations cannot tolerate such as state of affairs. It is precisely this point that makes the Father's plan for the creation and religion incompatible. Life is relational and spontaneous and organization is fixed and institutional. This is another of those instances of the classic problem between men and God: Religion and God are incompatible and God doesn't change.
If you want religion you may have it. However, if you go the religious way you will be limited in how much of the Father's life you can experience. Further, you will be limited in how much you can experience the life changing effects of the Father's life in your life. The very good news is that the power of the Father's love is so much greater than the power of anything men can do or establish. I can tell you without a doubt that people who are deeply involved with religion and religious organizations are being saved everyday.
The blessed example of the Father's love for us is that you can be saved and still dwell in religion. You can be fully and completely a child of the Father's household and still express that life in a religious way. Because the Father's life is put in us by being born into it, there can be no halfway membership in the Father's house. You are in or you are out. Nevertheless you can have a wide variety of expressions and experiences of the Father's life operating in you. Religion will cause that expression to be stifled to some greater or lesser extent. The extent of this stifling will depend on the individual's choices. We each choose how much control or influence we will allow religion to have in our lives. The less religious control we allow, the more of God's control we will get. I don't know about you, but I want all of the Father's life expression that He will permit me to have.
Doing and Being
Internal and External
A key distinction that we must always keep in mind when dealing with the spiritual aspect of life is the concept of internal versus external. These two distinctions are critical to keeping our thinking clear as we move through this life. We are daily bombarded with ideas and perceptions from the outside world. These may be from other people or from the circumstances and situations that we experience. In a more subtle way, these ideas may also come from our own flesh. Please keep in mind that this is still, from a spiritual point of view, "outside" of us.
The things that come from outside of our core being (soul and spirit) are external and therefore secondary to the things that come from our internal being (our spirit or inmost being). It would be simple-minded and wrong for us to flatly reject or disregard the things that come into our lives from the external world. These external influences (ideas and experiences) must be weighed and considered but they also must be kept in their proper place. One of the most common errors made by people trying to find their way in walking in the spiritual is to allow themselves to be driven (controlled) by the external. We cannot hope to live spiritual lives if we are motivated or have our values formed by these external influences. We do not have much control over what comes into our lives from the outside world. We do, however, have great control over how we choose to respond to these external influences.
We have previously mentioned some of the most common and pervasive of these external influences: the flesh, religion, false spirituality, works and law. Other examples of external influences on our lives are the people we have contact with and the situations and circumstances we encounter. In all of these encounters we must never lose sight of the fact that what we are and what drives us is always properly internal.
The force that propels us and fashions our actions must ultimately come from within and not from without. If we are to live as the Father would have us live we must be controlled by the Father's life in our human spirit. If we are to have any hope of moving through life with the peace and rest that is the Father’s intention for us we must have our moving powered from within. The proper order of empowerment can only be by the life of the Father through Christ in our spirit. From our spirit, through our surrender to the working of that life, we have the proper governance of our soul. Our soul then causes the actions of the body and the physical expression of the life that is in us. This is the only proper chain of command we can have. When we choose to allow this flow of control in our lives we automatically exclude any other influence. Conversely, when we give in to any other order of life leading we put ourselves in a condition of imbalance.
If we live by any other order of action we are out of balance. If the soul tries to influence the body apart from the life of God in our spirit we will fail. We must fail because the soul lacks both the ability for moral guidance and the full understanding of our situation. Our knowledge is always limited—we simply do not know everything about any situation. This does not mean that we are stupid. We are just not omnipotent. In fact, the soul is incapable of exerting guidance because it lacks the resources to perform this function. When we think that we are operating out of our soul (living by our wits) we are deceived. What is really happening when our leading appears to be coming from our soul is that some external force is enticing the soul to seek its own agenda. This "something else" is ultimately the flesh. When we seek to carry out our own agenda it is really someone else's agenda that is being carried out.
Most people, both the born again and the unsaved, fall prey to this error. If we are not focused on our spiritual nature we are living in our soul. When we live in the soul we are subject to the moral leading of Satan from our flesh. What our soul lacks (the ability to function as our moral referee) the flesh will make up. The flesh MUST make this up if we do not allow the spirit to serve in this capacity: "Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey -- whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?" (Romans 6:16) Like it or not, it is our lot in life to be slaved to one moral governor or another. Never forget that we are in no way equipped to be fully independent moral agents.
The unsaved person cannot allow their human spirit to make up this deficit because their spirit is not fully functional. The born again, though their spirit is functional, may elect through the will to ignore the leading of the Father from their spirit. If we reject the Father’s leading then we automatically accept Satan’s. No matter what the external source of leading appears to be, it is really operating through only one agency. This agency is the flesh.
The born again person who is trapped by their choice into an external view of life will default to the flesh’s leading because they are not surrendered to the leading of the Father from their spirit. We can only look one way at a time. This means we must be either focused on the spirit or on the flesh. We cannot be focused on both simultaneously and there is no third option. We can, however, flop back and forth between these two centers.
This is not an issue of salvation but one of living. When we accept the gift of new life through Christ we are born again and that transition is final. We cannot lose our salvation because we cannot be "unborn." There are, however, limitations on what has occurred in us at the point of salvation. All we have done in accepting the Fatherhood of God is to begin living with a real option for moral governance. The unsaved have no choice about their moral governor and must live by the prompting of the flesh tempered by the knowledge of good and evil and the tugging of their conscience.
In either case (saved or unsaved) if we live in any manner outside of the intention of the Father for our living we will be in conflict. This is why there is no rest for those who are outside of the Father’s household: "And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed?" (Hebrews 3:18) Even sadder than the fate of the unsaved is the lack of rest for the saved who do not enter the Father’s rest. This is a sadder state because these people have the rest available to them in their own spirit but they refuse to take advantage of it. The plight of the unsaved is sad because they do not have an option. However, the saved who insist on living in their souls (by the illusion of living by their own resource) are in a sadder state. Their condition is more tragic because they are so close to having peace and rest but choose not to avail themselves of it.
Ruled by the Flesh
Both the unsaved and the unsurrendered born again are not purely living by their soul’s direction. They are deceived into believing that they are, but this is only a deception. Remember always, the soul does not have the capacity to rule itself. When people either reject the Father’s offer of salvation or refuse to surrender to the Father’s Lordship, they suffer from the ultimate imbalance.
The greatest imbalance that a person can experience is to be ruled by the flesh. In this condition we suffer from the moral equivalent of letting the animals run the zoo. By this I mean that living under the moral guidance of the flesh is living with the part of us that should be the servant operating as the ruler. The body was always meant by the Father to be the servant of the soul and spirit. The body was designed by the Father to interact with the physical world and carry out the commands of the Spirit directed soul-will.
When we reject the leading of the Father from our spirit we abandon the soul to being dominated by Satan’s immoral leadership from the flesh. Seeing this, is it any wonder that unsaved and unsurrendered people do all manner of vile things? People in this condition are really being governed by the very thing that was intended to be the servant. The Bible tells us that this is a truly unhealthy situation: "It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury how much worse for a slave to rule over princes!" (Proverbs 19:10) (also see Proverbs 30:21–22, Ecclesiastes 10:1–7) This is why a person living under any order other than the order ordained by God cannot succeed. This proper order of rule is the Father’s ruling Spirit (in our spirit) ruling the soul which in turn rules the body.
We cannot enter into the rest the Father has for us if we are looking the wrong way. Even after we are saved we must choose. Every day and every minute of every day we must choose where our leading will come from. This is part of the spontaneous nature of life. Further, we must accept that with the choice of a leading we also must submit to the sovereignty of that leading. This is not a choice of where we get our resource so much as it is a choice between surrender and rebellion.
Many born again Christians fail to achieve the full potential that the Father wishes for them because of this error. When we are born again, religion often tells us that we now have the full abundance of God’s resource at our disposal. This is partly true, but only partly. We must always remember that God is not on our side. This is not because the Father doesn’t love us but, rather, because He does. God is not on our side because we don’t have "a side": "Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, "Are you for us or for our enemies?" "Neither," he replied, "but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come." (Joshua 5:13–14a) This is another instance of the truth that we were never equipped or intended to live as fully independent creatures.
A word of caution is in order here. If we take this message of truth and filter it through an external focus we will come to ruin. It is the attempt to mix the salvation and life we receive from God with our own desires that produces the trap of prosperity theology. The external focus causes us to see the blessing of the Father (His giving us His life) as a resource to be used to further our own ambitions and desires. This can never be.
Doing and Being
Perhaps the greatest distinction in the issue of internal and external is the difference between doing and being. What we do is visible in the external world and these actions are directed toward the external world. Doing is external. Being is what we ARE and is a product of what is inside us (our nature): "Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit." (Matthew 12:33) Our being, in its unexpressed attribute, is invisible. Our being or nature is only observable by the thoughts, words and deeds that come out of our life. Even at this, these things are not always a true or accurate indicator of our nature. A person’s true nature may be masked in their actions because of a lack of surrender to their true life or because of misinterpretation of their actions by those around them.
In the long run, our true nature must come forth. The problem with human beings is that we have our doing tainted by the knowledge of good and evil. We are able to engage in the deception of both ourselves and others. We know what is right but we are not bound by any imperative to act in accordance with that knowledge. From a cynical point of view we could say that all the knowledge of good and evil does for both the unsaved and the unsurrendered is to guide us in knowing when we need to be devious. We know the things we do that must be done in secret to keep from looking bad and we know what things we can do openly (or even overtly) to look good. It is this sad state of affairs that characterizes the lives of all of us when we are either unsaved or unsurrendered.
This lack of a proper motivation (the life of God creating an other-centered nature in us) is what Christ speaks of when He says that no one is capable of good (Luke 18:19). This is a very hard truth for us to accept because we have always cherished the idea that we were "good." Our own flesh tries to convince us that we are good or at least that we are capable of becoming good on our own. Religion and humanism have tried to sell us on strategies that they claim will make us good out of our own exertions. All of this, however, is in vain.
If we are truly fortunate we will have the Father bring us to the place where we can see that our true condition is utterly helpless and hopeless: "So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:21–24) The truth of our existence is this: we cannot do anything to be the people we were meant to be and we cannot do any good thing out of our own resources. The only way that we can ever do good is to be what the Father intends that we be. To put it another way, it is only out of proper being that proper doing can ever hope to come.
Proper being comes from only one source. This source is the Father. Proper being can only involve being the person that God created each of us to be. There is no higher attainment that any person can hope to reach. Whether we are day laborers or the heads of great corporations is really immaterial. Whether we are rich or poor, esteemed or despised is of little real eternal consequence. As Jesus taught, it is what happens to our inside person that counts: "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36) In the end, the condition of our outside will at best count for nothing in eternity. I say "at best" because our outer condition can count greatly against us if we have sacrificed spiritual life, health and growth for material or worldly position or advantage.
The only way we can be the people the Father wants us to be is by accepting His life through Christ to be our only life. Beyond this we must surrender our living to the operation of the Father’s life in us. These are the only two necessary aspects of proper being. Living by the Father’s life is even beyond our having any understanding of this dynamic. I think it is a wonderful gift if the Father shows us this reality but we can live the reality without our having ever been consciously aware of what is going on. This is the elegant simplicity of the Father’s plan for us.
We can never legitimately say for example that "God’s intention for me was to be a pastor." The same is true for being a lawyer, a banker, rich, poor or any position or condition. All that the Father ever wanted any of us to be was His well-loved children. We may be called to many pursuits or roles or conditions of life, but this is not our being. What we have and what we do are aspects of our living and the choices we have made and are making. These things are outcomes and not sources or origins.
After all, I can choose to follow any number of career paths. Whether I succeed in any of these choices or not is dependent on my life. That is to say, dependent on my having God’s life in me to be my life and on my being surrendered to the working of that life in me and out of me. This success is measured not by worldly attainments, positions and possessions but on my touching other lives positively and in my living in peace and rest. These things are totally separate from the actions I take.
If I touch another life to some positive effect this is not a result of the action involved. The positive touch was a result of my surrendered obedience to the operation of the Father’s life in me. If I have peace and rest (I have had my life positively touched) it is for the same reason and from the same source. No person on this earth has the ability in and of themselves to be or do good. My peace and rest come from my surrender to the Father’s life operating as my life.
One of the most difficult things we have to recognize is proper doing. This recognition is difficult for two reasons. The first reason is that religion and society have constantly misled us into believing that what we do is who we are. If this is so, then we should take every action we see at face value. I doubt that anyone is naive enough to accept this idea. The second reason is that our doing is the only visible part of our earthly existence. We started out in life by living at the body and soul level of understanding. This makes the spiritual (invisible) part of life a complete mystery to us. This mystery is only revealed to our understanding as we surrender to the Father’s teaching about this mysterious realm.
We must come to see the proper relationship between doing and being. It is only in letting the Father show us the reality of this relationship that we can be free. If we do not accept the Father’s teaching on doing and being we will forever try to be something out of our doing. In this we will forever be trying to do the impossible. Further, if what I do is who I am it becomes difficult if not impossible to admit to my mistakes. If my doing produces my being then my making a mistake means that I am in some way defective.
Proper doing only comes out of proper being. This is the other teaching that comes out of Jesus’ analogy of the fruit of the tree: "Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers." (Luke 6:44) We readily understand the physical or visible part of this teaching—that good people do good things. What we don’t see so readily is that these good things come from a good nature. This is the "good" that comes out of the invisible quality of the Father’s "good."
As we have spoken of earlier, "good" as God accounts it, is the right thing done out of the right motive. Further, there is only one right motive in all the universe. This one over arching right motive is obedience to the leading of the life of the Father within us. We know this because there is no one who is good except God: "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good -- except God alone." (Mark 10:18) So it only makes sense that the only good deeds there are must come from the Father. The only good deeds done anywhere by people are the things that are done by the Father through the willing cooperation of His surrendered children. This is what Jesus confessed of His own earthly life: "So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me." (John 8:28)
The misconceptions about doing and being are never so clearly shown as they are in the "shoulds" of the world. Both the religions of men and the societies of men have long lists of "shoulds." We should be nice and we should do good things. We should keep from doing bad things and we should play nice together. Wrapped up in this thinking is the same old idea that what we do determines who we are. This might be true except for two tiny details.
The first thing that makes doing ineffective as a measure of right living is the knowledge of good and evil. As we spoke of earlier, because we know right and wrong we know what we are supposed to do. The disastrous failure of this human attribute as it pertains to producing right living is the fact that it is powerless. No one ever did right because they knew it was right. The only thing that the knowledge of good and evil empowers us to do (out of our own resource) is to know what we can do openly and what we must do secretly. Right actions done apart from the Father’s life are only right looking actions because they are done for wrong motive. That wrong motive is always about self. When we do "good" things apart from the leading of the Father we do them to either look good (for our own reputation) or to manipulate other people (to put them in our debt) or to feel good about ourselves. When seen in this light, our "good" deeds hardly look so good any more.
It is because the agents of society and the agents of the religious organizations of men have no understanding of true life that they give people such poor direction on how they should act. Out of our desire to act in independence from the Father we seek to become good (or look good) by doing. In reality, we do enormous evil by attempting to act apart from the life of the Father in us. When we choose to go our own way we give ourselves over to the guidance and direction of the evil one. In this we not only don’t do the Father’s work we actually wind up opposing it: "he is not to `honor his father' with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition." (Matthew 15:6)
The second problem with approaching life from a position of "what we should be doing" is the relationship between actions and origins. As we have mentioned before actions always come out of the nature that is operating in us. No one ever changed who they were by what they did. The things that we should be doing are those things that are consistent with our true life and nature.
The final truth on this issue of "what we should be doing" is that there is only one legitimate "should" in our lives. This is that we should be about the Father’s work. The only thing I can honestly tell anyone that they should be doing is that they should be surrendered to the leading and working of the Father’s life in them as their only life.
The Invisible Life
The spiritual life is an invisible life. No one can see the "spiritual you" with the eyes of the flesh: "For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God." (Colossians 3:3) For the born again, what we really are is not known now and will only be revealed later: "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." (1 Corinthians 13:12) What we are is not even fully known by ourselves. How can we ever hope to be properly known by the people around us?
We should not let this fact that we are not truly known (or knowable) trouble us. In the spiritual realm, it is far more important to be known by God than it is even to know God: "But the man who loves God is known by God." (1 Corinthians 8:3) Our entire success, treasure and hope is based on one thing only—that we are known by God. This means that we are the children of God and the members of His family. This is all that ever matters. This being true, it is quite insignificant to be known by people (to have a reputation).
It is almost certain that if the Father calls you to walk with Him you will be misunderstood. Or more precisely, your actions will be misunderstood and you will be criticized. The criticism of the world we can generally accept, we usually expect rejection from this quarter. The criticism of brothers and sisters living in religion is harder to take. We are constrained by the love of the Father to love all people and especially to love our siblings in the family of God. It is painful therefore to have our brothers and sisters reject us because they cannot come away from their external view of life and its orientation of doing. In the end though, to bear this criticism and separation is all part of the living answer we give to the Father when He asks us: "Do you truly love Me more than these?"
The Natural Man
Of all the influences acting (or attempting to act) on our spiritual walk, none is more challenging than our own soul. The distinction between the human soul and the human spirit is not easy to see clearly in many of the issues of our daily living. After all, both the soul and the spirit are non-physical. Both the soul and the spirit are eternal. Because these two parts of our makeup are similar, it is important to keep their respective functions in mind as we try to correctly identify where the various thoughts, promptings and leadings that enter our life come from. It does not overstate the situation to say that without the Father’s revelation we have no chance at all of ever being able to correctly distinguish between soul living and spirit living.
For all the similarities between our soul and spirit, there is one critical difference between these two aspects of our living. This difference has to do with the functioning of each of these parts of our being. As we have spoken about before, we must accept the proper place of each of our component parts if we are to have any hope of successful living. As we know from the physical world’s example, we will not succeed in any effort if we are not using the proper tools. Failure and even injury are the result of trying to get something done with tools that were not intended for the particular purpose at hand. This propriety includes both using the proper tool and using that tool correctly.
The human spirit was given to us by the Father to allow us to communicate with Him and He with us. This includes the attributes of fellowship (relationship with God), intuition (the ability to receive non-intellectual understanding) and conscience (correct perception of right and wrong). The human soul on the other hand, is the seat of our personality—mind, will and emotions. The human spirit provides the path through which we can commune with God and through which He can give us His moral guidance, leadership and revelation. The soul is the instrument that carries out the guidance we receive from our chosen governor in physical, emotional and intellectual action. The soul is the conduit through which our chosen guidance is expressed as the unique person we are.
