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Posts Tagged ‘life in the Spirit’

The Living Soul of Man

August 22nd, 2014

Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

Genesis 2:7

The psalmist asked God, “What is man that Thou art mindful of him?” (Psalm 8:4), and this is the question we seek to answer in this study.

In some ways human life is just as all other life – the word translated “soul” in the King James – “man became a living soul” (nephesh in Hebrew) – was used also for the animals that God created (Gen. 1:20-24 and 2:19). And in Genesis 2:19 even the animals are called “living creatures” or “living souls.” Our body chemistry is similar to the animals – our senses, our nutritional needs, the gestation cycle of infants, the general human life span, etc. – all of these are not very different from the rest of creation.

The secret to understanding the significance and purpose of human life is found in the original intention of God – that we would be made in His image and would be given responsibility to subdue and rule over the earth, and to multiply and subdue the earth (Genesis 1:26-28). In this image we also have the remarkable ability to communicate with our Creator, to know Him, to have a relationship with Him. This also is one of the purposes for which God made us – not just to work and procreate, but to know Him. When God breathed into the nostrils of Adam the breath of life, Adam was animated to fulfill the purposes for which He had been created. From the moment of his creation and while still in his innocence Adam was divinely enabled to do these things – to know his Creator, to rule over creation, and to multiply.

That the main purpose of humanity is to know God there can be no question, as this is repeatedly the emphasis of Scripture. The divinely inspired psalmist wrote: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you” (Psalm 73:25). Christ said, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). Adam’s and Eve’s (or Eve’s and then Adam’s) temptation was to substitute something for God – to replace knowing Him with trying to satiate the unsatiable lusts of the human soul, to elevate ourselves in His place (pride), to try and unseat the One above all, and even if it was to only unseat Him in their hearts, it was rebellion against God all the same – spiritual high treason.

The Apostle Paul, as the Spirit enabled him, understood and wrote about the nature of Adam being passed down to us, as we are his offspring. In 1 Corinthians 15:45-49, he compared Adam, “the man of dust,” with Christ, “the second man.” Just as we in our natural bodies have inherited biologically the physical nature of Adam – from dust we came and to dust we return – in Christ we who believe have received His image. God has not left us unredeemed. He did not turn His back on us in utter rejection, and in Christ reverses the Adamic curse.

Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

We have not only inherited from Adam our biological nature; we have also inherited from him our spiritual nature. Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” These words of Paul are sometimes considered the most difficult theology of the entire New Testament, but I believe the meaning of Paul (or more appropriately of the Spirit) is clear enough, and we can understand them easily if we will let the words stand in their simplicity. He means to say that it is common knowledge that all men and women sin, that this character flaw is found in the entire race. Some sin without having ever known the teachings of God’s Word or the standards of God’s Law, but those who have been properly taught still sin in that they do not obey it perfectly. And it is all because every last human being is descended from Adam and his spiritual nature, along with his biological nature, is passed along to us.

But in Christ is our redemption possible, and we who believe have the promise of bearing His glorious image after death – “we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He truly is” (1 John 3:2). And we have the promise of bearing His spiritual image while we live – “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Rom. 8:29).

Another trait of human life as it was created and revealed in the original plan of God – we have the capacity to learn and grow and change, and in this we are different from God – this is the limits of bearing His image. God is forever and always the same – from eternity to eternity – “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8). We have the promise of fullness of knowledge in heaven – “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Cor 13:12). – but here on earth we learn and grow. To fulfill the purposes of our existence require that we be redeemed by Christ, that we are brought back into fellowship with Him in a salvation or conversion experience. But from that point on we grow. We grow in our relationship with God. We grow in understanding and fulfilling our obligations toward the creation. We grow in understanding and in fulfilling our obligations to one another as well, to pass on blessings to the next generations.

Why is God mindful of humanity? Why does He care about you? Because He has not given up His original hopes and plans for creation. He desires that you know Him, and this is possible through Jesus Christ. He desires that you grow in this knowledge and in this relationship, and that you bless those around you, even the created order itself. And the amazing and plain truth is that our hearts know these matters, that no human being is truly fulfilled until they have given themselves to these purposes. We are made to make a difference, and in Christ we can do exactly that.

