There are some terms in the Bible referring to various parts of us –and they just aren't clear. Body, soul and spirit are the basic ones, but then it talks about flesh, mind and heart. We also experience emotions. Just how do all of these fit together into a Christian –"walking in the spirit"?
The body is the container that houses us while we are here on earth in this physical life. Sometimes it's called our tent. Contained within this body are the mind (also referred to as the soul) and the human spirit (or heart). We were created in these three parts by God who also composed of in three parts –that's what is meant by man being created in the image of God. (There's more to that part, but we'll save that for another time.) God, the Father, correlates to the soul; the Holy Spirit to the human spirit; and Jesus to the body.
The mind (or soul) does the thinking and retains the conclusions that it reaches. Those conclusions are what we believe to be true –they define our faith. The body has five entry points (our five senses) though which the external world can influence the thoughts that go through the mind. The human spirit is what connects us to the spiritual world. Like the senses, the spirit also has the ability to influence the thoughts that go through the mind. It can be thought of as a woman in search of her life-mate. And until her desire for that mate is found she continues searching –trying to fill her empty life with a purpose –a reason for living.
God has a great desire for everyone of us to live with Him for all eternity. He appeals to our spirit with His Holy Spirit –to join in perfect marriage –to be the perfect life-mate who will fulfill every need. He offers unconditional love, unconditional acceptance, and a meaning and purpose for life –all beyond measure.
That spiritual appeal from inside of the "container" isn't sufficient for some since they can't use their senses to know for certain that it is He that is appealing to them. They require proof of the appeal from the outside so God made His entire creation to be a witness to show that He exists and wants us all to join Him. It displays His magnitude and majesty as the designer of a universe that can never be fully comprehended. And it displays the fact that we, like it, are disintegrating more each day. If that isn't enough, He sent His Son to explain it all to us and His story has remained on record in the Bible for thousands of years.
When we respond to God's appeal –no matter how we understand it at the time –with whatever words we use –accepting His proposal, we become "engaged" to Him. His Holy Spirit immediately joins with our spirit inside our "container" as a promise that He will never, no matter what we do or say, never be separated from us. He and we become like-minded while we live on this earth. We will receive a new body –one that doesn't corrupt– which will be joined with His Son. The official marriage ceremony will be conducted in heaven.
The rest of the story...
In the garden of Eden, Eve ate the fruit of the tree of the knowlege of good and evil so that she would be like God –able to decide what was right and wrong for herself and everyone around her. As her children, we are all that very same way –opinionated and judgmental –gods of our own ways.
Sensual Desires: The flesh (or sin nature) desires what is pleasing to the senses. The aroma of a favorite food stirs a craving that grows in our mind –often enhancing the expectation of that food's taste beyond what it can possibly fulfill. The same is true for each of our senses. We are sensual beings. Our senses draw our attention to the things of this world that we do not already have: more education; a better job; new clothes; a bigger dwelling; more food; a shinier car; less demanding relationships; compassionate friends; children that are more respectful; a kinder, prettier, sexier and more accepting mate...
Even as Christians, sensual desires never leave us –not as long as we live in this world. It's normal, common, natural, for us to want to fulfill these desires. That's an inseparably part of who we are as human beings. When combined with the fact that we decide what is right or fair for us to have in life (inherited from Eve), our emotions clearly reveal that fallen, sensual nature. Desires that are not satisfied cause us to feel hurt, disappointed, rejected, frustrated, angry –and above all we are anxious in anticipation of what will happen next. The flesh is always worried about getting its way –having what is good for us –having what we rightly deserve.
The Law and the Flesh: in the section Law vs. Grace we looked at how the law entices us to sin. But taking the law away does not take away the desire to sin –to fulfill the desires of the flesh– and reap the associated emotions and anxieties. Sin naturally lives in our flesh –like glowing embers smoldering within us– and the law is like gasoline. Attempting to follow the law corresponds to pouring that explosive fuel onto the embers. The result is disastrous and predictable –we all have experienced them time and time again.
We are New Creations: Although our thoughts can seem to be on many things at once, the fact is that we can only think about one thing at a time. Our minds merely jump from one thought to another in rapid succession. But by submitting to God's ways –as new creations in Christ– these desires can be displaced by turning our focus onto Jesus.