We cannot use the soul to perform the functions of the spirit. The human spirit was created by the Father to contain His life. In providing this seat of life, the Father has given us the opportunity to choose the leadership and resource we need to live successfully. The soul was fashioned by the Father to express the life leading of God through the human spirit. This can only happen if we receive the Father’s life into our spirit to be life for us: "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life." (John 5:24) As long as we insist on trying to live by our soul’s resource we are as good as dead in the Bible’s view. Such a person (living in their soul) is referred to in Scripture as "the natural man." This term can refer to either one of two possible human conditions. The "natural man" may be one who is not born again (has no fully functional human spirit). Additionally, a "natural man" may also be a person who is born again but chooses to live by the exercise of the externally directed and focused soul.
Life in the Soul
What exactly does the Bible mean when it refers to a "natural man"?: "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:14—KJV) An examination of the Greek used in this verse is illuminating. The word translated into English as "natural" is the Greek word psuchikos which means "the sensuous nature with its subjection to appetite and passion." This is the condition of every person who attempts to use their soul as the primary leading in their life. This is the manner of living that comes from people attempting to live from the faculties of their soul alone. To put it another way, this term refers to every person who lives by the exercise of their intellect, their emotions or any combination of these soul attributes. However, as we have spoken to before, this is really a way of living that is not at all what it appears to be.
This is a key understanding in our quest to live in freedom and in truth (reality). The person who lives in their soul is really living under the governorship of the flesh. When we try to live by our own understandings and emotions we are really under the control of the evil one. This is the first and greatest of all human deceptions—that we can live from our soul's attributes alone. When we attempt to live this way we are given over to deception. Deception is necessary in this manner of living because we are not really running our own lives. In soul living we become the titular head of a life ruled over by Satan from our flesh.
This is one of the most difficult realities to accept and it is also one of the most important. This reality is the truth that we are not capable of directing our own life out of our soul. This truth is a great deal easier to accept if we can see it in the light of God’s truth. This truth is that we are not admitting to being defective when we admit that we cannot govern our living from our soul. As we have said before, it bears saying again—we cannot do this because the soul was never designed or intended to do this. We are not sub-standard or defective because we cannot live out of our soul's functioning alone.
All we do when we accept this truth is to accept the way things really are. This should be no more offensive to us than it is for us to admit to the fact that the sky is blue. It is only the promptings of the evil one from our flesh that tries to make this an issue of personal pride. The person who insists on trying to be self-contained (the god of their own life) is doomed out of their own pride. When we insist on being our own master we are surrendering to the deception of Satan. The evil one cannot rule overtly in our lives because of our knowledge of good and evil. Few of us would openly submit to live under Satan's rule. For this reason the evil one must trick us into submitting to his authority. Satan does this by convincing us that we can live by our own resource out of our soul. To attempt to live by the operation of our soul alone is to condemn ourselves to a life lived in deception.
Hitting the Wall
This is a deeply rooted problem in all of us. So how can we ever hope to escape from this fantasy world of self-deception? It is because the deception of self-reliance is so deeply rooted in us that the only way most (if not all) of us can come beyond it is by what we call hitting the wall. What I mean by "hitting the wall" is coming up against a circumstance that we are totally unable to deal with out of our own resource. This may be one situation or a series of situations. However it comes to us is immaterial. It is not even important how large the circumstance in question is. Each of us has an individually unique level of endurance.
In the end, however, the particulars are not important. What is important is what we do with these situations. This takes us back to the importance of having a free will. The choice is always ours. A particular circumstance (the death of a loved one, a serious health or economic issue, etc.) is presented to us by the Father. What we do with it is left entirely up to us. This is why different people will respond to the same situation in a variety of different ways.
We see this difference in reaction every day. The death of a loved one will cause one person to become bitter and resentful. The same event will cause another person to draw nearer to the Father. The choice is always ours. In the final analysis, how we respond to any event in our life will depend on the state of our relationship with the Father. This is a big reason why the Father allows some very tragic things to come into our lives. It is only in the depth of a crisis situation that we cannot fix that we may come to see the limits of our own resource. It takes this kind of shock therapy because our own pride is exceedingly powerful. We all have probably known someone who has gone through any number of crises only to become ever more and more bitter or hard. Such is the power of Satan's deception and our own pride.
If we are surrendered to the Father’s Lordship over our life then we can rely on the Father’s supply in all things. This the benefit of surrender. The cost of surrender is that I have to accept that I am not in charge of my own life. Further, I must admit that I am not even capable of being in charge of my own life. I will not minimize the impact or difficulty of coming to this acceptance and admittance. Every person must make this decision for themselves. It is only with the Father's help that we can make this transition in understanding the reality of our life.
Would God do That?
Many people in conventional Christianity will object to this position. In many places in the contemporary Christian community it is held that the Father protects us from all harm. I agree with this but with a different understanding. I maintain that being protected from all harm does not mean being kept from experiencing any unpleasant situations and outcomes.
The sad fact is that many people came into Christianity by being sold a "bill of goods." Many institutions in Christianity attract people to God by the promise that if they will accept Christ then all their problems will be taken care of. What these groups mean by having our problems taken care of is that these problems will go away. In this we are told that God will resolve the situations in our lives to our satisfaction. This is a soul’s eye view of reality. This kind of understanding comes from the soul because it is yet another attempt to be the god of own life (to have things our way). God’s concern has always been true life and His love for us. For this reason the Father will allow people to come to Him out of any motivation: "But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice," (Philippians 1:18)
Our relationship with the Father is of primary importance to the Father. The Father is not put off by our crackpot misconceptions. Nothing can transpire toward spiritual life and growth if we don’t have a relationship with God to start with. So it is far better to get on board than to stay on the outside. Once we are in the Father’s household He can deal with our misconceptions whenever we are willing to let Him deal with them. Without a fundamental relationship with the Father we can go nowhere. For this reason the Father will allow all manner of things in our lives that we might think impossible.
Remember, life is an issue of God and not primarily of our actions, our ideas or of the events that come our way. While these things impact us and our dealing with them either advances or retards our growth, they are not the source of our living. God allows the events in our life that He deems necessary to grow us to the place that He wants us to be. These things are used both to break down the harmful things in us and to grow or promote the things that bring us closer to Him. To be able to properly distinguish between these things requires a spiritual view of life.
How we see or understand the events in our life depends to a considerable degree on where we view these events from. In any situation, we can take a view from our soul or from our spirit. It is because of a soul orientated view of life that we see the events in our lives as we do. The soul orientated life is a physically and psychologically oriented life. This orientation points toward the flesh and not toward the spirit. For this reason the Father continues to bring the same (or similar) situations and circumstances into our life after we are born again as we had before. We still need to be pressed to turn us away from the leading of the flesh-directed soul and point our soul toward the Father-directed spirit. In this way, our soul becomes Spirit directed.
It is this very dynamic that causes so many in the born again community such hardship. A soul based approach to life is the root cause of something that I mentioned earlier. This is why so many people in church organizations battle with the same problems year after year. It is the lack of surrender to the Father’s dealing in their lives that causes them to have to repeat the same lessons over and over. This condition may also cause these people to question the effectiveness of Christianity itself. This situation certainly causes unsaved people to question the claims the Bible makes about Christianity. A soul orientation is one of Satan's most effective means of "negative evangelism." More importantly though, this is one of the most debilitating influences in the lives of the born again.
Church organization people in this situation are confused between the promises made to them about what Christianity was supposed to do for them and what they experience. Their living experiences do not match up with the teaching they have gotten (and probably are still getting). We were supposed to have all our troubles fixed up when we accepted Christ as our savior. So why doesn’t this seem to play out in our lives? Is it because Christianity is wrong and really doesn’t work? Or is it something that is wrong with us? Some in religion will go so far as to assert that if our problems don’t go away after we are saved then we are not really born again. Such assertions cause many to sink into denial. They simply refuse to accept that they do, in fact, have problems. Others are trapped in a bondage of guilt, fear and confusion.
It is because of such burdensome and false teaching that many born again children of God live in bondage. Human beings demonstrate a curious behavior. When we are confronted with ideas or actions that don’t yield the desired or expected results we rarely suspect the process. When religion doesn’t provide the changes in our lives that we expect (or were told would be ours) we rarely first suspect that the problem may lie with the religious system itself. We usually don't suspect that the teaching we received was in error. No, we assume that the problem lies with us. We assume that we are "not OK" in some way. The problem must be that we are not surrendered enough or we are not mature enough or we are not trying hard enough or we are not born again enough.
The thought never occurs to us that maybe, just maybe, the problem is that the teaching we are getting is in error. Yet the Bible never supports the "no problem, be happy" theory of life after salvation. There is no biblical mandate that salvation is marked by our problems disappearing: "made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions -- it is by grace you have been saved." (Ephesians 2:5) Salvation is a matter of life and it comes only by grace (unmerited favor). In fact, the Bible teaches the truth that trouble is an integral part of life in this world: "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
We need to be up front and honest about this aspect of living from the start. Not only is suffering not an indication of our failure or of our not really being saved but the opposite is true: "In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering." (Hebrews 2:10) This is what we have been speaking of earlier. We actually need to suffer, not to be saved or to stay saved but to be perfected in our salvation. This is how the Father drives us away from a soul oriented living and into a spirit oriented living.
Suffering, far from being an indication of our not being "truly saved", is an indication of the Father’s working in us. I maintain that the person who does not have some trial in their life has a potentially serious problem. The absence of trial in our living can mean that we are not open to the Father’s working in us. If this is a case of our being so hardened to the Father’s Lordship that we are closed, then God may let us go our own way for some time. The Father will not ask us to bear more than we are able to endure. Our Father also will not subject us to needless suffering. In the same light, the Father will not leave us in our present, unfinished, condition.
The point of the Father putting His life in us to be life for us is for resource not for insulation. Our Father wants to raise us up to a place where we can go through our trials in reliance on His power: "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13) This is the perfecting of our salvation. This is a dynamic that can only be properly understood from a spiritual view of life. If we insist on dealing with and seeing things from the soul’s perspective this will never make any sense to us. If we will submit to the spiritual view of these things we can begin to see the wonder of the Father’s way. This wonder is how vastly superior the Father’s way is to ours.
A Better Way of Living
Living from the spirit is a strategy for success. Having our various individual situations and circumstances dealt with is symptomatic medicine. To only ask God to take care of today’s crisis is very short-sighted and limited in its application. While the Father is concerned about all that happens in our lives, this is not the "big picture." It is because the Father is interested in our entire life condition that He wants something much more pervasive for us.
If I only have today’s crisis dealt with I am really no better off. I have no new resource with which to deal with life's situations and circumstances. I am no better equipped to deal with tomorrow's situations than I was today. What I need to come to see is that it is not my situation that needs to be changed, it is me that needs to be changed. If I can come away from the soul oriented view of life I can let the Father show me this need. It is not that the Father is unconcerned with my specific situations and needs. It is rather that the Father is more interested in my being equipped for effective living in all situations than He is in simply fixing individual problems.
Dealing with Individual situations is a soul oriented and inspired way of living. The desire to use our relationship with the Father to this end is based on a false understanding. This false understanding is that we can deal with most of the things in our lives. This being the case, we only need the Father to deal with the really tough issues. It is difficult and humbling to have God show us that we are equipped to deal with exactly nothing on our own: "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5) But this is the reality of our living.
There is a certain truth in the idea that we are to have a collaborative living with the Father. However, the soul understanding didn't quite get the concept of this relationship right. It is not a question of us doing most of the stuff in our lives and calling God in like some kind of cosmic consultant to handle the "really tough cases." The proper collaboration between us and the Father for living is this: God does the living and we let Him.
It has never been, as some fear, a question of our individuality being swallowed up by the Father. The question before each of us is not self or no self but of proper self. In other words, how do we come to the place of being the person (self) that God created us to be. As we have spoken about throughout this writing, it is only in our coming to dwell in our proper self that we can ever hope to find peace and rest. It is only by submitting to being the people the Father made us to be that we can be spiritually healthy.
The place of proper self is not a question of any particular outward appearance. The proper self is an invisible commodity and is ultimately an issue between the Father and each individual child in His family. While this proper self results in manifestations that may be apparent in the physical world, this is not the primary nature of our life with God. This proper life is spiritually oriented and requires the spiritual view to be rightly understood: "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:18) It is for this reason that we fail when we become fixed on the visible aspects of our lives. This is why soul oriented living fails. While the soul itself is eternal, if we are trying to live by the resources of our soul we are really living by the direction of the flesh. Remember, the flesh is temporary.
If we are to have any chance of experiencing the peace and rest that is the Father's desire for us, we must be eternally oriented. The only eternal orientation that is possible for us is through the spirit oriented self (soul).
The Spirit and the Law
Law is a particular kind of doing. We have already spoken at some length about the proper place of doing in our spiritual lives. Even so, it is beneficial to look at this particular kind of doing in some greater detail because of the particular respect people have for the law. In this discussion we should make a distinction between the two great areas of law. These areas are the laws of men and the laws of God.
The laws of men are all ultimately founded on the written law of God. This may have been done intentionally or unintentionally in any specific instance but it is a fact nonetheless. All written legal codes are based on the same knowledge of good and evil. For this reason it should be no surprise that all these codes share a common basis. If you study the first five books of the Bible you will find the basic principles that drive all civil and criminal law. These principles may be more or less tightly adhered to but they are still the basis of these legal codes. The concepts presented in the Pentateuch (the Bible books of Genesis through Deuteronomy) give us the foundational principles of morality and personal responsibility.
In the minds of men, the laws they enact and strive to live by are seen as an indication of their "civilized" status. In truth, laws and legal systems are required for people to live together in societies of all kinds with some measure of peace and order. The truth about law and legal systems is not so complementary however. Laws are necessary for our civilized living because of our defects and not because of our superiority: "Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning." (Matthew 19:8) God gave the Israelites a legal system not because they were perfect but because they were imperfect.
As Jesus pointed out to the religious establishment of His day, so it has always been true. We have laws not because we are good but because we are wicked. It is hoped that laws and legal systems are established and maintained by people motivated by a desire to insure fairness and personal responsibility but this is not the basic reason for these systems. Laws are instituted and maintained not for the righteous but for the wicked: "We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers," (1 Timothy 1:9) The sad fact is that we would not need laws or law enforcement agencies if we were naturally good. By the universal existence of legal systems in every society from the most primitive to the most advanced, we prove that we are basically wicked. It is the presence of legal systems that shows, by example, the error of the idea that humanity is basically good.
Relationship and Law
Given the fact that humanity is basically wicked, we can readily accept that civil and criminal legal codes are a societal necessity. For this reason we do not need to look any further into this aspect of the law in this discussion. There is no point in debating the need or application of civil and criminal law. I don't think that we could find any rational person who would debate the need for a legal system in any society. This is true even though we can find any number of people who claim to hold to the idea that humanity is "basically good." Such an assertion shows that people are terribly confused about what good, law and humanity are really about. A society that was made up of "basically good" people would have no need for a legal system.
What is of greater interest and significance to us in the search for our true spirituality is God's Law. This is the code of moral behavior that was given to the Jews in the wilderness: "he said to them, "Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law." (Deuteronomy 32:46) We may well ask ourselves: "Why did God give the people a written law if He was really interested in relationship with them?" This is a key question that must be answered if we are to accept that what God does, in fact, want with us is personal relationship and not legal relationship. A personal relationship is not a legal arrangement. So why did God give the Jews the Law?
The answer to this question is in two parts. The first is that God knew the condition of the hearts of the children of Israel: "For I know how rebellious and stiffnecked you are. If you have been rebellious against the LORD while I am still alive and with you, how much more will you rebel after I die!" (Deuteronomy 31:27) As we have mentioned above, the law, any law, is put in place to restrain people from acting out their natural wicked tendencies. We have no natural goodness that comes from ourselves, so we have no natural urging to do what is right. This is another evidence that the human soul, by itself, is not capable of being its own moral guide. Therefore we (in our natural state) need an external restraint to guide us.
God set the written law in place over Israel to curb their natural tendencies and to serve as a reminder to the people of their shortcomings: "Assemble before me all the elders of your tribes and all your officials, so that I can speak these words in their hearing and call heaven and earth to testify against them." (Deuteronomy 31:28) God knew that the people would forget His teaching and therefore the law was needed to be a teacher and a reminder to them. So we can see that the Father gave the nation of Israel the Law because of their natural tendency toward rebellion and evil. This still does not answer the more critical question: Why not personal relationship?
Law and Free Will
Hopefully we will see by the end of this discussion that relationship can provide the same functions of restraint and teaching as a written, external law. This is true if it is the right relationship. For now however it is important to see that God has placed a key restriction on Himself in His dealings with us. As we have spoken of before, this restriction is God's declaration that we should live with free will. If we do not wish to have a personal relationship with God then we will not be forced to do so.
This is exactly what happened with the nation of Israel: "When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die." (Exodus 20:18–19) When God appeared to the Israelite community at Sinai He was offering them a relationship with Himself. This was to be a special corporate relationship. If the Israelites had accepted the Lord's offer they would have become a truly unique people group. They would have become a nation that had God Almighty as the leader of their nation.
Of course, God knew that the people would reject the offer and that further, they would even go back on their pledge to follow God's appointed messenger: "They said to him, "You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have." (1 Samuel 8:5) So we can see that the Lord gave Israel the Law because they were hard-hearted and because they did not want a personal relationship with Him. So the Law was instituted to take the place of the gifts God wanted to give to the people. Once again, humanity settled for second best.
The Purpose of the Law
The written law of God, while it is the basis of all human legal systems, is still different from human law. Human law is specialized and deals with specific conditions, crimes and circumstances. God's law is more general and deals with the broader aspects of right behavior. If we can see that the laws of society and the law of God are different then we should expect that the two legal systems are instituted to fulfill different purposes. The legal systems of humanity are put in place to maintain civil order, define the rules of proper conduct and to punish infractions of that order and of those rules. In these functions, human legal systems are externally orientated.
While God's law can serve a similar function (restraint of certain behavior), its real purpose is internal and not external. The Bible is very explicit about the purpose of the law of God. From Scripture we see the first intention of God's law is to teach us what sin is: "What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, "Do not covet." (Romans 7:7) This purpose is primarily internal. We have the ingrained knowledge of good and evil but we need something else to complete our education. We need an objective teaching of what good and evil look like in specific terms. An external, objective law teaches us what sin is because it is not as subject to the deception that can plague our inner (soul) knowledge. The written law, while it can be ignored or perverted, is less susceptible to rationalization than is our soul-knowledge of good and evil.
