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, unless otherwise noted.
Copyright © 1999
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.
This work is dedicated to all the brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world who have come to the knowlege of Christ as their only life. They know the value of the life that is real life and have proven this knowledge with their deeds and not just in words.
"Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."
(1 John 3:18)
Introduction—The Issue is Life
Humanity in the late twentieth century has littered the landscape of our thinking with issues. The situation is the same no matter which aspect of our lives you look at. The business environment, our schools, our government and the institutional church all share this condition. We are daily inundated with a torrent of "issues". In the crush of our daily living we rarely stop to ask the obvious questions: "Why are there so many issues?" and perhaps more importantly: "Is there a critical central issue, and if so, what is it?"
Is our world really so much more complex now than at any other previous period in human history? Is our living so much more complicated or are we so much more the "deep thinkers" that we seem to have so many more issues confronting us? I cannot believe that these things are so. True, our technology is more complex than any other that has been devised. But does a complex technology make for a complex world?
Technological complexity does not, I believe, necessarily make for a complex world in human terms. No, I believe that we are fundamentally the same creatures we were in Eden. We have the same wants, needs, desires and gifts that the Father originally endowed Adam and Eve with. You do not make Adam a different creature by giving him an electron microscope. The failure to see the distinction between human issues and technical issues comes from our general ignorance about what really constitutes "life".
I firmly believe that there is only one issue in human existence. If you can get a firm hold on this central issue, all the other issues come into focus and their place in our lives becomes clear. This one central issue is life. If we can come to see clearly the truth about life and what makes up real life, every other issue in our lives becomes comprehensible. This does not mean that these issues are resolved the way we thought they should be resolved. But it does mean that we understand the proper place of these issues in our daily living. But this we can see what is important and what is not.
In the sight of God there has only been one real issue for humanity throughout all of the ages. This is the issue of life. This must be so because life is the one foundational issue in all that we as human beings do. Without life there is nothing else. Without life none of our activities count for anything. This includes all our achievements, all our striving, suffering, joy and toil. If you do not have life you do not (and cannot) have anything.
It may sound strange to say that people need life. But just as there are different types of biological life—plant life, animal life, etc., there are different types of human life. The physical world is a reflection of the spiritual world that underlies it. Just as tree life differs from dog life, so does human biological life differ from human soul life and human spiritual life. We will discuss the different kinds of human life in greater detail later. For now, it is sufficient to say that not every biologically living person is spiritually alive.
The answer to the central problem of our proper understanding and appreciation of this foundational, critical and central issue rests in our allowing God the Father to teach us fourth dimensional (spiritual) understanding. The ability to see things in their true reality is a spiritual issue. The worldly (physically orientated) person sees and understands the things in their life as primarily intellectual and physical. Thinking that is bounded by physical and psychological existence I will refer to as third dimensional thinking (understanding, seeing, etc.). Thinking, seeing and understanding that includes a spiritual component I refer to as "fourth dimensional". This is to say that people who restrict their thinking to the third dimensional view (physical and mental existence) see reality as defined by the bounds established by physical law and human psychology.
With a third dimensional view and understanding, the spiritual side of reality is unknown and unknowable. A physical/psychological view of reality can, at best, only see the spiritual as a sub-component of existence. To the physically oriented mind, the spiritual side of reality is a side show in life. The spiritual is something that, to the worldly minded person, we can take or leave as we choose. The spiritual side of reality is seen by this mentality as something that is, at best, subsidiary to "real" (physical/psychological) life.
Further, in such a physical view the true nature of any issue is unknown and unknowable. This is best illustrated in the efforts in theoretical physics to define the unified field theory. Unified field theory is, very basically, the attempt to define, in mathematical terms of one unified equation, the connection between the physical forces that operate the physical universe—gravitational forces, nuclear forces, chemical forces, electrical forces, magnetic forces. Many notable physicists have tackled this problem but none has succeeded. I will make the bold prediction that, in the end, no one will ever totally define this concept in a single mathematical equation.
I can make this bold statement because what the scientists are attempting to do, perhaps without fully knowing it, is to define God mathematically. The problem with science is a good illustration of what is wrong with all third dimensional human thinking. That problem is the exclusion of the spiritual component of reality. This is a problem because the spiritual component that is the fundamental component of existence. Without taking the spiritual into account, any attempt at understanding reality will be, at best, only partly successful. And in understanding reality, partial success is failure.
The physical world we see is founded on a spiritual reality. We can see from the Bible's account of creation that this is so: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." (John 1:1–3) Of course, for any of this to make sense you have to accept the truth of the Bible's account of things. This is my position and will be the foundational assumption of this book.
This is an acceptance and not a total understanding. You do not need total understanding of the Bible's teaching to understand reality and life. In fact, no one will ever have anything even approaching a full understanding of the truth contained in the Bible. The Bible is a window into the mind of God and, as such, can never be fully comprehended. Fortunately, we don't need a full understanding of the Bible. What we need is the understanding that the Father knows that we need. Comprehending the mysteries of the Bible comes only through revelation by the Father. So we are entirely obliged to walk with and trust God for this knowledge.
The first truth that comes out of the Bible account of reality is that the physical universe arose from a spiritual source. The entire physical creation came from God who is spirit. This fact places the spiritual part of reality above the physical part in importance. The other compelling evidence from the Bible of the superiority of the spiritual over the physical is the fact that the spiritual is eternal while the physical is temporal. Even science must recognize that the earth and everything in it had a beginning in time and will, eventually, have an end. The Bible is clear that this is not so with God: "Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal." (Isaiah 26:4) Further, the Bible recognizes this difference between the physical and the spiritual generally: "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)
Life Issues—Psychology and Philosophy
The other approach to life that people may take is the psychological or philosophical approach. We may reject the purely physical view of reality for an understanding that centers on mental ideals and activities. "I think, therefore I am." was the most succinct statement of this view anyone has ever come up with. People may consider this a loftier or more sophisticated understanding of reality but in the end it too must fall short of the total picture.
While thinking, reasoning and dreaming are certainly higher mental activities that set humanity apart from the rest of living things, these activities do not constitute the essence of reality. In fact, the deification of human intellectual activity is the outcome of the attempt to be the god of our own lives. This is not an example of deeper existence but just another exercise in human pride. Indeed, in many cases our pride has its beginning and ending in what we know or what we understand.
In reality all human understanding is limited. The sad evidence of the limitations of human thinking are scattered throughout history. The human race has, from earliest times, tried to intellectually understand our environment. We have also tried to use that understanding to manipulate that environment to our advantage. The disasters that have come out of these attempts are a testimony of the incomplete nature of our understanding.
When we look to the psychological and intellectual for the completion of our understanding of life we are confronted by our own limitations. We know nothing completely. If we believe that we know completely we are only practicing self deception: "The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know." (1 Corinthians 8:2) Such a failure to realize that our intellectual knowing is limited comes from a misplaced identity. Many people feel that their worth comes from what they know or understand. With such a concept of self worth we cannot bring ourselves to see that we do not know as we "ought to know."
The Bible and Human Knowledge
The issue of human knowing is one that the Bible deals with in some detail. The Father gave us a mental capacity that is unique in the animal kingdom. This uniqueness gives our intellectual capacity a huge potential for raising pride. This pride in our human intellectual capability arises because we do not, within ourselves, know what we don't know.
This may sound stupid but it is our downfall in intellectual matters on most occasions. We can see this most graphically in children. When we learn something it is natural for us to make the mistake of thinking that our knowledge is total. It takes years of bitter experience to find out that there is an ocean of understanding existing beyond what we know.
This is seen most clearly when we consider the Father's understanding: "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 2:11) We have no understanding of God apart from God. There is no part of the Father's understanding that we can come to unless the Father brings us to that knowing.
So we can never come to any understanding of the true and complete nature of reality apart from God. We are once again pushed back to the spiritual element of reality. Apart from an appeal to the Father and a surrender to His working in our lives we can know nothing about the true nature of reality. This is an issue that goes beyond salvation. It is not in religion, ritual or doctrine that we avail ourselves of the Father's instruction. This will not come by Bible study nor is it found in seminary (any more or less than it is found in the supermarket, on the job or anywhere else).
No, the issue is life and further, it is about the life that is real life. There is only one issue in our existence on this planet and that is about real life. Real life is about living as God the Father created us to live. This is living by the life of God in us through Christ as our only life. All the other "issues" in our lives are really only symptoms of the one great issue—life. No matter how we wiggle or twist, the things that happen in our lives and world reduce to this one point. We are either to choose life or death.
It is in the aspect of choosing that I come to write this book. If life were just something that happens to us there would be no point in understanding any of this. It would gain us nothing to understand about reality if we could do nothing about how our lives are lived.
This powerless state is the only conclusion that the purely physical view of life can offer. If reality consists of nothing more than physical objects being acted upon by physical forces then we are totally without hope. In this "reality" we are just objects being influenced by the laws of nature and random chance. If this is the case we are better off committing suicide and avoiding any further investment in a pointless existence.
But this hopeless condition is not our reality. We have been given the wonderful opportunity to make a huge fundamental difference in our own existence. We have been endowed by the creator with the opportunity to determine the quality of our existence. This is an opportunity not to do something or even to learn something. It is the opportunity to choose something. And in our choosing the Father's life we can, by that life, become what God intended that we be—His children. For this reason the proper understanding about reality and life is an issue without equal in importance in our lives.
Not one of us is powerless in this universe. Every person has the ability, and more, the necessity to choose the quality of their life. This is a choice that no one can take away from you. No one can make the choice for you and no one but you can be responsible for that choice. The Father has empowered us more deeply than anyone can fully know. The depth of this empowerment can be glimpsed in the fact that each of us must choose. There is no circumstance of nationality, economic condition, race, talent or ability that can abridge this power of choice.
The choice comes to each one of us. I can only reiterate the admonition that comes from the Father through the Scriptures: "This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life," (Deuteronomy 30:19–20a)
- Chapter 1
Life in Three Forms
What is Real?
In order to discuss a topic with any degree of confidence we must have a foundation for our understanding that is secure and true. The most fundamental basis that we can have for our perceptions is a correct understanding about what constitutes reality. This is a concept that philosophers have debated and probed for centuries. The true nature of reality is the basis of a correct understanding of our existence. In the end, it is up to each person to decide for themselves what really constitutes reality. That is to say, each of us must form an understanding of what makes something real.
There is one critical ground rule we must raise at this early stage of our search. The pursuit of an understanding of reality can only be healthy and profitable if we recognize that true reality is an objective concept. We cannot legitimately view reality as "the reality we choose to accept." Many people in the world treat reality this way. In the end, this approach to the subject of reality results not in understanding but in self deception. Reality is not an opinion or a product of wishful thinking; it is what is.
To be more precise, reality is not just what is but it is what is forever. This is why the person without some acceptance and understanding of the spiritual can never fully grasp what is truly real. Reality can be seen in at least three levels of understanding. The most superficial of these levels is what exists physically. Physical existence is, in the immediate sense, what is real. But this is not a foundational understanding of reality.
The next level of understanding reality is in the intellectual. The question must be confronted and answered: 'Is my reality a product of my ideas and understandings?' I do not believe that this can be so in any absolute or objective sense. It should be obvious to anyone that we are each individual in our thoughts and understandings. If the intellectual were the basis of reality then reality would have to be subjective. Reality would then be what we think it is instead of what it really is. No one has a sufficiently complete understanding to be able to base reality in a true and total sense on intellectual grounds.
Reality, real reality, must be more than physical existence or intellectual understanding. This is so because what we see around us in the physical will pass away. And if it passes away, where then is our reality? And our understanding is too limited to even approach encompassing all of reality. No, the reality that is true must be able to go beyond the present moment and our individual limitations. Reality, to be absolute must have the elements of absolute endurance and be all encompassing. Absolute endurance can only be eternal. An all encompassing understanding must be omniscient. So the reality that is total must endure for all time and include all things. The reality that is absolute must be eternal both in endurance and in scope. This, of course, describes only one being in all creation—God.
In the end, reality is God. The total of all things, all understandings and all truth is God, the Father. This is why the search for reality is doomed to failure if the spiritual is not considered. To seek for the truth about existence apart from God limits the searcher to some component of reality and not the total of reality itself. The physical universe is part of reality but it is not reality itself. The thoughts, emotions and understandings of humanity are likewise part of reality but not the sum total of what is real.
To go beyond these components of reality to the basis of all truth and reality we must eventually seek God. This is why the spiritual part of reality cannot be overlooked without dooming ourselves to failure in the effort to understand the reality of our existence. This is why a relationship with the Father is imperative to being able to successfully do anything: "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)
The Bible has always been quite clear on this point. If we ever hope to accomplish anything of lasting (real) value we must do it through the Father. The only way we can do anything through the Father is by having the Father's life in us. This is what is meant by "If a man remains in me and I in him," This is why the issue of life is so important to being all we are capable of being.
The First Level of Life—Biological Life
What applies to reality in general must also apply to life. The life that is real life must be one that endures through all time. This is so because eternal life is a component of true (or eternal) existence. As it turns out, there are three attributes or levels to human life. In the New Testament Greek three different words are used to refer to "life." Surprisingly, the kind of life that most of us recognize as "life" is not considered in the Scriptures as "real life." That is to say, the Bible does not consider this attribute of human life to be of great significance.
This first or most elemental level of human living is referred to by the Greek word "bios." The bios level of living is physical, biological living. An example of this word in the Scriptures is found in 1 John 2:16: "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." (KJV) This is what is commonly understood as life among most people. But this type of life is seen in the Bible as being entirely secondary to other levels of human living. We can see this in the number of times this word is used to refer to life in the Scriptures.
The word "life" appears in the New Testament of the Bible 188 times (King James Version count). Of all these occurrences of the word "life" bios is used only five times. From this fact we can see that, from the viewpoint of Scripture, biological life is the least important aspect of human living. This is not to say that the Father is unconcerned about the state of our physical bodies. People are often put off that the Bible seems so unconcerned about our physical existence. We are especially put off because we consider this aspect of our living to be so important. But this concern is misplaced.
The Father is far from unconcerned about our existence in the physical. The testimony to this concern rests in the fact that He sent His own Son into the world in a physical body. The physical life of Christ as Jesus was a key part of the Father's plan and was a "processing" of God on our behalf: "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-- yet was without sin." (Hebrews 4:15) One of the key elements of Christ's earthly life was to share our experience of physical existence.
Our Father knows our physical existence and our weaknesses, joys, needs and limitations. What is indicated by the de-emphasis of biological life in the Bible is an understanding of relative importance. Biological life is transitory and is, therefore, of less importance than the other levels of human life. The ordering of importance based on the difference between the transitory and the eternal is a recurring theme in the Bible. This is no less true for the issue of life: "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)
In this verse from Matthew we can see that the physical or biological part of life is temporary and was meant to be only a passing phase. The connotation in the Greek word "bios" [bee'-os] shows this transient aspect of biological life. This Greek word carries the idea of ". . .1a1) the period or course of life. . ." It should be obvious that the more important part of our existence is the part that continues for all time. And this eternal attribute is found in the remaining two levels of human life.
The Second Level of Life—Soul Life
The first level of human life that carries an eternal attribute is the "soul" level of life. This is represented in the New Testament by the Greek word "psuche." Psuche is used some 40 times in the New Testament in reference to human life. This same word is used 58 times to refer directly to the soul. This word is the root of the English word Psychology and refers to the part of us that we commonly call our personality. Our soul is the seat of our mind, will and emotions. It is the soul part of us that makes us the unique individuals we are. These attributes of the human soul are seen in one of the colorations of the Greek word "psuche" [psoo-khay']: ". . .2a) the seat of the feelings, desires, affections, aversions. . .".
The soul portion of our human life is the part of us that results in our ability to reason (think), have and expres s emotions and exercise free will. This part of our life is very important to our functioning in the plan of God. This importanbce can be seen in that our soul was implanted in us by the Father at the creation: "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) The biblical account of life considers having a soul as being synonymous with being alive as a human being. In this we can see that the Father considers our soul to be quite important to our living.
The soul-life part of our human existence differs from the biological portion in two important ways. The first of these differences is that the soul-life portion of our existence is non-physical. While we can clearly see the evidence of the existence of our personalities, we cannot dissect the soul. You will never be able to isolate the soul in the laboratory. Yet, few if any of us would deny the existence of the human soul.
The second difference between the body and the soul is in the area of endurance. The Bible is very clear that the human soul is eternal. We note in Matthew 10:28 that no person can touch anyone else's soul. The human soul is, from a physical standpoint, indestructible. In the use of the word 'psuche' itself this point is also made. Another connotation of this word in the Greek is ". . .2c) the soul as an essence which differs from the body and is not dissolved by death (distinguished from the other parts of the body). . ."
The term used in Matthew 10:28 for 'destroy' does not speak of causing something to cease to exist. This word (apollumi) rather refers to consigning something to eternal misery in hell. Many people hold to the mistaken idea that we have no part that is eternal for this very reason. The unredeemed person would rather cease to exist than to face the fate the Bible warns will come to all those who will not turn to God.
The Third Level of Life—Spirit Life
Now we come to the last and highest level of living. This level is like the soul-level of life in that it is both non-physical and eternal. The human spirit is that part of our creation that the Father designed to allow us to have relationship with Him. Our spirit part is the seat of our intuition, fellowship and conscience. These are all attributes that allow us to relate with God. It was for this purpose that the Father created us with a spirit part: "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)
I believe that the Father creates each human being with a spirit part for two reasons. The first reason is that the word "spirit" in both the Old and New Testaments is closely coupled with the concept of life. In the Hebrew the word for spirit is ruwach [roo'-ahk] which carries the idea or connotation of breath. This word is used to describe the ". . .1d) spirit of the living, breathing being in man and animals. . ."
In the New Testament Greek the word for spirit is pneuma [pnyoo'-mah]. This word carries the same connotations in the Greek as the word ruwach carries in the Hebrew. This is the word which forms the root of our English word 'pneumatic' referring to air, wind or breath. This Greek word also speaks to a vital life force: ". . .2) the spirit, i.e. the vital principle by which the body is animated .. ." In both the Hebrew and the Greek the words for "spirit" indicate a basic component of living things. The word itself is neutral and is always defined as to what type of spirit, exactly, is being referred to—Spirit of God, spirit of man, evil spirit, unclean spirit, spirit of stupor, etc.
The second reason that we were created with a spirit part was to fulfill the plan of God for the creation. God's plan was to create a family of children who were birthed by His life (Spirit) being placed in them to be their life. Further, these children of God were to receive His life by the operation of God's love and their own free will.
Because the Father's plan for His creation centers around the birthing of a family, the creatures who are the candidates for this birthing must have the ability to choose God and to then receive His life (Spirit). In the fulfillment of this plan humanity had to have a part in their makeup that could contain the Spirit life of God. This container is our human spirit.
This type of life is referred to by the Greek word zoe [dzo-ay']. This word carries the understanding of: ". . .2a) the absolute fullness of life, both essential and ethical, which belongs to God, . . " Zoe life is the life of God and is the true and absolute expression of life. The Father is the author of all life and therefore, it is natural that His life should be the ultimate expression of all that can correctly be called 'life'.
Many people may agree with the above statement but also hold to the belief that the life of God is unattainable by humans. Such a belief is not consistent with biblical teaching. The word zoe is used to refer to life 133 times in the King James New Testament. Many of these references speak to this God-life being available to people: "For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life (zoe) to all those you have given him." (John 17:2, parenthesis added by the author).
The whole purpose of the Father in creating the universe was to this end. As we have said before, what God has always wanted was a family of children who carry His life (zoe) in them as their only life. This is the central truth of creation along with the acceptance of the fact that the placing of God's life in us is done through Christ. These two facts make up both the what and how of reality.
Living Yet Not Alive
If we can allow the Father to show us the truth of His plan and purpose for creation we can see how people can be alive at one level of human existence but dead at another. This goes back to what we spoke of earlier about reality and perception. When we are open to the Father's revelation of the true nature of reality, the things in our lives start to become clear. When we see that the purpose of the creation is the creation of a family of birthed children for God we can see how people do not become spiritually alive until the Father animates our spirit with His Spirit.
The unredeemed person is certainly alive biologically. They are also, just as obviously, alive psychologically. But bios life and psuche life are not the total sum of living. Without the animation of the human spirit by the Spirit of God a person is stone dead at the most fundamental level of living—spiritually. As we spoke of earlier, because the ultimate level of reality is spiritual, the person that is spiritually dead is dead indeed. Without spiritual life there is no eternal hope and there is no possibility of experiencing or expressing true goodness.
The hard truth of life is that without the spiritual life of God there is no good thing in a person's life. We have this from the best possible authority—Jesus Christ. Jesus made it very clear that apart from the Father there is no good: "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good -- except God alone." (Luke 18:19) Without a spirit life whatever other life we may think we have is at best, incomplete life.
- Chapter 2 -
We can only know or understand things intellectually through the operation of contrast. I understand darkness only as compared with light, I only conceptualize goodness as it is shown against evil. Because our minds work this way the Father provides contrasts so that we can come to understand His plan and desire for us. Indeed, the Father created our minds in this way.
The recurring theme in the Bible is the one central and foundational contrast of creation—the contrast between life and death. This is the only choice that can start us on the path to relationship with the Father and to true life. In fact, all the other choices we will ever make ultimately come out of the choice we make to seek either life or death. And this is not the straight forward choice we may think that it is. Every person who reads this will probably say 'What kind of a moron would choose death?'
The surprising answer to this seemingly simple question is: 'Many have chosen death and continue to do so.' By not seeking and receiving the Father's instruction on the true nature of life, we seek death. Adam did this in Eden and humanity continues to make the same mistake to this day. This continues even in the face of all the signs the Father has given to point us to the truth.
This is why it is so important to understand the truth about life from the outset. As we have spoken about earlier, there are different levels of human living but only one that leads to real life. It is for this reason that many millions of people every day choose the path that leads to death. And it is to this end of helping us choose real life that the Father provides the great contrast presented in the Bible—the contrast of life and death.