Gleanings from Genesis , , ,

Life by the Spirit

July 23rd, 2013

The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

Romans 8:6

The living Spirit of God lives inside every believer in Christ and will bring to us His power and His life and His peace as we walk in agreement and in fellowship with Him. Every moment we can speak with Him, listen to Him, learn His perspective, and obey His calling and purpose for our lives. Do you want to live in victory and peace? This is the way!

Many golfers have joked that Ben Hogan’s little book on the fundamentals of golf has caused more golfers more problems with their swing than anything else. Hogan was a great golfer, but somehow his explanations of how he became so have not always been easily understood by his readers.

Some others have made a similar complaint against Paul here, that His explanation of how he lived victoriously for Christ, though offered sincerely and genuinely, is as likely to mislead as to help. But despite the problems that this passage has been accused of creating, we should remember that, unlike Hogan, Paul was inspired of the Spirit of God to write these words and they are, in that sense, the very words of God. So there is something here that, though hard to understand (and even Peter said as much, 2 Peter 3:16) are precious to our hearts and essential to our spiritual instruction and understanding and application of divine truth.

First, let’s consider the word “mind”: Paul referred here to the normal way of human thinking, and really to human nature itself. The mind is representative of the human soul that receives and processes information based on a set of criteria that it has developed. These criteria come from human society, the home, the influencers around us, and from us as individuals ourselves. In this sense, we may say that the mind is neutral in someways, neither evil nor good by itself, but it has been corrupted by the world.

Second, the word “flesh”: Here Paul referred to the sin nature that has permeated the human world and the human heart. He does not call it a “mind” since in the original creation when God created human life He called it “good.” But something happened, and in human sin and rebellion a new nature became attached to us all, the nature of sin. In the previous chapter of Romans, Paul wrote, “I know that nothing good lives in me” and then he clarifies, “in my flesh” (7:18). So this “flesh” is not something that is entirely abstract or that just floats around in the world; it is within me, within you. It is not of us, it is of the devil and of sin, but it has attached itself to us, to our worldview, to our ways of solving our problems, to our perspectives on life. It has corrupted and taken captive our minds.

Third, the word “Spirit”: Paul referred here to the Spirit of God who is also alive and active. But this idea is also attached to a new reality of heart and life for the believer, that the Spirit of God indwells our spirits. There is now another option made available for the believer, a new way that the mind can think, and that is by the Spirit of God. The idea that some have, that we ourselves are entirely neutral and there is a cosmic battle between good and evil and these forces floating about the world can influence one way or another, that idea is clearly not what Paul or what God is saying here. He is also not saying that sin has edged God out of the human heart and poor, little, weak God must find another way in and needs our help to do so. He is not saying that either.

What he is saying is that God left the human heart when sin entered, and can only re-enter through Christ. Only in the payment of our sin by the death of Christ, only in the resurrection of Christ by the Spirit of God, and only upon the individual’s repentance and belief in Christ does the Spirit re-enter. But when He comes in He comes in to reign, not to be marginalized. It is now the flesh that is under attack by the Spirit of God in the believer’s life.

Fourth, the word “governed”: Here we have a problem not with Paul but with translators. In the original Greek, no such word appeared, but it is inserted by the NIV, and the Good News Version did something similar, to represent the thought. Literally the Greek said, “the mind of the Spirit,” and the Christian Holman translates it “the mind-set of the Spirit.” The original meaning means not that we have two minds, but that our one mind needs to be under the influence of the Spirit, and if it is not, then it is under the influence of the world. Translators have sought to explain the meaning of Paul or help our grasping of the truth, and have, perhaps, gone too far.

But the idea is there that the “mind of the Spirit” is one that is influenced and governed by, which has a different “mind-set” from the world or our flesh. The Amplified Bible says: “Now the mind of the flesh [which is sense and reason without the Holy Spirit] is death [death that comprises all the miseries arising from sin, both here and hereafter]. But the mind of the [Holy] Spirit is life and [soul] peace [both now and forever].” The Phillips says: “But the spiritual attitude reaches out after the things of the spirit. The former attitude means, bluntly, death: the latter means life and inward peace.”

Now to apply this: In our living day-to-day we are commanded to keep our minds focused on the Spirit of God. This means that we fellowship with Him, that we know His will, that we are gaining His perspective, that we stand in agreement with God and not rebellious against His will, and that we are taking steps of obedience to Him. The result is life and peace, a spiritual thrill that the world is unable to match.

The Deeper Christian Life