When we use the external law in combination with our knowledge of good and evil we are brought to a greater appreciation of what sinful behavior is. This is the first purpose of God's written law, but what about the second purpose? Many people would be surprised at the law’s second purpose. The second purpose of the written law is to push us. The Father gave Israel (and all humanity through them) the law to demonstrate our true condition. This is a purpose of the law that is not much preached or understood in religion. Nevertheless, the Bible is clear about this purpose of the external law: "So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith." (Galatians 3:24)
God has never had any delusions about the human race. He has always known the true nature of our unregenerate self. A big part of our natural condition is that we consider ourselves to be pretty good and righteous. We desperately need something to show us, by example, how far short we fall of real goodness. More than this, we need to be brought to the place of accepting that we cannot attain goodness by our own endeavors. We will not accept this truth if we are merely told about it. We must be shown through our own actions that we are totally incapable of being good out of our own exertions: "know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified." (Galatians 2:16)
Religion and Law
A large part of the misconceptions that the world has about the law find their origins in religion. Religion is founded on law and therefore is in opposition to the Bible's teaching about the place of law in our lives. While the truth about the law in our lives is clear in the Bible, this truth is not presented in most institutional churches. At first glace we may wonder what the reason could be for the omission of such a key truth. There is, however, a very understandable reason for this omission. Religious institutions derive their power and place in people's lives through the exercise of law. It is only by the imposing of "do’s and don’ts" on people’s lives that religious institutions can keep the membership in line.
This is obvious by the very constitution of any formal denominational religious organization. If you look into any religious institution you will find a list of rules. This is usually an impressive body of legal definitions and regulations (bylaws). Institutions must have an internal legal code because organizations need to have positions, philosophies and governments that are formally and tightly defined. Without rules and regulations the institution, any institution, falls apart.
Religion is tightly married to law. It always has been and it always will be because it MUST be. This was the cause of the first serious split in the Christian community: "which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ." (Galatians 1:7) The "other gospel" that Paul spoke so forcefully against was the proposition from within certain parts of the first century Christian community that salvation depended on observing an external law (Galatians 3:1–5) This is an idea that Paul flatly rejected: "Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?" (Galatians 3:5)
The Bible is absolutely clear on this point—salvation comes by grace (unmerited favor) and not by law: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8) Further, the Bible tells us that grace and law (any type of works) are not just different kinds of activities, they are mutually exclusive: "And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace." (Romans 11:6) Yet organized religion cannot exist without external law. As a result, organized religious institutions cannot present this teaching. Right away we can see that an irreconcilable fracture exists between true spirituality as the Bible presents it and formal, organized religion.
The Limitation of the External Law
The fatal weakness with the external law—any external law: God’s, man’s or religion’s, lies with us. From the beginning of time right up to today, there has never been anyone who could observe the law faultlessly out of their own resource. Again, the Bible is clear on this dynamic of the law—there is no such thing as "close enough" in observing the law: " For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." (James 2:10) It is because of the absolute nature of observing the law that this mechanism (legalism) which is presented by humanism and religion as a guide for our living became, in reality, a liability to us: "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." (Galatians 3:13)
If you think that there ever was a person who walked this earth and observed the law perfectly you don't know the dynamic of spiritual living. Many people would say that Jesus came and lived faultlessly. This is not completely true. Jesus did observe the law completely and never sinned but He did not do this out of His own resource: "So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me." (John 8:28) Jesus lived perfectly because He was perfectly yielded to the working of the Father's life in Him moment by moment.
It is our own fallible nature that makes law living no real option for us if our goal is righteousness. Paul tells us this point blank: "Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, "The righteous will live by faith." (Galatians 3:11) It is the Bible's clear position that we cannot work our way into God's favor (or even live correctly among each other) by observing an external legal code. The written law is ineffective in producing right living not because of a defect in the law but because of a defect in us. No external law can be effective in producing right living because we are flawed: " For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man," (Romans 8:3) This is why another path to righteousness had to be provided. We need to divorce ourselves from all mistaken understandings that we can earn a place in God’s favor.
Sin and Law
The written law, far from being a hedge against sin actually works in league with sin: "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law." (1 Corinthians 15:56) This is an aspect of law and legality that is not well understood by most people. We usually think of law as the opponent of sin. The reality of the matter is quite different however. The real relationship between sin and the law is twofold. The first part of this relationship we have already looked at. This is the fact that the practice of law living is doomed because the law is weakened by our sin nature (flesh).
The weakening of the law by our flesh is logical. Imperfect people cannot produce perfection. No one should expect that we should be able to either form perfect legal systems or adhere to legal systems perfectly. As we have seen earlier, there is no such thing as "close enough" in observing the law. We cannot, in any exercise, simultaneously be part of the problem and part of the solution. We must stand on one side of the issue or the other.
The second part of the relationship between sin and the law is that as long as there is a written code there is sin: "for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law." (Romans 5:13) Without a legal code there can be no crime. What this means is that without a written legal code all behavior is permissible. This does not mean right (moral) but permitted. This is not a state of unpunished error. We know this because even though there was no written code before Moses there was death. We are all mortal in our physical condition because we inherit this estate from our physical ancestor Adam.
What the written code did for us was to make our transgression liable to penalty. When the law entered the world sin entered right along with it. Or rather, the law formalized and codified our sin so that no one was without excuse. This is a situation that is heavily weighted to produce failure. Consider the situation: The law enters to show us what sin is, the law empowers sin and sin debilitates the law. This is why righteousness through observing the law is an impossibility: "Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law." (Galatians 3:21)
No, the law is one of the primary means that the Father uses to push us to Himself. The law was designed from the ground up to frustrate us, break us in our self-reliance and push us right into the Father's arms. No law ever made could impart life to us. The Father set the law up to drive us to Him who can impart life. God has set up the legal system this way because it is life, after all, that the whole creation has always been about.
The Better Law
This only leaves one loose end left to be tied up. This is the reality of our living in this world with unencumbered free will. After all this discussion about law the religious community will be quick to raise the objection about our obvious need for regulation. An objection that is often raised about the Bible's instruction about law is that "We certainly need some kind of control (law) to prevent our falling into unbridled sin." Perhaps surprisingly, I couldn't agree more.
The question that we need to ask at this point is this: Is the written code the only source of regulation that the Father has provided for us? The Bible answers clearly "No." There is a law that actually works in guiding us in righteous living: "because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:2) It is the internal operation of the law of the Spirit of life that is the regulation that has the power to work in our lives. This is clearly different from the written code.
The law of the Spirit of life is internal where the written code is external. The law of the Spirit of life is impressed on our spirit and not imposed from outside. This law is the operation of the Father's life in us as our life. We are regulated by this law when we submit to the Father's leading in our life. This is not something that can be externally judged or assessed except by how our actions line up with God's truth.
It is the subjective nature of the law of the Spirit of life that makes the reliance on this law unacceptable to religious institutions. We cannot assess someone's adherence to the law of life by comparing their behavior to some checklist or code. There are times when the law of life does not lead people to do what we would like them to do but this, in and of itself, is not an indication of error. It is beyond question that the blatant violation of moral behavior (murder, adultery, etc.) indicate wrong actions. However, the more debatable actions (lack of institutional church attendance, failure to tithe, failure to do volunteer work, etc.) it is not at all clear whether or not some one is following the leading of the law of Spirit of life or not. It is because the law of the Spirit of life is internal and subjective that it cannot be used to judge our behavior. This is not acceptable to religion or any other legalistic body.
Regulation Vs. Law in Living
Remember one of the primary attributes of life is that it is moving and spontaneous. In such a fluid environment as life it is difficult (if not impossible) to drag around so cumbersome a thing as an external written legal code. The only way we can live in the moment by moment freedom of God's real life is to be internally regulated. It is not a question of obedience or disobedience. We are not even speaking of independence or subjection. This is entirely a question of what we will be in obedience and submission to.
One of our foundational assertions is that Christ came to give us life and to set us free: "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." (Galatians 5:1) We are required by our makeup to be submitted to one ruler or another. We can be submitted to God as His dependent children or we can be slaved to Satan as our tyrannical overseer but we must be in one condition or the other. If we accept external law for the regulation of our lives then we also accept Satan's rule in our lives. It is in Satan's economy and not God's that external law is the preferred method of regulation.
The Father's preferred method of regulation is by the law of the Spirit of life. This is the regulation that comes naturally out of our yielding to the operation of God's life in our spirit. This is the central source of peace and rest in our living. We know that this is key to our living in peace and rest because this is a principle accomplishment of Christ's crucifixion: "When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross." (Colossians 2:13–14)
It is the Bible's clear position that what the religious organizations of men so confidently hold up as our"guide for living" and our "protector against error" is not that at all. Far from being the mechanism that the Father has left us for right living, the law is actually opposed to us. The written, external legal code must oppose us because it requires that we do that which we cannot hope to do—to live rightly out of our own resource. What the written law does in reality is to confirm our failure to attain right living from our own efforts.
So we can see, what we are speaking of here is not regulation or no regulation but what regulation. We must choose every day what regulator we will live under. There is the written code that has proven itself time and again to be weak and unsuited to the task we are trying to apply it to. Or there is the regulation of life that operates with limitless power and is a match for every task: "one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life." (Hebrews 7:16)
We are not speaking against the working and the plan of God when we speak against living by the written law. Rather we hold up the full, living work of God in every willing heart. We are proclaiming the ultimate intention of the Father that we should cease from our striving and live by the power of another. This was God's purpose and intention from the beginning: "The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God." (Hebrews 7:18–19)
Dividing Soul and Spirit
A New View
I hope that it is by now clear that if we are to move from a physical or physical/psychological life orientation into a spiritual life orientation, we need a different focus. The Bible repeatedly tells us that the spiritual life view is so vastly different from the physical or even the psychological life views as to make these views incompatible with each other. The spiritual orientation has the distinct advantage that it can comprehend the physical and psychological understandings while going beyond these places of knowing. The physical and psychological views, however, cannot comprehend the spiritual.
This does not mean that the spiritual view can be modified to fit into a physical or psychological orientation. Many people miss coming to a real, working spiritual view of life by trying to do this. You cannot adapt the spiritual view to be a part of the physical/psychological view. The curious thing about the spiritual is that as soon as we try to make it fit into our physical or psychological perspective the spiritual disappears. God refuses to be reduced to physical or psychological terms. The only way we can get a complete picture of the world is to modify our physical and psychological view to the spiritual reality. We can, in this way, gain a deeper and more true picture of the physical and psychological realms through the spiritual.
The higher places can always understand the lower places but not the other way around. It is a misconception of many people that spiritually minded people are naive and out of touch with "real world" perspectives. Nothing could be further from the truth: "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." (Matthew 10:16) The Lord challenges us to be fully aware of the way the world works but to not buy into this way of working. Neither is it the Lord’s intention that we should be ignorant of the way the world of men works. Rather, we seek a fuller understanding of the world and its working. We are challenged by the Father to go to a deeper place than the world understands.
The spiritual view and way of life is not an ignorance of the ways of the world but a going beyond the ways of the world. The people who go on in the Father’s instruction in the spiritual way have an opportunity to obtain a clearer view of what goes on around them. The people who are submitted to the Father's training have a clearer view of life than any other people on the planet. This is because the Father’s way of seeing things is the way of seeing true reality.
The primary reason why going on in the spiritual way of life is illuminating is that it is the only way of true seeing. Only through the spiritual can we ever be set free from the deceptions that plague the soul when it is externally focused. The "natural man," as we have seen earlier, cannot comprehend the things of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14). To the person dealing with life from their soul (mind, will and emotions) the things of the spirit make no sense. There are two reasons for this. The first reason has to do with the vast gulf that exists between spiritual understandings and worldly (soulish) understandings: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8–9) The spiritual dimension is so much deeper than the physical dimension that the spiritual is incomprehensible to the physical/psychological view. We should expect this to be so because, as we spoke of earlier, the physical creation arose out of the spiritual.
The other reason that the physically/psychologically oriented person cannot comprehend the spiritual world is that the physical creation is under the control of the evil one: "We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one." (1 John 5:19) What this fact means as it relates to this discussion is that as long as we are focused on the world (physical or psychological) we are dealing with Satan. This is the significance of the world being under the control of the evil one. Surprisingly, the fact that the world is under Satan’s control is not important because Satan is doing evil in the world but because of what the devil can do to our understanding.
Keep in mind that the primary nature of Satan is as a liar and deceiver: "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." (John 8:44) It should not be any surprise that when we deal in Satan’s arena nothing is as it appears. This is the important point relating to Satan in our present discussion. It is not so much that Satan is opposed to God that concerns us here but how Satan opposes the Father. It is not even critical to this topic that the devil prompts us to defy the Father that is significant to the interaction of body, soul and spirit. What is critical about Satan’s operation in the world regarding the interaction of our soul and spirit is the issue of deception.
Remember, Satan did not introduce rebellion and death into the world by prompting Adam and Eve to commit some physical act of sin. The devil first corrupted humanity by deception: "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman." (Genesis 3:4) Satan didn't prompt Eve to murder Adam or to commit any other overt act of disobedience. The evil one knew that he could get the most mileage in his defiance of God not out of any particular sin act but out of deception.
Under a Cloud
What is it that causes the most disruption in our spiritual growth? What is it that causes the most mischief in our daily living? Is it not the lack of a clear understanding of the true nature of things? Our spiritual growth is slowed and stalled by both our lack of an understanding of the truth and our lack of an acceptance of that truth. I maintain that this is exactly what causes most people to wander aimlessly and unproductively through life. We don’t understand the true nature of the creation or how it works. For this reason, we cannot hope, on our own, to ever find our way clear of all the traps and deceptions that lie in our way.
I must quickly point out here that I am not speaking about intellectual learning in this. While our intellectual (conscious, cognitive) understanding is a part of this process, I am not talking about "learning stuff" in the classic, academic sense of the idea. We need to be very clear on this point. If we do not grasp this distinction we will fall into one of the evil one’s most successful snares. This is the trap of trying to draw near to the Father through intellectual exercise. We can include in this every aspect of human study including the study of God’s word: "For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate." (1 Corinthians 1:19) and again, "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life." (John 5:39–40)
Many people inside and outside the Christian community have wrecked their search for the Father by being trapped in intellectual exercises. We see many very smart people who devote their lives to studying the Scriptures. They study the original languages and the writing of the learned people who have gone before them. Yet, the more they study the more confused and distracted they appear to become.
Compare the exertions of the people in the great seminaries with the simple searching of the sincere child of God. I have known many people who, while having no great academic credentials, have a warm and living relationship with the Father. Some of these folk could not even articulate what the Father has (and is) showing them. Yet the understanding is there and the relationship is real and vibrant. We should not be surprised at this state of affairs because it is exactly what the Father said He would do: "He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things -- and the things that are not -- to nullify the things that are," (1 Corinthians 1:28)
What often happens in intellectual exercises is that we grow in our learning about God but we never come to know God. Knowing about God is external and soulish. Knowing God is internal and spiritual. In the end, the most important thing is not to know God but to be known by Him: "But now that you know God -- or rather are known by God -- how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?" (Galatians 4:9) The truth remains, however, the way we come to know God is the same as the way we are known by Him. This is through two-way relationship with Him: "No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, `Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest." (Hebrews 8:11) We cannot grow within the Father’s plan for our individual development unless we accept a personal relationship with Him.
We would all do well to learn the lesson that is presented to us by the Jewish nation. There is probably no group of people anywhere at any time that has devoted so much effort to the study of God’s word as have the Jews. Yet, after thousands of years of effort the truth of the Scriptures still eludes the children of Israel: "But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away." (2 Corinthians 3:14) Why? Doesn’t God honor our diligent pursuit of His truth? The answer is that the Father does not necessarily honor our seeking.
The Father tells us to seek Him but only under a particular condition: "But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul." (Deuteronomy 4:29) Sad to say, but there are many motivations for seeking the Father. Some He honors and some He rejects. Not all our seeking of the Father is noble. In fact, I don’t think that any of us initially come to the Father out of noble aspirations. I came to the Father because I was a failure at life and I knew it. Others come to God to avoid hell. Still others come because they have been rejected everywhere else and the church is their last chance to"be somebody." We need not feel ashamed of this and we don’t have to deny the truth. The important thing in all of this is how great the Father’s love for us is. God is not put off by these somewhat seedy motivations because His love for us is so great. After all it was the Father that brought me to the point of being able to see and admit my failure in the first place. It is the Father that puts a healthy fear of perdition in all of us: "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:44) As far as salvation is concerned, the Father will honor just about any motivation.
On the other hand, when we shift to going on with God there are motivations that the Father will not honor. I do not speak here about salvation but about motivations that drive us to go on with (seek) God. Salvation is a unique situation that involves all of the Father’s immense love for us. As was said before, the Father will allow a greater latitude in salvation than He will in growth. The first requirement of growth is life. Salvation is more liberal because it is an issue of pure grace. Grace cannot stand with ANY effort and this precludes any necessity for knowing in the act of being saved. However, when we go on to seek a greater understanding of the things of God and of His ways we now must work within a tighter constraint of the Father’s sovereign will.
Sad to say, but many of God’s children seek to grow their relationship with the Father not for the love of the Father but for their own personal gain. We may want to be seen as "somebody" in the organizational church. Our desire to know more about God may come from a desire to have personal power or prestige. We may want to have an identity that is linked to some "ministry." All of these things can drive people to acquire Bible knowledge or to demonstrate spiritual giftings.
However, all of these pursuits will ultimately end in failure out of the same root cause. The cause of this failure is not that the Father refuses to let us draw near to Him. The real cause of the failure is that these motivations do not drive us to seek God "with all our heart." In the end, what we do when we operate out of these motives and others like them is that we allow ourselves to be driven by our flesh directed soul. When we seek the Father for what's in it for us, we are trying to use God to accomplish our own ends. A motivation such as this will never be honored by the Father.