Everyone says, "That sounds fine, but it's not that easy!" Of course it's not easy. There really is a war going on within your mind. But you can be the victor by submitting to God's thoughts about His Son. As you practice yielding to Him, the battles will become less and less intense. It takes practice –real effort and there will be many battles to face each day.
Saying to yourself "I will not think about my desires" absolutely will not achieve the wanted results. It's because that the very phrase "I will not..." becomes a law that your flesh will rebel against. You will be putting gasoline on those embers once again.
The rest of the story...
The pastor of the church my wife and I were attending was preaching on the commandment regarding adultery. It was the seventh week in a series on obeying the Ten Commandments. Each week the sermons became more burdensome –to the point that my wife was dreading Sunday mornings. They were no longer spiritually uplifting.
That week, he revealed a recent personal experience in which he and one of the elders were driving through the neighborhood and an attractive woman, wearing a very small bikini, was walking down the street. He made an excuse at the time to the elder about having to go back to his office for something; the real reason was so that he could take another look. The pastor explained that this was an example of adultery that plagued him –one that's very common for men. He summed up the sermon by telling the audience that at the end of the day, he needed to make things right between God and himself –to restore their fellowship– and that required his praying for God's forgiveness and repenting from those thoughts.
I knew in my heart that something was wrong with that message and kept asking God to help me to understand what the real intent of that law was. Within a few days I heard a message on the radio where a man was teaching on God's grace. He told about his own experiences where the normal things in Christian life seemed so difficult –actually impossible to bear. Unlike the usual teachers who quoted short passages to make their point, this man read long passages directly out of the Bible and he put them in context! The topics he presented were the same ones that I found so difficult. God has answered that request many times over. He has used life's situations combined with what is in the Bible to reveal what Christian life is and what it isn't. The section I call "Foundation Topics" deals with many of them.
Most evangelical Christians are familiar with stories about Jesus found in the New Testament. But have you wondered if there is more that can be learned about Him before that day when we see Him face to face? There is! And it's found in the Old Testament. There's an old saying: "The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed. And the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed."
The tale of Adam and Eve is so much more than mankind's fall from grace. Eve bit into sin's deception and swallowed rebellion against God –knowing that the result was expulsion from the garden. Eve represents you and I –the church –the bride. Adam had a choice to make. He could either stay in the garden and let the love of His life go into the wilderness alone. Or he could take on her sin and die for her. The punishment for him was death and toil; for her it was trouble with new birth.
The Old Testament is full of pictures –foreshadows– about Jesus. Jonah provides insight into our salvation and also what Jesus thought about during and after the punishment He paid for our sins. The seven days of Creation describes Jesus' purpose for joining us on this earth. In fact the first three days foretell of his birth, death and resurrection. The stories of Ruth and Deborah detail the working of the Trinity for our salvation. Sampson explains Jesus' relationships with three categories of mankind: "The world", Israel, and the Church. Those picture stories are in a section "Foreshadows about Jesus".
Its purpose is to communicate the Gospel truth of God's grace that took so long for me to learn and understand. I've gone to many churches over the years and found that most of them are based to a large degree on legalism. By that I'm referring to the theology where Christians stay on God's good side through their actions and attitudes. The simplest form requires doing our best to keep God's laws and commandments. The more subtle forms demand us to demonstrate certain spiritual gifts, to be baptized in a particular manner, to pray and read the Bible a minimum amount of time per day, or to follow well meaning traditions such as not drinking alcohol, using tobacco or dancing.
That all sounded so reasonable to me back then. The ranking members of those churches had great sounding reasons and arguments for what they believed. And I believed it too for a long time. But I thank God that He showed me that all of it was actually works of my flesh –wood, hay and stubble.
I'm not suggesting that the people in those churches were unproductive. No! In fact some of them have been the dearest of friends –supporting me in some of my most difficult times. However, they were missing out on an abundant life found by living everyday life in God's grace. In regard to their faith, their lives were primarily motivated by guilt. Basically, it came in two forms: Fear of lost fellowship with God and fear of condemnation by other church members.