House I - Roy Lichtenstein

House I – Roy Lichtenstein (Photo credit: Ukenaut)

We continue this week to explore the body’s part in renewal of the whole person. Unlike novels, facial expressions aren’t specified in Scripture. But they’re implied in dialog passages. For example, I picture the Lord grinning, as if up to something, in this scene:

“Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples didn’t realize it was Jesus. He called out to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’ ‘No,’ they answered. He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.” (Jhn. 21:4-6)

I see raised eyebrows when Jesus explained new birth to Nicodemus. “‘You are Israel’s teacher,’ said Jesus, ‘and you don’t understand these things?’” (Jhn. 30:10)

Of course, his entire body is central in crucifixion and resurrection passages. Even his ascension occurred in a body. My point is that spiritual concerns alone aren’t the whole story.

Treasure Houses

“Don’t you realize that you’re a temple and that God’s Spirit lives within you?” (1Cor. 3:16) As the outer man, your body houses and expresses your inner essence. Paul uses several body analogies to illustrate spiritual realities. Other passages about houses, temples, or tents are often about people. In the field of dream study, houses represent the self.

Then there are collective bodies/houses. Passages about cities are about groups of individuals and their way of living. Of course, the Body of Christ is the collective body of Christian disciples throughout the ages.

Scripture describes New Jerusalem, the Bride, as a “great city” of people united in Christ who rule and serve in love. The Harlot, Babylon, is also a “great city,” but her people aren’t governed by love. Both are characterized in terms of a female body; both are beautifully and lavishly adorned; and both are about a collective mind-set and resulting life-style.

Just as your mind, emotions, and will are valuable and worth taking care of, so is your body. That doesn’t mean we worship the body, as hedonistic societies do. This god causes relentless obsession over how it looks to others, or dictates behavior aimed solely at satisfying some physical sensation like lust or gluttony. This is “fleshly” living.

But don’t trivialize your body, either, as others do. Because you have a physical form made of flesh doesn’t meant it should be mistreated. To regard it as worthless is a blatant disregard for all that God created and continues to create. Your flesh is fearfully and wonderfully made, something to be treasured. If God thought otherwise, would Jesus have manifested as human flesh?

Powerhouses

In filling up and learning to obey, rightness must move into the body as action for transformation to become complete (perfect). Without love and goodness inhabiting your thoughts and will, your body becomes a means to carry out ill will, manipulation, force, and abuse against self and neighbor.

“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.” (Luk. 6:45)

Treating your own body well affects how well you treat others. Our bodies, like emotions, should serve us, not master us, in the safe, trustworthy use of power. So we’re to offer our bodies as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1), which doesn’t mean they’re forfeited, but simply devoted to and organized around God and good will.

Practice

1. Students of Jesus are with him in all dimensions of personhood—mentally, emotionally, in choices, and in action. Immanuel is God with man, God’s Word in the flesh. The Spirit dwells increasingly in your household if you’re learning from Jesus how to do everything he says to do.

So, watch how he used his body in daily behavior with neighbors. What did he do with his hands? What was his tone of voice? Where did he position himself when walking with people? Did he avert his eyes or gaze directly at people? In every way, and especially on the cross, his body spoke the character of his whole being.

2. That said, be careful of “lifting up the Lord” so far that it puts distance between you. Obviously, it’s meant well, but it’s hard to get a sense of walking and interacting with the Lord if he isn’t close at hand, or only watches from afar.

There are enough forces working to separate you from God, so don’t inadvertently contribute by widening the gap! Pre-condition and position yourself for intimacy by regularly practicing the presence of God. “And lo, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Mat. 28:20)

3. Contrary to common belief, consider the biblical notion that your body isn’t temporary. Yes, your spirit will one day shed its current form, but people who are prepared (“worthy”) get the same body back in glorified, fully restored form just as Jesus did. (Exactly how that happens, no one can be sure. We don’t have enough detail.)

But even before any resurrection, Scripture seems to imply some sort of body after physical death. Paul hints that if there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body (1Cor. 15:44). In The Revelation, when John sees the souls of people who were beheaded for holding to the Word (Rev. 6:9, 20:4), I believe he sees actual people complete with arms, legs, heads, and torsos.

At any rate, Jesus is the first-fruit. Human bodies are an eternal part of our essential being—the soul—in both heaven and hell. If you understand “soul” as “person,” and as something of substance rather than a disembodied, nebulous thing, life as God defines it—whole and integrated—makes more sense. Even in everyday earthly activity, the body is much more than something to hang clothes on.

Juggler

Juggler (Photo credit: anadelmann)

Continuing from last week, transformation from death to life starts with the realization that we’re jumbled, broken souls, but not worthless souls.

You and I can humbly acknowledge our ruined condition without self-contempt, for that’s a seed that lays deep roots and grows into a spirit of contempt for others.

It creates double-mindedness and a divided heart instead of an undivided one. How can you love neighbors consistently or be spontaneously kind to enemies when you’re not even prepared to love yourself?

The person you are inside is the person you are when your guard is down—like after you’ve had too much wine. Everyone knows the happy drunk or the belligerent drunk, and it’s common to hear, “That was the alcohol talking last night.” But it was really the true person sneaking out when alcohol put the guard to sleep.

A member of my family was married years ago to a charming guy who became verbally and physically abusive when he drank. When he was sober, he was always deeply, genuinely, terribly sorry. He tearfully pleaded for (and received) forgiveness. But he never changed.