Dividing Soul and Spirit
What is necessary to break out of the tyrannical cycle of deception that comes from the flesh directed and oriented soul is the power of God's life. What we most desperately need, after salvation, is training in discerning fact (reality) from fiction (deception). In order to do this we need to have the Father separate our soul and our spirit. We have to be taught how to distinguish between what comes out of the Father’s revelation though our spirit and what is manufactured out of our soul-mind under the influence of the flesh. This is where our yielding to the life of God in our spirit comes in: "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12)
The first misconception we must deal with in this concept is what is meant by "the word of God" in Hebrews 4:12. This is not the Bible. The Greek term translated "word" in this verse is logos. This is the same word used in John chapter 1 to refer to Christ ("In the beginning was the Word,") The word of God is the life and mind of God operating in our spirit as Christ our life. This is why Bible study alone will not set us free from the bondage of our old self-deceptions. Without the empowerment of the Father Bible study is just another intellectual exercise.
Once we are born again we have this force available to us. However, this raises another potential misconception that we must deal with. When we are reborn as a child in the Father’s family we have the Lord’s powerful understandings available to us: "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." (Hebrews 4:13) We must understand, though, the Father does not give us the resource of His all-encompassing understanding for our independent use. This is a frequently seen error in Christian circles. The understandings of the Father are only available to us as we yield to the out- working of the Father’s life in us. If you want God to reveal the truth to you then you have to surrender to the working of the Father’s life in you.
We are not in charge of this process. The Father reveals the truth to us under His sovereign direction. This means we get the truth the Father wants to give us. Further, we get this understanding when and how God wants to give it to us. This will be the truth about the world in general, about specific individuals and circumstances and about ourselves. It is this last bit that frightens the majority of us the most.
The Gentle Rebuke
Among the fears that most people have about going on with the Father, one of the greatest is usually the fear of self-exposure. This is sad because we can see from Hebrews 4:13, we already stand exposed before the Father. Most people try very hard not to think about this aspect of reality. This is the reality that every sleazy, rotten thing we ever did or said or thought was done, spoken or thought in the presence of God.
The really sad part about this fear is that it is totally unfounded. God knows what you have done and why you did it. God knew before you did it that you were going to do it. Our fears about exposure before the Father come in large part from a failure to understand our true relationship with God. If we are born again we are children in God’s family. The Father loves us more than we will ever know and only wants what is good for us. Because this is so, we should expect that whatever the Father will show us about ourselves we need to see.
What is more, we should understand that the Father is going to show us the truth in a loving and gentle way. I can testify that this has been my experience. Some of the things that the Father has shown me about myself were so lousy that I would not have accepted them as true had they come from any source but from God. The beautiful thing about the Father’s revealing is that you KNOW that its true. There is no temptation to argue or deny, you simply accept the facts. We can accept the facts from God because we can sense beyond a doubt that this is the only choice we have. I have never been tempted to argue with the Father over a revelation He has given me about myself. This is not because I am super surrendered. I don't argue because I know for a fact that there is no point in arguing. This too is the Father's doing.
The reason why these revelations in my experience were not negative was that I could detect no hint of condemnation, rejection or judgement in them. This makes sense because this is in line with what we have been promised: "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus," (Romans 8:1) I know for a fact that what the Father has shown me about myself was intended entirely for healing and growth and not for punishment.
Growing in the Truth
We should expect that the Father reveals the truth to us—any truth—so that we may grow. The Father is about life and life is about growth. We should not fear punishment because our sins have already been forgiven: "And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Corinthians 6:11) If we are not having the truth about us revealed for punishment but for growth and correction then why do we fear this revelation so?
We fear the Father, I believe, because we have been conditioned by Satan’s lies. We read what the Scriptures say about the Father but we can’t quite bring ourselves to take this truth at face value. We have been told by Satan and religion that God lives to punish us. The enemies of God have convinced us that we have to "get it right" before God will accept us. I can only testify to you that I have found the idea of a punishing God to be without substance for the born again. This, again requires a dividing of soul and spirit to experience. We can only become free of the false idea of the vengeful God by experiencing the loving Father. We need the Father’s working in our life to gain this experience.
Once we let the Father begin to reveal His truth to us the journey really begins. This is the point at which we start to undergo the process of dividing soul and spirit. As long as we yield to the Father’s instruction the journey continues. The longer we go on in this the clearer reality becomes. The clarification of reality involves both the clearer seeing of the truth and the clearer exposure of the lies.
I have mentioned revelation numerous times in this discussion. This is necessary because this is how the Father divides soul and spirit. Revelation is the direct instruction of the Father to our spirit (intuition) and through the spirit to our soul (mind). This comes through the agency of the Father’s life operating in our spirit. The actual information may come from any one of several agencies. It may be the Father speaking to our spirit directly. We may receive the information through another person. Similarly we may be prompted by a book or an experience. In the end, the medium doesn't matter, only the source matters.
The key thing about revelation is not the medium through which it comes but how it impacts us internally. Revelation is the receiving of a new clarity of understanding or a new depth of insight. In order to experience revelation we have to have a functioning human spirit. As we have noted before this means a human spirit that is indwelt and animated by the Father’s life. The enlivened human spirit functions to communicate with the Father in a two-way relationship. God will always listen to us but until we have our spirit quickened (made alive) we cannot hear from Him.
As we spoke of earlier, it is not by any intellectual exertion of our own that we will discover any of this. This is why the soulish (intellectual) study of any body of knowledge including the Bible will not bring us enlightenment. When we try to discover the truth of God on our own we only become more confused. The Father still wants relationship with us. The understanding that the Father gives us is always to the end of deepening our relationship with Him.
This is how we must receive the Father's revelation—in personal relationship with Him. It is for this reason that any study of the Father and His ways must be a collaborative effort between the Father and us. We can never successfully leave our proper place as the dependent children of God. Any true learning about the truth of God is dependent on our receiving the revelation that the Father gives us.
Revelation is different from and superior to intellectual learning. The difference with revelation is not just in its source but in its impact. For learning to be effective we must believe what we are taught. This usually takes some time when we are speaking of intellectual learning. We need to think about what we have heard and to compare this information with other things we have learned and accepted. This is not the case with revelation. When we receive a revelation from the Father we get the information and the belief simultaneously. This is why revelation is so powerful and why we feel no need to argue the point or to compare it with other understandings. In revelation we can see instantly that "it fits."
Entering the Rest
We cannot come to the place of peace and rest without some foundation in the truth. This is not to say that our relationship is predicated on any knowing. Still, you cannot have a relationship with the Father without being made aware by Him of some truth. The Father is not seeking the cleaver or the intellectual—He is seeking the earnest.
All of this searching for and receiving the truth is the Father’s work. It is God’s work to bring us to salvation. It is God’s work to reveal His truth to us as we yield to receiving that truth. Our whole commission in all of this is to yield to the Father’s working. Our yielding to the Father's working entails the division of soul and spirit. It is in the spirit that we find our connection to the Father's resource and thus our entry into the rest: "Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, "So I declared on oath in my anger, `They shall never enter my rest.'" And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world." (Hebrews 4:3)
If we reside in the soul then we reside in our own striving. In this we can never have rest. Worse, we have in the soul the worst of all conditions—our limited resource guided by Satan's moral governance. It is imperative that we allow the Father to separate our soul and spirit so that each may do its intended part. With the soul and spirit properly divided by the Father we can clearly see what part of our being comes from where. When we let the Father do this, we are well on our way to being the people that God made us to be.
The Father's Intention
We can see from the scriptural account of God's dealings with the human race that His first desire has always been to have a personal relationship with us. This is in perfect keeping
with the understanding that the issue of first importance with the Father is life. Relationship is a natural progression or outcome of life. The theme of life and relationship is carried throughout the Bible from the Old Testament to the New. I cannot devote the space here that is required to show this truth in its entirety. However, I can refer anyone wishing to investigate this further to the one true source. I encourage the serious spiritual seeker to go to the Bible with a yielded heart and to let the Father show you if this is so or not. It is my firm belief that anyone studying the Scriptures with an open heart and mind will find that the entirety of Scripture speaks of life and relationship.
One of the most poignant examples of this desire is found in Matthew: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." (Matthew 23:37) This same metaphor is used at the very beginning of the creation: "Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters." (Genesis 1:2) The Hebrew word translated 'hovering" (rachaph) in this verse literally translates "to hover." This is a word that is used to describe how a hen broods over her young. In a more global sense, the entire Bible is the account of the Father's longing for a family of birthed children. From the creation down to the end of this present age this story is played out. We see God setting the stage of creation to produce the family that is His heart's desire. We see the people that God made to become His children turn from Him, reject His gifts and go their own way.
Later, we see the Father's dealing with humanity in many different ways. There are accounts of personal friendships with God (Abraham, David). There are governmental and covenantial associations with God in the nation of Israel.
Still further, through the Father's immeasurable love, we see the mechanism for redemption and restoration come into being. Now, in the last days, we see the fulfillment of the Father's plan as people every day turn from the futility of walking in their own way and come to receive the life the Father offers. Further, we see more and more people coming to know who they really are in Christ. To be sure, many more will accept life through Christ than will ever come to the knowledge of reality in this world. In truth, none of us will ever do more than barely scratch the surface of the truth that is God: "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?" (Romans 11:34) This is of little consequence however. We have all eternity to learn from and about the Father and this learning will never really end. With a Father who is without limit it can be no other way.
It should prove helpful in rounding out our look at the spiritual for us to look at how humanity's relationship with God has come to where it is. As I have said, it has always been the Father's desire to share His limitless life with us. The Father is so rich that the only thing there is for Him to do is to share. Further, there is nothing that the Father can share besides Himself. The great dilemma (from our point of view, not the Father's) was how to create a family equal to the truth that is the Father. This is what I call the dilemma of omnipotence. Because God can do anything, He can create a family in any number of different ways: "Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you." (Jeremiah 32:17) So how does the Father create a family that is in line with the great truth that is His essence?
There are three key elements that must be present in a plan for building a family if such a plan is to satisfy the Father's wishes. The first of these elements is that the plan must be based on life. As we have spoken to at some length before, relationship is a life issue. This is true no less than eating or sleeping are life issues. No entities in creation have relationship except the living. It is utterly futile to attempt to separate relationship from living. This is equally true whether we are speaking of relationship between human beings or between a person and God.
All of the failures in relationship that have ever been come from only two causes. One is self-centeredness and the other is trying to build relationship on any basis except a personal basis (that is to say, a life basis). We cannot have healthy relationship if our interaction is based on taking (what’s in it for me). When our interaction is based on taking we don’t have relationship, we have, at best, co-dependency. Similarly, We cannot have true, healthy relationship between groups or between an individual and a group. We can have interactions (acquaintances) under these conditions but we cannot have healthy personal relationships in these ways.
In our present discussion, we should always remember that relationships are always ultimately done one-on-one. What we produce in the attempt to build "corporate relationships" are really pseudo relationships. All we do in this group relationship exercise is deceive ourselves. This is the pathetic condition we see with celebrities and politicians who "love everyone in the room." This is seen just as much in religious organizations that "love everyone" even though they don't quite remember your name. I think that the saddest thing about these kinds of situations is that these people really believe that they do, in fact, "love everybody."
True, real relationship is built on life and life is built on contact and interaction. You cannot have a real, living impersonal relationship. Relationship must be life based because it is only in the investing in one another that true relationship can grow. As I have stated before, we cannot love someone we do not know. It is because relationships are based on and grow from giving that there is only one source of true, healthy relationship—the Father.
Free Will Choice
The second requirement for growing a family the Father's way is that it must be the result of free will choice. It is through the exercise of our freely choosing the Father's offer of life that this entire journey has any meaning. It was in this way that God not only created us in His image but also solved the "problem" of His own omnipotence.
I don't believe that we will ever fully understand this in this life. We may never, in all eternity, know why this is. For whatever reason, we can see that it was the Father's wish that His family not be created exclusively out of the exercise of His all-encompassing power. To me, this is what makes the entire exercise have any significance. For an all-powerful God to produce a family of children is no big deal. For an all-powerful God to voluntarily set aside a portion of His omnipotence to seek children who would choose Him is something very special.
Remember there are countless created beings (angels) that serve the Father day and night. I believe that, at least in part, the Father created the heavenly host to demonstrate to us that He could do this. In the end, however, it was not a created family that the Father sought. Our Father's family was to be something very special. The only family that could fill the Father's desire is a family of birthed children who chose to be birthed children. This is a very special thing indeed.
If for no other reason, this aspect of the Father's plan makes our living with a free will an absolute necessity. The Father offers His love and life freely. These things can only be received in this same way—freely. There can be no hint of coercion in this process. Similarly, there is nothing we can do to earn or manufacture this life. All we can do is receive what the Father offers. This is the ultimate basis of my assertion that religion can make no demands on us for our life and salvation. Similarly, no organization of men in any capacity can legitimately interfere with our relationship with the Father. The Father calls to us and we can either respond to or reject that call. I hope that we can see in this some hint of the immense love the Father has for us. What God did was no less a thing than this—He placed Himself in a position where He could be hurt by us.
There was no compulsion that made the Father do this. God could have gone through all of eternity and never let anything or anyone touch Him. Instead, He voluntarily set up a condition by which we could (and do) cause Him considerable pain. Anyone who has had an earnest, loving offer of relationship summarily rejected knows to some small degree what this feels like. The Father wanted to be our Father badly enough to do this to Himself. This is the operation of a love so great that it is, in its entirety, incomprehensible to us.
Maintaining God's Sovereignty
The last aspect of the relationship environment between God and us is the Father's own sovereignty. What this means, simply, is that God must always be God. The Father must be true to Himself—to who and what He is: "I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols." (Isaiah 42:8) For any plan of the Father's to come into being, it must operate in a way that is consistent with God's being. God has always operated in a manner that is consistent with His nature. This is to say in a way that is fair, merciful and loving: "Far be it from you to do such a thing -- to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25) Even in the judgement of Sodom the Father was fair and loving.
For our current discussion, this means that we must accept the things the Father offers in the way that He offers them. In the issue of salvation, we cannot receive the Father's life in any way we wish. Rather, we must accept the Father's gift in the way that He wants to give it. It is for this reason that Christ is an imperative: "Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) To take this further, this is why saying that Christ is the only way is not, as many in the world feel, arrogant or bigoted.
Many people feel that the Christian message is restrictive and exclusive because it does not allow for the selection of different options in salvation. Many people would like to have relationship with the Father but they want this relationship their way. Unfortunately, the only way this could be possible would be for God to be something less than He really is. An omnipotent, omnipresent, all encompassing God cannot honor what really amounts to "bandit options." The reality of desiring these different options is the same old problem we humans have always had. This is, in reality, the ultimate expression of wanting to be the god of our own life.
Unfortunately, we are not the gods of our own life and we never will be. If we cannot accept the gift the Father offers in the way He wants to give it then so be it. We will perish in our ignorance and arrogant pride. This will grieve the Father but in the end He must be true to Himself. This is the sticking point of all human history: "Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed." (Luke 20:18) The stone is, of course, Christ. You have only two choices—accept your own need and fall on Christ to be broken of your pride and self-reliance or be crushed in your pride driven failure.
The Same Before and After
At the point of salvation (rebirth) we are made marvelously new. We are new in that we now have a fully functional human spirit that is inhabited and enlivened by God’s life in Christ. In this way we are totally new creatures. In the outward part of us (our soul personality and body) we are the same people we were the moment before our rebirth. Even though we are now the children of God and we can never go back to any other status, we are still creatures with a free will.
The interesting thing about God's dealing with us is that this aspect of our relationship never really changes. What is true before salvation is true after our rebirth. This too is consistent with the Father's being and nature: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (Hebrews 13:8) This is one of the most basic attributes of the Father—that He is unchanging. We should expect that the Father would operate in the same way throughout all time. I believe that the Bible shows this consistency. For this reason, we should expect that some part of our functioning would be the same before and after salvation.
The part of our reality with the Father that doesn't change with salvation is that we still operate with a free will. We still must choose at every turn whether we will abide in the working of the Father's life in us or if we will go our own way. The important change that does occur with salvation is that after we are born again we are truly alive. This is so instantly and for all eternity. What is more, because we are now truly alive we can now participate in that blessed two-way personal relationship with the Father.
With the introduction of the Father's life-giving Spirit in our spirit we now can have an ongoing discourse with our Father. I can speak with my Father and He can speak with me. If I allow it, by my submission to His Lordship, I can be led moment by moment by the Father. I now have the ability to dwell in the spontaneous operation of the Father's resource for living. This is what it means, in real everyday terms, to live by the power of God operating in us. The only requirement there is for this to be my reality is that I must choose to allow it to operate in me. I must choose to let the Father’s life dwell in me as my life and further, I must yield to the operation of the Father’s life each moment.
The Evolution of Relationship
As we spoke to briefly at the beginning of this chapter, the Bible chronicles the evolution of humanity's relationship with the Father. I believe that this evolution was and is part of the entire family process the Father has established. To some extent we all go through the various stages of the evolution portrayed in the Bible in our individual relationship walk with the Lord. In this way we all, individually, play out the story of humanity revealed in the Bible in our own lives. This is one reason why the Bible is so instructive.
We all start out living in the world as worldly beings. This is the illustration of Israel in Egypt. Egypt is a biblical metaphor for the unsaved world. The Exodus out of Egypt is an illustration of our being born again. Israel’s passage through the Red Sea is a type of baptism—we go down into the waters dead and reemerge reborn. This is similar to Christ’s going into the tomb dead and being resurrected.
The wanderings of the nation of Israel in the wilderness is an example of our early Christian experience. We are provided for by God in this experience, we see the miracles of God but we have not yet begun to experience the fullness of our inheritance. We are the children of God but we are not yet living in the full understanding of Christ as our only life.
Living in the fuller understanding of our situation as the birthed children of God is shown in the crossing of the Jordan river. The land of Canaan is a type of Christ. When (and if) we reach this point we are shown a new deeper aspect of our relationship with the Father. Not all the born again reach this point. This is not a requirement for salvation—an entire generation died in the wilderness because they refused to enter the land the Father’s way (Numbers 14). Many of the Father’s children will never go past the infant stage in this life. This is the illustration made here.
For those who agree to go on with the Father, there is life in the land of Canaan. This is really what we have been talking about in this writing. This is the chance to live in the peace and rest that are our inheritance in the Father. There are still dangers and pitfalls—note the peoples’ situations in Judges, Samuel and Kings. We always need to be turned to the Father’s life in our spirit, but this is all part of the ongoing personal relationship the Father desires to have with us. This is the general progress of the Christian experience, but how did we get to this point?
