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Mar 21 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 18, 2012 – Present Your Bodies

For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. Romans 8:5 (read vv. 1-17)

INTRO: In the last six weeks, we’ve gone over the body in scripture from head to toe and from the outside in

We have been exploring the role their bodies (and parts) played in their spiritual understanding
– we have seen that men and women in the Bible listened to their bodies, searching for deeper meanings to what they felt and experienced

For example, when Rebekah was pregnant with twins and they jostled each other in her womb, she asked, “‘If it is so, then why am I this way?’ So she went to inquire of the LORD” (Ge. 25:26). It was then that God revealed to her the destiny of her two sons. The point is that she believed that what went on inside of her had a meaning that only God could make clear.

In Rediscovering the Lost Body-Connection Within Christian Spirituality, McMahon and Campbell advise us, “. . . when you wake up each morning, ask yourself, ‘What in my body right now most needs my loving presence? Where do I most feel my body telling me to pay attention?’”
– this is one way to live with greater awareness of the present moment
– it is also a way to bring our attention to what God may be doing within us at any given time

Today we’re going to look at the life of the body — including its spiritual life
– that is, its capacity to accommodate either good or  evil

First: a word of caution

The Bible does not have a technical vocabulary for anatomy, psychology, or even spirituality
– one word can have several different meanings and two different words can sometimes mean the same thing (e.g., soul and spirit are sometimes used synonymously)
– for example, George Ladd identified five meanings for the word “flesh” in Paul’s letters
– this is both a weakness and a strength

“From the standpoint of analytical psychology and physiology the usage of the Old Testament is chaotic: it is the nightmare of the anatomist when any part can stand at any moment for the whole and similar functions be predicated of such various organs as the heart, the kidneys and the bowels–not to mention the soul. But such usage is admirably adapted to expressing the unity of the personality under the various aspects of its fundamental relation to God. . . . All the richness of [Hebrew] terminology in respect of the body and its functions was devoted to expressing a deep understanding of the theological truth of [human] nature.” John A. T. Robinson

We begin with the SOUL

The Hebrew word originally (nefesh)was used of the neck or throat
– that was expanded to what passed through the throat – e.g., food and drink, then breath

The rhythm of our breath changes in different psychological states
Nu. 21:4, in the wilderness, “the soul of the people became short”
Job 6:11, Job asked if he had strength enough to lengthen his soul
– when the neck of a person became short or long, it was their breath they had in mind
▫ impatience is indicated by shallow, rapid breaths (short)
▫ patience is indicated by long, slow breaths (long)

So the meaning of nefesh when from breath to emotions, and from emotions to the entire interior life
– the soul was the person himself or herself

In the New Testament, the word translated soul is psyche – this is the person, the inner-self
– I’ve been reading a collection entries from the journals of Etty Hillesum

The editor, Annemarie Kidder summarized Hillesum’s  spiritual objective as “Coming to grips with life and resolving its complexities,” which “begins with getting to know one’s center, acknowledging its presence, and giving it form and formulation.”

This was her strategy for achieving her objective:

  • the soul forms a stabilizing center and source of inner strength
    – the soul is where inner and outer worlds meet
  • getting to know the soul can be painful – one may discover it is in chaos
  • it’s a lot of hard work to allow the soul to come into full view
  • observe how one’s perceptions and behavior have changed over time
    – how I used to act and how I act now
    – at what point did I become more at peace? more perceptive?
  • through solitude, became more at peace and compassionate
  • that allows God and love to enter my interior space
  • the danger of the interior quest is to get too caught up in its exploration
    – then one forgets its purpose; namely, to get rid of the ego

It is possible to love God with all the soul, however, to do so also requires an act of God

Paul’s statement regarding the soul in 1 Co. 2:14, “a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God”
– “natural” is psychikos – the normal person without God’s Spirit

I refer to this as THE PSYCHOTIC SELF
– obviously, this does not refer to the psychological definition of psychosis
– the psychotic or soulish self, like the body, is naturally neutral but can be moved in a good or bad direction