The fact is regret alone has no transformative power. Forgiveness alone won’t move you into the promised land of wellness. While these are necessary components of Christian repentance, the driving force behind transformation is a clear vision of who you can become, the willing choice to change, a sensible, knowledgeable way to do it, and then following it. God supplies everything but the willingness and the following. (more…)

Blah Blah Blah
Blah Blah Blah (Photo credit: arhezbee)

Last week, I wrote that by God’s design, the will (heart, spirit) is linked to thought and feeling (mind, choice).

This week, we’ll explore the link between those and the body and behavior. If that link is lost or broken, a soul (self) degenerates into ruin; and when you separate them all from God, the self descends into spiritual death.

The reverse is regeneration—that is, restoring the individual elements of the soul to a cohesive whole, and bringing that into harmony with God. This is new life, salvation. “He restoreth my soul.” (Psa. 23:3)

Christians talk about lostness or brokenness, but in my experience, it’s mistakenly confused with worthlessness. However, if you lose your wallet, does that mean it’s worthless? If you break your leg, do you throw it away? The biblical concept of human ruin doesn’t mean worthlessness.

Jesus emphasized this with his parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin (Mat. 18:12, Luk. 15:8). He also said, “What good is it if you gain the whole world but forfeit your soul?” (Mrk. 8:36, Luk. 9:25) These describe the tremendous value of people even in a ruined condition.

Dysfunctional Training

The term “flesh” generally refers to an unbalanced fixation on body sensations or behavior. The focus is external. Paul observed that the mind set on the flesh is death, while the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. The mind-set of the flesh is hostile toward God and simply can’t submit to His Law of love (Rom. 8:5-7). (more…)

green tree

green tree (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For many who feel they can’t relate to God, there’s wonderful biblical encouragement which, I think, we don’t hear often enough.

For others, who talk much about a relationship with Jesus, I think they’ve missed the full impact of what that means. After four decades as a Christian, I know I certainly did.

It’s almost as if, had it not been for sin, man has no reason to relate to God. Jesus is only good for his blood and gig on the cross; so, other than getting people to heaven when they die, there’s little need to follow him.

At the start of this series, we saw that a soul is a whole person, the self, the essence of personhood and being. God is also a Soul, a Person.

“Soul” conveys a totality of spiritual and physical, visible and invisible components. The Greek word psuche is variously translated as life, self, heart, mind, soul, and person. Even when we shed our mortal bodies at physical death, Scripture indicates that the soul gains some type of spiritual body. “If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” (1Cor. 15:44)

For example, those in the afterlife are described as wearing clothes, although this could be a figure of speech. Nevertheless, they do speak and act, which indicates more than a floating, disembodied state of existence or merely telepathic interactions. The resurrection at the end of this age definitely reunites us with recognizable, yet better, physical bodies.

My point is that physical things always relate to spiritual things; and human souls are a microcosm of the unavoidable link between physical and spiritual, human and divine. (more…)

Stone ruins on the property of the Stone Barn,...

Stone ruins on the property of the Stone Barn, Stone City, Iowa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last week, we looked at troubleshooting the soul (Part 1 and Part 2). This week, we’ll explore restoration. To make the soul whole again is to realign four areas of personhood within themselves and with God.

1. Heart/Will/Spirit

2. Mind/Thought/Emotion

3. Physical Body

4. Behavior/Relationships

5. Soul/Total Person/Self

The first two areas are what Scripture variously refers to as the inner self, character, or nature. The next two are what Scripture calls the outer self. The last area, the soul, works like an auto-pilot to integrate the parts into a cohesive whole. Without conscious effort, it causes the outer self to carry out whatever goes on in the inner self.

This is automatic, invisible, and beyond conscious control. We do, however, have control over the first four areas.

Make the Inside Good

So, to restore the soul, we first need to correct the inner self—what we think, feel, and intend (will). The study of God’s Word, for example, helps correct our mind/thoughts. A vision and intention to be like Christ helps correct the heart/spirit.

Once those come more into line with God’s thoughts and will, the practice of various disciplines involving the body—fasting or rest, for example—helps to strengthen the inner self. The result is increasingly Christ-like behavior that doesn’t need to be forced or faked—going the extra mile, blessing those who curse you, loving neighbors as self, etc., etc. (more…)

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“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.” (Mat. 12:33) Jesus is speaking of inner character that produces Godly acts of love and good will.

Before we can look at soul repair, it helps to see how it’s supposed to work. My thanks to Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard (NavPress, 2002) for a basic explanation of how a person is constructed, in the image of God, to relate to his/her surroundings. (I’ve slightly modified his diagram below by naming one aspect of personhood “Behavior/Relationships” instead of “Social Context.”)

A Tree, House, and Auto-Pilot

We can think of personhood as five concentric circles, like tree rings:

5 concentric circles. Starting with the inner circle and expanding outward, they're labeled Heart/Will/Spirit, Mind/Thought/Emotion, Body, Behavior/Relationships, and the 5th outermost circle is the soul, the total person "packaged." 

At the core of our being is heart, will, or spirit—biblically, they’re synonymous. This is why Scripture calls the heart the wellspring of life. When teleios (human virtue) dominates the core, personal character is consistently righteous—like Abraham, Job, Noah, and so many others. Good trees produce good fruit.

The second ring of personhood is mind, thought, and emotion. It’s where our ideas, imagination, wisdom, sensations, and the subconscious live. The mind generates how we feel, what we think about, and how we react. Combined with heart/will/spirit, the Bible calls these first two rings the inner man. Sometimes, we call it “guts.” Our gut feelings and perceptions, as well as choices and decisions, originate here. (more…)