In the Beginning
At the very beginning, we had a kind of intimacy with the Father. He was not yet "father" to us, but we had a special relationship with Him: "And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;" (Genesis 2:16) Adam and Eve knew God as their creator and Lord. This is a step ahead of many in the world today. As we know, once humanity disobeyed God this special relationship was broken and there was little discourse between us and God for thousands of years afterward.
The situation with Adam and Eve was a "once in creation" condition that is not repeated in our lives. The Bible is clear that no one since Eden is ever innocent: "Surely I have been a sinner from birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." (Psalm 51:5) We are conceived sinful because Adam and Eve’s disobedience set the natural condition for all humanity: "For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive." (1 Corinthians 15:22) It is because of the natural condition of humanity that while some people had a relationships with God, none of these were Father-child relationships. This condition went on until the time of Moses.
At the time of the exodus the Father offered humanity another form of relationship. This was the opportunity to be a unique people group. What the Israelites were offered was the chance to be a true theocratic nation: "When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die." Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning." (Exodus 20:18–20) Had the people of Israel accepted God's offer at this time they would have become a nation that had God Almighty Himself as their leader. But the people would have no part of this offer.
What the people opted for was a more traditional theocracy—one where a special class of "holy men" deal with God and stand between the people and God. This was done, I believe, because we know that we cannot ignore or challenge God but we can ignore or challenge men. God also knew the condition of humanity and for this reason He went along with the people's request: "The LORD heard you when you spoke to me and the LORD said to me, "I have heard what this people said to you. Everything they said was good." (Deuteronomy 5:28) This may, at first, seem to contradict what I have been claiming about God's desire to have relationship with us but it really doesn't.
What God recognized was that the people did not yet have the right spiritual makeup to relate directly with Him at this time. The people did not have the right kind of life to have personal, direct relationship with God. This is shown in Scripture by the admonition from God that no one might look at Him and live: "But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live." (Exodus 33:20) The fleshly nature of humanity cannot exist in the presence of a holy God. In order to have personal relationship with the Father we need to have the right life, which is to say we need God's life.
What subsequent events in the biblical account showed was that the people of Israel, in general, really did not want to have any kind of relationship with the Father. What the people wanted was to go their own way (to be the god of their own lives): "You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth." (Deuteronomy 32:18) It was at this time that the Lord revealed the next part of His plan. In this part of God's relationship plan He would raise up a people with a different relationship: "They made me jealous by what is no god and angered me with their worthless idols. I will make them envious by those who are not a people; I will make them angry by a nation that has no understanding." (Deuteronomy 32:21) God has now shown the people that the next offer of relationship would not involve national or group identities. The word in this verse translated "people" is used to describe nations and nationalities. So the Father is telling the Jews that the next people He raises up will not be a national or racial group. They will be "not a people" as the world understands the term.
The Jewish nation is, by the Father’s intention an earthly people. It is, in the sense anyone in the world would understand, a people defined by national and racial identity. The attribute that sets the Jewish people apart is in their very uncharacteristic durability. No other group has maintained their national identity for such a long time and though so much hardship. The Jewish people have maintained their identity as Jews for thousands of years because the Lord has protected this identity. This is in keeping with the covenant He made with them. The Lord had, however, something much deeper in mind as His ultimate intention and He was not going to be put off by the rejection of the offer by Israel.
A Family People
A nation that has no understanding is a reference to a group of people who do not have a direct, strict attachment to the written law (an understanding of the culture and traditions of the Jews). We can see from these two attributes (a people who are not a people and a nation that has no understanding) that the Father is speaking of a group of people who are bound together by an entirely new type of relationship. This is going to be a personally relational (or family) people.
These two distinctions are key to the mystery of the Father’s plan. The family of God is to be a mystically constituted body. In this, we, the children of God are to be bound together not by where we live (a nationality) or by our ancestry (racial considerations). We are bound together by the deepest means possible—by the fact that we all have the same life operating in us as our life. This is the deep, genetic basis that binds blood relations together.
In this, I hope that we can see the deep and unbreakable link that exists between life, relationship and spirituality. This is the only true and eternal basis of relationship that we can have with the Father. This is, in fact, the only basis by which we can call God "Father." It is for this reason that the Jews, even though they have over 4,000 years of tradition in relating to God still can only relate to Him as God. The Lord can only be Lord (God, Judge, Creator) to those who do not have His life in them. The only way that God can also be your Father is by putting His life in you to be your life. Further, the Father can put His life in you only if you let Him. In this way only can your relationship with the Father be operative, total and complete. This is to say, this is the only way that He can be both Father and Lord to you.
Lord and Father
God is what He is. This is an unchanging and unchangeable spiritual fact. Where humanity is most severely deceived is in the mistaken idea that we can accept or reject God’s Lordship. In this we see another spin-off from the original satanic lie that we can be the gods of our own lives. In the end, however, we will all have to come to God. We can come as well loved children or as disobedient servants and subjects.
This is, in the final analysis, the real difference between the saved and the unsaved. The terrible irony in life is that many seek after an option that does not exist. I think that many people would love to have God as their Father. We would love to have the many benefits that come from being members of God’s family. Who would not want to enjoy peace, rest, empowerment, grace, and forgiveness? The sad answer is that many do not want these things if the price of them is submission to the Father’s Lordship. You may have these things simply by accepting the sacrifice of Christ but you cannot enjoy them in this life unless you submit to the Father's Lordship over your life.
Yet, in the end, we cannot subdivide God: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one." (Deuteronomy 6:4) We cannot receive the benefits of God’s Fatherhood and reject the status of God’s Lordship. There is only one type of children in the Father’s house—that is dependent children. Once we let the Father bring us to the point of seeing and accepting this fact we begin to experience the glories of the life we were always meant by the Father to live—the relationship with Him as His well loved and well cared for children. In this, we finally arrive in Canaan to live in peace and rest: "The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their forefathers. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the Lord handed all their enemies over to them." (Joshua 21:44)
Unity is a banner that has been flown over Christianity and every other major human religion for as long as there have been religions. The topic of unity is one that various groups and individuals have looked to as a kind of ideal state. It is felt that if we could reach this idyllic condition life would be truly good. Certainly life would be a lot better—more calm, restful and productive—if we could stop fighting each other and start working for a common set of goals. We all know that unity is a desirable condition: "How Good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!" (Psalm 133:1) So we must ask the question: If this is so obvious then why have we never come anywhere near achieving this worthy goal?
The banner of unity is a threadbare one indeed as it flies over the countless petty disputes and squabbles that have always plagued religion. Unity almost becomes a cruel joke when we consider the countless thousands that have been injured (physically, emotionally and psychologically) and who have even died in the endless religious bickering that has gone on. I will not even consider the problems of unity within the secular world. It is sufficient to say that neither the organizations, groups or nations of men have done one bit better than the religions of men in achieving anything that even approaches unity. The best we have been able to manufacture toward unity out of our efforts in all realms of human endeavor have been temporary, uneasy truces.
Yet, there are always groups in every religious community that hold to the idea that we should be striving for a unification of the diverse groups within every human endeavor. Christians pray for unity, have seminars about unity and preach the need for unity. I find it particularly sad and ironic that Christian leaders can seriously urge each other as well as secular groups and governments to live in unity and peace. This is truly odd when we look at the morass of division that is found within Christianity. It is instructive that every religious expression is plagued with divisions. Not only Christians, but also Jews, Moslems, Hindus, Buddhists and every group in between have their sects and splinter groups. The only thing that seems to be at all different between these groups is the intensity of the animosity between groups and how these feelings are expressed. This ranges all the way from religious war to "brotherly dislike."
The Source of Disunity
We must concede that there is some inherent force at work in humanity that drives wedges of division between us. This is obvious from the fact that every religious expression that humanity has ever devised has suffered its splits and divisions. You cannot find a single religion that has not produced sectarian divisions. This always goes the same way. A religious expression arises out of some difference in understanding within a previously existing religion. This new expression in turn produces its own offshoots, sects and eventually yet more religions or denominations.
If we look objectively at the development of religious expression throughout the history of humanity we are forced to admit that some force is at work in us that pulls us ever further and further apart. A deeper look at the situation in religion shows an unmistakable similarity with all the other social and national activities of people. This should come as no surprise given what we have seen in previous chapters. Namely, that religion is not some mystical, God ordained and blessed activity. Rather, religion is a human activity like any other human activity. Forming religions is fundamentally no different than forming societies, communities or nations. Religion is, in the end, just another social activity. Given this reality, why would we ever expect that religion would work any differently than any other human social activity?
Is it God?
We know that unity is better than division from the very basic nature of God: "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one." (Deuteronomy 6:4) God sent humanity an unmistakable message in His own unity that some kind of oneness is necessary for us to ever hope to achieve the blessed state of peace and rest. If this is so, then we should try to resolve the question—Can we trace any part of the divisions we see in the religious expressions of people back to God?
The answer is, I believe, a qualified "Yes." What I mean by a qualified yes is that I see a primary force of division in church organizations arising out of our reaction to the working of the Father. Just as we have seen earlier, God is always carrying out a process of dividing and separating. This is seen clearly in the Scriptures through the numerous analogies of refining: "But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner's fire or a launderer's soap." (Malachi 3:2), winnowing: "His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." (Luke 3:17) and sifting: "But the LORD said to Gideon, "There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will sift them for you there. If I say, `This one shall go with you,' he shall go; but if I say, `This one shall not go with you,' he shall not go." (Judges 7:4)
We see throughout human history the Father dividing and separating people. He is constantly testing, sifting and refining. This is the ongoing process of purification. It is instructive to note that these separating analogies almost always have a violent overtone to them. God is always separating something of value from something that is worthless. The implication in this can only be lost on those who do not wish to see it. I understand that this is an tremendously unpleasant prospect, nevertheless we must confront it. It is far nicer to think that the Father will reconcile all people and unify us under His loving care. This is, in fact, the Father's desire as well. But there is always the problem of our free will choice.
The process of purification is the separation of the valuable from the useless. God is always at this work both in humanity in general and in each of us specifically. This is an underlying universal life process in this world. The creation became polluted at the fall and God is now always about the restoration of His good out of that defilement. In this process there is a division that is inevitable. The Father must separate what is good (that which is of Himself) from that which is of the world. This works down to the most elementary level in the creation. This most elementary level rests in each of us individually.
God works division in the world not just in the separation of His family from a world that rejects His fatherhood. There is the further separation of the Father's children based on the Father teaching us and on the children's desire to go on with Him and to know Him more deeply. This is a mystery of the Father's working. No one can ever claim any personal glory based on how far they have let the Father bring them in knowing Him. I have no knowledge or understanding of how this works except that it is a function of the Father's sovereignty. The important thing to keep in mind is that this is, like all other things, a work of the Father.
I see this as a process that is very similar to the refining of petroleum. Crude oil is refined in a device called a catalytic cracking tower. Crude oil is a heavy mixture of many complex hydrocarbons. In the cracking tower the heavy crude oil is split into its various constituent parts. At each stage of the process the compounds are removed—the lighter ones at the top down to the heaviest at the bottom. At different points the very light compounds like naphtha are taken, then gasoline, kerosene, and so forth down to oil tar. In a similar way, the Father leads His family allowing us to go on with Him or to stop in our "refining" at whatever point we choose to.
This has always been a difficult topic to speak about because it inevitably raises issues and charges of arrogance, self-righteousness and self-condemnation. These issues can only be resolved properly in the spirit. We need not see this as any kind of a hierarchical ordering if we keep in mind that this is all the Father's work. We are not taken to the places we are to "be somebody" or to lord it over anyone else. We are taken where the Father, in His wisdom, wants us to go and in our yielding, where we let Him take us.
The point we should carry away from this issue is that we are, in this world, mixtures of good and bad attributes. It is the work of the Father to concentrate the good things and remove or debilitate the bad. This is the process of purification. Remember that the presence of the Father's Spirit in our spirit has already accomplished the spirit's purification. In this way we can see that we already have all the goodness of the Father living in us. The task now at hand involves removing or negating the old, impure parts of us. What goes on now is the purification of the soul. The process of purification, by necessity, entails division. This is why I can say that, in one sense, God most definitely contributes to the division that we see within humanity's religions.
Is it People?
Within Christianity, we can say that every new religious group (excluding cults) arose as a result of a move of God. By this I do not mean that God forms denominations or sects. I hope to show by the end of this chapter that denominationalism is a purely human device. Rather, what we see at work in the rise of ever more and more splinter groups in religion is a human miscarriage of a work of God. This is just another aspect of the ongoing refining process and of the exercise of our free will.
In answer to the question "Are the divisions within religion the result of people?" we can respond with an unqualified "yes." The reason for this is that it is out of the self-centered direction of the flesh that we shun unity. We sacrifice unity within the family of God so that we can have our own way. This is the most basic cause of disunity in all areas of human activity. We see this most clearly in the realm of religion.
It is the fate of every religious group to die. By this I mean that the relationship between the Father and the children is only vibrant and growing when it is lively, personal and spontaneous. When we try to codify and ritualize our relationship with the Father, the relationship dies. The difference between living relationship with the Father and a ritualized relationship with Him is the difference between a roast beef dinner and a picture of a roast beef dinner. This does not mean that every person in organized religion has a dead relationship with the Father. What it means is that religion provides ample opportunity (or danger) for a dead relationship with God if that is what you want.
The fact that new sects and denominations are springing up continually is evidence that some people within religion are seeking a growing relationship with the Father. This is how the process works: When a group within an established religious institution receive a touch from the Father and respond to that touch they begin to split with the people in the group who do not choose to respond. Now the people who have received the touch of God must make a choice. They can "repent" of their response to God and sink back into the status quo or they can move on. You see, there is no wide-spread option to be changed and stay. As we have spoken to before, a primary purpose of denominations and religions organizations is to preserve the status quo. The preservation of the status quo is motivated by the desire to control what happens in the organization. Thus change is seen as a negative action. In church organizations you don't just change—if you change you go.
This is the history of the church. There was never (as far as I know) any person who was touched by God that (as a result of that touch) wanted to start a new denomination. There also was never a person that openly responded to the touch of the Father that was allowed to stay in the old organization—any old organization. The closest we see to this is people who changed, stayed and were jailed (Madam Guyon and Michael Molinos for example). Paul had to leave the church in Jerusalem. Luther had to leave the Catholic church. The Puritans had to leave the church of England. A. B. Simpson had to leave the Presbyterian church. If you accept a touch from the Father you have two choices—you can leave on your own or you can be thrown out.
There is a third and special option that I must recognize for the sake of completeness. You can receive the quiet touch of God that is just for you and your personal growth. I understand that there are those who are called by the Father to be a light in the old church organization. These people have a living, vibrant relationship with the Father and this is almost entirely internalized—at least from the standpoint of doctrine and teaching. These people are the lights in every church body—the quiet helpers and encouragers. They are almost never in positions of leadership in the government or part of the "in crowd" or the "movers and shakers." They are the living testimonies of the Father's love for all people. This is a special calling and these people are specially equipped to do it.
So what about the rest of us? What about the folks that get a touch from God and can't seem to keep their big mouths shut? We are the "trouble makers" and the "people taken in a spirit of error." For the most part, the people who are called by the Father to a deeper, more personal relationship with Him are excited and want to share what is happening in their lives. This call from the Father usually produces a fervor that causes trouble. In most cases, this results in such people walking out or being thrown out.
Whether we are tossed out or walk out is of no importance. What is really happening is that we are being led out: "The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out." (John 10:3) Remember, it is my firm conviction that the religious institutions of men are just that—of men, not of God. I don't think that God cares an ounce about what happens to these institutions. The people in them He cares a great deal for but for the institutions themselves He cares not at all. So the Father continues to call to His children. He calls to them out of factories, classrooms, nations and church buildings. If the refining process causes some institutional hardship, too bad. I don't think that God cares any more about the discomfort of the religious institutions than the refiner cares about how the ore gets broken up.
Where denominations come from is the incomplete response of people to the call of the Father. The Father calls us out to be His children and to have personal relationship with Him. For the moment we can ignore the particular physical circumstances of our walking with God (within or outside institutions). The important point here is that the Father calls us to walk with Him in life—not institutionally but individually. If we respond completely to this call we usually come out of institutional settings. If we still hold to the idea that we must have some corporate structure wrapped around our relationship then we create a new denomination. If we do not break free entirely of the idea that relationship with the Father MUST be done in an institution we will recreate the very thing we just left. In this we will take what God has given us, re-ritualize it and dig in. The problem with this approach is that God will move on.
No Unity in the Church
This is why there is no unity in the church and why there never can be any. Church institutions are looking for unity (when they look for it at all) in all the wrong places. The various groups within any religious movement (Christianity, Judaism, etc.) became groups because of what they saw as irreconcilable differences. People within religious groups stopped fellowshipping with each other because they were expected to relate to God in a generic way. If they could not stay within the established bounds it was determined that they could not stay at all. Yet, every new denomination recreated this same error. They never learned that it is not a question of this denomination or that denomination. The problem is with the whole concept of denomination. Denominations exist with only one intent—to separate.
If this is the case, then there can be no reconciliation possible. Consider it. If we felt that the differences between us were serious enough to drive us apart, how can those differences become small enough to allow us to come back together? These differences cannot become small without some move by one or both sides. We must either stay divided or one side or the other must recant. As long as there is no fundamental revision in the way people in religion see their walk with the Father there is not the slightest hope for unity in the religious community.
More deeply, this problem has its roots in the issue of self and a worldly view of reality. As long as we are dealing from our soul-mind’s understanding we must be defined externally. When we rely on an external basis of who we are issues such as doctrine, liturgy and belief become of supreme importance. When we see our identity in terms of religious systems we stop being Christians and start being Catholics, Protestants, Pentecostals and Episcopalians. When this happens we become blind to the reality of who we truly are and unity is now an impossibility.
Unity of Mind
By now we should have come to ask ourselves the real primary question in the issue of unity. That question is this: "What is the real, true basis of unity?" If we can find where our unity should truly come from, we would be a lot closer to living in that unity. We have seen that religion is not the basis of our unity—it is, in fact, one of the most potent forces for separation in our world. If our unity is not a question of our religion maybe it is an issue of understanding. Maybe we could achieve unity if we all had the same level of knowledge and had the same understanding.
If we all had the same level of knowledge about God then could we be "of one mind"? A nice thought but this is not what the Bible tells us: "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:" (Philippians 2:5) (KJV) From this verse we might come to the conclusion that if we all get a "Christ mind" then we will be unified. This is not, however, what this verse is talking about. The word translated "mind" in the King James is the Greek word phroneo which more properly is translated "mind-set" or attitude. Unity has nothing to do with any set of intellectual understandings.
