What is your faith?




A Living Relationship?

You would have thought that two centuries of devastating attacks on RELIGION by men-of-REASON, would have done it in by now, but no! ‘Religion’ is alive and kicking, all over the world. Even in those countries where the forces of ‘reason’, ‘secularism’, ‘evolutionism’, etc., made the greatest impact, emptying pews and pulpits alike, there is quite a surge of all kinds of religious movements, whether they consist of sectarians, occultists, New Age or even satanists. It certainly teaches us that MAN is a ‘religious animal’ by nature. Some are ready to commit suicide in the name of religion. In the camp of Evangelical Christianity you get the ‘laughing revival’, ‘prosperity teaching’, the overt moves to cozy up to Rome, and much more, both positive and negative. An important key-to-understanding could save us from many a pitfall. So why not allow the Lord to reveal it to us and teach us how to use it?

“… your whole spirit and soul and body …” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). This ‘bundle of humanity’, mentioned by Paul, has a clearly defined place in God’s plan of redemption and it is extremely important to know what God is working out in regards to each part.

Physicians have known for millenniums that man’s body is incredibly complex. Innumerable mysteries are left to ponder even today. Psychologists are still trying to get to grips with the complexities of the human soul. But it is only Christians who know anything at all about the realities of the human spirit, and, of course, we mean ‘real’ Christians, not the nominal type.

(A ‘footnote’ should be in order here about the fact that, of course, those who sadly dabble in any kind of ‘spiritism, also know the reality of a spirit realm. However, what they capture of it is a twisted caricature, inspired by the ‘prince of darkness’, who habitually appears as an ‘angel of light’ (2 Corinthians 11:14). How many of them are in the end locked up in psychiatric institutions, commit suicide or come to other grievous harm!)

It is no secret to most that the body is what we might call the ‘vehicle’ of the soul, but what about the spirit? Isn’t that simply another word for ‘soul’? The RC Church and others teach as much, yet careful study in the Word will reveal that the human spirit is clearly distinct from the soul. It is what we have tried to express in our diagram.


Let us have a closer look at each of the three. Through the five senses of the body: sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell, we have learned to perceive what is going on around us. It is entirely on the physical level. Moreover we (normally) have the faculty of communicating through speech, we have legs to walk, arms and hands to work, etc., etc. When a person falls ill, God can miraculously raise him up, but he does not guarantee that he will. The body eventually, young or old, dies, and man’s earthly existence is at an end, at least for the time being. A Christian knows, however, there is more to life than just that. He is more than an animal. In fact every human being knows as much. God has set eternity in their hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11), even if they don’t want to admit it.

Paul quotes Isaiah 64 (1 Corinthians 2:9) and says:

1) “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,

2) neither have entered into the heart of man,

3) the things which God has prepared for them that love him”.

He wants us to know that there is a world totally hidden to the physical senses, as well as to the soul. The “heart”, seat of the emotions, sentiments and desires, is a principal faculty of the soul of man. From it spring the issues of life (Proverbs 4:23). But as man´s Creator tells us (Jeremiah 17:9), that heart is now deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Only God can plumb the depths of it. However, it is still one of the three faculties of the soul: the other two being the mind or intellect, and the will.

However ardent the desires of his heart, however intelligent his mind, however powerful his will, man cannot discover anything at all of God’s spiritual world. Paul makes it quite clear that only God’s Spirit can reveal the things of God’s world (1 Corinthians 2:10-16), and he points out the telling difference between the “soul-man” (the ‘natural’ man in verse 14) and the “spirit-man” (15). The first may be wide awake to many realities of the physical and the psychological worlds, but to the spiritual world he is deaf and blind and dead (Ephesians 2:1-2). This is not to say that God is not able to give him “a taste” of the spiritual realities, which is what we see in Cornelius’ case, even before he received the Holy Spirit and was born again (Acts 10). Both Balaam and his donkey were granted a glimpse of that other world. It didn’t mean Balaam passed from darkness to light. Tasting wasn’t drinking …

So what about man’s spirit? When it receives the LIGHT, the LOVE and the LIFE of Jesus Christ, we may say that in this man, now a Christian, his spirit is his body’s mirror-image. The Bible describes the spirit’s activities as ‘seeing’, ‘hearing’, “tasting”, “touching”, “speaking”, “walking”, etc., even “reproducing”. Apart from the physical world in which he still moves in his body, he now also moves, not in a ‘phantom’ world, but in what the Bible calls “heavenly places”, his prayer life being his “vital breath”.