The entire Bible contains only two gospel messages. The one is the law, given through Moses, and the other is the gospel of Christ. Surprisingly Christ, as Jesus of Nazareth, never proclaimed His own gospel. If you study the first four books of the New Testament (commonly called "the gospels") you will not find any gospel referred to as the "gospel of Christ". The word 'gospel' only appears nine times in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. 2 times it is used to refer to the gospel of the kingdom and seven times simply as 'the gospel'. Jesus never claimed to have a message about Himself: "If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid." (John 5:31)
Whenever Jesus was asked what was necessary to obtain eternal (zoe) life He pointed people to Moses's law: "Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One whois good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments." (Matthew 19:17) Jesus' teaching of the gospel of Moses did not happen because Jesus did not understand the plan of God. Jesus shows on many occasions that He understood fully what the Father's ultimate plan was: "Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)
If Jesus knew what the Father ultimately wanted, why didn't He just say so plainly? First of all it was not given to Jesus to do this. The Christ in Jesus could only do what the Father gave Him to do (John 8:28). So what was it that the Father gave Jesus to do? In the earthly part of His life, the Father's mission for Christ was two fold. In teaching, it was to show once and for all that the law could not produce life. Christ as Jesus showed that the law could be followed completely but that this was beyond people working out of their own strength.
The second part of Christ's mission was to allow Himself to be prepared to empower the second gospel. Jesus, in essence, threw down the gauntlet to humanity about the law and righteousness. Christ, in His life as Jesus, showed every one of us where the bar is placed for a righteousness that comes from ourselves. If you want to obtain righteousness out of your own efforts then do what Jesus did and do it flawlessly. This is the gospel of Moses and this is, of course, impossible.
The Gospel of Life
The second gospel that the Bible discloses does not appear until its first mention in Acts: "However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me-- the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace." (Acts 20:24) The verse quoted here is from the apostle Paul's defense of his life in proclaiming a new gospel. This is a message that stands in sharp contrast to the gospel of the law. It is a gospel founded on grace.
The gospel that was revealed to Paul stands, not on our doing, but on God's doing. This is a message referred to as the gospel of Christ: "by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ." (Romans 15:19) This is a gospel that was not proclaimed by Jesus during His earthly life because it required His death and resurrection to be implemented.
The gospel of Christ stands is sharp contrast to the gospel of Moses. The gospel of Christ is the gospel of life. This is not a gospel based so much on what Jesus taught as it is founded on who Christ is. Many people, even Christians, do not understand this distinction. When Paul refers to the 'gospel of Christ' he is not speaking exclusively about the things Jesus said and did. In fact, the gospel of Christ is not even primarily about the works and teaching of Jesus.
The gospel of Christ, if it is about anything that Jesus did, it is about His death burial and resurrection. Christ's gospel is about life. Further, this gospel is about the life of God and how this life comes to us out of the complete sufficiency of the Father's love. This gospel completely excludes life achieved by merit. Christ has become life for all who will receive it through Him. This is why this message is also called the 'gospel of grace'. This is the gospel of Christ because it is a message about what the Father does through Christ. The good news of Christ is that we can, by Christ's sacrifice, have the Father's life in us as our only life.
Grace and Law
The apostle Paul makes it very clear that the two concepts of grace and law are diametric opposites. These two ways of living are not just opposites but are, in reality, 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) And this is the point where most people falter when considering Christianity. Most people do not have a problem with the love of God nor do they object to living forever. But many people, even a good many Christians, have a great deal of trouble with having to receive eternal life and God's love without being able to earn it.
It is wonderful that the Father offers us such abundant blessings in a way that is available to everyone. It is not so wonderful that we must be totally dependent and beholding to God for these blessings. There is an independent part of us that is repelled by that state of utter dependency. We would like to have God do the hard parts but let us do the rest so we could have some ownership in the process. But the way the Father set up this aspect of life is more of the contrast.
Just as there is no middle ground between life and death there can be no middle ground between law and grace. The elements of these two gospels is the next level up in the basic contrast of life verses death. These two gospels, both of which come from the Father, are the gospels of life and death. Remember, the unchanging Father has not altered His course throughout all time: "I have set before you life and death," (Deuteronomy 30:19b) The two gospels are the practical exercise of the original challenge God gave us.
Life and Death
It is not sufficient for our success to know that the issue is life and death. If we are to succeed we must know what constitutes each of these things in our lives and world. This teaching is abundantly clear in the gospel of grace. The complete teaching of these things had to wait for the final gospel to be revealed because it is only in the contrast provided by the former gospel that the latter gospel can be understood.
This is why the Father gave us the first gospel (the gospel of law) even though it was flawed and ineffective. More precisely, our flaws and imperfections made the first gospel ineffective. Our Father was not setting us up to fail but was rather giving us the ability to see what is effective and what is not. Indeed, it is only in the dark light of the ineffective law that we can see the perfect effectiveness of grace.
The gospels of law and grace are the final fulfillment of the promise God spoke through Moses in the wilderness—the setting before us the ways of life and death: "He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant -- not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." (2 Corinthians 3:6) And there must be no doubt about what Paul is speaking about here. The Greek word translated "letter" (gramma [gram'-mah]) refers to ". . .2c) the sacred writings (of the OT). . ."
Paul makes the distinction here between the teachings of living by the observance of the law of Moses and the life lived by grace. It is by grace that we receive the life of God to be our only life. This grace comes through the offices of Christ and is received without merit or effort—only faith.
Through faith in the completed work of Christ we receive the life of God into our being. And if we receive the life of God we receive the Spirit of God for the two are one in the same: "And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you." (Romans 8:11) We can only see and understand this working of grace against the background that comes by the teaching and working of the law.
The Law of Sin and Death
The contrast of the law and grace is the practical out working of life and death in our world. Through grace we receive the Spirit of God and through the Spirit we receive the life of God. In just the same way through the law comes sin and through sin comes death. These are basic principles of existence taught through the Scriptures.
First, we can see that the law does not protect from sin but defines what it is. Without the law there is no accounting made of 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) We learn from Paul's teaching that the law is not sin (Romans 7:7). The law only defines what sin is—it is not empowered to prevent its working in our lives. But more importantly we see that the law is not effective in producing sinless living: "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)
Next, we are taught that the law is conditional. The condition that exists in the law is that it is only effective for producing righteousness if it is kept: "Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: "The man who does these things will live by them." (Romans 10:5) Many times people are fooled by this verse. We need to look into it deeply and critically. We can only live by the law if we do the things of the law. This means all the things of the law. Scripture teaches us that there are no half-way measures in keeping the law (James 2:10). This becomes clear if we look at the reverse of Romans 10:5. Namely, if you don't keep the things of the law you will die by them. It is true what is said: If you live by the law you will die by the law.
This is why the law is God's demonstration of the way of death: "Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died." (Romans 7:9) The law has always been for the purposes of teaching us what sin was (Romans 7:7) and to show us that we are incapable of achieving righteousness on our own (Romans 7:8–9).
The Way of Life and Death
This is why we are given the law. Not to live by but to learn from. The law is the way of death and grace is the way of life. We are daily given the same situation—God sets before us the ways of death and life and we must choose. Praise be to the Father of all mercy that once we choose Christ we are set and sealed in the nature of life forever.
But each day, and in each situation and occurrence of our day we are asked to choose whether or not we will walk in life in the way of the Spirit or in the way of death by the law. We walk in the Spirit by abiding in the life that is in us through Christ. This is not dependent on our doing but rather, it directs our doing. Our dependency is on the life that animates us—the life of God through Christ. This is the law (guiding principle) of life: "because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:2) This is an inner leading or regulation as opposed to an external legal system.
When we walk in the way of death we do so by walking in our own resource and efforts. This is the way of the law. We are often confused because we forget (or have never seen) that it is not a question of the goodness or evil of God's law. God's law is good. It is, rather, a question of our ability to follow that law faultlessly. This effort always falls short of the mark. And this is the part of the law that is death—the inadequacy of our own strength.
The Father's love for us is demonstrated in this mightily. Knowing our weakness and giving us the opportunity to learn that weakness by demonstration, the Father then gives us the way out. We are given the way of life completely without cost or condition. All we need to do is that which we are capable of doing—the accept freely what is freely given. In this way the Father demonstrates His total commitment to us and to life.
- Chapter 3 -
Almost the entire Bible after Genesis 2 is about life. Only in the first two chapters of the book of Genesis do we see an account of the fashioning of the physical universe. The rest of the Bible concerns life. This overwhelming emphasis on life shows us that the physical creation exists only as a stage upon which the life drama is played out. While human beings spend a great deal of effort trying to discover the exact mechanisms that went into creating the physical universe, God seems to have little interest in this aspect of existence. This gives us strong evidence that the Father's principle concern is about life and the activities of life. We can see that it was for the purpose of building a family that the creation was brought into being. After the family of God is birthed the creation as we know it will be replaced: "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea." (Revelation 21:1) After the Father's life plan is carried out, the physical universe as we know it ceases to have any purpose for being.
Because the principle emphasis of the Bible is life, we should expect to find within Scripture the basic truths about life. And this is so. Within the writings of the Bible we can find the basic principles under which human life and indeed all life functions. Throughout the Bible we are instructed about what life is, how it operates and what its true nature is. This instruction on life centers almost exclusively on human life because human life is why the Father created the universe. This statement may offend many in our present age. The reason for the offense is that we are presently slipping into a kind of neo-paganism. One central theme in this pagan view of life is naturalism or the worship and adoration of the natural creation. To such people "mother nature" is the principle goddess. The truth, however, is that the natural world is merely a backdrop for a more important central drama. And that drama is what each individual human being will do with the opportunity for life that the Father gives to us.
The Bible gives us truths about the nature of life. These truths are not given from a psychological or biological perspective but from the perspective of the overall guiding laws of life. After all, the biological aspect of life is merely mechanics. It may be instructive to know how we chemically digest food, but it is the overall principles of life that will help us to live as we were intended to live.
What prevents people from finding peace, rest and fulfillment in this world is not a lack of mechanical understanding about our bodies. Nor are we restless because we don't have enough information about our psychological makeup. We are kept from peace by not understanding and accepting the way the Father meant us to live. This is not a question of eating right or even of doing the right things. Accepting and understanding how we were meant to live involves understanding what the Father's plan and purpose for our lives is.
Where Does Life Come From?
The first piece of information that we can get from the Bible about life is in regard to the origin of life: "So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good." (Genesis 1:21) The Father created all living creatures including humans: "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) This is the first life principle the Bible reveals—all life comes from God.
It is important to see that life (regardless of the mechanical processes employed) ultimately comes from God. This has to be so because God alone has life and is life. No agency can give what it does not have. Rocks do not produce life because they do not have life in them. This may sound a bit absurd but the opposite is exactly what is claimed by proponents of a spiritless natural creation. If the universe started out as a bunch of elements that eventually arranged themselves into living things then rocks can give birth.
The truth is that life can only come from life. This is why all life comes from God: "You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you." (Nehemiah 9:6) Lifeless things will never produce life. It is for this reason that all the theories about a self-generated creation will, in the end, come to nothing. If we delve deeply enough into the motivation for formulating such theories we find conflict and not a desire for the truth. The motivation for fabricating theories of creation that exclude God is the attempt to avoid dealing with God. But if it is life or the understanding about life that we seek, it is to God that we must eventually go.
Life After its Own Kind
The first biblical life principle leads to the second life principle. This is the principle that all life reproduces after its own kind. This sounds simplistic but it is a principle that will become quite important later on. When we start making the distinction between existence and real life this will be a key foundational idea. It is obvious from the physical world that living things reproduce offspring like themselves: "God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good." (Genesis 1:25)
This is a further refinement on the first life principle. Only things with life can give life and further, they can only give life after the kind of life they have in them. We all carry around the kind of life that we are born with. This is the key principle behind born again Christianity. We come into the world with the human life we inherit from our parents. If we hope to have a new kind of life we have to get that life from one who has it. Continuing along in this vein, if we want to have a different kind of life in us we must get that life by being born into it.
Life and Spirit
That God created all life is the first biblical life principle. The second life principle that the Bible teaches is that life arises from a life like itself. The third biblical life principle is a combination of the first two. This life principle is that life arises from the spiritual. Here we are not speaking so much about all biological life but only about human life. When God created living things He made a distinction between the animals and humans. This is another truth that is offensive to the people who hold to neo-paganistic beliefs. All living things do not exist on the same level. Human beings are not highly intelligent apes and plants and animals are not equivalent to people.
All life is not the same. People are the only life forms that God declared to be created in His image: "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) This difference has the most profound implications for the role and the potential of the human race. What this means, among other things, is that human life is fundamentally spiritual life. We do not have life apart from the spiritual.
Consider the following verses: "They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and said, "My child, get up!" Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat." (Luke 8:53–55) In the story of the reviving of the synagog ruler's daughter we see this principle illustrated. When Jesus restored the girl to life we are shown what actually happened—her spirit returned to her.
Creation vs. Birth
It makes sense that human life is based on the spiritual because we are made in the image and likeness of God. It is not a violation of the second life principle (life gives birth to life after its own kind) to say that human life is spiritual while plant and animal life is physical. Life originally sprang from a creation event. This is not a life event in the same way that being born is a life event.
Creation is a unique way of bringing something into being. The way the term "creation" is used in Genesis is unlike anything we see in the world today. This is the pure creation of something out of nothing. This is illustrated by the fact that the Father spoke the universe into existence: "And God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear." And it was so." (Genesis 1:9) It is never said or insinuated that the universe was created by God out of something that was already laying around.
In contrast to the creation event, all life from the creation forward has been produced by being born. It is by birthing that life forms produce other life forms. But all life carries down with it the attributes it had from the original creation. For the plant and animal world this means that these forms of life are basically physical in nature. For humanity this means that we are basically spiritual in nature. This is partly what it means to be created in the image and likeness of God because God is Spirit: "God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." (John 4:24)
This does not mean that we contain God's life in us from the time of our physical birth. Human beings come into the world physically with the kind of life our human ancestors had. And this life comes not from the creation exclusively but arose out of the creation and the fall. This is why we don't fulfill the Father's intention for humanity from our natural birth. The fall insured that a change had to be made somewhere after our physical birth. To have our original life exchanged for God's life requires a second birth event. This is the essence of being born again.
The Life that is Real
The fourth life principle in the Bible is that life, to be regarded as real life, must be eternal. This is consistent with the tenor of the entire Bible. Reality, in spiritual terms, is based not on physical existence but on endurance. The things that are spiritually real are the things that endure through and beyond all time.
We have seen earlier that one of the attributes of God's life (zoe) is that it is eternal. This is seen in Scripture as being equivalent with being real. Consider the translations of 1 Timothy 6:19 found in the King James and New International Versions of the Bible: "In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life." (1 Timothy 6:19–NIV); and "Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life." (1 Timothy 6:19, KJV)
I believe that both translations are true to the original Greek. Being real and being eternal are both legitimate characteristics of God's life.
The nature of God's life being both real and eternal has serious implications for humanity. In the first place, this means that our physical life is not the principle attribute of our being. In fact, our physical life without God's spiritual life to energize it really doesn't even qualify to be called life. People without the Father's life in them through Christ may more correctly be said to have existence rather than life.
Life From Death
The fifth and last biblical life principle is the most unpopular of all. While the first four life principles may spark some debate, controversy or even offense, this upset is nothing to that caused by the last life principle. This life principle is that life comes out of death.
This is most graphically illustrated in the natural world in the case of the salmon. This fish is best known for its instinctual programming to return to the place of its birth to spawn. But there is a further aspect of this fish's life cycle that is instructive to this life principle. This other fascinating thing about the salmon is that after it mates and lays its eggs, it dies. This is true of many insects and can also be said to be true to a lesser extent in all living things. Giving birth is taxing and takes some life out of the parent.
The best known illustration of this in scripture is in reference to Christ's sacrifice on the cross: "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." (John 12:24) This is true for humans because we are the only living things that have the opportunity (indeed—the need) to be reborn. We were brought into the world with one kind of life. But this is not the kind of life we were intended by God to contain. Because we can only have one kind of life in us at any one time we need an exchange of lives. To exchange lives we have to die to the first to be able to accept the second. This is the truth that born again Christianity is founded on.
Life and Choice
Being made in the image and likeness of God carries two characteristics. The first we have already mentioned—that we are basically spiritual in our life nature. The other part of this distinction is that we, along with the Father, have the capacity of free will choice. Note the description of this from Genesis: "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)
Note that two different terms are used by the Father—"image" and "likeness". The first word is the Hebrew tselem. This word refers to a semblance or an empty image. Here we see the fact that we were originally created as something like God but empty of some essential ingredient. This ingredient was the Father's life. We were created to be spiritual but without the specific spirit essence we were meant by God to contain. This is not an oversight on God's part. We were created incomplete to allow the second part of our creation to be exercised.
The second word (likeness) is the Hebrew word d@muwth which refers to being like something as in similitude (similar). This refers to being endowed by the creator with a free will by which we might make choices. We are all like God in that we can make choices. We, along with God, are the only living things that have this ability.
The Father created us this way to equip us to carry out the part God intended that we play in His creation. We were created to choose God to be our Father. This was to be done by our free will acceptance of the Father's life on His terms to be our life. It is because this is our place in the creation that we need both a spiritual nature and a free will. We must have the capacity to contain the Father's Spirit life and the ability to choose to have that life.
We can see from the Bible account of life that our existence is far more than mere physical living. Indeed, life in its truest sense is 99% non-physical. The physical life we live is only a means to an end. We have a physical life to allow us to exist in a physical universe. But all that is physical will one day pass away. What matters in living are those enduring parts of us that will go on for all eternity.
- Chapter 4 -
While the part of human living that goes on in our soul is not the highest level of living, we can still profit from looking into this aspect of our existence in a little more detail. There are two important reasons why we should look more deeply into the soul level of living. First, the soul life part of our existence is important first because it is an eternal part of our creation. Secondly, the soul is the part of us that is contested for by the Father and Satan. Further, we should explore this aspect of our living in more detail because this is the level where so many people dwell. Soul level living is common both in the unsaved and in the Christian community.
It is understandable that we tend to seek the soul level of living for more reasons than just a simple rejection of superficiality or an unawareness of spirituality. The soul is the seat of our personality. This is to say, the soul is the center of our individuality. This is what most of us consider to be the "real us". It is in the soul that we find the attributes that contribute to making us the individual, unique people we are. And there is nothing wrong with this so far as it goes. We are individuals and the Father made us this way. We must never fall into the trap that has captured so many in religion. Religion, like politics and other human group activities (clubs, businesses, etc.) tend to push us toward conformity and a collective mentality.
The pressure is great within organizations to have members conform to the group understandings, views and values. This may seem harmless enough but it is contrary to the Father's ultimate plan for humanity. It is obvious from the endless diversity among human beings both physically and in personality that the Father sees each of us as unique individuals. Each of us is precious and special to the Father. We are never seen as a lump of humanity or even as a 'sub-lump' of the human race by the Father. No, it is the organizations of men that attempt to push people into collective boxes. This never comes from God.
The Father has never seen identical beliefs, identical ideas or ways of thinking, expressing or understanding as a legitimate basis for unity. Within the family of God there is only one true source of unity. This commonality is that all the members of the Father's household have the same life in them—His life. This life comes from one source—the Father. This life comes by one common means—the Son: "for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." (Galatians 3:27). A similar situation exists for the unsaved. They are also united. They are united by the fact they have no real life. In the end, there are only two groups of people in the universe—those that have the Father's life as their life and those that do not have that life.
The hierarchical churches of this world are, in part, an attempt to deny the plan that the Father has instituted. Because these groups attempt to separate themselves from each other by different doctrines, creeds, rites and rituals; they oppose the only source of true unity that exists in the world. I do not state this too harshly or too strongly. The issues and understandings of men—limited as they are—can never be an adequate basis for unity. This is just as true outside the family of God as it most certainly must be true within the Father's house.
There can be no consideration of unity within Christianity unless the basis of true unity is recognized and accepted. No compromise or separate understanding is possible if true unity is to be perceived and enjoyed. I say perceived and not achieved because the children of God are already united—they just refuse (many of them) to accept that unity on the Father's terms. We are one family. The fact of the matter is that most of us just don't know or accept it yet. This is the unity we received from Christ: "I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name -- the name you gave me -- so that they may be one as we are one." (John 17:11)
This is why all the ecumenical prayer meetings for unity and all the calls for healing the divisions between the church organizations that ever were or ever will be are doomed to failure. No unity will come out of such things because it is not unity that we need. The organizations of men are seeking what we already have. No further basis of unity is needed nor will one be given. If the Christian world truly desired unity they could pray that the eyes of their understanding would be opened to see the true basis of unity that already exists.
What About Me?
The issue of Christian unity is a classic example of the kind of problems we incur when we live in the soulish dimension of human life. The Christian community has an eternal and unshakable basis for unity but we do not see or accept it. Why? It is not unity we lack as the family of God, it is an acceptance of unity the way God provides it. This is but one small example of our desire to express our individuality. And this individuality is not what is wrong, it is the wrongful expression of that individuality that continues to be the problem.
It is the exerting of our individual will in opposition to the Father's plan that makes soul life so potent a barrier in our coming into the full expression of the life the Father gives us to live. The rebellious expression of our individuality is the attempt each of us makes to be the god of our own lives. This is the attempt we make to live in a state of independence from the Father.
It is a lie of the evil one that we can live independently. We were created to be containers of the Father's life. One of the consequences of this fact is that we cannot exist in a true state of spiritual independence. We are made in such a way that we must serve either God or Satan: "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) Paul leaves us with no third option. We must either be slaves to sin (Satan) or slaves to righteousness (God).
We need to let the Father bring us to a level of acceptance and understanding of this truth about human existence. We cannot live as independent spiritual entities. If we reject God we automatically accept Satan's spiritual guidance. We have a will but this can only choose between options, it cannot create its own options. All of this comes out of our having a human spirit that is largely non-functional until it is animated by the life of God through Christ. It is only the true life of God that can bring our human spirit to fully operational status.
Until a person accepts the Father's life through Christ, their spirit is inanimate (except for the conscience). In this situation, our moral guidance must come from the only other spiritual agency in creation—Satan.
