The Whole You

This entry is part 81 of 84 in the series Holiness Matters
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

When I went to Bible College and seminary, the emphasis of most of my classes and training was to become a specialist. There were no general pastoral degrees. Everything was focused on whether you were a youth pastor, an executive pastor, a children’s pastor, and so on.

One of the things I want to do was to become a lead pastor, someone who could either help others succeed in those individual departments or lead a group of pastors doing those individual things.

We focus so much time and energy on every part of something rather than the whole anymore. My vision for pastoring was certainly in the minority when I received my pastoral training. And in the same way, much of what people do today is focused on the parts and specialties rather than the whole.

But God is not interested in just the parts of you. He is interested in your whole person, your whole being. While we have been talking about the biblical mind and what all is entailed in it, I want to take a step back and talk about how we can worship and serve God with our whole being. In fact, that’s exactly what he wants.

Worship and Service

In Deuteronomy 6, Moses tells the people of Israel to love the Lord their God with all of their heart, soul, and strength (Deuteronomy 6:4). You really have to break down what each of these words mean in the original language to get the full understanding of what Moses challenges the Israelites to do.

Later in the New Testament, one of the legal scholars asks Jesus with the greatest commandment is (Mark 12:28). Jesus answers with the same thing that Moses talked about in Deuteronomy 6. But Jesus adds “mind” to his list.

When we talk about worshiping and serving God, he is not interested in only one part of us. He must be Lord of the whole person. So many Christians do not commit their whole being to God regularly.

And yet when we worship the Lord, loving him through worship and service, our whole person must be involved in the endeavor. If we do not present a full commitment to the Lord, we are not honoring him.

The Whole from the Parts

When you consider the parts individually, they are not nearly as powerful as the whole system. We can examine a system part by part, but it’s real value comes in operating as one whole unit, a complete system.

The parts themselves may be lackluster. There may be nothing special about some of the parts. As we consider the body, the parts are not nearly as important as the whole body working as one. Military units often talk about moving as one person. If it can be managed, the whole is more powerful than the parts in unison.

So when we come to the idea of worshiping the Lord with the four parts that Jesus mentions, our heart, soul, mind, and strength, or body, he is pointing to the whole person. When he says “all of your” followed by part, we should probably understand it to mean “whole” instead of “all.”

We have talked about these different divisions before. The heart in the Hebrew thinking contains the mind as the intellect, decision making part, and the emotions. The soul is what makes a person that person. It contains everything from the personality to the attitude. The strength refers to the body, the part of us that moves before the Lord in worship and service.

So the question must be, “Why did the Lord add ‘mind’ to the list?” I don’t see too many people discussing this, but my short answer is that we do not think of our mental faculties when we worship the Lord and serve him.

Many of us don’t realize the importance of meditating on Scripture, studying the Scriptures in depth to learn and understand God better, thinking God’s thoughts after him, and using our minds to glorify him in our thought processes and results.

Using our minds in the endeavor of following after God is just as powerful an act of worship and service as what we do with our hands and feet. Using our minds to glorify God is pleasing to him.

I think one of the other reasons Jesus included the mind specifically is that the scholar who is asking him this question is trying to trip him up. It’s almost like Jesus is reminding the scholar, one who studies the Scriptures, that using the mind is what he is not doing when he addresses the greatest commandment.

For whatever reason Jesus included the mind separately from the heart, which every Hebrew would’ve clearly understood in saying “heart,” he did it for a reason. I don’t think his reason had anything to do with the New Testament being written in Greek, since Jesus most likely spoke Aramaic and Hebrew writers of the New Testament used “heart” in the Hebrew understanding.

We must apply our emotions, our mental capacities, the inner parts of us from soul and spirit, and our bodies to worship and serve the Lord. We must connect with him on every level and fiber of our being. No part of us should be left behind as we worship and serve him.

Devotion and Commitment

Worshiping and serving the Lord with our whole being is a full commitment and devotion to him. We commit ourselves, every part of us and as a whole, to the Lord. We leave nothing off the table. Like David, we dance before the Lord with all of our might. We don’t care what anyone else thinks as we worship and serve him.