This is why every effort to achieve unity by learning has failed and will always fail. This is one of the most common approaches to unity taken within the community of organized religion. We study one another's belief systems and we discover what we already knew—that we believe different things. We go away as divided as we came because we have the same divisive attitudes. Our learning and study have contributed nothing to our becoming more united.
When you look into the various Christian denominations and sects you will find that we already pretty much know the same things. Some groups have a greater emphasis on one part of the message or another but we all have largely similar understandings. The fact is that we all know (and agree on) more than we differ on. One of the long standing embarrassments of the Christian community is how trivial our differences are. We have let some minute differences cause huge splits. This is not terribly surprising when you remember that these are human institutions and not God institutions.
God is One
Whether you look to God or to the institutions of men is a critical point in the search for unity. As we mentioned earlier, God is the ultimate unity in creation. This is the teaching of the Bible: "And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." (Colossians 3:14) Remember that love is the Father’s basic nature (1 John 4:16) What Paul is saying here is that it is God that brings all things together in Himself. So if we are to ever have any chance of achieving unity it must be in some sort of association with the Father.
Because unity must involve the Father the search for unity must also be a spiritual search and a spiritual attainment: "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:3) The Bible’s clear teaching is that our unity must come through the agency of the Spirit through our spirit. From this, we can see that there is no question of our ever achieving unity through any exertion of our own. Unity is a spiritual issue and therefore we can never achieve unity from any soul activity. This is why unity is not an issue of knowledge or understanding.
Division Gives Birth to Unity
The Lord, when He walked the earth, spoke movingly (and probably confusingly) of His purpose: "For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law -" (Matthew 10:35) In hindsight we can see clearly what the Lord spoke of. We all have known of or experienced firsthand the division that occurs within families or between friends when Christ enters a life. This same dynamic occurs at all levels of our life in this world.
We are not surprised when our acceptance of Christ causes friction with the people of the world. But what about divisions between brothers and sisters in the Lord? This is often exactly what we are seeing with people leaving church organizations because of where their walk is leading them. As we go on further with the Lord these differences in understanding cause friction and division. This is a part of the process of growing with the Father and it must be gone through.
If we persist with the Father I believe we will eventually come out the other side. This is true if we resist the temptation to "camp out" in some static religious organizational expression of our faith. If we let the Father bring us along, eventually we will become "liberal." What I mean by this is that if we go far enough with the Father we will eventually come to a place of clearer seeing. Eventually the Father will show us that it is not our place to judge one another’s walk: "Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand." (Romans 14:4) Our walk with the Lord is an individual matter. In this new place, we can see how insignificant our differences in liturgy, understanding and doctrine are. We can come to see that we can enjoy a unity that transcends all these differences that once seemed so important and so insurmountable.
What is true for understanding is also true for doctrine, government and ritual. This is true for every external aspect of our living We will never achieve unity by unifying our doctrinal statements, the way church institutions are run or by the order of worship. We will not be unified by having one world government or a single world economic system. These things cannot provide unity because they have no power. They have no power because they have no life. So we come back to that one common theme of all creation—life. Life is the only dynamic and effective force in all the universe.
There is only one possible source of unity in all creation. This is the single life of God. The fact of the matter is that every born again child of God already has all the unity with the rest of God's family they can ever or will ever have. "to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment -- to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ." (Ephesians 1:10) The truth about unity is that we are all united by the fact that we have the same Father and that we carry the same life around in us as our life. This is the only way unity is achieved. Our unity within the family of God will never be based on what we know or how we worship. We will never, in reality, be more unified than we are right now because life is the only unifying force in creation.
So we come to the point where we can now see the truth of the unity issue. This reality is that we do not need to achieve unity we need to recognize, accept and pemit it. Christians have always been united but we have generally never recognized or accepted this fact. By viewing our state from a soul perspective we have been blinded from seeing the true condition of our being. When we let the Father move us to the spiritual view our vision clears. From the spirit we can see that our differences are an inevitable part of our individuality. How each of us relates to the Father is in some ways similar and in some ways unique.
Once we look at our condition from a spiritual perspective it becomes clear. You may wish to express your worship and relationship with the Father through some Catholic form, or Methodist form or Baptist form or Pentecostal form. You may feel led to dance in the park—none of this really matters. What does matter—the only thing that matters—is that we are related by birth. We are united as a family under one Father—God.
Revelation is the way of spiritual knowing. Our ability to receive revelation is not dependent on our having some mystical spiritual gift. Further, the ability to receive revelation is certainly not dependent on our being given permission by any man, group of men or organization of men. Receiving revelation is not a spiritual gift and it is not associated in any way with any church office. Revelation is simply an avenue of communication between the Father and His children. As such, revelation is a life issue. This is the most intimate and frequently used form of communication that goes on between the Father and His family. This being so, it is strange that most people, including most Christians, feel that revelation from the Father is a rare, mystical and most unusual event.
Revelation is the mechanism by which the Father instructs us by way of our intuition. This is that non-intellectual knowing that comes to us by way of our spirit. The intuition is one of the functions of the human spirit. This function of our spirit is not operative until it is enlivened by Christ entering our spirit. It is through the operation of revelation knowing that we receive our primary instruction from the Father. This is also the route by which we receive spontaneous guidance and direction from the Father as we need it.
It is through the mechanism of revelation that we are given our understanding of Scripture. The Bible is spiritually discerned and for this reason we can never successfully understand God’s written word (or anything about God) out of our own efforts and resources: "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:14) It is the imperative of revelation in understanding the Bible that prevents us from drawing near to the Father out of the exercise of our intellect alone.
The Father’s Speaking
Revelation is a deeply intimate communication between the Father and His individual children. In fact, revelation is reserved exclusively for the members of the Father’s household. We can see the clearest evidence of this in the fact that no one in the Old Testament received revelation. In the King James Version of the Bible the word revelation appears ten times. Every one of these occurrences is in the New Testament. Further, all of these references to revelation come after the book of Acts.
In the New International Version of the Bible the word revelation appears six times in the Old Testament. I believe this to be a mistranslation. This belief is based on the fact that the Hebrew words that are translated "revelation" are the words: chizzayown or chazown. Both of these words carry a single translation—vision. These words both carry the idea of a vision as "vision in the ecstatic state or an oracle or prophecy" I believe that both of these words are more accurately translated "vision." While some people may feel that the difference between a vision and a revelation is moot, I consider the difference to be significant.
The Mechanism of Revelation
The primary difference between a vision or prophetic word and revelation lies in the part of our functional makeup through which these things come. The fact that the references to revelation in the King James Version of the Bible come after the death, resurrection and glorification of Christ is significant. This timing points strongly to the fact that revelation is a function that operates out of the revitalized human spirit. This is consistent with the understanding that it is through our faculty of intuition that we receive revelation. It is in the intuitive part of our spirit that the Father speaks to us through the mechanism of revelation. This human function (intuition) is only active and operable in people who have had their spirit quickened by the indwelling of Christ.
The receiving of visions, prophecies and dreams comes through our soul-mind. These things are instances of the Father speaking to people from the outside in. This is why we see frequent accounts of this communication between God and people in the Old Testament: "he said, "Listen to my words: "When a prophet of the Lord is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams." (Numbers 12:6) Revelation is the opposite function—namely, revelation is the mechanism by which the Father speaks to His children from the inside out. To put it another way, revelation is communication between the Father and His children in their spiritual (intuitive or subjective) knowing.
This spiritual knowing then impacts the soul (intellectual) knowing. Our understanding is a combination of intellectual and intuitive (revelational) knowing. Each child of God knows some things by experience or teaching. These are intellectual understandings. Other things we know at a level deeper than the intellectual. It is this knowing that is deeper than our minds that is the revelational knowing. We cannot explain how we know these things and we cannot give logical, systematic or objective evidence of their truth. We simply KNOW that they are so. In some cases, we cannot even articulate these spiritual understandings in words—but we are certain that they are true.
This is the subjective nature of revelational knowing. When we know something intellectually we arrived at that knowing by some logical or experiential means. Because of this, we can describe to someone else how we arrived at this knowing. For this reason intellectual knowing is objective. Other people may not agree with how we arrived at a particular understanding or with the conclusion we draw from the data, but we can explain it to them nonetheless. With a revelation we may well not be able to give another person any more information than the contents of the revelation itself. Indeed, we may not even be able to articulate the contents of the revelation in words.
Vision, Prophecy and Revelation
Revelation is a function that is purely spiritual. This means that the unsaved do not (and indeed, cannot) experience revelation. No person whose spirit has not been enlivened by accepting Christ as their only life can have revelation. Such people may have visions or dreams but they cannot receive revelation. The unsaved person may have a vision or enlightenment from God but they cannot experience revelation. It is important to the Father's plan that anyone can receive a vision (the touch of the Father on their soul-mind). It is through the touch of the Father on our soul-mind that we are called to God in the first place. This is the action of the Father from the outside in. Were it not possible for this type of communication with the Father no one could be saved.
Revelation differs from visions and the like not only in the route by which it comes to us but also in its function. Revelation is largely misunderstood because we generally do not understand how we are made up as human beings. It is necessary that we first understand the functioning of the body, soul and spirit before we can understand how God moves in our life. Once we understand the difference between soul function and spirit function we can begin to see how the agencies of vision and revelation operate in our lives.
The purpose of visions and prophecies is to give us some specific information. This is usually information concerning some very limited, specific issue. Prophecy comes in two forms. In its most basic form, prophecy is the speaking forth of the truth. When we spontaneously proclaim that God is good or that God rules over all (for instance) we are "prophesying." This is not what is generally thought of by people as "prophecy." The form of prophecy that people more commonly tend to think of is predictive prophecy. This is the foretelling of some future event. This is a much more rare occurrence than is the speaking of truth under the direction of the Holy Spirit.
In contrast to these forms of communication with the Father, revelation is an ongoing process. What we normally see in instances of prophecy are point events. All the prophecies I saw occurred in meetings and assemblies. The content of these prophecies were instructions about specific conditions or situations. Compare this with the process of revelation which occurs in an ongoing stream of guidance and direction. While revelation can pertain to a specific event or condition, this need not be so. In fact, most of the revelation I experience is of a more general nature. That is, the revelation I receive is instruction for living. This is information that has a wider and more general application than to just one isolated incident.
Personal and Corporate
One of the most striking contrasts between visions and revelation is in the intended audiences for each. Visions and prophecies are usually corporate and intended for a general audience. At the very least, these means of communication from God are used to convey information from God to a person or group by way of another person. We can see from this that visions and prophecies are, to some measure, impersonal and external.
Revelation on the other hand is the most personal and intimate means of communication between the Father and His children. Through the operation of our intuition we receive instruction, guidance and encouragement from the Father. Our communication with the Father is completed in its two-way nature through another spiritual function—fellowship. It is in the working of intuition and fellowship that we have ongoing communication (or communion) with our heavenly Father. In this way we can talk to the Father and He can talk with us.
This is the essential nature of our born again reality of having intimate, personal family relationship with God. It is truly sad that so many people find the mere idea of having such a relationship incredible. Our difficulty in accepting that we can have an intimate, personal relationship with the Father is part of the residual curse of the fall.
While visions generally deal with specific situations and events, revelation is a spontaneous ongoing communication. Revelation is the "hum" of the life of God within us. This is the natural governance of our being. We do not need to receive some "spiritual gift" to receive revelation. It is not necessary to expend great effort to hear from the Father revelationally. Far from being rare or exotic, revelation is the normal means of life guidance for the children of God. This is so much the case that we only require an expenditure of effort if we choose to live by some other leading. In our normal, natural state we are directed moment by moment by the Father’s revelation through our spirit.
Normal and Natural
The life of the child of God is lived normally and effortlessly through our surrendered response to the revelational leading of God in our spirit. This is the way of peace and rest. The third component of our spirit (the conscience) is the sensor that assures us that we are either in tune or out of tune with this ongoing spontaneous leading. In this way we can, through our surrender to it, be lead moment by moment by the Father.
This is a key difference between vision and revelation. Unlike the prophet who comes with the pronouncement of "thus saith the Lord", the Father’s voice is still, small, confident and loving. The Father’s guidance is for all circumstances and situations. This is not the overpowering command for a particular instance but is rather, the ongoing guidance for life. We may all have known people who sought the leading of the Lord in a prophetic way. These are the people who want the guidance for their lives "written across the sky in fire."
While this may seem very spiritual and holy it is actually quite another matter. The demand for a miraculous sign is the height of faithless living: "As the crowds increased, Jesus said, "This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah." (Luke 11:29) Faith is key to spiritual living: "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." (Hebrews 11:6) Faith is key to the operation of revelation. In the revelatory way of knowing we trust entirely on the Father. We must believe that the Father would speak to us individually and personally. We must believe that the Father empowers us to hear His speaking clearly and correctly. Most of all, we must believe that the Father loves us so much that He will lead us individually along right paths.
From the human perspective, we must be willing to walk with the Father alone. What I mean by this is that when we rely on the Father’s revelational leading we are, in a sense, naked. I believe the things that the Father has shown me. I cannot convey these things to any other human being in the convicting power with which I received them. Further, I cannot share the power and assurance of the correctness of these things with anyone else. These are not transferable qualities because they come directly from the Father to the individual child. Revelation is intensely personal. The most I can hope for is that, when I share something the Father has shared with me, that there is a sympathetic reaction.
If I share a revelation of the Father with another person, they may be able to agree to the information in principle. In other words, if the other person is operating out of their Christ indwelt spirit, the information should "sit right" with them. This does not mean that my revelation becomes someone else’s revelation. Rather, they can say that it sounds right to their spirit. The opposite is also true. If I have not heard correctly then the other person can say that "it doesn’t sit right" in their spirit. This is the most conformation we can expect and it is enough. We can have this confirmation because of our unity: "For we are all baptized by one Spirit into one body - whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free - and we were all given the one Spirit to drink." (1 Corinthians 12:13)
Due to the fact that we all partake of the one Spirit, we can expect that there will be confirmation or correction from each other if we are operating in that Spirit. Where we must rely on faith in this is when we encounter someone living (or answering us) in their soul. When this happens we will likely be accused of error or worse. When this happens we have no objective evidence to fall back on. We can go back to the Father to seek confirmation or correction but there is no solid evidence to point to by which we may defend ourselves or rebut our critics.
This is the exercise of faith. When this happens to me I have nothing except trust in the Father to rely on. I must believe that the Father will lead me and if I have not heard correctly that He will set me straight. In this way, we walk alone with God when we walk by the Father's revelational leading. Before we can do this we must give up our desire to be seen as right (correct) in the eyes of people. It is this desire that most hinders us in walking by the revelational leading of the Father. In the end, what the Father asks of us is to trust Him. In its purest sense, trusting the Father occurs without any outside evidence or support. Fortunately, the Father does not often ask us to go this far. Rather, He send brothers and sisters who will confirm, correct and encourage from their Christ-indwelt spirits. We must, however, be prepared to go alone with the Father if need be.
Right and Wrong
In the walk of revelational leading the issue of right and wrong is one of the most troubling elements we must deal with. Many (if not all) of the attributes of God and His working in this world are complex and deeper than anyone can ever fully know. We need to give up the hope that we will ever in this life (if ever even in eternity) know anything about the Father or His working completely. For this reason we will always encounter people who have understandings about the ways of God that are different from our own.
The confusing part about this is that two people with different views on an issue can both be right as far as they go. It is like the story of the blind men describing an elephant. Each of the blind men tried to describe the elephant by touching a different part of the animal. Naturally the man holding the tail had a different "truth" than the man holding the trunk. While both men had a piece of the picture that was true, neither had the whole picture nor could they, in their blindness, agree with each other.
The truth we must keep in mind when we "compare notes" on what God is showing us is that none of us has the whole story. The part you have is what is right for where you are and the part I have is right for where I am. We get in trouble when we start accusing one another of error or rebellion because we think that we have the lock on a particular topic. We all need a lot more practice in both heeding the voice of our intuition and in "agreeing to disagree."
Growth not Reputation
Revelation is not about right and wrong in the soul sense of the idea. When we become obsessed with being right or proving the other person wrong we have missed the point. The Father gives us the unique information that we, as individuals, need to live. We should never seek revelation from the Father so that we can have the reputation of being "the answer man" or for obtaining any office or position.
Due to our universally incomplete understanding of everything we should never seek to be an expert. Knowing is never a substitute for living. Life is always and forever the issue. This means that Christ is forever the issue. I could live my whole life in union with the Father through Christ and never know anything intellectually. I don’t have to be able to express what the Father shows me to live what the Father shows me. In fact, there are some people in this world who could make a very persuasive case that I could live better if I knew less intellectually. They are probably right.
What I know cognitively and the ability I have to express these understandings are a function of both my submission to the Father and His purpose for my life. If these writings have any merit whatsoever then it is because this is what the Father has for me to do. If I write out of obedience (and I pray that I do) then it is what the Father has shown me expressed as the Father has given me utterance. Simply put, this is a function of my living.
We all get into trouble when we feel the need to defend the understandings the Lord has given us. What we do when we act this way is to confess that we are allowing what we know to become who we are. I believe that it is because of this mistake that people get so hostile when their understandings are questioned or when different understandings are proposed. We easily forget that we are what the Father has made us—His children. This is our only true identity. We are not what we think or what we understand or even what we believe to be true. We are only the Father’s children.
Naked Before God
Being naked before God is probably one of the most uncomfortable images presented in the Bible. Yet this is one of the meanings and functions of revelation. The Greek word translated "revelation" is apokalupsis. This is the word from which we get our English word "apocalypse." The primary meaning of this word is "a laying bear, making naked". The purpose of revelation is to reveal something that was previously hidden: "that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly." (Ephesians 3:3)
The Father reveals truths to us so that we may come ever further and further into the light. If we are set on drawing near to the Father we are set on drawing near to the truth. This commitment naturally requires us to rely on revelation. We are bound to a course of revelation because we cannot discern the truth out of our own intellect. We can see this reality in the word Paul so often uses—"mystery." This word in the Greek is musterion which carries the understanding of something that is both unknown and unknowable. These are the deep mysterious things of God that no one knows except that the Father shows them.