If we do not accept the Father's offer to quicken our spirit with His life through Christ then the voice we hear most loudly is from our flesh. The term "flesh" as it is used in the Bible refers to the physical body indwelt by Satan. This is a metaphysical part of our physical body that came into being at the time of the fall. Many people in Christianity mistakenly see the flesh as just the physical body. But this understanding misses several critical points.
First, the Father created our physical being and made it perfectly for its purpose: "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) The Father made His pronouncement about all that He had done to this point. Man was made back in verse 27, so humanity must be included in the "very good". Now move ahead to Genesis 6: "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)
Note in Genesis six, a change has arisen concerning humanity. We have changed since the creation—we have become also flesh. This verse shows us that something has been added to our physical makeup—the component of "flesh" has come into being. This cannot refer to our physical body because that was made back in Genesis 1:27. No, we have had something added to us. Further that something is at odds with the Father.
The word used for "flesh" in the Hebrew is basar [baw-sawr'] which carries the idea of ". . . 1e) flesh as frail or erring (man against God). . ." The term in the Greek is sarx [sarx] which carries the same idea—". . .4) the flesh, denotes mere human nature, the earthly nature of man apart from divine influence, and therefore prone to sin and opposed to God. . ." This term is never used to refer to humanity at the creation except to refer to our physical body. Before the fall, the flesh is never referred to as having an animated component. This part of our makeup came into being when we rejected God's leading for Satan's lies.
As a result of Adam and Eve disobeying God, they were altered into creatures containing "the flesh". This was also a punishment or limitation placed on Satan. Prior to the temptation of Adam and Eve, Satan had been banished from residence in heaven but he was free to roam the earth. After the temptation, Satan was condemned to the physical body and had to operate from this vantage point: "So the LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, "Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life." (Genesis 3:14) This illusion to dust, I believe, refers to our physical body: "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) Satan is now restricted to operating in the world through human beings.
One Life, Two Leadings
The banishment of Satan to the physical bodies of human beings set the stage for the final part of the Father's plan to bring His real life to us. The Father created us with a spirit that was designed to be a container for His life. This is what makes the soul of humanity a critical player in the operation of God's life in us. The situation now exists where people have a soul that allows the faculties of choice, thought and emotion. We also have a body contaminated by Satan (the flesh) and a spirit that was designed to contain God's life.
When a person accepts the life of God through the agency of His Son, their spirit is filled with the Father's life. The spirit of the born again becomes the habitation of the Father by the indwelling of His Son (the seed of God): "The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say "and to seeds," meaning many people, but "and to your seed," meaning one person, who is Christ." (Galatians 3:16) So we now have a Christ indwelt spirit and a Satan indwelt physical body. By these occurrences, our spirit is completely redeemed and our physical body is unredeemable. But what about the soul that sits between these two poles?
This situation reveals the importance of the human soul. The soul is that part of us that directs the actions of our body. The soul is the battleground over which God and Satan contend. This should not be mistakenly understood as a battle of good and evil with an uncertain outcome. God and Satan are not equals. The battle comes from our possession of a free will. The contest is not over who will rule the universe. The contest is over who we will elect to be our moral or spiritual guide. This is the battle over who we will choose to govern our lives.
This is a battle that goes on every day and in every choice we have to make. This is the struggle that Paul spoke to when he wrote: "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." (Romans 7:22–23) In our soul we have the faculty of choice. We must choose in every situation to follow the leading of the Christ in our spirit or the Satan in our flesh.
This is a life and death issue because it is life and death that God and sin are all about: "For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death." (Romans 7:11) This is not to say that the born again can ever be put to death spiritually. Because we were born into God's household we are members of that household forever. But we can commit acts that are dead. We do this whenever we operate out of our own strength led by the flesh. When we choose to follow the leading of the flesh we are living a "dead" life.
The heart is a critical aspect of human existence. The human heart is critical to the issue of life because it is out of the heart that we have both our relationship with the Father and the motivation of our actions in this world. The heart is an issue of the soul because the heart, as the Bible uses the term, is made up of the elements of the soul (mind, will and emotion) plus the conscience of the human spirit.
As with the nature of all human attributes, the Scriptures reveal the makeup of the heart in many places. First, note that the heart contains the attributes of our mind. Consider the reference in Matthew: "Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, "Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?" (Matthew 9:4) In several places in the Bible there is reference made to the thoughts of the heart (see Genesis 6:5, Matthew 15:19, Luke 2:35, Hebrews 4:12). It is clear that the heart must include the faculties of the mind for this is where our thoughts come from.
The heart is also the seat of our emotional feelings: "My servants will sing out of the joy of their hearts, but you will cry out from anguish of heart and wail in brokenness of spirit." (Isaiah 65:14) Scripture references to the emotional aspect of the human heart are most abundant. This characteristic of the heart is arguably the most universally accepted of all the heart's attributes. Most people, inside and outside Christianity, recognize the heart as the center of human emotion. When we are happy we say that we are light-hearted. If we are confronted with tragedy we say we are broken-hearted. Some other examples of the Bible's references to the emotional nature of the heart are: Ecclesiastes 2:8, Isaiah 66:14, Jeremiah 28:17, 48:29, 49:16, Proverbs 22:18 and Ezekiel 25:6.
Our will is also connected with the heart in Scripture. This is a most important part of the heart in relation to our present discussion about life. It is out of the exercise of our will that all of our actions arise. For this reason, it is important to see this part of the makeup of the heart. "Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart." (Ephesians 6:6) The call to obedience from the heart in Ephesians 6:6 speaks clearly to the operation of our will out of our hearts. This can also be seen in Leviticus 19:17, John 5:42, James 3:14, and Isaiah 14:13.
It is important to see that the conscience is also part of the human heart. This is important because the conscience is a part of the human spirit. The inclusion of the conscience in our hearts makes the heart a bridge between the soul and the spirit. Because the heart contains elements of both our soul and spirit we are once again shown the critical part the heart plays in our living. Note: "let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water." (Hebrews 10:22)
It makes a degree of sense that the conscience would be tied closely to the heart. After all, the conscience evokes emotional feelings in us as a part of its functioning. From the conscience we get either feelings of peace when our thoughts and actions are in agreement with God or anguish when we are outside the Father's ways. This can be seen is verses such as: Colossians 3:15, Romans 9:1–2 and 1 Timothy 1:5.
Life and the Heart
The human heart is critical to the operation of the Father's life in us because the heart is central to our relationship with the Father. When we say that the Father places His life in us to make us His children we are making a strong relationship statement. The position of 'father' and 'child' are both issues of relationship. God's entire creation is for the purpose of relationship. The creation exists for the establishment and growth of a relationship between the Father and each of us.
It is in the heart and the issues of the heart that the Father deals with us and assesses our actions: "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." (Proverbs 4:23) The Bible repeatedly refers to the heart as being central to our living. Our heart is central to our living because it is through the heart that we express the life leading in us. Because the heart contains the will, it is through the heart that we bring forth the life leading we choose: "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks." (Luke 6:45)
Another way of looking at the heart's relationship to our living is in terms of ultimate truth. The heart is where our true motivations and desires dwell. People may profess many things outwardly and may even believe any number of things in their conscious mind. But it is in the heart that the truth about our living is found: "But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7) It is out of the heart of each person that their true motives, desires and ambitions come.
Because our hearts are the true source of our actions and motivations it is upon the heart that the Father works. The Father's life is resident in the spirit of the born again. But it is through the heart that this life force exerts its influence on the rest of our being: "No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God." (Romans 2:29)
The heart of a person speaks to the internal nature of the life that is real life. It is not what is on the outside that determines the operation of real life but what is on the inside. Real life is the life of the Father operating out of the spirit and acting upon the heart of the individual. As we turn our heart over to the influence of the Father's life through our Christ-indwelt spirit we bring forth good. This is the outflow of the Father's goodness from the Christ in our spirit through the submitted heart.
The Battle for the Heart
Because the heart is the source of our true affection and leading it becomes the object of the efforts of both God and Satan. To whichever leading we turn our heart, that will dictate the true nature of our actions. It is for this reason that the Father included in our heart the spiritual element of conscience along with the attributes of the soul. The soul is the engine that drives our activity. It is out of our soul attributes that we interact with the world around us.
To assist us in choosing the leading of the Father's life in our spirit we are given the influence of the conscience in our heart. The conscience acts like a rudder or stabilizer for our soul. The conscience is that part of the heart that continues to direct us back to the leading of the Christ in our spirit. We can choose to accept or ignore that leading by our will but the leading is there. We will live out of the exercise of our free will but the Father is always there to show us the way.
If we reject the leading of the conscience we are free to follow the leading of the flesh. This will result in consequences and situations and circumstances. These outcomes will also be forces to potentially push us back to the Father—if we let them. The conscience will operate in each of us in accordance with the way it is exercised. If we listen to the leading of the conscience it will remain tender and responsive. We will ever more and more quickly perceive its leading when we consider turning from the Father. If we practice ignoring its leading it will become ever more and more easy for us to go the way of the flesh. This is true for both the saved in walking in newness of life and in the unsaved to come to that new life.
The soul is not capable, in itself, of giving us life. However, the soul is vitally important in determining the life we choose to live in us. Further, our soul is critical in determining how we express the life we have. Our soul is an organ of choice. Because life is a series of choices—both before and after rebirth—the soul is central not only in what life we live but how we live that life.
- Chapter 5 -
Life That is Real
Because life is the one central and most important issue in our existence we would do well to look in greater detail at the spirit level of living. It is obvious from most people's approach to life in this world that they either do not understand or accept the true nature of human life. Even Christians seem to spend most of their time concerned with the details and cares of this world and not with the things that are of true importance. We are most interested in the state of our bank accounts, our jobs, our health and the thousand and one other things that make up daily life in this world. But we neglect and short change the spiritual aspect of our living—the one part that is of paramount importance. What few people seem to appreciate is that human life is, at its core, spiritual in nature.
The way we approach life is a very accurate indicator of what we find important in life. We invest in what we find to be of greatest concern to us. We invest in those things that we feel have the most significant impact on our existence. What is of the greatest concern to us are the things of greatest importance to us and consequently, the things we invest our time and efforts most heavily in. This is true whether it is our health, our financial condition or even our families and relationships. This is not to say that these things are trivial or that they should be ignored. But should they be first in our lives?
Anyone who has been a Christian for any length of time will recognize this as a loaded question. We know the correct answer—but do we live the correct answer? We all know that the Father should have the first place in our lives. So why don't we live this way? Most Christians would be quick to protest that they DO live this way. But the evidence gives one cause to wonder. I do not presume to cast judgment on anyone's life. No one need fear that. Besides, I have no authority over anyone so no one need be concerned with what I think or feel anyway. We only have to be concerned with what is.
What each person must come to grips with in their life is the reality of their living. No one should care anything for what I (or anyone else) thinks about their living. What we all must be concerned with is the reality of our living. What are we doing with the wonderful opportunity for life that the Father has given each of us?
The only question I would encourage anyone to ask themselves is this: "Is the spiritual part of my life the first part?" In other words, is it in the spiritual that I first put my trust and first look for solutions, guidance and direction? Is it in the spiritual that we are most heavily investing our efforts? To put it another way: Is the most important thing in my life my spiritual life? If it isn't then perhaps we should seek the Father to show us if our priority system is really in as good shape as we think it is. The acid test for this is to sincerely ask ourselves where our trust is. Am I confident about the condition of my life because my bank balance is in good shape or because I eat and exercise right? Am I confident about my life because I attend "the right fellowship" or subscribe to the right doctrine? If so then I am trusting in this life (my own understandings and exertions) and in the things of this world.
It is hard, but I think most (if not all) of us must admit that, to some extent, our trust is misplaced. This is not such a terrible thing. Most of us are primarily concerned with what is closest to us. And the things that are closest to us are the things of the physical world. We are physical beings at the most superficial level. So it is natural that the first things we consider are the physical things around us. Even if we get beyond the physical parts of our lives we may not be in the spiritual. If we are concerned with our understandings and ideas then we have not gone on to the spiritual. If our confidence and exertions are focused on what we understand then we have only advanced to the soulish.
We are not usually first concerned with the spiritual part of our lives. The Father knows about this and is willing to work with us on it. All we need to do with it is to admit that this situation exists and look to the Father to work with us. But we must address the issue of our priorities if we want to grow in the life that is real life.
One of the key aspects of life that the Bible reveals to us is that true life is a spiritual issue. There are numerous verses that show that life comes through the spirit: "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life." (John 6:63) The Lord has taught us that we cannot have true life apart from the Spirit.
What we are speaking of here is true life. In the Scriptures the only life that is considered worthy to be called "true life" is eternal, spiritual life. It is for this reason that our physical life is never considered true life by the Bible. We might more correctly say that temporal "life" is really just existence. In Scripture, for a life to even begin to be considered as "life" it must be eternal. Further, a life that is to be considered "true life" needs to be more than eternal. A life that is true life must also come from the Father.
This is true because of the life principle that life gives birth to life after its own kind. We understand this in the physical because we expect all life forms to produce offspring that are like themselves. Because the physical world is a shadow of the spiritual world that gave rise to it, what is true of the physical is also true of the spiritual aspects of life: "Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit." (John 3:6) This is why the only source of true life in the universe is the Father. The Father is Spirit (John 4:24) and so it is only the Father Spirit that can give us birth in our spirit.
There are other parts of human beings that have the characteristic of being eternal but these are not considered by the Bible to be true life. The soul of human beings is eternal but it cannot be said to have eternal life in it apart from God. The soul of the unregenerate person could be more correctly said to have an eternal existence. The Scriptures never consider an eternity of separation from the Father as being a life. It is, in fact, hell: "And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind." (Isaiah 66:24)
Because God's life is the only real life there is in creation it is to God that we must go if we wish to have growth in the life in the spirit. One of the greatest problems we have in seeking after real life is in sorting through all the false claims and false representations of other existences that claim to be life. Our earthly lives are filled with ideas and things that claim to be able to help us move toward real life. Some things even claim to be indispensable to finding or growing in real life. So we must be very clear on this point to start—real life is God's life and belongs to no one else. The Father is the only thing that is indispensable to finding and growing in real life.
Only the Father can claim to be essential for us to have real life: "The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us." (1 John 1:2) Only the Father's life is real life and only the Father can dispense it or put conditions on it. It is for the Father alone to determine how we are to get His life and how we are to grow in it.
This is another aspect of the principle that life gives birth after its own kind. For anything to be able to give us real life it must contain real life. No one and nothing can give to another what it does not have. If there were anywhere else, apart from the Father, that we could go for real life then the Father would not be indispensable to the process. If there were some other agency that could give us real life then that agency would be equal with the Father. But Scripture is quite clear that this is not the case: "Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." (John 6:68) Peter and the other disciples knew that eternal life can only come from the Father.
Another key fact that we must keep in mind is that each life is unique and individual to the Father. We need to see each life this way as well if we are to hope to see as the Father sees. We humans are strongly drawn to generalization and grouping. It simplifies our lives if we can lump things together in groups. We have fewer things to juggle or keep straight that way. Unfortunately this is not the way the Father works.
There is nothing in all of the creation that escapes the individual attention of the Father: "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father." (Matthew 10:29) It stands to reason that a Father who loves perfectly would care for His creation in the most minute detail. If this is true for the creation which is only the stage upon which the Father's plan is worked out, how much more must this apply to the creatures who are central to that plan?
To my understanding it is an inescapable fact of existence that each person on the face of the earth is uniquely precious to the Father. I believe that this is reflected in the physical realm by our appearance and temperament. No two human beings are exactly alike. Not even identical twins are the same in personality or in their most fundamental makeup.
Because we are each unique to the Father we cannot come to a true understanding of life if we insist on treating with each other in terms of groups. Group designations are of human origin and apply only to this world. Group distinctions are, in the end, only items of human convenience. Such distinctions have no real place in the expression of the real life of the Father. These groupings may have some legitimacy in terms of the physical but they do not carry over to the spiritual. This is even true of the groups that God makes note of. The most prominent of these groups is the Jewish people.
What About the Jews?
The Jewish race is recognized by the Father but only in this world and only for a time. The Father employed a specific group of people to illustrate His plan and working in this world. This does not mean that God is a racist or that He deals in racial terms. In fact, the Hebrews were a group created by the Father. They are Semites (descendants of Shem). But so are many other peoples. Abraham was not born a Jew but was separated from his countrymen by God (Genesis 11:28—12:1). The Jews were chosen to be a unique people in the world to provide a contrast and to be a lesson to the rest of us. It is through the Jewish people that God first showed a glimpse of His master plan and desire to create a family for Himself: "For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession." (Deuteronomy 7:6)
Unfortunately, the people the Father had chosen did not understand this (as God knew they wouldn't). They thought that they were something special within themselves and that this is why they were chosen. This, of course, was also part of the Father's plan. The Father needed an earthly people to provide the contrast between His ways and our ways. The creation of this people set up the conditions where we could see the difference between the physical and the spiritual. The contrast was completed by the Father choosing another group of people from outside the first earthly people: "Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself." (Acts 15:14)
The Father has used the Jewish people to illustrate what He considers to be important. The Jews were set apart for the Father. Because they were set apart, every step of God's plan has been brought to them first: "There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile." (Romans 2:9–10) Through this ordering of things the Father shows to us the place of importance that life has in His plan.
Even though the Jews were a people chosen by God, this did not put them above the plan of God. The plan of the Father was to create by birthing a family of His own. Nothing and no one can stand in the way of this goal. For this reason, when the people of God rejected His plan for life, that plan was taken to others who would receive it: "Therefore I want you to know that God's salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!" (Acts 28:28) What Paul said to the Jews was that from the point of Acts 28:28 onward the Jews were no different than any other unbelievers in the plan of salvation. The promises made to Abraham still stand and will one day be completed. But in the realm of salvation the unsaved Jew is just another unbeliever. For no unbeliever, Jew or Gentile has real life in them.
It is here that the importance of the issue of real life begins to become clear. The first chosen people were differentiated by their race. The second chosen people were differentiated by the life they carried within their spirit. It was this difference that the Father was leading to from the time of the creation. The Jewish race are a people of God. This is a worldly, national and racial relationship distinction. The born again are a family of God. This is a relationship based on the life we carry in us as our life. And this is a spiritual relationship—not a worldly one.
The life character of God's working is most powerfully and fundamentally shown in the title "God the Father." Being a father is about life. A person does not become a father by study or works or possessions. A father does not become a father by what he thinks or understands or even by what he believes. Fathers are not made by the edict of some organization. No, a father is made by imparting life to another. When a couple has a child, this event produces not only a child but also parents. To be a father one must bring life to another. It is in this way that God too becomes a Father. Without the placing of His life in others God could not be a Father.
Understanding the character of this life is critical to our further understanding of this process. The Father ordained that all life should reproduce after its own kind: "God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good." (Genesis 1:25) This is part of the order of the universe. Birds don't produce insects and cows don't give birth to zebras. The illustration here is that all life reproduces after its own kind (nature).
This is so for the Father as well. The Father is Spirit and therefore He must produce children by the implantation of spiritual life. It is for this reason that we cannot begin to understand the life and work of the Father if we are limited in our view of life to the physical or the psychological. The real nature of true life is that it is spiritual.
The life that is real life must be not only eternal but omniscient. This means that the only real life there can ever be in the universe is God's life. The Father is the central source of life in all of creation and in all of eternity. This is why none of the things we seek after (apart from God) or do can impart real life to us. These things cannot give what they do not have.
Spirit to Spirit
All of this goes toward showing us that there is a division between the spiritual and the physical. There is also a connection between the spiritual and the physical. The Spirit of God animates all life and indeed, all creation. But there is also the division between the physical and the spiritual. We can only receive spiritual life from a spiritual source.
This is why born again parents do not give birth to born again children. We, in our physical existence, cannot impart the spiritual. We may have that spiritual life as our only life, but we cannot pass it on. When a couple have children it is a physical process. The impartation of spiritual life is a spiritual process. This comes back to the truth that only God can impart real, spiritual life. Our entry into the family of God is entirely a spiritual event. Being born again may have any number of influences on the other parts of our living (physical and psychological) but it remains a purely spiritual event in itself.
Real Human Life
The real nature of human life is spiritual. We are only superficially physical and not fundamentally physical beings. Our primary life essence resides in our human spirit. A body without a spirit is dead. There is something that transpires between the human spirit and the body that causes what we recognize physically as "life". The spirit within us animates the physical functioning of our bodies. This is why the synagogue ruler's daughter (Luke 8:51–56) revived when her spirit returned to her.
There is a connection between the spiritual and all life. I believe that animal and plant life differs from human life in that these life forms do not have an individual spirit. There is no mention in Scripture that animals or plants have spirits. Yet, I believe that God's Spirit animates these creatures and that without that animation they die: "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) The Psalmist speaks of the life giving and sustaining power of God's Spirit in the natural world.
The Bible speaks of humans as the only things in the physical creation that have a spirit part. This is the way the Father created us: "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) Animals and plants do not have spirits of their own but live by the influence of the Father's Spirit from outside themselves.
Humans are unique in the creation in that we have a spirit part built into our makeup. This human spirit is initially only partly functional in that it is not a spirit that is capable of functioning on its own. The human spirit is a container made to contain the life (spirit) of another. That other is, of course, God. It is this initial incompleteness that leads me to say that people without the indwelling Spirit of God are not alive—only existing.
I am not speaking here about moral guidance. That is a separate issue. What is at issue here is whether or not we have the life of God in us to animate our being. If we don't have the life of the Father in us then we are animated by the external influence of the Spirit of God just as the plant and animal kingdoms are. In this way we are no different from the rest of the natural world except that we have the eternally existent parts of soul and human spirit. The filling of our spirit by God's Spirit gives us the ability to understand, and have relationship with the Father and to be truly and eternally alive.
Nothing But God
One last point needs to be addressed in the issue of spiritual life. This is the place of the things in our lives on earth in regard to our spiritual life. While it is impossible to completely separate the things in life into discrete packages, it is important to see these things in their true relation to our lives. I have seen many instances of things in this world promoting themselves as being important or even essential to our spiritual growth and living.