Just as a man and a woman can be ‘joined’ and be ‘one flesh’, so the Christian “joined to the Lord”, is “one spirit” with him (1 Corinthians 6:17). Every normal Christian knows how wonderfully real and beyond words that experience is.

Man is a personality. He reasons and thinks, he falls in (and out) of love, he hates, gets angry, desires, he decides and elects, etc. etc. All these actions and reactions of the soul are channeled back and forth through his body as he intercommunicates with the physical world around him. If he is a Christian, and his spirit is now alive, he does the same in the spiritual world. And, just as in the physical world, growth of the spirit-life is absolutely essential. As the Christian’s appetite for the Word increases, and he ‘exercises’ more, so the spiritual values get stamped on his character. That is a process, which is usually called ‘sanctification’, a lifelong process wedged in between two crises. Together they give us a picture of man’s total redemption. Let me explain:

What God did, is doing and is yet to do:

He has justified the Christian (his spirit);

He is sanctifying the Christian (his soul);

He is yet to glorify the Christian (his body).

That crisis of glorification will take place when our Lord comes for his own, snatching them away from earth (Philippians 3:20-21).

Much more could be said about the present sanctification of a Christian, for instance about the fact that the Message of the Cross is central, and that if he manages to evade it, he will sadly miss God’s purposes for his life.

Before closing we must finally arrive at our ‘point’, which is the fact that a man can be deeply religious, and yet totally blind and lifeless as far as God and salvation and Heaven are concerned. Again Cornelius could be called on, but let us rather remember the Samaritan woman in John 4. She was obviously deeply concerned about ‘worship’ and about the correct place to pay tribute to God. That, apparently, was not incompatible with her lifestyle. The problem was that all she knew from doctrines and traditions was “soul worship”. When there is no life in the human spirit, a man’s soul will still go ahead and ‘worship’ anyway. That is why you might call man a ‘religious animal’. However, God cannot accept it, which is very clear in Jesus’ parable of the two worshipers (Luke 18:9-14), one utterly religious, the other one utterly contrite. Mere religion was not accepted. It is the story of Cain and Abel all over again. What did God accept? The broken heart of the tax collector, who implored God’s mercy. He went home justified.

The beautiful, glossy folder said it all. A new center for people who love the Lord, and have a heart for missions, had recently been opened. Underneath the colorful photographs this caption: “A GREAT PLACE TO WORSHIP”; just what the Jews could have written over their temple, and the Samaritans over Mount Gerizim. “A Great Place to Worship”, but Jesus would have none of it! That true worship, for which the Father is looking, cannot be linked to a site, a time, a body. Jesus makes clear it is not worship-in-the-body-by-the-body, not even by body and soul together! It is worship-in-the-spirit-by-the-spirit.

A recent news item:

“American churchgoers don’t feel they are communicating with God, researcher George Barna says. About 75 million Americans attend church every Sunday, but many don’t believe they have experienced God’s presence. Less than a third of those who go to church feel they are interacting with God during the service and an additional third said they had never experienced God’s presence. ‘Most of them leave the church disappointed, week after week,’ Barna said.” (Religion Today – Sept. 29,’98)

How about YOUR faith? By God’s grace, let HIM make it spiritual and thus alive! That means allowing him to assign all your best efforts of soul worship to one place: Calvary’s cross. The place of total rejection! HE has no other place for them! Here are some additional key passages: Philippians 3; Luke 9:23-25; Galatians 2:20; 2 Corinthians 5:16,17. As that cross is accepted as God’s absolute and final verdict, and your ‘filthy rags’ are finally discovered to be what they are, then there will be that glorious experience of resurrection life and true and joyful worship!