It makes perfect sense that we should be taught primarily by the Father and that this teaching should come primarily through revelation. This is the secondary implication of the word apokalupsis—"a disclosure of truth, instruction". The Bible is clear and consistent on this point. The Father reserves to Himself the responsibility of instructing His children: "As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as the anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit - just as it has taught you, remain in him." (1 John 2:27)
The only time we need to be taught by men is when we refuse to listen to God. Please understand that this does not mean that we should never listen to anyone else. We have the wonderful opportunity in this life to encourage, inspire and confirm one another. The Father will even send people to us as His instruments to challenge us. What I believe John means in the verse above is that our primary instruction for moment by moment living most properly comes from the Father Himself. We only need the teaching of men when we fail to listen to the Father. Think of it. The teaching of men to correct us is a possibility, but if I will not listen to the Father what makes anyone think that they have the power to be more persuasive?
It is an error if we reject God’s instruction and run after the teaching of people for direction on how we should live or what we should do. As long as we keep the instruction and advice of other people in its proper place it will be a blessing for us. As long as we let other people inspire, challenge, confirm and encourage us we will do well. I think we should consider everything that people tell us. Consider it and take it back to the Father. Nothing can be bad if it pushes us to the Father. To temper this we should never accept or reject anything out of hand. We can, however, trust the Father’s leading in all things to show us the truth.
I would like to conclude this chapter by revisiting the key points as I see them in the area of revelation. I wanted to put these points together one more time because I see in revelation one of the greatest and yet unavailed of potentials in our spirit life. Further, it is in the area of revelation that I also see some of the gravest misunderstandings that plague God’s household. If we do not understand the mechanism of revelation correctly we will be hindered in walking in the daily provision and power that are naturally ours. The misunderstandings that exist today largely center around the differences between revelation and the spiritual gift of prophecy (visions, dreams, words from God, etc.).
Revelation is an attribute of every believer’s makeup. It is not a spiritual gift and it is not something that is conferred on people by a "laying on of hands" or any organizational mandate. Our ability to communicate with the Father is a God-given attribute of our makeup. Revelation is not a mystical skill learned by rigorous study or secret initiation. We have the ability to receive revelation in the same way that we can speak or see or hear or breathe. What we need to let God train us in is listening to His voice. Training is needed, however, we all have the ability.
Revelation is internal and comes to us through our Christ indwelt and enlivened spirit. Prophecy or visions are external and come upon the soul-mind from God acting outside of us. The "coming upon" aspect of prophecy makes it unsuitable for moment by moment living guidance. There is no evidence anywhere in the Bible that anyone ever relied on prophecy for daily guidance. Rather, prophecy was given in specific instances about specific conditions. In contrast, revelation is an ongoing, spontaneous communication between the child and our heavenly Father. This communication provides us with the understanding we need to function moment by moment. This is general knowledge that is widely applicable: "We know also that the Son of God has come down and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true - even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life." (1 John 5:20)
Revelation is individual and not corporate. We are not given revelation to "be somebody" or to have a ministry in any organization. The Father speaks to His children to guide and grow them. Revelation is a life issue not an issue of organizational position or gifting. While revelation is, in one sense, a deeply mystic working, it is not exclusive. I would love to demystify revelation—not to cheapen it but to enlarge its use. It is my wish that every child of God would come away from seeing revelation as a great, rare miracle bestowed only on select "super saints." Rather, I would love to see every child of God EXPECT revelation. It would be marvelous if the entire household of God would count on revelation and rely on this ongoing communication with the Father for their daily living. This level of relationship is available right here and right now—to every child in the Father’s house.
Finally, revelation is subjective and not objective. This is the greatest challenge we have in receiving revelational instruction. We cannot "prove" a revelation and we cannot defend such learning if it is challenged. All we can do in the revelational way of learning and guidance is to abide in and rely on the Father: "Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God." (1 Corinthians 1:22–24)
Personal (intimate, individual)
Via the Human Spirit
A General Attribute of God's Children
Used for Growth and Living
Normal Life Function
Corporate (impersonal, collective)
Specific, Situational Instruction
Via the Soul
Office / Specific Calling
For Given Situations and Conditions
Female Before God
What About Gender?
Gender is one of those issues that is prey to a great deal of confusion and controversy in our dealing with the spiritual. This is the same kind of confusion that we experience in issues such as race, nationality and social standing. It is because these areas are seen as having great significance in the soul understanding of living that this confusion arises. This is yet another instance of the confusion that is inherent in life because the understandings of people (soul understandings) are diametrically opposite from the Father's (spiritual) understandings (reality).
This is always an area of life that is fraught with great danger. Distinctions of gender, race and nationality are considered to have great significance in the world of physical/psychological understanding. These are issues that can produce intense emotional responses. Many people have very passionate feelings about these issues. It is for this reason that this is not an area that I particularly like to enter. I feel, however, that this is an aspect of our spiritual living that we must touch on if we are to have a clear and correct view of who we are in Christ.
When we look at any attribute of our living that has both a spiritual and physical/psychological component some caution is in order. If we are to correctly see attributes such as gender in a spiritual context we must make a distinction between the attribute’s physical and positional characteristics. Obviously, gender has a specific meaning in the physical world. There are males and females in all higher animals. Only a fool would try to convince anyone that these are not real, valid physical distinctions. Given this physical fact how do we explain statements like this: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28)?
This is not immediately clear, especially in the light of other statements the Bible makes such as: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." (Genesis 1:27) The only reconciliation there can be between verses such as Galatians 3:28 and Genesis 1:27 is that they are speaking of two different realms of existence or being. Genesis speaks to the nature of our physical creation. Galatians speaks to our status in the spiritual as children in the Father's house.
Sons and Brides
It was confusing to me for many years why the Bible refers to the children of God in two different gender metaphors: as sons and as brides. For instance: "I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him." (2 Corinthians 11:2) and again: "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus," (Galatians 3:26) I found this confusing for years—that the Father should seem to play so fast and loose with an issue of such importance as gender. If we are to be brides, does this mean that males are excluded from the Father's family? If we are sons are women not allowed? Obviously neither of these exclusions is real. So how are we both sons and brides? Moreover, what is God's view of gender and other such distinctions that loom so large in our world?
It is obvious that the Father is not nearly so taken with the idea of gender as are the people of the world. We should first see that there is a hidden agenda behind much of the promotion of the physical distinctions between us that are so frequently made by the people of the world. This hidden agenda is the attempt by people to use any and every distinction between groups of people to leverage some advantage for themselves. This is the same motivation that has been in play since the beginning of time. It is this attempt to dominate that powers feminism and chauvinism. The desire to dominate drives racism—white, black, Semitic, anti-Semitic and every stripe in between.
What we need to come to understand is that the Father does not use distinctions between groups or individuals to dominate. The Father’s point in using these kinds of distinctions is to identify the proper position of the players within His plan. A bride is not just a woman but also a person with a specific position in a family and in a society. The same is true for a son, a child and a father. As we progress through this discussion please keep this in mind. We are going to speak of these roles in terms of position and not in terms of physical distinction.
It Don't Matter
For purposes of clarification, we would do well to start our search with Paul's statements about worldly distinctions: "Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all." (Colossians 3:11) At the deepest and purest level of our being, we are ultimately defined by our association (or the lack of association) with Christ. This truth is consistent with our earlier assertions that our true identity is found in Christ—as God’s children.
Paul is careful to cover every distinction that is considered significant in the soul understanding of life. In Galatians 3:28 we are shown this. We have, in the spiritual, no racial or national distinctions (no Jew or Greek). There are no social or economic colorations (no slave or free). Finally, we have no gender distinctions (no male or female). All of our cherished differences come to nothing before Christ.
In this understanding we can see that our physical attributes—gender, nationality, race, etc. are insignificant. This will go down particularly hard with us if we have been heavily relying on these things to form our identity. If my concept of who I am is as a white male, this new way of understanding will be difficult to accept at first. It will take time for the Father to bring me around to see that I am first, last and always a child of God—nothing more, nothing less. This new identity is made even more difficult to accept if I have been trying to squeeze some personal advantage out of my physical situation.
The Bible, however, is completely clear and uncompromising on this point. Even beyond the statements made in Galatians 3:28 and Colossians 3:11, there is a foundational truth on which this position stands. This is the fact that Christ is all and all. "For he "has put everything under his feet." Now when it says that "everything" has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ." (1 Corinthians 15:27) A principle fact of reality is that Christ subsumes everything in this world. All the distinctions of the physical world are swallowed up in Christ.
It may seem presumptuous to some for me, a man, to be speaking on the subject of femininity in the spiritual realm. However, in speaking of spiritual femininity, a person's physical gender is of no particular consequence. This is so because being feminine in the spiritual sense is very different from being feminine in the physical sense. Being spiritually feminine is not about dealing with the "left brain" or "right brain." Spiritual femininity is not about being feeling oriented or logic oriented. It is this difference in what it means to be feminine in the physical and in the spiritual that causes a great deal of confusion within the Christian community not to mention the world at large.
When we hear the terms "male" and "female" the first aspect of life that comes to mind is gender. In the physical/psychological world this is the primary meaning of being male or female. To many people in the world this is the only thing that being male or female means. This physical orientation toward gender is what causes the confusion in our minds when we see "maleness" and "femaleness" referred to in the Bible. Why are all the children of the Father (men and women) "sons of God?" Why are we all espoused (as wives) to one husband, Christ?
Obviously, the Bible must be using these terms (sons and wives or brides) in a way that differs from the worldly way of referring to people in regard to gender. When the ideas of male and female are spoken of in the Bible as regards our relationship with the Father, this is a reference to our position and not our gender. This is why Paul can say in Galatians 3:28 that there is no such distinction as "male" or "female." In the spiritual there is no meaningful distinction based on gender or any other physical attribute.
A Genderless Society
If we wish to begin to see the place of femininity (or masculinity) in our relationship with the Father we must see male and female in a new way. The fact is that in the Father's house there is no gender with regards His children. This was first revealed by Christ: "Jesus replied, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven." (Matthew 22:29–30)
One of the things that marks both the children of God and the angels is that they have no sexuality (gender). I don't know exactly why this is except to know that sexuality is not needed by either the angels or the resurrected children of the Father's house. Sexuality (gender) is something that has its place in this physical world but not in heaven. When we get to heaven we will have relationships with everyone in our true, eternal state—as children (sons) of the same Father.
In the Father's house we will be in relation to the Father as sons. But we will also have the nature (position) of females. This is something that seems quite foreign to our minds now but it makes sense in a spiritual context. If we are to understand the concept of femininity as it applies to the spiritual dimension, we must look at this attribute of our makeup in terms of our nature and relationship to the Father.
Being Truly Female
The core of what it means to be female has been a casualty of the late twentieth century. This damage was done with the rise of the feminist movement and the decline in our attention to God and the things of God. More precisely, the damage done to femininity by radical feminism was not to womanhood directly but in the devaluing of feminine traits such as submissiveness and passivity. I don't believe that the feminist movement was all bad but one thing that came out of it was definitely a giant step backward.
In the rise of feminism the increased awareness of women's issues in the legal system, in health care and in society in general were, I believe, good things. There is no excuse for discrimination on the basis of gender just as there is no excuse for discrimination on any basis. This is that evil I spoke of earlier, namely the illicit attempt to leverage personal advantage based on physical traits. No one can claim any legitimate advantage over another based on the attributes we were born with. Who can claim responsibility for their gender, race or nationality? Who can claim that these things are signs of their superiority over anyone else? Such assertions as these are stupid, bigoted and childish.
The negative consequence of the feminist movement was the implication you sense at times in radical feminism that being female in the traditional sense of the term is "bad." What I mean by this is that in radical feminism the idea of the feminine position being submissive, passive and receiving (or dependent) is seen as degrading, weak and inferior. While these attributes of femininity can be (and have been) abused in male domination, they are not, in themselves, negative character traits. The evil in male domination is not the male part but the domination part. None of us, regardless of any of our physical attributes, is justified in dominating anyone else. Where radical feminism fails is that it tries to make women that are more masculine than most males. This is, to my mind, a greater dispersion of the beauty of being female than anything male domination has ever done.
The issues of passivity, submissiveness and dependence are only negatives when seen by a life that wants to "be somebody." We have been taught in the world to see these traits as weaknesses and things that we should avoid and drive out of our lives. Yet this is only true if we are trying to be the god of our own lives. The female position is in perfect natural harmony to the proper male who is God the Father. Every human being is capable of assuming a female spiritual role. We only balk at submission when we want to be the male of our own female (in charge of our own life).
Female Before God
The first fact to come to see in the issue of spiritual femininity has to do with our place in God's plan for His creation. The place for us in the plan of God is to be female to His male. This is the position for us that is in natural harmony with God's creative plan. If we are to let God be what He wants to be (what He, in fact, is), we must be in a female position to Him. This is what I alluded to earlier when I said that being female in the spiritual is a question of position and not of gender. Remember this is not an issue of sexuality but an issue of nature (position). When we accept this female position to God's male we can come to rest and peace because we are in harmony with the Father's intention for us in the creation.
God is the giver and to be in harmony with that nature we must be recipients (females). God is the active force in the universe. We must therefore be passive to that active force if there is to be peace in our lives and not tension. If we try to be a second active force operating along with God we will produce friction. This is true even if we are trying to be "active for God." God is the unalterable will in creation. If we are not to risk being in opposition to that active will we must be submissive and passive. Most fundamentally, the Father is the giver of true life and if we are to bear that life we must be submitted (feminine) in our relationship with Him.
We are created to fulfill the Father's desire for relationship. But for relationship to grow in healthy ways it must be in proper order. The proper order in a relationship deals with the parties to the relationship knowing their place relative to each other. For example, if I have a good friend and I impose on his friendship by moving into his house uninvited, the relationship will be strained if not destroyed. If I try to assume the role of father to his children, the relationship will similarly suffer.
The way the Father set up His creation was for us to be the female to His male. This completes the circle and establishes harmony in our lives. This is the only way that this harmony can be established. We have to shed all the old notions we have acquired about "proper position" if we are to receive this understanding. Remember, for centuries exhortations about keeping our proper place were perversions. These exertions were put out with the illegitimate motive of giving certain people an unfair competitive edge in life. From this abuse of the concept of proper position we have come to discredit the principle when it is only the motivation that was disreputable.
He and She
The reason we are spoken of in Scripture as both male and female is because we have both of these elements in our created makeup. I believe that this is shown from the creation of man: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." (Genesis 1:27) The phrase used in Genesis 1:27 is interesting in its apparent ambiguity.
The line ". . . male and female he created them." is ambiguous, or so it seems. Does the word "them" refer to Adam and Eve as two people, one being male and one being female? Or does it refer to humanity, with all its members being created with both male and female elements?
First, it is important to see that there is no part of the Bible that is ambiguous or poorly written. Only our lack of understanding or our lack of a willingness to receive revelation results in ambiguity. The Father has had the Bible written exactly as He wishes it to be written. I believe that the Father has both male and female elements in His makeup. For this reason, for us to be made in His image we must also all contain both of these elements. The only difference in the physical world is that some of us are outwardly (physically) female and some are outwardly male. These differences, however, are not of consequence in the spiritual dimension: "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:18)
In much of the game playing that goes on it the physical world we further cloud the issue of male and female. We have men trying to act manly and women trying to act feminine. What we really do when we try to accentuate our gender is to derive an illegitimate identity from our sexuality. We will never have, as our true identity, our physical gender. It is equally true that our true identity will never be derived from our race, nationality or social position. In such actions and ideas as these we obscure the real significance of masculinity and femininity. That real significance rests in the issues of receptivity, surrender and dependence.
Again, we can go back to the fact that in eternity there is no gender distinction. Because such distinctions do not exist in eternity we can see that these things are not of lasting (or real) importance. Physical sexuality is only of any significance while we walk in this (physical/psychological) world.
A Feminine Spirit
The debate that rages in some church circles today about God's gender shows a total lack of understanding about God and the spiritual realm. Further, this debate shows a total lack of understanding about what male and female nature is all about. This discussion is foolish because gender as we understand it in the physical world does not apply in the spiritual dimension. When God created us in His image we were created male and female. This tells us something very important about maleness and femaleness as it applies to the spiritual dimension.
In the very beginning of the Bible we see that the Father has both male and female attributes: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." (Genesis 1:1–2) In verse 1 the word "God" is the Hebrew word "elohiym" which is a noun in the male gender. In verse 2 the word "Spirit" is the Hebrew word "ruwach" which is a noun in the feminine gender.
There is an understanding given in the Bible that God has attributes or parts of His makeup that are male and other parts that are female. If you stop and think about it this has to be so. If God is all inclusive, how can there be a gender that is outside of His makeup? If God were all male or all female then He would not be omnipotent or omnipresent. It is because of this reality that arguments over God’s gender are absurd. Further, for us to be truly "made in the image of God" we must also have both male and female attributes.
The most basic part of our makeup that is spiritually feminine is our human spirit. I say that our spirit is female in nature because it was created by the Father to be a container. A container is passive and exists to receive. In human reproduction we can see an illustration of this. The female’s role in reproduction is to receive the seed from the male and to contain the developing child. Passivity and receptivity are traits of the feminine nature. Being a container is a feminine trait. Spiritually, we receive the seed of God (Christ) and contain that seed as it develops, producing the "us" that God intends that we be (individual representations of Christ).
When Adam was formed he did not have full functionality in his spirit. He had a functioning conscience (he could hear from God—Genesis 2:16–17). But Adam did not have fully functional fellowship or intuition because he did not have the life of God (zoe) as his life. Adam had a biological life and he had a soul-life (personality): "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." (Genesis 2:7—KJV) but he did not have God's life (spiritual or eternal life) The Father created Adam's spirit the way He did so that it could fulfill the purpose God intended for it—that it could contain the Father's life.
The word "life" used in Genesis 2:7 is the Hebrew word "Chey" and refers to creaturely or biological life. This word can be stretched to include psychological life but does not include God's life (or spiritual life). It was the Father's intention that the beings He created would eat of the tree of life and by this act get His life in them. This taking in of God's life would fully animate their human spirits and make them what the Father wanted them to be—His children. These would be children with functioning spiritual fellowship and intuition. These attributes would allow them to have life relationship with the Father. The children of God were to be dependent, receptive sons.
A Proper Bride
The metaphor of the bride is often used in references made to us as the church: "Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready." (Revelation 19:7) This is a powerful illustration of our proper place in the household and plan of God. If we are to grow in the understanding of this condition we must drop all thoughts of gender and consider the situation in terms of position.