It is critical that we understand that while many things in our earthly life may contribute to or detract from our spiritual life and growth, none but the Father is essential. There is nothing in this world that is essential to our being spiritually alive. In other words, there is nothing that can keep us from relationship with the Father or that must be present in our lives to grow with the Father. Each child of God is unique and individual before the Father. This is so because God has deemed that it should be so. No group, organization, experience or situation can change this fact in the least.
The one class of things in this world that is most guilty of practicing this misunderstanding are Christian organizations. I have yet to find a Christian hierarchical organization that has not held itself up to the believer child of God as being necessary for either their salvation or their growth with the Father. In response to these claims I can only say categorically that this is not so. For anything to be essential to the child's relationship with the Father would require that thing to have equality with God. This cannot be so.
The only things that are necessary for the relationship of God and His children are a loving Father and a child willing to receive the life and love of the Father by accepting Christ to come and be life for that child. Anything beyond this is incidental to the process. Life is fundamentally spiritual and therefore requires only spiritual components and actions. While other things can and do have an impact on the spiritual life of the child of God, they are never essential.
- Chapter 6 -
Individual or Collective Relationship
We are living in an era where the emphasis on the collective is rising above the emphasis on the individual. This see-saw shift between these two poles has gone on for centuries in the realm of society and politics. The rise of thinking in collective terms also colors the thinking of many people as regards our relationship with the Father. This is one of the fundamental questions facing Christians: Is my relationship with God primarily a personal relationship or a collective relationship? This is an important point to clarify in our thinking for a number of reasons.
The idea of collective and individual relationship is important because of its effect on our continued growth with the Father. The individual versus group issue is of no consequence whatever in a person's born again position in the Father's house. This position is entirely an issue of being born into a life relationship. But the individual versus collective distinction does become critical when we consider going on in growth with the Father. Further, whether we see our relationship with God as a primarily collective or primarily individual experience will establish limits on how large we will see that relationship.
Whether we see our Christian experience as fundamentally individual or fundamentally collective will determine, in large measure, how far we will go on in our growth with the Father. I do not want this issue to be seen as essential to our relationship with the Father (only the Father is essential). But we must seek the reality of this matter of the nature of our relationship with God if we are to avoid being sidetracked and having our growth with the Father artificially limited.
The Church Collective
The physical organizations of men that we commonly refer to as "church" must, at some point, be addressed in this discussion. I have chosen to do this earlier rather than later. I have for years taken a stand that has been seen by many of my brothers and sisters as "anti-church." Because of my experience in this part of the walk I would like to state my position early on, for the record. I do not deceive myself into thinking that this will make much difference, but I do it so that my conscience may be clear. Those who wish to see me as a church hater will continue to do so regardless of anything I say.
What I oppose in the hierarchical institutions we call "churches" are the artificial restrictions placed on the individual believer which these groups impose on their members. I have yet to find an organization that did not sooner or later impose an artificial and arbitrary set of bounds on how far the individual believer could grow with God. Never have I seen an organization that was so comfortable with its place in people's lives that it could allow its members to be fully free in Christ. This is, I believe, because there is no organization of men that is essential to the believer's relationship with the Father.
When I say that no organization of men is essential to our relationship with the Father, I am not saying that these institutions are evil or inherently harmful. They are just not essential. And this is where the real problem begins. The hierarchical churches have a deep desire to be seen as essential parts of God's working in the world. Perhaps they are—but in what role? The organizations will tell you they are essential for the working of God's will and plan. I agree. The problem is that the organizations (or more correctly the organizational minds behind them) see themselves as God's work force. I see them as forces to push people to a personal relationship with God by showing us the failure of religion.
Organizational or collective expressions of Christianity ultimately fail. They fail because these expressions are not in tune with the Father's plan for His creation. I say this because organizations are always built on a false standard. That false standard can manifest itself in a number of forms. The false standard can be a set of rituals, understandings, doctrines, missions or programs. I call these things false standards not because the particulars of any of these things are false in themselves. They are false standards because they are inappropriately applied. The misapplication comes from the organizational insistence that they are essential to our relationship with the Father. Though many Christian organizations did not start out in this error (and indeed, did not start out as organizations at all) they all grow into this error eventually.
Doomed to Failure
What do I mean when I say that organizational expressions of Christianity fail? I don't mean that these groups cease to exist. I am not saying that these institutions do not carry out their programs and agendas. But these organizations must be seen as failures in the context of real life. Christian organizations fail in terms of real life because they limit the individual believer child's growth with the Father. In truth, all organizations fail in terms of real life. The sad part about Christian organizations is that they are the only groups that ever had the potential to succeed. Organizations that do not include a recognition of Christ never have any possibility of aiding people in coming to a greater appreciation real life.
I have said it before and I repeat it now—the only thing that is essential for life and relationship with the Father is the Father. This is a categorical truth. There are no "ya buts" associated with it. I do not object to hierarchical church as such. I very much object to the hinderance that these organizations often are to individual believers who want to go on in their relationship with the Father.
In the end, it is up to the individual as to what we will submit to. In the final analysis, it is our call to make. This is why I am not opposed to organizational churches. I am only opposed to their attempt to limit my relationship with my Father. And the power to choose is mine. If I submit to some institution's regulation of my relationship with the Father then the fault is mine. I would encourage each believer to decide for themselves.
You need only remember that this choice, like all other choices, has its price. Going on with God is an individual and sometimes lonely thing. It is lonely because the institutions will play the one card they have to play. They will reject the person who goes on in the individual study plan with God. Further, organizations will encourage their members to reject such people also. I have never seen a Christian group that did not do this and I have never seen a Christian group that admitted to doing this. But for whatever reason, the person who sees their relationship with the Father as individual will not be accepted by an organization. In the end it is conform or leave. I have never regretted leaving my organizational experiences to go on with the Father. I will always be saddened, however, by the relationships I had to leave behind.
What is "Church"?
It is important to see that when I speak about the negative effects of "church" I am speaking about a very specific entity. I am not speaking about the body of Christ or about the church as described in Scripture. The body of Christ is a mystical reality and there is nothing negative about it. This is because the body of Christ is made up of all the people who have God's life in them as their only life and as such it is perfect in time and in eternity.
The "church" that I speak against is the hierarchical church organizations of men. This is not any specific organization so much as it is a view or mentality. We often think of the institutional hierarchical church as either the true representation of the body of Christ or as some sort of inanimate object. Neither of these views is correct.
The church organizations of men are the physical outcome of a particular mentality or conception of relationship with God. These organizations are the result or outgrowth of a particular type of human thinking. This thinking sees our relationship with the Father as a brokered arrangement. The organization must always insert itself into the family relationship process between the child and the Father. In this way a group of people can establish themselves as necessary to the functioning of God's family. While this necessity is not real in truth, it becomes real to all those who accept this premise.
This is most sad because it is at variance with the truth of God's reality. Because it is not part of the eternal truth of God, these efforts are doomed to failure. Additionally, these efforts almost always create some injury to the believer child. Because these efforts are based on a mistaken view of reality they also often misrepresent the person of God as to who and what He is.
The Infinity of God
One of the foundational understandings upon which I base my belief that our relationship with the Father is individual and not corporate comes from God's dealing with the creation. The Father is the God of both the infinitely large and the infinitely small. Human beings have an innate idea that bigger is better. When we think of God's greatness we think in terms of the immense. Consider the stars and all the universe—the greatness of God is there: "He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit." (Psalm 147:4–5)
Indeed, the immensity of what God has created gives testimony to His power and greatness. But it is in the Father's attention to detail that we can see His caring and compassion. This is the other half of the Father's omnipotence. There is no better verse in Scripture about this aspect of God than the teaching of Jesus: "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered." (Matthew 10:29–30) To me, where I am today in my growth, this is the greater example of God's greatness and power.
Our Father is so mighty that no occurrence escapes His view and sovereign will. A God who cares that much for the "minor details" is a God who can be relied upon to care for everything that goes on in my life. Further, a God of the tiny is a Father who is going to view me first and foremost as an individual child in His house. I do not have to be part of a great assembly (though I am) to be noticed or cared about by God. This is the first clue I have as to the incredible depth of my Father's love for me as me. I do not have to move in step with the hoard to be right with the Father.
From our earliest days we are taught to understand things in terms of comparison. This is bigger than that. This is green and that is blue. If you doubt this, just watch an episode of "Sesame Street" sometime. Our brain is set up to recognize things this way. There is nothing inherently wrong with comparison either. Where this thinking goes into error, however, is when we try to use this distinction as a basis of quality. This is when we get into "bigger is better" thinking. God has never found bigger to be better.
The only way the Father's love can be great and awesome is in how it is poured out to individual children. If God only loved groups or was only interested in big assemblies of people, His love would be small indeed. But His love is not small. The Father's love is so large that it can accommodate caring for each of His children as individuals. The Father is not taxed or burdened by this. It is this individual attention that is the basis of my assurance that I am OK just the way the Father made me.
My relationship with the Father and my self esteem do not depend on any group consensus. Indeed, these things cannot have such a basis and still be real and powerful understandings in my life. If I cannot stand by myself before God then I cannot stand. I cannot legitimately rely on the consensus of any group to assure me that I am loved by God. If I need such a consensus then I do not really believe that I am loved by the Father.
Individual Before God
The entire Bible is about God seeking individual relationship with people. Even when people are considered as groups, nations or even all of humanity, the undertone is one of one-on-one relationship with God. This springs from a concern for creation on God's part that arises out of the infinitely small. "And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man." (Genesis 9:5) From the beginning of humanity's existence God has seen us not as a group but as a group of individuals.
I believe that this is part of the lesson presented in the illustration of Abraham. God did not call a people or a nation but one man. Later on, this lesson is repeated and reinforced in the counting of the Israelites (Numbers 1:2). Why did God call for a census? He certainly knew how many people there were. I can't think of any reason why Moses or any of the rest of the people needed to know the head count. And it wasn't for the purpose of raising money. The free will response of the people to support the making of the tent of meeting (Exodus 36:3) is evidence that God is capable of moving people to give.
No, each man was recorded by name because each one was important to God individually. This theme is carried on through the Bible. God deals with individuals, not groups: "then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Forgive, and deal with each man according to all he does, since you know his heart (for you alone know the hearts of men)," (2 Chronicles 6:30) The Father is interested in us not only as individuals but as individuals on an intimate level. God is interested in us in the deepest and most personal way possible—at the heart level.
We see this over and over. Whether it is for the purpose of reward (Matthew 16:27, 1 Corinthians 3:8) or for gifting (1 Corinthians 7:7), or for responsibility (1 Corinthians 7:24); it is always with the individual that the Father deals. We can do anything we want to with our groups but God will only recognize the individual child of His household. This should be obvious from the fact that the Father chose to create His family by birthing individual children, one at a time.
There is nothing more intensely personal, individual and intimate than having God place His very life in you to be life for you. This event, done as it is one life at a time, is the most intimate and personal thing that will ever happen to anyone in this world. This is also the most precious and awesome example of God's caring for each individual person.
We forget that God is omnipotent, or more to the point, we forget what being omnipotent means. In this case, it means that God could have chosen any method at all to create His family. He could have had us grow up and fall out of trees like apples if He had wished to. Keep this in mind always. God can do anything. The Father is not limited to any method or system. Such being the case, we should consider why God chooses to do the things He does in the way He chooses to do them. There is a lesson in each action of God because He can do anything. We do things the way we have to. The Father does things the way He chooses to.
So what does our being born into the Father's house say about His desire for our relationship with Him? To me it speaks of the desire to have a relationship that is intensely personal. As a father myself I see this. Each of my children is precious and unique. It is in their uniqueness that their individual worth becomes apparent to me. I could never trade one of them off for another. There is no way because they are not interchangeable parts.
Further, my children are my children because of a life relationship. They are not required to be the same to be my children. Each one is special because they are not the same. This tells me that the life relationship is deeper than seeing things the same or holding to the same understandings. And it is life relationship that we have with the Father.
Unique before God
We can see how precious the Father's love for us is in the fact that our relationship with Him is individual. Loving people we do not know is a theoretical loving. It is, in fact, easy to love people who are not close to us. It becomes far more difficult to love the people who are in our lives daily. After all, it is the people in our daily lives who hurt, disappoint and annoy us. I can love the people on the other side of the world because they have no direct impact on my life. The people I never meet will never frustrate, aggravate or disappoint me. The real test of my letting God's love flow out of me comes with the people who hurt me.
This aspect of loving makes a personal and individual relationship with God all the more rich and wonderful. The Father knows the most intimate parts of me. He knows all my failures and weaknesses. And yet He loves me still!
I think that many people try to hide from God in the collective entity of organization. Many people feel more comfortable as a part of the crowd. We know that God is infinite and knows everything but we can still fool ourselves into believing that our failings don't stand out so much in a crowd. This is why so many people try to justify their shortcomings by using comparison. We are fond of saying: "I'm not perfect but I'm no worse than him." But life is not a comparative commodity.
In truth, the Father's love for us springs from within Himself and not as a result of anything we do or don't do. I am precious to my Father because I am one of a kind. With all my weaknesses and failings I am the only one of me there is or will ever be. The unique aspect of all of us was built into us by the Father. This is just the way He wanted us to be—unique. Again, God does things the way He wants to do them—because He is not constrained by any limitation.
What we can't seem to come to an understanding of is the realization that the Father isn't basing His love for us on our successes or failures. The Father loves us out of His love, not out of our doing or attaining or understanding. This is why no one should have any fear about standing before the Father as an individual.
Life is individual. I have a life and you have one and we cannot swap or fuse these lives together. The unity we have is the unity that comes from having the same source of life—the same Father. But my expression of that life is different from yours and from everyone else's. Not better or worse, just different. And this is exactly how God intended that it should be.
It is in the unique individual expression of the life of the Father in each of us by Christ that the seeds of the failure of collective living are sown. Organizational or collective expressions of life go wrong because they inevitably are drawn off to peripheral issues. The organizations of men rapidly take on a life of their own. And this is not the life of God.
Sooner or later (and often, more sooner than later) organizations start living for themselves. Organizations begin directing people to support the organization's ends and not to the growing of individual relationships with the Father. And the ends of any organization are not God's ends. The Father certainly uses these organizations but the Father uses everything that happens. The ends of the Father are unique to the Father. These ends are the fulfillment of individual lives grown by the Father's individual plan for each life. The work of the Father only comes out purely in this world through individual lives growing in the Father's life.
All people must choose for themselves. My recommendation is that each person should follow the leading of their own heart by the leading that is within each child of God. If you feel led to some corporate expression of Christianity, then participate. But I would caution that anyone should participate in corporate expressions of Christianity only so long as that participation does not interfere with or limit your individual growth with the Father. When we stand before the Father we will not be asked how our fellowship or denomination conducted itself. We will be treated as the individuals that the Father made us to be. Each person answers for their own life. In the end, collective or organizational entities will have nothing to do with it.
- Chapter 7 -
Life is Not Knowing
We who have grown up in a western culture have come to embrace learning and knowledge as virtues. And certainly learning and growing in understanding are positive aspects in any life. Even the Bible encourages us to grow in our understanding of ourselves and in the world around us: "Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold," (Proverbs 8:10) The pursuit of knowledge and wisdom (which is the proper application of knowledge), is promoted in the strongest terms in Scripture.
The Bible links the rejection of knowledge and understanding with foolishness: "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline." (Proverbs 1:7) Remember, in the Bible the term "foolishness" does not refer to someone who is simple minded or retarded. The fool, as Scripture uses the term, is someone who is morally deficient, not mentally deficient. From this biblical position it is easy to see how we can come to view understanding and learning as virtues.
The problem is not with valuing understanding but with idolizing it. We have become so intent on learning that we have forgotten that learning is an outcome of life and not life itself. Nor is learning and understanding a means to achieve life. The life of God resides in us because of the Father's placing that life in us and not because of any learning or understanding we have. You are just as alive in Christ if you understand everything about the life of God as you are if you know nothing about it.
The Place of Learning
So what is the proper place of learning in our relationship with the Father? I will never hold to the idea that learning is a bad thing or that it is even a neutral thing. No, understanding is of great value to the child of God. It is through learning and understanding that we grow in our appreciation and actualization of the life we have. It is only in knowing about my true state and relationship with the Father that I can test and assess the things that come into my life.
Apart from knowing the truth, I cannot properly test and accept the things that are true. Just as importantly, it is by understanding the Father's ways that I can test and reject those things that are untrue. This is critical because there is so much in the world that is untrue. Everything that comes out of the secular world is, to some extent, wrong. This error has its roots in the fact that the secular world has abandoned God. When we cut ourselves off from the source of all truth, we condemn ourselves to being mistaken in most, if not all, of our understandings. Further, the mistaken ideas of the secular world are not the only errors the child of God must deal with. The mistaken ideas that come out of religion and organizational thinking are a constant and potentially more destructive source of trouble for the believer. These mistaken ideas and understandings can lead to all manner of bondage to fear, doubt and guilt for the child of God.
When I say that everything the secular world understands is, to some degree, in error I am not speaking of objective, scientific facts. We all know that two and two are four. These kinds of rudimentary facts about the physical world are not wrong. But this level of understanding is of no concern to me in this discussion. When I speak of the error in human understanding I am speaking about how the secular world understands the ways of God and man. In this area we can have no correct understanding apart from God.
I must let the Father show me His ways if I am ever to have any hope of being freed from all the ideas, programs and agendas of men. There are so many false and mistaken ideas in the world today about the Father's ways. The evidence of this can be seen in any of the thousands of Christian denominations and in the teaching that comes from the tens of thousands of pulpits every Sunday morning. In these places you will find some truth and some error. Many times it is some truth and a lot of error. This is not a problem provided that the child of God is first and foremost being taught by their heavenly Father.
When we are armed with the truth of God in our hearts and minds we can navigate through the teachings of men. When we are submitted to the Father's instruction we can have a firm foundation for living. It is through the Father's teaching that we come to live in the firm understanding of who we are. Through the Father's teaching we come to understand the proper place of knowledge (and all other aspects of living) in our lives.
The God of Our Own Life
The reason we must take great care in not idolizing learning and understanding is that over valuing our understanding plays into the hands of the self. This problem doesn't arise out of the fact that learning and understanding are not virtues. The problem comes from the fact that these things are virtues.
One of the principle tactics of evil is the twisting of virtues into vices. Most of the evil perpetrated by humanity is cloaked in a mantle of virtue or assumed virtue. There are few people who wake up in the morning and say: 'Today I will go out and be a evil as I can be.' Yet most people do go out and commit much evil. How do we do it? By convincing ourselves that what we are doing is really right and proper. We also try to convince those around us that the evil we do is, in reality, virtue.
When we rely on our own understanding we are practicing self-reliance. This self-reliance is a form of independence from God. We are, through this action, operating as the gods of our own lives. This goes back to the original sin: "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "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 3:4–5) Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in an attempt to fulfill the desire to live independently from God.
This is the whole point of being "like God". We don't really want the responsibility of running the entire creation. We really don't think that we are God's equal in creating or managing the universe. But we very much want to have charge of our own lives. It is for this reason that we try to control the people, situations and things around us. The desire to control our immediate environment is really driven by the desire to control our own lives. One of the ways we try to exert this control is through understanding and the manipulation of understanding.
A good example of our attempt to control our lives through the manipulation of knowledge is found in the area of preconception. This is a particularly good example of the dangers of trying to take control of our personal growth in understanding. This illustration is good because it demonstrates not only how we attempt to manipulate understanding but also how these attempts are self-destructive.
Most people govern their understanding through preconceptions. We form ideas of the way things are and then we use these ideas as a measure of the correctness of other information coming into our lives. In this practice we see our attempt to play god. We play god through the use of preconceptions because the only way a concept can be a measure of truth is if it is absolute and all-encompassing. The only being that can have an all-encompassing understanding is God.
By the use of preconception we create mental boxes into which information must fit in order to be accepted as "true". In this way we can deceive ourselves into thinking that we have a total, complete and true understanding of the world and of life. But what we are really doing is cutting ourselves off from further revelation and further growth in understanding.
When we use preconceptions we are rejecting spontaneous living with the Father in favor of self-manipulation of our understanding. In the end, this leads only to deception and error. We close ourselves off from the consideration of any new understandings and in so doing sink into a life without growth. We must always seek to be open before the Father for both entirely new understanding and the correction of previously held misconceptions. It is only in this way that we can continue to grow with the Father.
Learning, Understanding and the Self
It may be fairly asked, 'Why can't we come to a correct understanding of ourselves or God apart from God?' The answer simply put is self-deception. That part of us that desires to live in independence from the Father can twist our understanding and desire to better know the Father into a basis for living apart from God. The question is not even about what we know or don't know. The real issue at hand is where our trust and reliance reside.
If I trust in my understanding and knowing for either the quality or quality of my relationship with the Father I have gone wrong. I am now headed for a life lived independently from the Father. The only way I can live in right relationship with the Father is to live by the life of the Father. I have said many times that relationship is a life issue. Whatever comes out of a relationship as regards better knowing the other person in that relationship is collateral to the life experience of the relationship itself.
The deepest level of satisfaction that comes out of relationship is the experience of sharing in the life of the other person. This is why the only way we can live in ever deepening relationship with the Father is to simply experience the life of the Father. I hope that I never stop learning about the Father and His ways. But I would never trade my life relationship with the Father for any knowledge about the Father.
Seminary and Classical Religious Teaching
This is why most organizational expressions of Christianity are marked by a lack of growth in knowledge about the Father. If you don't first seek the experience of the spontaneous life of the Father, you cannot grow in the understanding of the Father. The understanding flows out of the life experience. This is why most seminary teaching is dead. The method of learning used in of most seminaries is to approach God academically. If personal relationship with the Father is considered at all it is seen as secondary and subordinate to intellectual learning about God.
