Jn. 5:39-40 π Jn. 15:5 π Rom. 8:5 π Rom. 8:6 π 1 Cor. 13:1-3 π 2 Cor. 5:15 π 2 Cor. 10:4-5 π Gal. 5:17 π Eph. 2:10 π 1 Ths. 5:23 π 2 Tim. 3:2 π 2 Tim. 3:4 π 2 Tim. 4:3-4 π Heb. 4:12 π Rev. 21:8 π Rev. 22:15
Every once in a while I come across a verse or passage that I don't quite know what to do with. Such a passage is usually what I call a nugget - it's too short of an idea to write an essay on but too powerful a message to miss. Currently, there has been a verse rumbling around in my mind and in my spirit, yearning to be expressed. In my mind, the verse expresses itself very well and needs no introduction or explanation. But for the sake of clarity and articulation, I will string together the several large ideas which make this verse so powerful to me.
We must begin, I suppose, with an understanding of the human existence. Man is made of three aspects: spirit, soul and body. (see 1 Ths. 5:23; top for example) The spirit is that aspect of man which is most like God. It has no characteristics which can be objectively measured by material means though it is most often the key characteristic of a person which we will remember about them. The soul is the mind, will and emotions of a man. His intellect, his drive, and his passions are all found in the soul. And the body is simply that physical vehicle which transports both the soul and spirit through life.
Let us consider how the spirit and soul are similar, even connected, but not exactly the same thing. The writer of Hebrews tells us, "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." ( Heb. 4:12; top ) Whatever else we can glean from this verse, it is plain that somewhere within the human existence there is a division line between soul and spirit which the word of God is able to distinguish. And we must keep in mind that the writer of Hebrews is not referring to the Scriptures when he refers to "the word of God." He, like John, is referring to the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ who, by His Spirit, causes the words on the pages of the Bible to come to life in the hearts and lives of people who sincerely and diligently seek Him.
But let us also consider how the soul is not exactly the same as the flesh either. The flesh - also called in Scripture the sin nature or the carnal nature - is that fallen aspect of mankind which is inherited from Adam. The flesh is quite capable of controlling the soul but it is not the soul. For one can have a carnal mind which is enmity against God or one can have a spirit-led mind which is peace and joy with every thought brought to obedience to Christ. ( Rom. 8:6 ; 2 Cor. 10:4-5; top ) It can be said that the soul lies directly between the flesh and the spirit and it is caught in the tug of war which continues between these two throughout this life.
This is why the Scriptures say, "For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish." ( Gal. 5:17; top ) It does not say that either the Holy Spirit or the human spirit lusts or wars against the soul. But it does say that the Spirit or spirit lusts or wars against the flesh. The flesh is that part of human nature which focuses on "me" and "what I want." The spirit is that part of human nature which focuses on God and what He wants. There is no neutral ground. One can obey "I" or one can obey God - but never both at the same time. In fact, if one chooses to obey "me," the voice and work of the Holy Spirit within is quenched.
What are the practical applications we can make from this? There are so many applications that can be made from this that I would run out of room trying to list them all. This is the battleground of true Christian existence. This is why we see so little of genuine Christianity and we see so many soulish counterfeits - for where true Christianity calls us to obey only what Christ tells us to do through His Spirit, counterfeit Christianity has come along and said it's okay to do what your soul wants to do so long as you tack Christ's name onto your actions somehow.
This is extremely obvious in how many people choose which church they will go to, for example. "This church meets my needs." "I like the way they sing/preach/dance/don't dance/etc." "This church appeals to me." And not once has God's desires, commandments or intentions ever entered into their equation of where God wants them to be or what He wants them to do. Such people would be shocked to learn that the New Testament pattern of meeting is diametrically opposed to most of what they do when they "go to church."
Counterfeit Christianity currently provides three basic deceptions - one for each area of the soul. For those whose will is the dominant area of the soul, there is the works-based counterfeit. By sheer determination to do good, these people are taught, you can make your way to heaven. For those whose emotions are the dominant area of the soul, there is the events-and-experiences counterfeit. So long as these people experience some emotional or spiritual event which causes them to be somewhat more moral in their approach to life, they are certain they've connected with God. And for those whose intellect is the dominant area of the soul, there is the intellectual counterfeit. So long as you know all the nuances of the Greek and you're able to exegete a passage accurately, especially the passages on salvation, you're on your way to heaven.
Unfortunately for anyone caught in any of these counterfeits, they are based on lies - and lies will keep you out of the eternal city and get you into hell. ( Rev. 21:8 ; 22:15 ) Works, even good works, without faith in God and obedience to Him alone, is simply arrogant rebellion. God indeed has good works for every believer to do - but He has mapped out beforehand what works each believer is to do. ( Eph. 2:10 ) Spiritual or emotional experiences that don't lead to greater personal obedience to the commands of the Head of the body are mere deception. ( Rom. 8:5 ; 1 Cor. 13:1-3; top ) And knowledge of the Scriptures without knowledge of the Messiah who brings life is the epitome of hypocrisy. ( Jn. 5:39-40 ) Apart from Christ, all we can accomplish is worth nothing. ( Jn. 15:5; top )
And the verse that has prompted this essay? It is a small gem nested in Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, a letter which is a veritable gold mine of spiritual treasures. Paul wrote, "And He died for all, so that all those who live might live no longer to and for themselves, but to and for Him Who died and was raised again for their sake." ( 2 Cor. 5:15; top - Amp.) Let us be careful that we don't miss what Paul just said. Christ died for all
Did you catch that?
There was a purpose, a reason that Christ died for all. Christ died for all so that
Did you catch that?
Paul says "All." He does not say "some," "most" "many" or "a few." So his statement is one which reaches deep into the heart of the gospel of Christ. It affects everyone who would name the name of Christ as their own. Christ died for all so that all who live might live no longer to and for themselves but to and for Him Who died and was raised again for their sake!
Those who live in obedience to the wishes of their soul are in direct contradiction to one of the key purposes for which Christ died! Those who choose to do what "I" wants to do are practicing enmity against God's work in the cross of Christ. How much plainer can it be?
Interestingly enough, one of Paul's descriptions of the people of the end times is that they will be "lovers of themselves, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God." ( 2 Tim. 3:2 , 4 ) And they will "not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables." ( 2 Tim. 4:3-4; top ) Those who want to exercise their stubborn will will gather around and listen to the works-based teachers. Those who want to experience emotional and spiritual events will gather around and listen to the charismatic teachers. And those who want to know what the Bible says without having to obey it will gather around and listen to the intellectual-sounding teachers. They will prefer their own personal desires over the desires and will of God.
But those who want to truly walk with God will surrender their wills, emotions and intellects to the control of His Spirit, that Spirit of truth, peace, joy and righteousness. This does not mean we will become mindless zombies entirely devoid of personality. In fact, quite the opposite is true for it is only in submitting to God's plan for our lives that we will realize the ultimate fulfillment of our human existence. Becoming anything other than what God has in His mind for us to become is a loss and a deception that will, in the end, kill us spiritually.
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