What the Bible speaks of in our identity as the "bride of Christ" is a position of submission and dependency. As the children of God, we can only be in proper relationship with the Father as dependent children. In the biblical context, a bride is the marriage partner who is dependent on the husband for support, resource and protection. This is our proper position with the Father through Christ. It is only as we accept our bride position that we can stop trying to be the god of our own life.
We will have a struggle with this condition. This is almost inevitable because we have been steeped in worldly teaching that demands our independence. The world has always told us that being dependent is being inferior. It is a standard understanding in the world that if we are to be full, healthy adults we must be self-sufficient. We are supposed to stand our own two feet, be grown-up and independent. This entire teaching is based on a mistaken worldly understanding.
The terrible mistake in striving for self-contained independence is in assuming that we are capable of handling all situations. We need not go far in life before we are confronted by situations that are totally outside our resources to cope with. These may be illnesses—ours or a loved one, death, economic reverses, etc. If we are honest with ourselves we soon find that there are many things in this life that we are totally incapable of dealing with or controlling on our own. When this happens we must either admit to the reality of our need or sink into the delusion and deception of self-sufficiency.
In reality, being dependent is not an evil condition. The only danger in being dependent is in picking the wrong thing to be dependent on. Hopefully we can come to see that our reality is that we are dependent, not because we are weak or faulty but because this is the way we are made.
We can see from the way we are originally made, that we are created to be recipients of spiritual life—that is to say, spiritually female. This is why we can say that the Father's household is made up of feminine sons. This probably sounds quite strange and perhaps even insulting but this is only strange when we hear it with physical/psychological ears (worldly understandings).
The children of God's household are sons because this refers to our standing in His family. That is to say that we are full inheritors of the life and property of the Father: "So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir." (Galatians 4:7) But we are also feminine because we are, in our spirit nature, passive recipients and dependent for life and all things on the Father through Christ: "Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me." (John 15:4) In this way we are feminine—brides and wives.
The concepts we have from the physical world about what it means to be male and female are limited and tainted. These conceptions have certain appropriate applications in this world. But if we are to grow in our understanding of our relationship with the Father we must come beyond these understandings and applications. We must come to some understanding of the spiritual implications of "male" and "female."
This writing is not an endorsement of any kind of deviant behavior. When men act like women (or women like men) in any aspect of physical behavior, this is a great evil: "A woman must not wear men's clothing, nor a man wear women's clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this." (Deuteronomy 22:5) Ignoring or rejecting the physical differences between men and women is an evil and it is foolish. This is so because it degrades both the individual and the society. Further, this evil is not just limited to individual or societal ills. More importantly, such behavior blurs the correct differences between masculinity and femininity. These differences are foundational to our understanding of proper relationship between one another and between ourselves and the Father.
If we are ever to come to a deeper understanding and functioning of our relationship with the Father we must come to the spiritual understanding of "male" and "female." To limit ourselves to physical/psychological understandings of these important attributes of existence is to condemn ourselves to confusion. The proper appreciation of our spiritual nature is essential to our being grown by the Father to a place of living in harmony and peace.
On From Here
Living in the Spirit is as deep a subject as any human being can enter into. I cannot believe that I have done any more in this book than make the merest of superficial scratches of the surface of this topic. This is not an instance of humility (false or otherwise), it is merely realism. No one could ever hope to capture more than a sliver of the ocean that is human spirituality. It was never my aim or ambition to do more than provide a taste of the universe of possibilities and blessings that exist in the spiritual realm. It was my hope, however, to provide a "temptation" to all who will read this. This is a temptation to seek a deeper and richer personal relationship with the Father.
It is only in union with the Father that we can come into any true part of the world of human spirituality. The hard reality of the spiritual world is that without the life of the Father in our spirit we are not fully functional spiritual beings. Without the life of the Father activating our spirit we can only experience glimpses and soul generated counterfeits of the spiritual. Further, the only way we can have the Father’s life in us is by the agency of Christ. There is no other way to truly experience the spiritual realm.
I cannot hope to know what this experience will entail for each person who sets out on this journey of discovery. Such is the intensely personal nature of our spiritual relationship with the Father. I can, however, state categorically that each person on this planet has the opportunity to experience their own unique relationship with God. It is the greatest crime and sorrow of humanity that so many people have been convinced that they should be terrified of the possibility of drawing near to the Father.
The deeply suppressed but ever present sense of our failure to "measure up" to God's perfection keeps many of us from drawing near to the Father. This sense of inadequacy is fostered by the lies of the evil one from our flesh. This fear is further compounded by the agencies of the evil one such as humanism, self-centeredness and religion. All of these forces combine to convince us that we can never safely draw near to the Lord. Surely we will be destroyed if we come too near to God.
You Will Not Surely Die
If we will dare to take the Father at His word we can turn Satan's original lie back on himself. When the devil tempted Eve he falsely said that no harm would come from eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman." (Genesis 3:4). Through the wonderful gift of life in Christ, the Father has turned the tables on the evil one. What the world and religion try to tell us now is that if we dare to take and eat of the tree of life we will surely die.
I wish I had the powers of persuasion to tear this terrible falsehood down. When I get to thinking on this subject though, the Spirit constrains me. It is then that I realize that such powers would be a violation of our God-given free will. It is given to no one to convince you of the Father's spiritual truth. If you want to test the validity of the understanding I present here you must try it out for yourself. The most anyone can do is to show you the door, but you must walk through it yourself. The truth is clearly and abundantly shown in the Scriptures. You are at complete liberty to search them out but you must do this with the Father's leading and provision. You will never find God out of the exertions of your own intellect. God cannot be found for you by some institution or individual. The Father is found, rather, by all who seek Him.
We are told this plainly in the Bible: "Ask and it will be given to you; knock and the door will be opened to you." (Matthew 7:7) Moreover it was Christ’s purpose to seek the lost and to provide a means by which we could return to the Father: "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." (Luke 19:10) The restoration of personal spiritual relationship between you and I and the Father is what the entire creation has been about from before the world was formed.
In closing, I would like to briefly go back over what I see as the key issues in our human spirituality. These are the points of understanding that have most powerfully advanced my journey into the spiritual. I present them here to underline them but not to promote them as "a system." There is no system to seek the Father. Relationship is a part of life and life can only truly be lived spontaneously. Please only consider these things and let the Father show what He will of them as they pertain to you.
Faith and Surrender
There are two great aspects to our receiving spiritual life and walking in a continual growth and enjoyment of that life. These aspects are faith and surrender. Both of these concepts are largely misunderstood by humanity. At the outset we need to understand and keep in mind always that these are not things that we "do" as such. We are not charged by the Father to work up our faith or strengthen our belief. We do not "do" surrender. Faith is a gift and surrender is a decision. Neither of these things are actions.
Surrender is making the decision to be submitted to the Father's life operating as our life. The illustration of surrender from Scripture that is most powerful to me is the concept of "abiding." We are told to abide in Christ: "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me." (John 15:4—KJV) The branch does not purpose to abide in the vine, this is merely the natural state of the branch. In the same way, we will move forward in our spiritual life when we accept that our natural state is living in Christ. Once we are born again we have no other real life but Christ. This is why surrender is not something we do, it is something we decide or accept. When we surrender, we are deciding to allow the life of God through Christ to operate out of us. This happens moment by moment. In the same way faith is not an issue of effort on our part.
One of the greatest errors made by Christians is to waste their efforts in trying to do what God has either already done or is currently doing as a part of His rightful working. I spent a good deal of my Christian life trying to build up my faith so that I would be more pleasing to the Father. I don’t think that I am alone in having done this. The misunderstanding about faith is nearly universal in Christianity. This universal error in understanding the basic nature of faith is evidenced in the rendering of verse 2:20 in Galatians: "I have been Crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20) Every translation of the Bible except the King James mistranslates this verse. Note the King James rendering: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."
The common failure in properly understanding faith is seen in the word "of." It is not my faith in Christ but Christ’s faith operating out of me. This seemingly small point has huge implications in our successfully living in the spirit. Coming to see this is a giant step in coming to see how utterly dependent we are on the Father for all things.
The word "of" is the Greek word ek. This word is "a primary preposition denoting origin (the point whence action or motion proceeds)." This little word is the key to understanding this verse and the true nature of our faith. The truth is that we don't have any faith of our own once we are reborn. Because Christ is our only life, so He is also our only source of faith. We truly live by the faith of the Son of God. We cannot work up "our faith" and we cannot do anything to experience the operation of this faith beyond surrendering to the operation of the life of Christ in us.
Doing and Being
As we have spoken to before, we are really containers made to hold the life of God. It is because of this basic attribute of our spiritual design that our relationship with the Father is not primarily about doing. This is a truth that takes some time to accept and come to see in any clarity. We are so inured in doing that our actions subtly and deeply become our identity. When I share this understanding with people this is one of the areas that draws out the most passionate reaction and the most questions. "How can we go through life doing nothing?" is a question I often get asked. People also wonder what constitutes proper doing.
The key to understanding this truth is in seeing our actions in a new way. We are not what we do; we do what we are. Life is not a question of doing or not doing. Life produces doing. It is not necessary to try to do things, as living beings we will automatically produce actions. Where we get confused is when we try to make ourselves something out of our doing. This will never succeed. In fact, this is the essence of what it means to be a phony. A phony is someone who acts in a way that is contrary to their true nature. This is what the religions of men continually try to get people to do. Religion, in many ways (often unintentionally) actually forces people to be phonies by encouraging us to act in artificial ways. Religion most often does this by exhorting people to try to live in ways we were never equipped for.
In religion we are instructed to act rightly so that we can become right. Yet in our own resource we are incapable of right actions: "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away." (Isaiah 64:6) This is one of the principle reasons why religion forces people to be phonies.
If you are not right to start with you can never act right: "Who can bring what is pure from what is impure? No one!" (Job 14:4) Doing never produces living. Again, proper doing proceeds out of proper life. Every born again believer has the proper life in them from the moment they are reborn. All that remains is for us to make the decision to let that proper life flow out of us as the expression of our living. What religion fails to understand is that only the Father can make us "right." Further, this correctness that comes from God is not dependent on appearances: "He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things - and the things that are not - to nullify the things that are," (1 Corinthians 1:28)
I have long maintained that religion is the single greatest force working against the growth of human spirituality in this world. Remember that I use the word "religion" to refer to the attempt by people to draw near to God by their own exertions. Religion is the most malignant perversion of spirituality that was ever conceived.
Religion is not the institutions of men; the buildings, the rites and rituals, the pastors, priests and trappings of institutional church. Religion is a mindset and a belief system. I could care less if you go to a church building or if you support some organization. These things, in themselves are physical manifestations of this world and as such, are temporary and passing. Only each individual can decide for themselves if the Father wants them to fellowship in these settings. Religion, on the other hand is a way of seeing God and ourselves through external efforts and reputation. Without a doubt, many of the organizational church institutions practice and promote religion but the institutions and the people who support them are not the enemy.
In all areas, religion is the polar opposite of the working of spirituality. Religion is an external activity that is done for external appearance. People are religious to please God out of their own efforts, to be seen as good and to feel good about themselves. Compare this to the spiritual which is internal. The spiritual seeks to be in harmony with the internal and eternal goodness that is the Father. Spirituality has no reputation and is hidden: "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness." (Philippians 2:6–7) The good that is done in the spirit is not done for recognition but it is done to be in harmony with the Father. The spiritual has no reputation of its own. The spiritual is entirely wrapped up in the Father and His life.
It is one of the enduring spiritual truths that religion and its promoting institutions are worldly and destined not to endure. If the various religious institutions and denominations were "of God" we would expect them to be a part of the renewed universe that the Father will make. But we see that this is not so: "I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple." (Revelation 21:22)
Whether or not you choose to associate with or support some organizational church institution is a matter between you and the Father. I don't advocate the tearing down of any man-made institution. As a spiritual being, man-made institutions, in themselves, are of only marginal interest to me. What I most strongly promote is this: you will do great harm to your spiritual journey if you let any man-made organization dictate how you are to seek the Father. No religion, organization, institution, group or individual may legitimately control or restrict your seeking the Father. If you will keep this in mind, no church institution can ever harm your spiritual growth. In this way the religions of men will become what they should be in your life—an irrelevance.
Spirit Knowing—Dividing Soul and Spirit
Among the most confusing aspects of the spiritual journey is the division of soul and spirit. It is all too easy for us to be shunted off into an intellectual/emotional pursuit of God. This is what happens when we stop trusting the Father for our total provision and start looking to other people or to our own exertions: "Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?" (Galatians 3:3) The term translated in the NIV as "human effort" is actually literally rendered "the flesh."
We are either in the spirit or in the flesh. If we move our focus off complete reliance on the Father operating out of our spirit we will default to the flesh. There is no third option. This is one of the single greatest "leaps of faith" we are asked by the Father to make. Are we to take our instruction from men (or from our own intellectual activity) or do we primarily trust in the Father's direct teaching? This is a point where it is especially critical for us to rely heavily on the Father. This is so because of the subjective nature of revelation and intuition and because we will experience a great deal of resistance from the world in walking this way. The institutions (and not a few individuals) in the world derive great power over people's lives through the control of knowledge.
Controlling how and what people think produces a great deal of power in the controller's life. This is one of the main reasons why the message of freedom in Christ is met with such fierce hostility. Most of the activity that goes on in the world (both secular and religious activity) is over the hearts and minds of people: "cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; and the bodies and souls of men." (Revelation 18:13) Remember, the soul is the seat of the mind, will and emotions.
It is instructive to note that this portion of Revelation is about the fall of Babylon. Babylon is a biblical symbol of false spirituality. The purpose of the false and misleading ideas about the nature of our spirituality in religion and the rest of the world is slavery. These worldly forces seek to imprison us so that we can be made into a captive work force. The bottom line goal of the world's institutions is to divert people into supporting them and their agendas. The most important aspect of this enslavement is controlling the hearts and minds of people.
This is one of the most critical differences between God and the world. The world seeks to control your mind. God seeks to set your mind free. God only wants you to come to a knowledge of the truth (Himself). The human "leaders" and institutions of this world want to make you a follower of their agenda or plan. This is, in fact, slavery. It is for this very reason that the Father has ordained that your teaching can be (if you choose) between you and Him alone: "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus," (1 Timothy 2:5) and again, "No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the Lord, "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." (Jeremiah 31:34)
I am here to proclaim to all who do not know it and to encourage and confirm this to those who already know this: the time spoken of in Jeremiah 31:34 is now. This is not some blessed future state but is the living and active truth of today. The direct personal teaching of the Father is available to every person who wants it right now.
Revelation and Intuition
It is through the functioning of revelation and intuition that we are taught directly and personally by the Father. As I have spoken of earlier, this is not a rare occurrence that is only for some super-spiritual elite. This is the offer made to each and every born again child of God. All that is needed is the life of Christ operating in your spirit (to activate the intuition) and a willingness to learn.
It is only through the operation of the Father's revelation on our intuition that we can truly know anything. Intellectual knowing may or may not be true. What we know from the world is potentially mistaken, deceptive and incomplete. The only intellectual knowing we can trust is the soul-mind knowledge that is based on and confirmed by the spiritual knowing of our intuition. This intuitional knowing can only come from the Father by revelation. This kind of knowing is something that the Father offers to every child in His household personally and continually.
For the full operation of this aspect of the spiritual life we are going to need a willingness to be deeply dependent on the Father's care and provision. God may show us things that we cannot objectively prove. We will probably be shown some things that are objectionable or offensive to certain people or organizations. In this part of our walk we may find encouraging brothers and sisters few and far between. With a general lack of support from the physical world we can quickly be beaten down and pushed back into worldly, religious living if we are not focused on the Father. This is where the truths of the Bible and the Father's gentle encouragement are very important.
Only in Christ
The last critical fact is Christ. This is the central fact of our spiritual walk. It is only by accepting Christ into your life to be life for you that any spiritual journey is possible at all. Every person must come to a decision on this basic central point. The world makes many claims of finding a spirituality in all kinds of places. Each of us must decide whether or not we are going to accept or reject any of these claims.
My belief in Christ as the true source of living human spirituality comes from the Bible. If you cannot accept the reality of Christ then you must dismiss the entire Bible. The Scriptures are uncompromising on this point: "Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) And again "he who has the Son has life, he who does not have the Son does not have life." (1 John 5:12) Without Christ, you are not possessed of a fully functional human spirit and therefore you cannot hope to have any kind of a living, growing spiritual experience.
From the other end of the spectrum, it is only Christ that you need. I reject all claims by religion and the organizations of men that we need Christ plus "something else." We do not need good deeds or works of service, miracles, Christian fellowship, church building attendance or anything else. These things may be nice and they may even be in obedience to the Father's plan for your life. But they are not necessary. Only Christ is necessary. Further, Christ is received only by accepting the finished work of Christ by faith: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8–9)
You can only be set free to come to the full potential that the Father desires for you by seeing Christ as totally and completely sufficient "Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all in all." (Colossians 3:11) To add anything at all to the work of Christ is to make God out to be a liar. Either God is all sufficient or He is nothing. Worse, if God is not all sufficient then He is not to be trusted because He tells us that He is all we need: "And God is able to make all grace abound to you so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." (2 Corinthians 9:8) The Father tells us that He not only supplies all things but that He gives all things freely. Remember, grace is unmerited favor—unearned and unearnable.
Walking Not by Sight
In conclusion, the transition from being a physical/psychological being to become a spiritual being is a huge move. We need to be willing to see the world around us in an entirely new way. This is a change in our lives that takes a commitment to trust the Father and to walk with Him. The spiritual journey is a life-long learning experience. We need to be willing to be submitted to the Father's Lordship in our life.
There is a certain false sense of security in trusting what we can see, touch and understand. This is, however, only a false confidence. Remember, everything you see in the physical world is passing away. Nothing we see here will endure. Either it will pass away or we shall. In any event the situations and circumstances we see today will be different tomorrow. In such a state of flux we can have no real peace and rest. The people who rely on their circumstances in the physical/psychological world are living in a dream reality. While this may be pleasant for a time, waking up is both unpleasant and inevitable.
If you are driven to find something better, if you can't shake off the feeling that there must be more to life than what you see, you are ready. This book has been written in the hope of inspiring and encouraging the people who are not willing to settle for the status quo. This applies equally to both the unsaved seeker and the born again child of God trapped in religion and organized church. We all have the same marvelous opportunity—to know and experience God personally and intimately as our Father. This opportunity is available to us here and now—not in some distant future paradise: "Come all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost." (Isaiah 55:1)