In the worst cases, the god taught in some seminaries is the intellectual understanding. This leads to this understanding being something other than the truth of God. At this point the learning becomes the teachings of men. When this happens misunderstanding becomes epidemic. Once the emphasis is shifted off the life of God there is no saving the program. Even a basis on the written word of God will not keep such an effort from going to a lifeless academic attempt at independence from God.
This is taught in the Scriptures through the prophet Isaiah: "For it is: Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule; a little here, a little there." (Isaiah 28:10) This little verse is probably overlooked or misunderstood by many as an innocuous nonsense phrase. I believe that Isaiah was using the Hebrew language to create this sing-songy phrase as a teaching about the futility of human study that is not founded on a life relationship with God. This becomes clear in the subsequent verses (Isaiah 28:11–13). Relying on our own understanding eventually results in misunderstanding the Father and His ways until we ". . . fall backward, be injured and snared and captured." (Isaiah 28:13b) It is small wonder that so many Christians today have so poor an understanding of the Father and His ways.
Because organizational Christianity drifted away from the personal relationship aspect of living with God, it doomed itself and its adherents to misunderstanding and error. Without a firm acceptance of the life of God operating in us as our only life, no knowledge can uplift or guide us. Without the acceptance of our utter dependence on the Father our learning cannot build up, it can only puff up.
The Things of Life
The difference between being puffed up and being built up is the double-edged sword of knowledge and understanding. When knowledge comes from the Father and more, when we see it as coming from the Father, we are built up. With the correct view of life being preeminent we can truly 'study to show ourselves approved'.
We must always be mindful that the things of life are relational and active. Life is never theoretical. This is what the Lord chastised the religious scholars of His day for when He said: "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) Life is always lived. It cannot be had, correctly understood or appreciated by intellectual study alone.
The things of life have to do with being and relating to the Father and to others: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices -- mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law -- justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former." (Matthew 23:23) The Lord always taught that the most important part of God's law was the spirit of that law. The spirit of the law is life and the issues of life. Justice, mercy, love and all the others are things of life, not dead academic concepts.
When we lose sight of the spirit of God's teaching we are left with the letter of the law. This does not lead to life but to judgmentalism and legalism. This academic part of the law is proclaimed by Scripture itself as being dead and leading to death: "He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant-- not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." (2 Corinthians 3:6) This sums up, more than anything else, the difference between academic learning and life learning. Even the Scriptures are dead if we do not avail ourselves of the life of God to enliven them. We must be ever mindful as we study that learning properly comes out of life. Life can never come out of learning.
A Different Knowing
If our look at knowledge and knowing is to be complete we must now look at another kind of knowing. Two basic types of knowing cover the majority of times the concept of knowledge is mentioned in the Bible. These knowledges are expressed by the Greek words eido, and ginosko. Most of the other occurrences of the idea of knowing in the Bible are derivations of these two words.
Eido is a sense or intuitive knowing. This is a subjective knowing that comes from within a person. Sense knowing is that type of knowledge that we experience when we "know because we know". Eido is really the primary form of revelational knowing—a knowledge that comes to us personally from the Father. We don't have any objective evidence for this type of understanding. Eido knowledge is not founded on mathematical, scientific or even experiential facts. We see the use of this word in 1 John 5:20: "We know also that the Son of God has come 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." In this verse the first occurrence of the word "know" (We know also that the Son of God . . .) is the Greek word 'eido'.
Ginosko is knowledge that we have gained through either experience or effort. This is best understood in English as intellectual or experiential knowledge. In this type of knowing we can point to some kind of objective basis for our understanding. The second occurrence of the word "know" in 1 John 5:20 above is this Greek word.
This one verse shows us that in understanding the Father and His ways we have both intuitive (sense) knowing and intellectual or experiential knowing. The one (eido) comes to us without our personal effort. The other (ginosko) comes to us by either experience or the effort of study.
Ginosko or intellectual knowing is important because it is in this type of knowing that we grow in a working level of knowledge about the Father and ourselves. This is the knowing we gain from our making a decision to seek the Lord. This is a type of knowing that we have in our minds and can call upon at will (soul level knowing). It is the ginosko type of understanding that most people think of when they consider "knowing". But this is not the first or principle type of knowing when it comes to understanding or living in the spiritual realm.
The Sense of Life
When we come to accept Christ as our Savior it is first by intuitive knowing that this occurs. This is the essence of revelational teaching and learning. The sense knowing or eido comes from the Father speaking into our spirit to enlighten us. This is a type of learning and knowing that many people are not comfortable with. For some this discomfort extends to the denial of the operation or existence of this type of knowing.
Many people are uncomfortable with sense knowing because of its subjective nature. We don't like that which we cannot objectively prove or understand. Another source of discomfort about sense knowledge comes from the role of personal effort in this type of knowing. If sense knowledge comes to us without effort then it also comes without merit. We cannot take any pride in what the Father has shown us intuitively. This is difficult for the independent self to accept.
But it is exactly the effortless aspect of sense knowing that makes this kind of knowledge precious and unique. Sense knowing is entirely under the control of the Father. It is part of the unfailing will of the Father. The knowledge we receive personally from the Father is dispensed at the Father's good pleasure. This revelation operates in the same way as our being selected for membership in the Father's family: "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit - fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name." (John 15:16)
It is troubling to most of us that we are not in control of these aspects of our life. We find it quite difficult to accept that our entire relationship with the Father exists at the Father's good pleasure. Our relationship with the Father is a result of God's will—both the depth of that relationship and in its very existence in the first place. This is the issue of submission. We do not will to know God (through active study) but we submit to the Father's will for our relationship.
If we are to fully benefit from the knowledge we receive from the Father we must submit to the Father's plan in that knowledge. The one bit of knowing that is the most universal in our living is the understanding about who we are. Once we submit to the Father's impartation of this sense of identity we are forever protected against worldly falsehoods. We are protected as long as we abide in the sense knowledge of who we are.
Our whole world view changes when we receive the understanding that our true identity is as a birthed child of God. Our position in the Father's family is the source of true worth and true identity. From this position we can more clearly see the nature of what goes on around us. But this is a knowledge that comes only from the Father as a sense knowing.
You cannot learn this fact from books or human instruction. You can hear the words but they will never become real and living apart from the Father speaking them to you in your spirit. This means that we must accept the truth of these facts subjectively. You will never be able to produce any kind of objective evidence in this world to substantiate your true identity. It is for this reason that faith is so critical in the life of the believer: "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)
Why is it impossible to please God apart from faith? Because without faith you cannot be taught by the Father. You cannot accept the sense knowing of anything, including such elementary understandings as who you are, without faith. It is in the subjective nature of sense knowing that faith becomes essential. Because we can produce no objective, physically factual evidence of this knowledge, the only thing we are left to cling to is faith.
But faith is not a function of knowing but a function of living. Knowledge, both that of the soul (intellectual / experiential) and that of the spirit (sense), come out of our living. When we are submitted to the operation of the Father's life in us as our only life our knowledge will be grown by the Father. If we try to grow in living through gaining knowledge we will become stunted. When we live in submission to the Father, true knowledge will burst forth in our life.
- Chapter 8 -
Life is Not Doctrine
A Different Brand of Knowing
Doctrine is a subset of human intellectual knowing. The doctrines we subscribe to as the basis of our denominations and church organizations are a representation of part of our understanding. A doctrine is a basis document or group of ideas that sum up our belief about God. Doctrines also attempt to define how we understand the working of the world and how the Father works in the world. The written doctrines we accept are usually seen as being "a cut above" common knowledge. This elevation of doctrine as a "special knowledge" is part of the reverence people commonly ascribe to religious practice.
It is felt in most religious circles that their doctrines are somehow "divinely ordained" truths. These capsule expressions of belief systems are held by members of the denomination as a sufficient basis for their relationship with God and as a guide for the conduct of their lives. If these statements of faith are based on biblical truth then they are quite probably true as far as they go. The problem with the doctrines of men is in both the interpretation of these truths and in their supposed universality.
Many of the doctrines and statements of faith that form the foundation of the Christian denominations found in the world today have their basis in a revelational truth. The people who had these revelations—Luther, Calvin, Nee, Simpson, Wesley and others—had a living and personal experience of the Father. Most of these people expressed in their writings some understanding of this living and vital aspect of relationship with God. They each gave it their own spin as they were given the understanding by the Father to see this reality. In that sense, each of these understandings was right and true for the people who received them.
Life is not Transmitted by Word
The problem with denominations is that they are not equipped by the Father to transmit either life or the understanding of life. This is not a criticism of denomination. There are other aspects of denominationalism that are legitimately subject to criticism on biblical grounds, but this is not one of them. Life and the sense of life cannot be transmitted by any of the tools that are available to the denominations of men. Life comes from living. Only living things can transmit it. Further, as we have said before, living things can only transmit the kind of life they have in them.
The people who are seen by church members as "the founders of our denomination" have at least one thing in common. That thing is that none of them set out to form a denomination. All denominations everywhere have this in common—they were not formed by the people the present denomination claim formed them. They were all formed by a group of people who came after "the founder." This group of people established an organization in the attempt to preserve the teachings of the person who is held up to be the founder.
While it is a noble goal to preserve some aspect of the truth about God, this is not a means by which life may be imparted to others. It is, at best, a means to point people back to God so that they may seek life at its only source—the Father. I believe that this was the most cherished ambition of every true seeker of the Father around whom a denomination was later formed.
As blessed as the writings of these men and women are, they do not contain life in themselves. These expressions of the revelations these people received from the Father are inspiring and encouraging. These works are instructive and my life has been blessed beyond measure by many of them. But they do not contain life. No writings or speech can do this.
One of my favorite descriptions of denomination is that a denomination is "the tombstone of a past movement of God." This is the essence of what I mean when I say that speech and writing cannot transmit life. When a person answers the call of the Father to seek Him what do they find? They find a living relationship with a living God. Because life is the essential essence of God we should not think that we can successfully relate with Him on any other basis.
If God were a theory we could relate with Him successfully in theory. If God were an idea we could transmit our experience with Him to others in speech or writing. If God were an inanimate force, like gravity, we could learn about it academically. But God is a person. He is a living entity that exists eternally, moment by moment. Because this is so this is how we must relate with Him if we are to have any hope for success in that relationship.
I believe that all denominations began with the most noble of motives. This motivation was to preserve and transmit a truth of God from generation to generation. Unfortunately, noble motive is not enough to come to know the Father. It is not the blind, unthinking repetition of someone else's revelation of God that brings relationship or even knowledge about the Father. I can characterize the teaching of denominations as blind and unthinking because not one denomination exists that lives up to the revelation of the person they claim as their founder.
The Organizational Monster
Every denomination represents a classic example of falling short of the founding ideals. A clear example of this can be seen in a denomination that is known for its legalism. The man this group claims as their spiritual founder wrote some of the clearest works about life relationship with the Father. This is characteristic of several denominations I know about. It is entirely possible that it may be true of all denominations. How does life relationship end up as legalism? This is the transition from one polar opposite to another. The word tells us this: "He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant -- not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." (2 Corinthians 3:6)
So how do we slip all the way from the Spirit that gives life to the letter that kills? The most subtle way this happens is when we seek the Father through men and not directly. When we seek the Father through either the organizations, teachings or the writings of men, the life of the Father goes out of the results. This is most succinctly summed up in the difference between knowing someone and knowing about someone. In a denomination's teachings you can learn about God but you will never come to know God. To come to a knowledge of God you must go to the Father Himself.
The problem of lifeless learning about the Father is often found embedded in the organizations of men. We must never forget that organizations themselves are not living entities. But they do take on a kind of life. The kind of life organizations have is a dead life.
Organizations are an extension of the people who support them and work to hold them together. It is actually the collective life of these people that give the organizational entity its "life". Like the people who make it up, the organization has a strong desire to survive. The survival of the organization is often the strong desire of its members to preserve their particular way of relating to the Father. Unfortunately, this is too often a relation at arm's length.
The members of religious organizations often wish to keep God at a distance. This desire arises out of fear or guilt or indifference and is fed by a gross misunderstanding of the Father's character. It is because of these fears and guilt that many church organizations teach a God that is to be feared. This teaching reinforces the membership's feelings and cements the entire institution together.
Daring to Live
A living relationship with God is a frightening thing to contemplate a first. We naturally ask ourselves: "What if I am unworthy and God is angry at me?" If our growing feeling that God loves us and wants us to come to Him just as we are is in error then we could be in big trouble. If the Father is angry and vindictive then we could be destroyed in our presumption of coming to Him personally. It is this type of feeling and thought that keeps many of God's children from entering into the deep personal relationship with Him.
The sad part of this is not that organizations do not teach a loving, living, personal God. Our Father has been very open and honest with us. The sad part about the situation of God's family is that we do not seek the Father because we do not want to. We have the truth of God available to us both in the Bible and in the Father's personal accessibility to each one of us. God's truth is there for the asking. But we must want to have that truth revealed to us.
No one comes to the Father or goes on with Him out of compulsion. The Father has willed that no one be forced into a relationship with Him. But He has also given us the wonderful assurance that He is there if we want Him: "So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." (Luke 11:9–10) This is one of the most blessed promises that the Father gives us in his word. To me, this is the ticket to seek a deeper relationship with the Father. This is the assurance I can seek a living relationship with my Heavenly Father.
Look at it this way. If the Father is to be believed and taken at His word then we are invited to seek a deeper relationship with Him. This means that this relationship is available to us. If God is not loving or trustworthy then why would you want to follow Him or know Him better in the first place? Ultimately, if God says we can seek Him then this must be possible.
The Resource to Live
The only other possible barrier a person might have to seeking the personal relationship with God is one of ability. Do I have what it takes to successfully seek the Father? Am I smart enough or good enough to have a living relationship with the Father? Such questions are, fortunately, not appropriate.
This goes back to our true, God created, nature. Remember, we were created to be vessels to contain the life of God. As a vessel we have a passive role in the process of relationship with God. Our role is to receive. The only thing we do that even approaches an active function is to be willing. This is the seeking. Seeking is not necessarily studying the Bible real hard or attending seminary or going to a church structure five times a week. Seeking is merely wanting God.
Wanting God is not an organizational or intellectual activity. Wanting comes from love which, in turn, comes from life. This is why doctrine and all the other trappings of organization cannot give life. Deep, personal relationship with the Father is a living commodity. This in itself is another reason why so few people seek the deeper relationship with the Father.
Predictability and Spontaneity
We do not shy away from seeking deeper relationship with the Father because we do not wish to live. We all want desperately to live. So why do people cling with such tenacity to organizations that have no power to produce living relationship?
People, in many cases. cling to organizations because they are predictable. The religious organizations of men offer a solid, unchanging, predictable routine. With an organization I know what is expected of me. I can plan out fifty weeks or fifty years ahead. Unfortunately, in life the only things that never change are things that are dead. Not a leaf nor a tree nor any other thing in the living world remains the same—if it is alive.
The most frightening thing about a living relationship with the Father is its spontaneous nature. After we clear the hurdle of experiencing God's love first-hand we must confront this challenge. I now know that God loves me and does not seek my destruction but rather my ultimate good. Unfortunately, I do not know what constitutes "ultimate good". Only the Father knows the ultimate of anything. This makes my relationship with the Father somewhat unpredictable.
It is important to note here that the unpredictable nature of living relationship with the Father does not arise out of any changing nature of the Father. The Father is unchanging and this is the rock upon which we all stand: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (Hebrews 13:8) The problem is that we know nothing of ultimate realities. In this, we must live by trusting the unfailing love of the Father. You cannot have a living relationship with the Father and at the same time demand to never be surprised. This is a result of both our limited knowledge and God's sovereignty.
It is for the purpose of introducing predictability that we establish religious organizations and the doctrines that define them. A doctrine sets bounds and parameters on life and our relationship with the Father. The reality, however, is that the Father is boundless. Our relationship with Him is also boundless. Any attempt to doctrinalize God or our relationship with Him is therefore doomed to failure. The Father's desire for you is that you will live in boundless relationship with Him. It is only in this way that God can be fully God in your life.
- Chapter 9 -
Ownership and Life
What's Ownership got to do With it?
On the face of it, we might feel that the issue of ownership is out of place in a discussion about life. Hopefully we will come to see in a bit that the issue of ownership has a central place in how we live and how we grow in our life with the Father. This is an area where the organizational expression of Christianity has injected a tremendous amount of confusion into the understanding of both believer's and non-believers. In the final analysis, how we view our ownership of things will determine to a great extent how far we will allow the Father to grow us.
In our relationship with the Father it is our understanding of owning that will be the most consistent problem we encounter. This includes not only the ownership of physical things but the ownership of non-material things as well. In fact, it is the "ownership" of non-physical commodities such as knowledge, reputation and status that are the biggest hinderance to most believers' continued growth in relationship with the Father.
What do we Own?
The question of ownership and how we deal with it is key to our relationships at all levels. This is evidenced by the number of times our Lord dealt with this issue during His earthly ministry. The question of ownership and how Jesus taught about it and dealt with it is telling. Further, it is most telling how Jesus dealt with ownership in His own life. After all, the most powerful testimony anyone on earth can have is how they live their life in this physical dimension.
It is universally understood that Jesus owned very little in the physical realm. Beyond the clothes on His back, He had next to no earthly possessions that we know of: "And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get." (Mark 15:24) This fact has not been lost on the organizational church.
Because the view of Christianity that comes out of the organizational church is primarily physically oriented, we might expect their understanding of Jesus' poverty to center on His lack of ownership with regard to physical possessions. But I maintain that this is only the most superficial aspect of Jesus' approach to ownership. Certainly how we deal with the physical objects that are intrusted to our care is important. This is the issue of physical stewardship. Our Lord taught about this in several places including the story of the rich young ruler.
The story of the rich young ruler is perhaps the best known illustration of how physical possessions can interfere with someone's growth and relationship with the Father. "Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 19:23) We know that this is an important concept to the Father because it is one of the few stories that is repeated in three of the four gospel accounts of Jesus' life. Indeed, through this and other stories and parables about wealthy people we could come to the conclusion that God is opposed to people having physical wealth: "He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty." (Luke 1:53) If we have this understanding however, we have most certainly missed the larger lesson.
Owning in the Physical
There is an apparent inconsistency in the Father's dealing with physical wealth as it is portrayed in different parts of the Bible. On the one hand, the Father promised the Jews prosperity in the world in return for their obedience to His commands: "For the LORD your God will bless you as he has promised, and you will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. You will rule over many nations but none will rule over you." (Deuteronomy 15:6) This would lead us to see physical prosperity as a sign of God's favor on people. But, if this is so why does the Father show such apparent hostility to wealth in other places in Scripture such as we see in Luke 1:53?
The Father's apparent hostility to physical wealth is such a powerful teaching in the Gospels that many people in Christianity have sworn vows of poverty in an attempt to draw nearer to the Father. Certainly, if a person is led of the Spirit to take such steps then they should most certainly do so. But we need to remember that there is only one principle that the Father follows in directing us to or away from the things of this world.
That one guiding principle is that the Father directs us to those things that draw us nearer to Him and leads us away from the things that cause our separation from Him. The Father is not oriented to physical objects but He is rather, oriented to relationship. And the Father's relationship orientation is expressed as His love for us. The Father's acts of benefit to us are based not on materiality but on the increasing richness of our relationship with Him. Our Father's understanding of what is beneficial for us is not open to our debate. The Father knows each of us intimately. I doubt if their are many of God's children who think that they could not safely handle more wealth. But this just goes to show how little we know about ourselves.
I have seen this principle at work in my own life. Not dealing so much with physical wealth but with other ownership issues. I can now look back on my life and see where the Father shielded me from certain "opportunities" for my own protection. I was kept from these things not by any conscious action or asking on my part (I didn't know enough to ask for these things) but by my Father's sovereign love for me.
In the area of physical wealth, it is an act of great wisdom to ask only for what is enough: "Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, `Who is the LORD?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God." (Proverbs 30:8–9) The real problem with physical wealth lies not in the wealth itself but in the temptation it represents for us to see wealth as a means of becoming independent from reliance on the Father. I believe that this is the deeper, spiritual, lesson offered in the parables regarding wealth in the Gospels. It is not what you own that is important but how that ownership effects your relationship with the Father that is critical. It may well be said that it is not what you own that is important but what owns you.
It is quite obvious by now that there is another realm in which we may exercise possession or ownership. This is in the possession and control of non-physical assets. These are the things that many in the world (Christian and non-Christian alike) would not consider possessions covered by the poverty of Christ Jesus. On the contrary, I believe that these non-physical possessions are far more to the point of Christ's teaching than any physical possessions we may have. It is far more personal and closer to us individually to speak of our possession of reputation, position, understanding, ability and status than any physical object we may have.
In all the stories that come to us through the Gospels about people offering to follow Christ, in only one is physical wealth an issue. Only with the rich young ruler does Jesus council anyone to sell all and follow Him. In the other cases we see people told to leave family (Matthew 8:21–22), to give up reputation (Matthew 8:19–20) and forsake earthly relationships (Matthew 12:48–49) for relationship with Him. It is obvious that there is more to possession than mere physical wealth.
It is my belief that it is in the area of non-physical possessions that most people become derailed in their growth in relationship with the Father. More Christians have traded deeper relationship with God for reputation, knowledge, acclaim and position than ever did so for money. Yet it is in the area of wealth that the organizational church most often cautions people to "get poor."
When Christ Walked the earth as Jesus He lived the lesson of ownership and relationship with the Father. When we say that Jesus owned nothing it must be understood that this means NOTHING. The most important things that Christ did without during His earthly ministry were not physical at all. The poverty that allowed Christ to perfectly follow the Father was more correctly a poverty of the soul than a poverty of physical possession.
By a poverty of the soul I mean that Jesus walked intimately with the Father by not giving into the temptation to be something in Himself. This is not a lack of any of the attributes of soul (mind, will and emotion) but rather, a lack of an independent use of these faculties. With the attitude (mind-set) like Christ's a person can be close to the Father whether they are stewards over 2 cents or 2 billion dollars. When we recognize that everything we have comes from the Father our physical circumstances become insignificant.