Next, we turn to the SPIRIT

Both the Hebrew ruach and the Greek pneuma basically refer to air in motion
– outside the body, in the world, they are translated wind
– moving in and out of the body, they are translated breath
Human life depends on the movement of these invisible forces
– it was easy for them to see relationship of life to breath and, therefore, of breath to spirit — the inner, invisible life

The spirit does not and cannot exist outside the body
– the body is not just a “shell” or vehicle of the spirit
– in the Old Testament, the spirit was alive within the tissues, bones, and organs of the body

“The body without the spirit is a corpse; the spirit without the body is a ghost.” Abraham Heschel

How did they know the status of their spirit or soul?
– by how the spirit or soul felt in their bodies!
– that helps to explain the psalmists’ soul-talk – e.g., Ps. 42:5, they could feel that their soul was “in despair” or “disquieted” within them

In the New Testament, the spirit is a potential within humans — to become alive to God (Ro. 6:11)
– the Spirit of God brings the human spirit to life

Paul’s statement regarding the spirit in, 1 Co. 2:15, “But he who is spiritual appraises all things”
– “spiritual” is pneumatikos – also referred to as the “new self” (Ep. 4:24; Col. 3:10)
– Ro. 8:4-5, 12-13, “walk . . .” and “live according to the flesh” or according to the Spirit
– Ro. 8:8-9, “in” the flesh or Spirit
You are in the Spirit if the Spirit is in you – and – if the Spirit belongs to you, you belong to him

I refer to this (“he who is spiritual”) as THE PNEUMATIC SELF
– someone who has been made alive in Jesus – the true self

Now we move on to the FLESH

I know this seems misplaced – “flesh” does not belong in the category of our spiritual being
– but in one sense it does

The Hebrew word, basar, is used of the tissues of the human body, but also represents the body’s mortality, vulnerability, and natural weaknesses

In the New Testament, the meaning of sarx evolves in the following manner:
– the body’s tissue →  its current state → its needs → its desires (1 Jn. 2:16, “lusts of the flesh”)

The spiritual use of sarx refers to “sinful human nature” – the part of the self that is “temptable”
– the part that finds pleasure in sin and is willing to use sin as a strategy or means
– a part of the self that rebels against God
– see Ro. 7:18-20 – a lower self, the “old self” (Ep. 4:22; Col. 3:9)

Paul’s statement regarding the flesh in 1 Co. 3:1, “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?”
– “of flesh” is sarkikois

See Ga. 5:16-18 in regard to our inner civil war
This sounds like it contradicts what I’ve been saying about there being no conflict between the spirit and the body
– but in Galatians 5, flesh does not refer to the body
▫ it is another sort of spiritual self that is in conflict with the pneumatic self
I refer to this as THE SARCHOTIC SELF

When the sarchotic self is in control, it programs the brain to sin (Ro. 8:5) – habits, addictions
▫ or what Jesus (Jn. 8:34) and Paul (Ro. 6:16-17) called “slavery”
– sin marks a trail in the brain and as a result, we can be ruled by an unconscious process

Jesus condemned sin in the sarchotic self is condemned (Ro. 8:3)
– to live in it or according to it, is to be in state of condemnation
– in that case, the brain will generate condemning thoughts and feelings
– however, thoughts programed by Spirit are “life and peace” (v. 6)

CONC: Etty Hillesum found an interesting way to approach this conflict

“My main weakness, in fact, is that all the time, or, at least very often, I am plagued by the great big question, which is actually a void: Is the struggle really worth the effort? Is it worthwhile putting up a fight? Shouldn’t one just be taking what life has to offer and leave it at that? There is probably an even more banal question behind that one: who will thank you for putting up a fight, or, quite bluntly, who will give two pins? God will, no doubt, and these words suddenly pouring from my small fountain pen fill me directly with humble strength. Perhaps these words–God will thank you for it–will turn into my salvation.”

If by God’s grace we can pause before we react
and find the motivation to choose to follow the impulses of our pneumatic self
–e.g., “God will thank you for it–
then the Spirit of God will meet us at that point and do in us what we cannot on our own

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