Jesus understood that if God is to be everything in our life, then we must become nothing. This is why Jesus claimed no reputation: "But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:" (Philippians 2:7, KJV) This is why Christ did not come as some great political or religious leader. The teaching of Christ in this area is clear. You cannot follow the Father fully and totally if you insist on carrying the baggage of reputation, position, self importance and self sufficiency with you.
Further, Christ never laid claim to any resource that came from within Himself: "Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does." (John 5:19) This is a strong statement by Jesus. Further, it is repeated in several other places (John 5:30, 8:28 & 9:33). Christ emphasizes to us that we can have nothing apart from the Father. The lesson in this area that comes out of Christ's life is that you can lay claim to nothing of yourself if the Father is to be everything in your life. And the Father must be everything if He is to have His proper place in our lives.
Rich Toward God
It must stand to reason that if Christ is our only life that everything about us comes from the Father's provision. Any attempt on our part to act out of our own resource is doomed to failure. Apart from the Father there is no success or profit. This is the lesson of the rich fool (Luke 12:16–21). On the surface this lesson is a caution to us about the uncertainty of wealth. We are certainly headed for trouble if we put our trust in the physical possessions we have acquired. And this is a good teaching. But there is much more contained in this parable.
The last verse in the parable is very telling: "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God." (Luke 12:21) The Greek word for "rich" used here is plouteo. This word can refer to either possessions or it can indicate someone who is richly supplied (as with resources). This speaks to the need for us to see everything as being "of God". This is what it means to be rich toward God.
There is a clear implication here that the state of being rich which Jesus speaks of in this story includes not only material possessions but also personal attributes. In short, we are not "rich toward God" any time we allow what we have to make us self-reliant. It is in this way that we allow what we have to cut us off from relationship with the Father. The Father is all, He can be nothing else. God will not consent to be anything else. When we ask Him to be something less than all by allowing us to be something apart from Him we are cut off. It is at this point that we cease to grow with the Father. He is still our Father and we are still His children, but we are no longer abiding totally in Him. At this point our growth in relationship with the Father slows and stops.
The word that sums up this principle in the Gospels is "stewardship". In several parables this concept is used. The reference to either a steward or a servant shows how God's economy functions (see Matthew 25:14–30, Mark 13:34, Luke 12:42 & 19:12–26). A steward is someone to whom the master's goods are entrusted. The Greek word in this case is oikonomos. This is a word that refers to a superintendent or manager.
There is a good lesson here for each of us. We are all stewards of whatever the Lord has entrusted us with both physically and non-physically. The steward does not own the possessions that have been entrusted to him. However, the servant is responsible for the proper use of what the master has entrusted to him. Propriety in the use of the master's goods is the use of these things that is in accordance with the master's wishes.
We can see where this is headed. We do not own any of the things we have care over. They have been given to us for our use in carrying out the will of the Father. If our very life comes from and belongs to the Father, what can we claim to own of ourselves? This is why Jesus was so insistent that He was nothing apart from the Father. We too are nothing apart from the Father. We can never claim to have any possession, talent, ability, ministry or power that is "of us and through us". We only have the Father's life.
Owning and Identity
The issue of ownership and how we see it is a key symptom of how we see ourselves. How we view the things the Father has entrusted to us tells more about our self image than all of our words. If our identity is formed to any measure by the things we have, the things we do or the things we have accomplished then we have ownership problems.
You see, it was never a part of the Father's plan for the creation that we should be doctors of philosophy, pastors, healers, businessmen or engineers. Such things have no place in God's plan and never have. The only thing we were, are or will be that is consistent with the Father's plan is His children. There is no other identity that is valid in the sight of God. Anytime we see ourselves as anything other than the children of God we are outside the intention of the Father.
We may engage in any number of different activities or accomplish any number of deeds, but this is not who we are. This has nothing whatever to do with anything of importance save that it was done in obedience to the Father's wishes for our lives. This fact is at the root of our concept of ownership and what we own.
Poor Like Christ
The only way we can fully operate as the Children of God is to be poor like Christ. In this way we are living in a manner that is consistent with the Christ who is our only life. Being poor like Christ cannot be understood in terms of the physical world. Christ's poverty is not about what you have or don't have stewardship over in the realm of physical possessions. The issue of physical ownership is not a small part of Christ-like poverty; it is no part of it at all.
The poverty of Christ is the understanding that the Father is everything. To fully and operatively have this understanding we must see that God's everything is only properly the companion to our nothing. Any other view of the situation is improper. You cannot possibly have an everything and a something else. This is a physical and spiritual impossibility. God will never be the all that He truly is in our life and understanding as long as we are anything in ourselves.
This is why the only thing we can legitimately be is children of the living God. This is our only true heritage and our only legitimate identity. In this condition we own nothing of ourselves but we also need nothing of ourselves. It is here that the Father becomes to us what He truly is—All in All.
- Chapter 10 -
Internal and External Life
The Temple Model
In any discussion of life that is real life, we must address the issue of the internal and external aspects of that life. The concepts of internal and external life are critical to a deeper understanding of our spiritual life. The spirit of a person is the innermost part of our makeup. Drawing from the illustration in Scripture of the temple we can see this more clearly. The physical configuration of the temple and the tabernacle that preceded it, mirror the makeup of each human being. Every human being, along with the tabernacle and the temple, are fashioned after the Father's pattern.
Scriptures often speak of the human being as the temple of the Lord. Jesus Himself made this analogy: "Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" But the temple he had spoken of was his body." (John 2:19–21) This parallel also appears in Paul's writings (2 Corinthians 6:16). These references are some of the most compelling evidence that we have from Scripture that we were created with the express purpose of being containers designed to hold the Father's spirit. It was as a dwelling place for the Father that the tabernacle and temple were constructed.
Both the tabernacle (Exodus 25–27), and its later manifestation—the temple (1 Kings 6), were constructed with three main areas, each inside the previous one. These areas were the outer court, the holy place and the holy of holies. Each succeeding area was more holy, more secretive and more restrictive. With the passage into each succeeding area there were greater restrictions on who could enter them and what activities were permitted in them.
The outer court corresponds to our physical body. It is the least spiritual and most readily visible and accessible part of us. This is the "outer person". The next area was the holy place. This part of the temple structure corresponds to our soul. Our soul is our "inner person". This part of the temple was the area where the priests routinely ministered and was not accessible by the common people. The most interior place was the holy of holies. This was only to be entered once a year and then only by the high priest. This corresponds to our human spirit or the "innermost person".
We can see from the progression through the temple model that as we go deeper into the interior of either the temple building or of our own makeup, the level of spirituality increases and the access becomes more restricted. As we go from the physical body which all may see, to our human spirit where our true life dwells and no one save the Father and ourselves may see (though even we ourselves see only incompletely), there is the same progression. It is clear that the "innermost person"(spirit) and the "inner person" (soul) are private places: "Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy." (Proverbs 14:10) Further, even we ourselves do not fully know our own inner person: "All a man's ways seem right to him, but the LORD weighs the heart." (Proverbs 21:2)
Our inner makeup is a place that is only truly accessible to the Father and us individually. While we share to some extent with each other from our soul this is, at most, an incomplete sharing. The lack of total disclosure of our thoughts and emotions is not entirely an issue of intentional secrecy. Though we may choose some level of intentional secrecy, we are further limited by the soul's very nature in how completely we can disclose our thoughts and emotions. This is a further evidence from the natural world that our relationship with the Father is to be primarily individual.
In the inner portions of our being we can only have complete disclosure with the Father. We cannot even say that we completely know ourselves. Further, the completeness of the disclosure with ourselves is dependent on our surrendered abiding with the Father. We can, at most, only know as much about ourselves as the Father chooses to reveal to us and that we surrender to receive. Our powers of deception are great. To take this another step deeper, our ability to deceive is greatest in the area of self-deception. In the end, only the Father knows us completely and honestly. As we submit to Him we are gently and gradually brought into a more complete revelation of that self understanding. "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)
But regardless of the degree of our openness to revelation about ourselves and our honesty with others, we still cannot either fully know ourselves or fully reveal our inner person to those around us. This is perfectly consistent with the Father's plan for and view of us. The immensity of the Father's care and love for us is revealed and manifested in our uniqueness as individuals. We are each precious and rare one-of-a-kind beings.
Organization and Internal Life
Because we are fundamentally individual by the Father's design, organizational attempts at relationship with the Father are doomed to failure from the outset. The collective approach to dealing with the Father that organizations bring are, by their nature, inconsistent with the Father's plan and purpose. Organizations exist in the physical or external world. No one is collectively "organized" in their inner parts. We may cling to organizational mindsets (attitudes) in our soul mind but this is merely wrong thinking. This is not a necessary or even correct part of our inner makeup.
The most obvious result of the error in attempting to relate to God organizationally is the mediatorial makeup of church institutions. The seemingly inevitable insertion of a group of individuals in positions of "authority" that comes with organization is the most blatant violation of the Father's family plan. It seems that every organization sooner or later sees the need to raise up a group of people who are to intercede with God on behalf of the "common people". This is the founding principle of the clergy-laity system.
In this, I do not speak out against intercession. Intercession is a legitimate expression of the Father's heart in people's lives. But there is no biblical basis for agents or mediators to stand between the Father and His children: "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus," (Timothy 2:5) We have no need of anyone, save Christ, for us to be allowed into the presence of the Father. Further, the argument of "the responsibility of the leadership" holds no validity either. To say that we must be submitted to some body of men to protect us from error demeans the Father as a competent parent. Either the Father, by Himself, is capable of teaching and correcting us or He isn't. It's that simple.
While it is certainly true that God uses each of us to speak into one another's lives, this does not justify a "leadership of correction". In the first place, we are all fallible. Taking a group of fallible individuals and putting them together does not make an infallible group. This does not mean that we should disregard the input of brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to hear input from our brothers and sisters in the Lord. But in the end this input, like all other input, must be put up against the final arbiter. That final arbiter is the Spirit of Christ in our spirit: "The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children." (Romans 8:16) The final word of truth must be the Father Himself speaking through the intuition of the individual child's Christ-indwelt spirit. This relies entirely on our surrender to listen to the voice of the Father through our spirit.
While this is a point of great discomfort to many in organizational Christianity, it shouldn't be. Think of it. If I am so stubborn as to ignore the Father's teaching and leading within me, what makes anyone think that I will listen to any man or body of men? There is far more danger of going astray in a mediatorial, hierarchical setting than in relying on my intuition. It is far more likely that the "leadership" will be in error and that I will follow that error to avoid unpleasant confrontation than it is that the Father will lead me astray. It is at worst, only equally risky that the leadership will be in error as it is that I will twist the Father's teaching in my spirit to my own desires. But how can I make such an assertion?
In the end the same forces are at work whether I am seeking the Father's leading and correcting myself or if I rely on a body of leaders. In the final analysis, it comes down to each individual's willingness to receive correction from the Father and to change. This is true whether this correction comes from God directly or through men. So the real difference is in who we look to for our ultimate source of correction. This is either fallible men or the infallible Father. Using a human leadership only adds one more opportunity for error. If this seems arrogant to you consider this: What makes human leaders any more competent at hearing the Father's leading than any individual believer? I maintain that there is nothing that makes them more able. Further, there is a very real barrier to our ability to correct one another. That barrier, as we mentioned earlier, is the private nature of each person's inner being. This is why so many vile things go on uncorrected in church organizations. They are simply not known about by the leadership. If leadership correction were all that valid, I would expect the Father to be more forthcoming about informing the leadership as to what is going on. But this is not the entire story.
There is another prevalent risk of error from human leadership correction. This risk comes from the baggage we all carry around. This baggage becomes the inevitable hidden agendas of human organizations. Because human organizations are, by their very nature, opposed to God's plan of individual family relationship with His children, they must have hidden agendas. What this basically amounts to is actions carried out with the motivation of preserving the organization or individual positions within the organization. No one can openly admit this as a motivation so the deceptions must begin. And the deceptions begin with self-deceptions. In this environment it is difficult if not impossible for true understanding to come forth. Mixed motives must inevitably produce mixed actions.
This is equally true in our individual lives. As we have discussed in the issue of ownership, we twist both the leadings of brothers and sisters and the leadings of the Father to support our own illegitimate positions. If we have surrendered to the poverty of Christ then our hearing in all areas will become much clearer. This is true both of our hearing brothers and sisters and in our hearing the Father.
Because human organizations are, at their base, contrary to the Father's plan of individual birthed children, they are doomed to mixed motivation. The organization cannot be sustained and maintained while encouraging the children of God to go on in individual relationship with the Father. When the children shift from the collective approach to the individual approach of relationship with the Father, the organization must begin to decline. This is why the internal life with God cannot be tolerated by the organizations of men.
In the end, it is only the arrogance of men that presumes that we can do as good or better job at directing the Father's children as He can. While this state of affairs alone is enough to condemn mediatorial organizational attempts at controlling our relationship with the Father even this is not the full story. We have yet to consider the particular hidden agenda issue of control.
Why are the external church organizations of men so opposed to the believer walking in the understanding of their internal life in God? Certainly the issue of organizational continuance is a big part of this resistance. But this is a rather generic answer. There is a more specific root to the organizational opposition to the interior life. No one has spoken to this issue with more passion and insight than Mme Jeanne Guyon. This great Catholic mystic was given rich insight into the true nature of our new life with God in Christ. Mme Guyon's writings on the subject caused an intensely hostile reaction from the sixteenth century church. This ultimately resulted in Mme Guyon's imprisonment.
It is no different today. The organizational, mediatorial church cannot abide the believer walking in intimate personal relationship with the Father. What Mme Guyon called "the interior way" was (and is) a sure source of persecution: "This is not so with those who devote themselves to the interior life. They suffer persecution at the hands of the godless world, but they also receive persecution from people who live ordinary lives; and, even more, they suffer from pious and religious-minded men and women who are not interior."
What Jeanne Guyon discovered and articulated is the same thing that people today are discovering as they seek to go on with God in individual relationship. In this aspect of the Christian walk nothing has changed from the first century down to the present moment. The persecution of the godless world is always expected. But the biggest shock must be the persecution we receive from religious Christianity. One is almost compelled to cry out "Why?".
More than any other cause, I feel, the answer to our question must be the single word "control". In an externally based view of life it is easy to examine, judge and ultimately to control. If we see life as primarily external, it is easy to set standards of behavior: witness to at least two people each day, do one good deed, attend three of our seminars, pray five times a day, attend church regularly and so on. We can then easily see who is measuring up and who is not. But we must understand that this is not godliness. This is control.
What is worse, these kinds of external measures are the means by which organizations manipulate the individual believer's life with the Father. In the interior way all of this is blown away. This does not mean that these things are not done. But most to the point, whether they are done or not, they cannot be judged. This is so in the interior life because the actions of the individual are an issue exclusively between the Father and the child. This means that they cannot be controlled by the organizations of men.
This drives the religious part of Christianity crazy. It drives every religious person of every stripe crazy. This brings on the accusations of spiritual arrogance, robbing the body and being possessed of a "spirit of error" to name but a few. Our religious brothers and sisters claim a deep concern for our well-being as they see us slipping into the dangerous area of "subjectivism". While this concern may be genuine, it is also based in ignorance. The specific ignorance in play here is the ignorance of brothers and sisters about the Father's ability and desire to be fully Father to each of us.
I must believe that the real base motivation for much of the religious organization's reaction to the interior way is the loss of control over the individual believer. If I let you go on with God in an individual relationship, I must give up my ability to judge your walk. I may not (indeed, probably will not) understand all the places that the Father will take you. But I can rely on the sense from my spirit to know if you are walking with the Father or not. This sense does not allow me to judge but it does allow me to care about you.
Another Look at Intuition
It must be understood that when I speak of sense knowing (eido in the Greek) I am not speaking about anything to do with emotion. First, intuition is a faculty of the human spirit. Emotion resides in the soul. They are two distinct and separate human attributes. It is NOT emotionalism to speak of sense (intuitive) knowing.
As we have spoken about before, the understandings we get from the intuition in our spirit are the result of the Father's direct speaking to us. This is not weird and bazaar. This is a part of us that the Father intended that we have from the beginning. And if the Father gave it to us, it may be clearly seen that the Father intended that we use it. God does nothing that is aimless.
It is through the intuition that we have our intellectual understandings (another soul faculty) changed by the Father. We may learn directly in the mind—as with something we read or hear. But we primarily learn from our intuition. It is the intuition that plants the seed. Our hearing and reading water it and help it grow but the seed itself comes from the Father. This is very difficult for many people today to accept. We are naturally (from the natural person) uncomfortable with learning that we cannot objectively assess. But the truth of the intuitive teaching of the Father will be borne out in our experience. And we will see this if we are open and submitted to the Father.
Another View of the Body
One last aspect of the interior way should be addressed here. This is the interior life view of the physical human body. We are so accustomed to walking around in our "earth suit" that we quite naturally take it for granted that it is part of "us". But there is another view that should be considered.
It is clear from Scripture that our physical body is different from the other parts of our human makeup: "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;" (1 Corinthians 15:42–43) The spirit is new now, the soul is being renewed, but the body is replaced. Why? Certainly a God who can do anything can rehabilitate a physical body.
The answer, I believe, is that our physical bodies were created from the beginning by the Father to be disposable. This is consistent with the character of the entire physical universe: "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea." (Revelation 21:1) Just as the entire physical creation will be replaced at the end of the age, so are our physical bodies replaced. There are only two purposes that the physical body serves. The first is to provide us (as primarily spiritual beings) with a means of interfacing with a physical world.
The second purpose for our physical bodies is hard for many people to accept. This purpose was to provide a place for the Father to exile Satan after the fall. This is a rather involved subject which I will not attempt to cover in detail here. What is relevant about this issue to our current discussion is why people have such difficulty accepting this idea. I believe this difficulty arises primarily from our concept of who we are. It is because most people see their physical body as an integral part of their being that the idea of "Satan in the flesh" is offensive to them. I maintain that the biblical evidence shows that our bodies are only temporary parts of us. In this light, the fact that Satan is resident in our physical bodies is far less offensive. If I am primarily a spiritual being and my body is physical then that body is not really a permanent or deep part of who I really am. I would only ask each person to take this concept back to the Father for conformation or refutation.
Body From Spirit
Many people have the misconception that it is our physical body that keeps us alive. The Bible shows in several places that this is not so. The real truth is that it is our spirit that keeps the rest of us (soul and body) alive. Consider the story of Jairus' daughter: "Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat." (Luke 8:55) In several places it can be seen that when a person dies the physical body is left behind (2 Kings 4:32–35, Acts 20:9–12). The true life support for our body is our spirit.
The important thing to see here is that, as spirit beings, we are not defined by our physical bodies. The physical "you" is not part of the real you. If for no other reason, this is true because our physical bodies are mortal and finite. They are passing away. If you are like me, in late middle age, this is becoming increasingly undeniable! The real you is the interior you. The spirit/soul you is the part that is eternal and therefore it is the part that is really "real".
When we speak of the life that is real life we speak exclusively of the interior life. This is the real and hidden life of each of us. And at least for the time we are on this earth, this is a life that is only completely shared by us and the Father. We have other relationships where we share a part of our lives with brothers and sisters. While this is rich, it is only a sharing of a small part of our real life. The life that is real life is primarily lived "indoors". This is the internal life from and with the Father.
- Chapter 11 -
Life and Doing
The issue of doing is one that keeps coming up in Christian circles. What should we be doing? How can we do the will of God? What do I have to do to please God? These questions and thousands more like them are posed every day by Christians who want to "do what is right". It is certainly a small wonder that Christians are so preoccupied with doing. Doing of one kind or another is the topic of many teachings in the organizational church. In the areas of both actual actions and in the understanding of the proper place of works in our lives there is much speculation. There is also a good deal of misconception about the proper place of our actions in our lives.
There is scarcely a Christian anywhere who has not grown up or at least spent some time in a church organization. In the organized churches there is a good deal of emphasis placed on our doing. This emphasis covers a wide area from good works to financial giving to family life. We have been instructed in great detail about doing good and not doing bad. In the church institutions of the world we have been carefully instructed about the importance of doing our part. But what has this got to do with living the life that is real life?
In the traditional approach to doing we are instructed that God put us on earth to do good things. The general understanding in many corners of Christianity is that the world was corrupted by the fall and now God has given us the task of repairing the world through our good works. Further, if we do good things God will be pleased with us and will take care of us. It is taught in most organizations that the Father will give us gifts and protection in return for our good deeds. Consider a small excerpt from a Christian publication: "Having just received their generous gifts to meet his needs in prison, he (Paul) assured them (the Philippians) that because of their generosity God wouldn't allow them to suffer needlessly." (parenthesis mine). This was a part of a discussion on the fourth chapter of Philippians. What this author has written speaks volumes about how most of Christianity understands doing.
Such an assessment of Scripture shows the confusion inherent in the traditional view of doing that is found in Christianity today. Stop and think about it. What the author is implying (though not intentionally—I hope) is that if we don't "do good things" God will leave us to rot. This is nothing more or less than an accusation of God dealing in conditional love. You do something nice in the world and God does something nice for you. People often deal in conditional love, but this is something God has never done.
The whole basis of the Father's love is its unconditional nature. God loves because He is God and not because of anything we do or don't do. It is truly sad that we can make statements like the one above without seeing the gross disservice they do to our Father. We have been mired in the organizational and worldly ways of acting and understanding for so long that we can't seem to come beyond them.
Let's look at what the Scriptures really say about God's dealing with us. The verse that was referenced in the above quotation is: "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19) Paul says nothing about the Father being indebted to the Philippian believers or about "pay backs". There is no reference or inference that God is indebted to the Philippians because of their giving. The real lesson that I read in this verse is that the means through which the Father supplies for His children is by Christ.
Where are the Father's glorious riches? They are in Christ. When we have Christ as our only life we also have all that the Father has to give us. If God has already given us all He has, what can we possibly earn? As we have spoken before—the Father does not give us stuff, He gives us Himself. This is the whole point in writing this book. The relationship with the Father, the status of being God's children is about life. It is not about stuff and it is not about doing. The Scriptures are quite clear on this point: "Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?" (Romans 11:35) There is nothing that any of us can do for God or give to God that will make Him our debtor. To take this even further, there is no doing possible on our part that will make the Father love us more than He already does.
Doing and not doing are not the issue. They have never been the issue. It is absurd to be as taken up with doing as many Christians are. Why? Because we are always going to be doing things. We cannot escape it. We fill each day with doing as a natural byproduct of living. So it is not a question of doing or not doing. But is it a question of what we do?
Good Bad and Bad Bad
That the issue of what we do is important is beyond question. But is what we do the central issue? I think not. First of all you must understand that we often don't know what good and bad look like. This is an offensive statement for many people. But we need to look at this issue a little more globally. We are all finite in our knowledge and understandings. Consider this little story: A man was walking down the street one afternoon when he noticed a man struggling to get a small girl into a car. The child was hysterical and the man had his hands full. The first man, thinking that he was witnessing an abduction, rushed up to force the other man to release the child. After an embarrassed struggle it came to light that the child was the man's daughter and he was trying to get her to a doctor's appointment she did not wish to go to.
A simple story, but one that illustrates the point. Here is an event that looks from the outside like a very bad situation. But what was actually happening was for the child's own good. The fact is that many times we don't know enough to know what is good and what is bad simply by the outward appearances.
As we have spoken to before, the issue really comes down to the motivation of the heart. In our Christian lives what we do is good or bad not based on what we do so much as on why we do it. This was Jesus' constant battle with the religious establishment of His day: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean." (Matthew 23:27)
The only truly good thing is the deed done from a pure heart. This is the first big clue we have that there is a good deal more to doing than we have been led to believe by the religious organizations of the world. We have seen before that the motivations of a person are interior and hidden from our observation. In the end, the motivations of a person's heart are an issue between each individual person and the Father. We can recognize the purely evil deed but beyond that the picture is anything but clear. In most of our lives what we do and see others doing is a collection of deeds that are good bad, bad good, bad bad and good good.
For the unsaved world the majority of doing is good bad and bad bad. These are the good deeds done out of bad motivation and the bad deeds done out of bad motivation. This may seem like a brash statement but it is unfortunately true. We know from Scripture that no purely good deed is possible apart from the Father: "All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." (Romans 3:12) It is like a trip through the fun house at an amusement park. Nothing is as it appears. We can take little or nothing of what we see at face value. What we see is most often coming out of mixed motive and is therefore impure doing.
Good Like God
So if the people of the world are incapable of doing anything that is purely good, what about Christianity? The same statement that Paul makes in Romans 3:12 applies to Christians and non-Christians alike. This is true for anyone who does not have Christ in their spirit to be life for them. It also applies to the Christ-person who acts independently out of their own resource. When we do not submit ourselves to Christ as the Lord of our life, we are still only doing good bad or bad bad. This is so because we are not truly operating independently when we are not submitted to the Christ in our spirit. In our unsubmitted condition we are unwittingly operating in submission to the Satan nature in our flesh. This is why goodness apart from God is an impossibility.
We can know this because it is one of the teachings that Christ left us through His earthly ministry: "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good -- except God alone." (Mark 10:18) There is no source of goodness in the entire universe apart from God. For this reason alone, there is no good doing that is done outside of God's life. We can only do truly good deeds if those deeds are produced by the life of the Father operating in us and out of us. So in the end, the only good doing we are capable of is our surrender to the Father's doing.
So if life is inevitably made up of actions (doing), what is the place of that doing in the Christian's life? Before we answer the question we should look at the traditional organized religious view of doing. I believe that it is necessary to do this because so many people are carrying around a view of doing that was significantly formed or impacted by the church organization. A significant part of this teaching was prompted by two motivations. One was bad and one was mistaken.
The bad motivation behind religious organizations' encouragement of good deeds is self preservation. In order for an institution to continue to be an institution it must do things. This doing requires a work force. Even if it is just the routine functions needed to maintain the organizational structure, a work force is needed. We need people to clean the building, mow the lawn, keep the books, etc. We must be brutally honest on this point. Work done to support the church institution is done for the institution, not for Christ.
The instance of mistaken motivation is that the Father needs people to get His business taken care of. As I am fond of saying, the creator and sustainer of all the universe has no need of a work force. In spite of this it is not difficult to find a church institution that teaches that without our help God can't carry out His plan. The Father would very much like to involve us in His plan but He has never needed our involvement to do anything.
Further, there is also no validity in the argument that it is God's desire to use our doing to make the world a better place. The Father is not really interested in making the world a better place. What the Father wants is to make sons. Sons of the Father are the only beings that can be then made into better individuals. The Father knows that you do not make the world a better place by good deeds. A better world is made by making better people. And better people can only be made by their having the right life in them. To put it another way, people are only improved as they are moved into a closer walk in the Father's purpose for the creation.
So once again we come back to our central theme. The plan and purpose of the entire creation is about life. To put it another way, we do not do to be—we do out of our being. You cannot grow in the life of the Father by doing. You can only grow in the Father's doing by growing in your living in the Father's life. The problem with the view of much of Christianity in this topic suffers from an error in sequence. Our doing can only properly come out of the life we have in us. We do the work of the Father only as we let our doing flow out of the life of Christ in us.
This is the doing that arises out of the spontaneous living of the Father's life. This kind of living cannot be dictated by an external organization or even by another individual. When we are about the Father's business we are letting the life of Christ in us rule over us. But the important thing to remember is that our doing comes out of our life and not our life out of our doing. This is why you cannot work your way into God's favor.
The only thing that is acceptable to the Father is the Son. This is why every born again believer is right now totally and eternally acceptable to the Father. Do what you will, you will never be more acceptable to the Father than when you consented to let Christ become your only life. You are acceptable to the Father because of the life that now operates in you. This is exclusive of any doing. The Old Testament gives us several wonderful examples of this.
Seeing the Face of God
Consider the situation with Moses: "But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live." (Exodus 33:20) This verse is part of the account of Moses being allowed to see God on Mount Sinai.
Notice that Moses is not allowed to see God face to face. This is very telling considering that few people have ever had a relationship with God like Moses. Wouldn't you think that if it were a question of doing that Moses would be allowed into the full face-to-face presence of God? The Bible tells us that Moses had a friendship relationship with God: "The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent." (Exodus 33:11) But even this was not enough. Think of it: If Moses can't make the cut, what chance do you and I have?
The same thing was true of Elijah (1 Kings 19:11–13). Here we see two great men of God, both powerful in obedience and deeds but who could still not stand in the immediate presence of God. If works were enough to satisfy God and win us a place in His presence wouldn't these two men qualify? But the truth of the matter is this: These two men could not stand in the presence of God because they did not, at that time, have the right life to do so. By the way, I fully believe that they now do have that right life.
The point is, that no amount of doing can earn us a place in the Father's presence. This includes great and miraculous doing that is in obedience to the Father's will. There is no amount or kind of doing that can win us a place in the Father's household because no amount of doing can make God "Father" to us. Relationship with the Father is an issue of life and nothing but life.
The Father's terms for our relationship with Him are simple, clear and unchanging. The only way anyone can become acceptable to the Father is by being His child. This child status comes only through Christ. The Father's economy is based solely and exclusively on life: "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life." (1 John 5:12) Because God is the God of the living and not the dead (Matthew 22:32), without life you have nothing.
We are deeply rooted in doing. We naturally think in terms of doing. It is very common for people to refer to themselves in terms of their profession: I'm a doctor or engineer or teacher. We naturally think of ourselves in these terms. But the truth of the situation is that you can never be what you do. You can only do out of what you are.
It is for this reason that we as Christians should spend far less time worrying about our doing. This is not because our actions are unimportant or that they have no consequences. In spite of the importance or consequence of our actions there is another issue that overrides everything about our doing. We need to concern ourselves with the source of our doing—the life of Christ in us. Once we surrender to the operation of the this life as our only life our doing will take care of itself. The only time I get in trouble with my doing is when I try to do out of my own resource. But this definitely does not have to be my situation. I can go about my day in the spontaneous operation of the life of Christ in me and automatically be about my Father's business. When we are living in surrender to the life of Christ in our spirit, our doing is automatically the outcome of that life.
- Chapter 12 -
Life and Law
A Particular Doing
There is one particular aspect or type of doing that should be looked at in greater detail when considering the issue of real life. This aspect of doing is the law. While all people everywhere live under some legal code, the issue of legalism is of special interest to the Christian. While the law is not, in itself, a work, it is a method or framework for doing. As Christians, we are often drawn to the Law of Moses as a basis for living and as a source of guidance and justification for the rules and restrictions we are placed under by church organizations. Many people, both inside and outside Christianity, feel that the path to greater goodness and "right living" is attained by tighter adherence to the laws that were given to Israel at the time of the exodus.
The laws that God gave to the Israelites are the supreme moral and ethical code. This supremacy comes from the fact that the Mosaic Law is a revelation of God's understanding of fairness and propriety. But we need to be very clear on the place and purpose for which these laws were given to the people by God. If we are to profit from the law we must handle it correctly. If we are to avoid being ensnared in legalism and pettiness we must have a sound, clear and correct understanding of the Father's place and purpose for the written law. The Israelites were constantly in trouble with God because they never came to a firm understanding of the purpose of His law.
This statement would raise considerable ire in some circles. The orthodox Jew would find my position highly offensive. I am a Gentile. I have not dedicated my life to the study of the Mosaic Law as many in the orthodox community have. But for all the study and all the fine scholarship, they have never come to an understanding of the Father's intended purpose for the law.
Living by the Law
I can make the above assertion because the Bible is very clear as to the purpose of the law. The Father gave us the law so that we would know 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 has always been the reason that the law was given. There is nowhere in Scripture where we are told that it is possible for any person to live righteously by following the law. More precisely, there is no evidence from the Bible that leads us to believe that it is possible for any person to follow the law completely. It was necessary that we have the law because we could not bring ourselves to see our need for God apart from our attempts to live by the law.
Without the law we would never have occasion to be confronted by our own inadequacy in successfully living a life according to God's requirements. In fact, even with the law this awareness is not a sure thing. The law provides the occasion but we still have to be open and honest with ourselves to allow it to work. Without openness and honesty the law becomes only an opportunity for pride through self-deception. This is what happened to the Israelites.
Through an attempt to live righteously by observing the law, the Israelites (and all legalistic attempts to please God) fall pray to one of two errors. The first error was the belief that they were a special group of people because they had been given the law. Every legalistic attempt to live righteously carries this danger because legalism is really a form of self-effort. When we seek righteousness by legal means we are trying to attain the status of being "God's people" by our own efforts. It is we, ourselves who are obeying the law. In this economy, God gives us the law and we, by our own efforts, carry it out. For this reason, legalism is self-effort.
The other mistake that Israel made was also one that is common to millions of people down to this day. That is the mistaken idea that ritual and tradition can be substituted for submission to the life of the Father: "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." (Hosea 6:6, also see 1 Samuel 15:22). The Father has always been clear on this point. God has no interest in ritual because ritual has nothing to do with life. Over and over the Israelites built a false confidence around the temple. The reasoning went something like this: We live in the land where God has put the temple to His Holy Name. For this reason, God is obligated to protect this land (and us). And over and over again God showed the people that this was far from the truth.
It was a source of great sadness to the Father that the people would try to appease Him with some hollow gestures while rejecting any prospect of having a personal relationship with Him: "You have planted them, and they have taken root; they grow and bear fruit. You are always on their lips but far from their hearts." (Jeremiah 12:2) Because of this, the people suffered many hardships and most never came see the Father's purpose for the law. So it is today. Most people try to substitute some self devised observance of the law for a personal commitment to God. In this, we have had no better luck than the Israelites.
Along with the law's function of showing us what sin is, it has another function. This function is related to the first in that it is instructive in nature. The second function of the law is to act as a teacher or guardian for us. In this capacity, the law provides protective boundaries for us to live within until we grow to the place where we no longer need such guidance: "So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law." (Galatians 3:24–25)
The law is our guardian and exercises two functions for the Father. The first is to teach us what the bounds of propriety are. In this function the law is a protection for us. The law gives us guidance to aid us in making correct moral decisions and in recognizing incorrect decisions. The second is to lead us to Christ. How are we led to Christ by the law? The answer would shock many in Christianity but we are led to Christ by the law through failure. The law gives us a standard we cannot truthfully meet. After we have failed enough times to convince us that we can't do it we are ready to come to Christ. People only come to Christ out of a recognized need for Him.
But because this, as with all our actions, depends on our making certain decisions, it is not fool-proof. The Father allows us full flexibility in this and in all things. We can choose to ignore the bounds established by the law. We can choose to never see our inadequacy in fully meeting the requirements of the law. We can come to Christ but fail to see that we were never meant to live by an external law. If we make this particular decision we will treat Christ not as life itself but as an add-on to our life. In this understanding, we see Christ as an add-on that will allow us to now live by the law.
In the end, law and legalism are just particular kinds of doing. In fact, the law is used by most Christians to control the work they or others do "for God". We feel that if we plant our doing within the framework of the Law of Moses then the work becomes somehow sanctified. Many people mistakenly feel that if they can form some link between what they do and the law, that the work is now holy. This is the same line of reasoning that the Pharisees used: "You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred?" (Matthew 23:17) The Pharisees made the pointless distinction that some of the physical things associated with God are sacred and some are not. The point here is that none of what we see is sacred—there is only one who is sacred—the Father who is holy and who makes holy.
Adherence to the law or basing any action or living on the law misses the point. When this kind of reasoning is used we do the Father a great disservice. The error in law living is that it is at its base anchored in self-reliance. When we look to the observance of law for the justification of our actions or our lives, we are looking away from the Father. Scripture teaches us plainly that there is no justification that comes from the law: "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law." (Romans 3:28)
When we attempt to live or please God by legal means we can come to only one of two ends. We must either live in self-deception and denial whereby we refuse to see our failure to live righteously, or we must admit to our failure. You see, there is only one true end that awaits us in law living: failure. We cannot live up to the standards of the law and we never will. The law is a system set up to help us come to the end of ourselves and not a system for living. The Father did this purposely by setting the standard impossibly high: "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." (James 2:10)
This is the same point that Jesus made when He instructed the people of His day to be perfect as God is perfect (Matthew 5:48). We must come to the acceptance of the truth of this one point—the greatest lie that supports law living is that we can obey part of the law and be OK. There is no such thing as "the important parts of the law". The law is total, complete and seamless. You must accept and obey all of it or you are guilty of breaking all of it. The Father established the law this way to make the situation simple and clear for us. We cannot successfully live by a legal approach to God.
Internal and External
The law will never be an adequate way to live a life that is pleasing to God. This is because the written law is something that is external to us. As we have spoken about in detail earlier, real life is internal. For this reason, no external agency can be effective in causing us to live in a way that is pleasing to the Father: "He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." (2 Corinthians 3:6) The external law (the letter), far from leading us in glorious living, actually brings death!
Paul went to great lengths to present this teaching. What the Bible teaches is that the written law brings us to the place of death: "All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." (Galatians 3:10) And in this the law works to perfection. The law brings everyone of us to the place of facing the need to die to our own self-effort. From this point we will choose one of the three options mentioned earlier. We will either choose hypocrisy and deny that we are not observing the law successfully or give up in recognized failure or we will turn to the Father out of our recognized need.
If we accept that we are failing in our own efforts and turn to God then our interior journey begins. It is at this point that we begin to go from the external way of the flesh to the internal way of the spirit. In making this choice we have now opened up a whole new world of possibilities for our life in Christ. If we do not make this choice we are mired in our own doing. We can still be saved and we can still be children of the Father. Salvation is a separate decision. But if we cannot let the Father bring us to the place of seeing our total inadequacy in obeying the written law, we will be severely limited in how far we will let the Father grow us in our new life.
The Law of Life
Many Christians are fearful of coming away from the legalistic lifestyle. They have been taught that "some law is necessary" to keep us from going crazy and falling into wanton sin. This teaching and the belief in it completely misses the point of how God works in our lives. We are never independent entities operating in a lawless anarchy. We were not created and constituted by the Father to ever operate this way.
There are actually two law systems that can be at work in a believer's life. The one is the external written code that we have been speaking of. This is the law code that most people think of and it is the only one that many believers are aware of. But there is another system: "because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:2) The external written law is the "law of sin and death". This is a legal code of conduct. Like all such codes it is made up of a list of "do's" and "don'ts."
The law of the Spirit of life is not a legal code at all. This is more like a set of natural laws—like the law of gravity. The law of life is an expression used to describe the natural character of a life. Birds fly by the operation of the law of the bird life. Fish swim and breathe under water by the operation of the fish life. These animals do not behave the way they do because they are ordered to do so but because that is the natural expression of the life they have in them. The same is true of the spirit life.
When we are in the world we live by the operation of the Satan spirit in our flesh. This is not "life" in the same sense as God's life is "life." This is so because Satan cannot give life as he has none of his own—he is a created being. But the Satan spirit can exert influence over human beings as a kind of pseudo-life (or death life). In this condition, we are trapped into living legalistically. Before our salvation we must submit to a written legal code because we have no other law (a life law) to rely on. Without real life its always law all the time.
When we accept Christ we are brought to the place of having another alternative. We now have the real life of God in our spirit and we can begin to live under the direction of that life—the law of the Spirit of life. Most people will not take advantage of this option right away however. Some, regrettably will never (in this world) take advantage of this option. But if you wish, you can let the Father bring you away from living under the "law of sin and death" and into the freedom of the "law of the Spirit of life."
This life law allows the Father's children to live spontaneously by the leading of the life of Christ in their spirits. We may not always follow this law perfectly but that is not critical. Our openness to the Father's teaching will always allow the Father to bring us back on course. The law of life is perfect and it is a law we can really live by. The law of life is workable because t requires what is within our ability to do. For the law of the Spirit of life to work requires only our surrender to its working. The written code is not a workable means of living, only of failing. We are set on the path of growing with the Father when we shake off the great lie that we can (and indeed must) live by the written code. When we shake off this great lie we can then let the Father guide us by the real life we carry in our spirit. This is the law of the Spirit of life in Christ and it is no lie.
- Chapter 13 -
From the Beginning
From the time that Paul began to preach the message the Father had revealed to him—Christ in you the hope of glory—two falsehoods have arisen to dog the message of the truth of Christ as our only life. We see the evidence of these two misconceptions as early as the first century in the apostle's own writings: "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". (Galatians 1:6) and "You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love." (Galatians 5:13) The first assault on this message of the truth is an external one. The second attack is an internal one. What these errors have in common is that they both arose very quickly after the appearance of the in-Christ message. Further, both of these errors have continued down to today.
Both of these attempts to divert or pervert this message have similar goals—to prevent the spread of this truth and to limit its effectiveness in people's lives. The first goal of this opposition is to keep people from hearing (or considering) this message in the first place. If this cannot be done then the backup goal of the enemies of this truth is to limit the positive effects of the message to change the believer's life.
I feel impelled to address these errors in this work because they are both assaults on the believer's attempt to break free of the domination of the world and the self. It is important to look into and expose these errors for the sake of everyone who longs to be free in Christ. The errors brought forth here are major impediments to every believer coming to know and accept who they are in Christ.
The Other Gospel
We have already looked in some detail at what Paul called "another Gospel". For this reason we will not devote a significant amount of time in this chapter to this error. The other gospel is, of course, the external gospel of law keeping and good works. By this time it is hopefully clear that the true nature of life is internal and spiritual. We are not trying to attain the real life. This life is already the possession of every person who has accepted Christ as their savior.
The life of God dwells in each believer as their only life. This is the true condition of every child of God. Any variation of the message of truth is an example of "another gospel" and is really no gospel at all. If a message does not proclaim Christ as our only life or if it is not founded on this premise, then it is not the true and complete gospel. God's working is objective and therefore singular. There can only be one truth about God's life. And the Scripture is quite clear on this point. The message of truth is either taken pure and unmixed or it is "another gospel": "Your boasting is not good. Don't you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?" (1 Corinthians 5:6) The world would have us believe that it is narrow minded to be so exclusive in our thinking. But there is only one truth—if it is mixed or watered down it is damaged. This does not mean that we all see the truth the same way or in exactly the same words—the truth about God has many facets. But the fundamental basis of the truth must be the same—Christ as your only life.
The Enemy Within
This brings us to the second error that is found in association with the truth of Christ as our only life. This is the error of predestination. It is important to keep a clear distinction between the message of truth and these unfortunate misunderstandings that can come out of it. There is not a message on the face of this earth—spiritual or secular—that has not been twisted. Many times the people who oppose this message will point to these errors in an attempt to discredit the message itself. This is not a valid argument. Any message can (and will) be mishandled. The best proof of this fact is the number of times the Bible itself has been misused.
The reason that no message or understanding is "people-proof" is that we have a part of us that wants to be the god of its own life. This part of us is exceptionally clever and can twist any truth or accept any lie that furthers its own goal of independence. And this independent self has a powerful ally in the presence of the evil one in our flesh.
It is our own free will choosing to listen to the direction of the evil one that gets us into trouble in the first place. However, we cannot allow ourselves the luxury of using Satan as our whipping boy to the end of failing to let the Father deal with that part of us that wants to live independently from Him. When we received the life of Christ into our spirit to be life for us we were given the option of rejecting the leadings of the flesh to follow the leadings of the Spirit of life.
When we surrender to the Father's dealing with the internal enemy (the fleshly us) then both Satan and the outer enemy (the world and all of its earthly systems) are simultaneously done to death. The ineffectiveness of most of the organizational church's spiritual warfare is due to this error. They try to deal with the external enemy while ignoring the enemy within. But the true way to success is through God's dealing with the internal influence of the self. Destroy this and the outer forces become unemployed (made of no effect).
In any event, we need to make the commitment early to turn every aspect of our lives over to the Father to be dealt with as only He knows how to do. This is a precondition to being able to effectively deal with either of the two assaults on the Christ-life truth. These assaults by the flesh and the world are used to keep us from either discovering or growing in our true relationship with the Father. The commitment to turn our lives over to the Father is the acceptance of the poverty of Christ in our lives (death to self).
There has arisen out of some of the people who have heard and embraced the message of Christ as their life the mistaken idea that we have no free will. This error is not confined exclusively to the believers who embrace the truth of Christ as our only life either. But I will limit my comments to this misunderstanding as it relates to the message of Christ as our life. I do this because I have no interest in any other Christian doctrine outside of the doctrine of Christ. This is a message that has circulated around in Christianity from the first century. The idea that we are living a life that is completely fixed by the will of God associates itself with the concept of predestination.
Predestination is a perfectly valid concept that is found in Scripture: "In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will," (Ephesians 1:11) Paul introduces the concept of predestination in his letters to both the Romans and the Ephesians. It should be no surprise to anyone that God has complete foreknowledge of every event that has or ever will take place. The Greek word used here is proorizo which means to foreordain.
I believe that some brothers and sisters take this concept to an illogical conclusion. This conclusion is that we have no true free will and are only playing out a drama that has been scripted out in every detail by the Father. This misconception is tricky because it is closely woven around a great truth. This truth is the fact that the Father is in complete control of everything and is aware of everything that has happened or that will happen. But does this truth disallow the operation of free will?
In the likeness of God
To seek the truth in this matter we must first go back to the beginning—to the creation of man: "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) As we have spoken to before, the word "image" in the Hebrew (tselem) refers to a semblance or an empty image. This shows that we were given the same fundamental parts as the Father (a soul and a spirit).
It is in the second word—"likeness" (d@muwth) that we see that we are possessed of the same makeup as the Father. This word carries the idea of things that are similar to each other. In this it is seen that we, like the Father, contain a spirit with the components of fellowship, intuition and conscience. We also have a soul with the components of mind, will and emotion. It should be understood that God never does anything without purpose. For this reason alone one must ask the question—"Why do we have a will if we have no possibility of exercising that will?"
We can see abundant evidence in the Bible that God has a will. Few, if any, will deny this. But what about people? If everything is already known by God and under His unalterable control what possibility is there of free will action?
The Mind of God
In one sense, the predestinationalists are correct. That sense is that God already knows everything that has or will take place and has ordained it all. But does this alter our position? I maintain that it does not. We have no complete revelation of the mind of God. For this reason, the Father's foreknowledge of events does not interfere with our choosing between different alternatives that are presented to us.
Take this example for instance: Buying stock from a dishonest investment broker. Chances are that at the time the broker sold you the stock he knew that it was no good. Does his knowledge effect your actions? Obviously not, or you would never have bought the stock in the first place. So it is possible that there can exist information to which we are not a party. Further, this information, as long as it remains unknown to us, has no effect on our decision making process.
In the same way, the Father's knowledge of what I will do today has no impact on the decisions I make as long as I am not aware of that information. While the actions themselves are fixed in the Father's mind, I will still go through the process of making those decisions. And because I am not a party to the Father's knowledge in this, the exercise of my will is, from my end, free and unincumbered. For this reason I maintain that the Father's foreknowledge has no impact on my exercise of free will as long as I am not aware of that information.
This has been, up to this point, more or less an exercise in logic. But there is a more generic and philosophical aspect to the issue of predestination and free will. This is the issue of the purpose of life. I maintain that without true free will, all human life is meaningless and nothing but a cruel joke. This is the argument that no predestinationalist has ever been able to give me a satisfactory answer for. If I cannot make free will choices, then what is the purpose of my life on this earth?
I maintain that without free will, God would be the most evil and malignant force in the universe. How can I say such a thing? I can say this because without the power of free will choice all the striving and suffering of humanity in this world is pointless. A predestinational view reduces all of human life to an elaborate chess game. In this view, we become so many inanimate playing pieces moved around the board by God.
This state of affairs is nothing but a cruel exercise in absolute power. I cannot believe in a God who has to prove His absolute control over His creation in this way. To me, the power of God is shown in His confidence in the power of His life. God does not have to push us around because He knows full well that He could if He wished to. No, the Father is loving and because He is loving He is not overbearing. And once again I must avow, the Father never does anything without purpose.
The Evidence From Scripture
We can return to the Bible once more to look at its evidence of our possession of a free will. I feel that this evidence is compelling. This evidence comes in two forms. The first are the numerous instances that are given that we make choices. For example: "For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do -- living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry." (1 Peter 4:3) This is seen in the Old Testament as well: "But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:15)
It is clear, if we take the Bible at face value, that we are spoken of as have the ability to make choices. If this is only a sham then I am afraid that the Father is a fraud and not at all what He claims to be. If this is true then all of Christianity and Judaism falls apart. God forbid that this should be so.
I mentioned earlier that there were two evidences from Scripture that we have the ability to make free will choices. The second evidence is founded on the fairness of God. I must believe that my Father is above all things, loving and fair. I can say it no better than Abraham when he spoke to God about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah: "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)
In fact, the Father is more than fair. In His love He never gives us what we deserve (death) until every opportunity is expended for us to turn to Him and receive forgiveness and life. So not only is the Father fair—He is more than fair.
In the light of this how can we explain verses such as this: "Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin." (Deuteronomy 24:16) The only way such verses can be explained in the light of fairness is through the exercise of free will choice. Think of it—how can anyone be held accountable for actions they do out of irresistible compulsion. This can be no part of fairness. No, the only way that we could ever be legitimately held responsible for our actions is if those actions are made out of our unincumbered free will choosing.
The Internal Falsehood
The most disturbing aspect of predestinationalism is that it arises out of the deceptiveness of our own hearts. Of course, the ultimate source of the lie is the same—the liar and the father of it (John 8:44). But this is not a lie that comes through the conduit of some external human agency (person, group or organization). This is a misconception that we allow to effect our thinking from within ourselves.
This internal falsehood is the lie that the Father has empowered us to do anything we wish without consequence and without responsibility. This is the real danger of predestinationalism. It is completely true that we have been empowered to do anything we wish. But this is true for every person on the face of the earth, both saved and unsaved. The part of this idea that is a lie is the second half—that we now live free from consequence.
We are free in Christ but what are we free from? Every person has free will. In this sense we are (and have always been) free to do whatever we find to do. We are also all free to live with the consequences of our actions. This is the real motivation behind the view that all our actions are fixed and unalterable—the evasion of personal responsibility. How can I say this? I can say this because there is only one source of falsehood in all the world—the "liar and the father of it." It is Satan who promotes every untruth. Our responsibility comes from our free will choosing to accept or reject the lie. Without free will choice there is no responsibility.
We have been freed to live in the matchless liberty of knowing our true identity and status in the Father's house. We participate in that liberty when we surrender to the working of that life in us as our life. Ultimately, this is a freedom that is of greater worth, power and enjoyment than any license (freedom from consequence) that we could ever have.
Liberty and License
License is a legal issue. License is something that allows you to act in a certain way without fear of legal repercussions. This makes license a legal issue and not a life issue. It is license that allows a dictator to act as he pleases within his own country. Liberty is what is bestowed on us by the operation of the life of Christ in us as our only life. This means that liberty is a life issue.
It was clearly understood by the New Testament writers that the issues of liberty and license could be confused: "Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God." (1 Peter 2:16) This is a very easy error to fall into, especially for people who are young (inexperienced) in this truth. Confusing liberty and license is an error that comes from trying to handle this truth with a carnal understanding. As a believer matures in this truth it should become clear that our freedom (liberty) is not a license (coverup) to do as we please in our flesh.
We have been set free from living under the law so we should not consider things in legal terms. It is not consistent with our true identity as the birthed children of God to attempt to live under any legalistic view of life. The concept of predestination as it is applied as a justification to do as we please is just such a legal view.
This does not mean that we are free to ignore the laws of the country we live in. On the contrary, we live "above" man-made legal systems. What I mean by this is that we live to a higher standard than mere legalism. There are actions that we may take within the bounds of the legal system of the United States, for example, that we are constrained by our life to not do. This is why viewing our liberty in Christ as license is not a valid position for us to take. The truth of our new life is that we are more closely constrained by the life of Christ operating in us than we are by legal and societal morals and ethics.
Choose Between the Two
Some people are of the opinion that we do not have true free will choice because of our need to follow some spiritual guidance. While I fully concede that we can never act as completely autonomous beings (the gods of our own lives), I do not see this as a loss of free will.
I have mentioned on many occasions that we were constituted by the Father to follow either His spiritual leading or the leading of Satan in our flesh. But this still constitutes a choice. Choosing is not dependent on how many options are available. The only limit is the minimum of two. And this is exactly the number we are presented with—God or Satan.
No matter how many choices it may appear that we have, there are always only two. The two options are God or something else. But we always have two. There are never less than two, never more than two. This is the purpose of Satan's creation in the first place—to give us the second choice that empowers the entire system of free will choosing.
The Father created us to make choices that are free from any coercion. We are given this power to be able to choose the Father and to continue to choose to walk with Him after that initial decision. Without this ability to freely choose we cannot carry out the Father's desire for His creation. This has been true from Eden down to today. One of the first things Adam and Eve had to do was to choose.
Adam and Eve had to freely choose to obey or disobey God. They made that choice freely and lived with the consequences of that choice. The fact that the Father knew exactly what they would do changed none of that. We are called to freely choose to do the same thing. This choosing goes on every day of our lives. The need to choose freely is incumbent in the Father's plan for creation both before and after salvation.
I don't think that the Father is playing games with us. It would be hollow and fruitless for us to have a free will choice that is only an appearance of free choice. If we were just acting out a set of predetermined actions we would be no better than highly sophisticated computers. No, the Father does nothing without purpose. For this reason alone, we must conclude that the choices we make are truly free and unencumbered. Taking this one step further, we have to accept that we bear the responsibility of our choices and must also live with the consequences of those choices.
The real significance of the Father's knowledge has to do with His being who He is. The Father must have foreknowledge of all things. Without this attribute He could not be said to be either all knowing or in absolute control of all things. No, it goes without saying that the Father's knowledge is without bound.
And our separation from that knowledge is not an indication of our being abandoned by the Father. No, we are separated from the Father's foreknowledge to protect the operation of our free will. We are not abandoned because we have access to the leading of the Father in all our decision making. In the spontaneous operation of the life of Christ in us we can be given the guidance we need when we need it. We can always appeal to the Father in our decision making—this is also the operation of free will.
Even after we receive the Father's guidance we can (and indeed must) choose. We must choose to accept that leading or reject it. We can reject God's leading either out of weak faith (I can't) or rebellion (I won't). Or we can walk in faithful surrender—but we must choose.
We are free to choose in everything we do. This is true before salvation and after. What God knows has no impact on that freedom (and its attendant responsibility) because we are not a party to that knowledge. And it is truly wonderful to be free in this way. For it is only in this freedom that our choosing can have real meaning. If I choose God because I must, then I really haven't chosen anything at all.
No, I would much rather have freedom of choice with its responsibility than to have no choice and no significance. If we cannot choose we cannot be significant in the Father's plan. It is our ability to freely choose that makes our choosing God so precious in His sight and in our lives.
We can be free in Christ without being unrestrained. For we must always remember what we are free from: "For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." (Romans 8:15) We need to let the Father grow us up in the maturity of this truth so that we can see this. This is not a message for babes but for people who want the responsibility of going on with God.
- Chapter 14 -
Life in the Son
Living in Confusion
Life is something that should be clear to all of us. Yet the issue of the true nature of life is surrounded by confusion and misunderstanding. In the ideal we might think that an understanding of life would be the most natural and unencumbered knowledge we could have. Yet few people have the least inkling as to what life truly is or how it operates. So why is the truth about life shrouded in such mystery? In this, we must always remember that we live in a fallen world. The fact that the world is fallen has far greater implications beyond the fact that our automobiles wear out and that our physical bodies grow old and function less and less well every year.
Perhaps the greatest implication of the fallen nature of the physical world is that the entire physical system is under the influence 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) The control of Satan over the physical world is not something we need to be upset over or is it something that we should be unduly concerned about. But we must come to terms with the implications of this fact. In order to live effectively we must have an understanding and acceptance of reality. This means the entirety of what is real—both the pleasant and the unpleasant. We can only do this if we are abiding in the Father's love, life and provision.
It is only in the Father that we can have the resources to constructively deal with all of reality. Without a reliance on the Father's life we will be forced into the same position as the people of the world. That is the position of living in some degree of denial. We will be forced to accept such falsehoods as "mankind is basically good" or "we can make the world a better place if we enact a few more laws" or any of the other pleasant deceptions that people use to cope with the world. No, the reality of this world is that it is corrupt beyond redemption. This world is under the control of the evil one and is fit only for replacement. If we are ever to deal with the true state of reality we must live in the Father's sufficiency and not our own insufficiency.
The immediate impact that the evil one's rule over this world has in relation to this discussion has to do with confusion and deception. Satan is fundamentally a liar: "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) The most commonly practiced of all Satan's tactics is deception. The foundation upon which all temptation, misunderstanding and misconception are built is deception. Because all of Satan's tactics rely for their success on deception, the most hated of all conditions for the evil one is exposure.
A Deceptive Life
The deceptions of the evil one are important to this discussion because our difficulties with coming to a right understanding of life are complicated by these lies. We have looked, in one way or another, at many of the cherished misconceptions about life existing in the world today. It is a lie that physical life is the primary nature or form of life. It is a lie that we have life within ourselves from ourselves. It is a lie that our life arises out of our soul. All of these errors compile to confuse our thinking and understanding about life.
All of our understandings about everything come down to this most fundamental understanding. If you do not have some measure of correct understanding about life you cannot have a clear or correct understanding about anything. God knows this and so does Satan. This is why the Father says: "This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him." (Deuteronomy 30:19–20a)
Satan is the original deceptive life. In fact, he is not really a life at all but rather he is the original self-for-self. This is what we really see in Satan's desire to supplant God. The devil's attempt to overthrow the Father and to despoil God's creation is really about self-centered independence. The pride of Satan could not tolerate submission to the Father. At the root of it, Satan's error was the attempt to live a life that was independent of the Father. When anyone attempts this act, they fall victim to a deceptive life. This is an existence dominated and influenced by the evil one.
The lies of the evil one are a great complication to our coming to the truth about life. But we must always remember that these lies are not the fundamental barrier to our seeing the truth. If we are to understand and grow in the new life of the Father we must allow Him to bring us to the knowledge of what that fundamental barrier really is. That barrier is us.
This is the most distasteful truth we will ever have to face. It is for this reason that we have no chance of coming to an awareness of this knowledge apart from the Father. More importantly, we will never come to the acceptance of this truth apart from the Father. The part of us that desires to live in a state of independence from the Father is supremely deceptive: "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9) Every time I think I have a fuller understanding of the deceptiveness of my heart something comes up that shows me that I have only scratched the surface. My advice in this area to everyone is simply to never underestimate the deceptive power of the human heart.
Because of the heart's tremendous ability to deceive we must rely on the Father's revelation to come beyond ourselves. No one ever came beyond himself by himself. When we are led astray, it is by the lies of Satan playing on our one big weakness—our deceptive desire to be the god of our own life. When we fall victim to this combination of forces we are brought into captivity to the evil one. We must always remember that we can never be completely autonomous beings. We will serve either God or Satan but we will never serve ourself. So the real barrier to our coming to know the truth about life is rooted in the self wanting that which it can never have. It is this unfulfilled and unfulfillable desire to be the god of our own life that produces the restless frustration we see in the world.
Its All About Life
Our existence on this planet is exclusively about life. Everything else is details; and we get mightily bogged down in the details. The people of the world have always been consumed with the details of living. We are consumed with the physical, mental and emotional aspects of living. In this we have always failed to find the real essence of life. This is true today and it has been true from the beginning of time. The reason we fail in life is because we try to enter the understanding of life at too high a level. We fail because we never get to the basic underpinnings of life. Humanity is consumed with the outcomes of life—deeds, ideas, emotions—but we rarely come to the true basis of life. When we commit this error we have doomed our efforts to failure.
This should surprise no one for it is true in every area of human understanding. You cannot
understand calculus if you have no grasp of arithmetic. The advanced concepts of science cannot be understood if the basics have not been mastered. Our entire educational system is a monument to our having grasped this understanding. We seem to have grasped this understanding in everything except in the area of life.
Having and Not Having Life
I suspect that we commit follies at very elementary levels in understanding life because we are so close to the issue. Few people are going to get emotional about biology or mathematics. But try to tell someone that they don't have a clue about life and watch what happens. We are so close to the issue of life that we can't conceive of the possibility that we could be stone ignorant of what life is about. We usually think that a knowledge of life comes through experience, and this is, to some extent, true. But how accurately we can interpret the experiences we have requires both fundamental and ongoing revelations from the Father.
From the very beginning, people have had inherent misconceptions about life and what constitutes real life. Consider Adam and Eve: "And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 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 2:16–17) Here we have the entire garden to choose from for food. All of it was pleasant and good for food (Genesis 2:9). Only one plant was off limits—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. So why did Adam and Eve go for that one tree?
Right next to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was the tree of life. This should not be a difficult decision. No, this is the original "no-brainer" and yet our ancestors blew it. There can be only one reason why we would pass up the tree of life in preference for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That reason is this: Adam and Eve saw no need for the tree of life because they thought (wrongly) that they already had life. Satan's temptation was not the root cause of Adam and Eve's disobedience—it rather fit right into the ignorance they had about life. Please understand here—it is not wicked to be ignorant. But it is foolish to be ignorant and not seek God for enlightenment.
If Adam and Eve had taken the serpent's proposal back to the Father I'm sure they would have been set straight. The Father would have explained to them what real life was (His life) and then they could have chosen the tree of life and God probably would have hammered the serpent and life would have been good in Eden. But such conjecture is not profitable except to see that in our native understandings we have no clue as to what life is truly all about.
This brings us back to the Father's admonition to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 30:19. The real options in the world are life and death. All the other things we do come out of this one primary option. We choose life or death and then all of our subsequent actions and understandings come from this first choice.
Fortunately, the entire system has been constituted under the Father's loving kindness. For this reason only one of these true options is irrevocable. Once you choose life you are eternally alive and nothing you or anyone else can do will change that basic fact. This is because you are alive in God by being born. Because the Father brings people into His house by birth it is a permanent state of being.
Choosing death is never permanent until the course of our life in this world is complete. Our life in this world is really the "period of choice." As long as you live in this world you have the opportunity to choose life. If you choose life, you then can spend the rest of your life at the birth point or going on with the Father in learning and growing. But if you choose God's life you will never again have any true identity except as a child of God. If you choose to go your own way apart from God you have chosen death. Should you never choose life in this world then after your physical life is over that decision is also fixed.
Many people believe that the choice we make about how we will live is arbitrary. What I mean by that is this: that there are many different and equally workable lifestyles to choose from and we just make our selection from the life buffet. This is a deception of the evil one. There is really only one life distinction—life or death.
Life Comes in One Flavor
Along with the idea that there is only one real distinction in this life—being alive or being dead—so there is only one way of getting to the life that is real life. This is such a critical point that the Father is constrained by His love for us to make this completely clear: "And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life." (1 John 5:11–12) You cannot twist, turn or wiggle out of the testimony of Scripture. Life is in the Son and only in the Son. You can choose to accept or reject the testimony but you cannot legitimately make the testimony anything but this—the life of God exists in only one place—the Son, Christ our Lord.
For the people who do not accept the truth as presented in the Bible I have nothing to say. I have maintained this position in all of my writings. I cannot prove to anyone that the Bible is the revealed word of God and I will not try to do so. You see the truth of the Bible by the revelation of the Father. By the revelation of the Father you are taught from the written word. But no amount of cleaver argument will convince anyone of this truth against their will. The Father has ordained that this is the way this should be.
Many people feel that it is narrow-minded and unfair to have only one way to receive the Father's life. Many people feel that this assertion is a ploy by the Christian religious community to establish a spiritual monopoly. Sadly, many in Christianity try to misuse this truth in this way. But the monopoly doesn't belong to any person or group of persons. The monopoly is God's. The Father has the monopoly on the way to life because He is the only source of real life: "For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself." (John 5:26)
No created being has real life in themselves. The only way a being can have real life in themselves and from themselves is that they must be self-generative. In other words, the only real life resides in Him who has no beginning and no ending. There is only one in all creation who qualifies—the Father. Satan was created, the angels were created, you and I were created. Every blessed thing everywhere was created with the exception of the Father.
Only in the Son
We should take a very close look at the verses quoted above from 1 John. You would do well to seek the Father to reveal the truth contained in these two sentences. The testimony is that life is in the Son. Notice that it does not say that life is in the Son and in good works. Life is not in the Son and in church attendance. It does not say that life is in the Son and in believing the right doctrine or having the right understandings. The Scripture does not even say that life is in the Son and in reading the Bible or praying. Life is in the Son.
No, in this supremely important aspect of the creation it says simply that "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son does not have life." If my original assertion is correct—that life is the most important issue to the Father in this world—then we can see two great truths in these verses. One truth is spoken—life is found in the Son. The other truth is unspoken—that there is no other condition for life.
If any of the things we have been told over the years about life were true they should be mentioned here. But they are not. An omission on the Father's part? You cannot seriously believe that. All of Scripture confirms that what John wrote here is the whole story. Jesus confirms it: "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) Paul testifies to it: "In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus." (Romans 6:11) Peter confirms it: "And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." (1 Peter 5:10)
The weight of Scripture is so overwhelming that the only way a person could not see this truth is to not want to see it or to not be a Christian. No one who calls themselves by the name of Christ can legitimately deny it. It does not matter what denomination or creed you subscribe to. If you consider yourself a Christian you must accept this truth. I say must because the only way you could deny it is to deny the truth of the Bible. If you deny the truth of the Bible then why are you a Christian? For if the Bible is not a trustworthy source of truth then Christianity is a fraud.
So, if you will not come to the Father to have life you are dead. If you do come to the Father you will have the life that is real life. You will have this life for all eternity. It is a life that no one can take from you. This is a life that is even impervious of anything you have done or will do. The choice for life is the one choice that is mercifully irrevocable. It is a life that overcomes all things. The Father invites all people everywhere to come to Him in Christ that you may live. The wonderful truth of God is that this is available to every person who will ask for it: "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. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare." (Isaiah 55:1–2)
Come, partake of the life that is real life.