As my youth pastor used to say, we worship the Lord with reckless abandon. We put all of the questions about what it looks like or how silly we might be aside. Our only concern is that the Lord sees our effort to devote ourselves to him.

I often close my eyes in worship. I don’t want to be looking around at what other people are doing. The Lord never says to mimic the actions of others. It’s what he tells you to do in worship and service.

So even though our whole person is involved, our worship and service is completely individual and unique. Even within a corporate setting, the Lord may ask us to do something that no one else is doing. This is the true test of our commitment. Are we willing to do whatever the Lord says the matter how it looks to anyone else?

After all, we’re not interested in what others think of our worship and service. We worship and serve the Lord Jesus Christ alone. We must not be concerned with the thoughts of others and their opinions. When the Lord says to do something, do it with your whole being.

The point of devotion and commitment is to not be concerned with anyone else. When the Lord speaks, we listen and obey. We commit our whole person, every part of us, to everything he tells us to do. This is how we show our love and obedience to him.

Conclusion

So as we come to the end of thinking about the importance of the mind as well as the other parts of us, it is just as important as every other part. But even more important is bringing our whole self to the Lord in worship and service.

He expects nothing less from us. And when we bring less than our whole being, we only offer a half-baked, half-hearted approach to the Lord. He spoke out against the way the Israelites would do everything that was written in the law for sacrifices and offerings and yet their true self, their whole self, was not in it.

It was just for show. Their hearts were with idols. We must make sure that we come before the Lord and offer him all that we are and have. Leave a comment and tell me the steps you take to make sure you offer your whole being to the Lord in worship and service regularly.

Posted in Holiness Matters | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Gospel Truth

This entry is part 403 of 422 in the series Inquiring Minds

Is an hour long enough to hear the full gospel of Christ?

The gospel is both complex and simple. One hour is plenty of time to listen to the full message of the gospel. Many pastors at the end of their sermons during the altar calls give the message of the gospel in five minutes or less.

And yet you can spend a lifetime studying the whole meaning of what Jesus did for us. To convey the whole message of the full gospel of Christ we need to know what parts of it are essential.

The essential gospel is that Jesus came to earth, preached the message of good news, was arrested though he was innocent, put on trial, died on the cross as the sacrificial Passover Lamb in our place for our sins to restore our relationship with God, was buried for three days, and rose again on the third day.

There’s a lot of theology just in those quick steps. But getting those to the person listening is enough for them to ask their own questions, receive a guided understanding of the full gospel of Christ. In those steps are the essential truth of who Jesus is and what he has done for us.

I could wax eloquent for hours on the full gospel of Christ. There are so many facets to explore and understand when we come to Christ. But within an hour, you can tell the entire message. You can relay the full gospel of Christ within five minutes because of its simple straightforward message.

But each of us will spend the rest of our lives and probably much of eternity asking questions about the amazing power of God and how he has culminated human history in the coming of Jesus to save us from sin and bring us into God’s kingdom.

Posted in Inquiring Minds | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Paul’s Past Life

This entry is part 402 of 422 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay

Is it true that if the Apostle Paul had let his past as Saul affect a lot during his ministry as a missionary, he would not have been nearly as effective?

I don’t believe this is true. Paul actually spoke a lot about his past throughout his ministry. He was part of his testimony as he witnessed about Christ. He mentions his past several times throughout his letters.

He talked about how he was the chief of sinners, killing Christians, and his education in Jerusalem under Gamiliel, a first-rate education. He also discussed his present ministry as a missionary and apostle traveling throughout the Roman Empire to preach the gospel.

The person he was before he met Christ on the road to Damascus in Acts 9, some of the traits he had, are very useful for his apostolic ministry. He didn’t let anyone push him around, a character trait he had before he met Christ.

He didn’t stand for false teaching or false teachers in the churches. He spoke up against individuals who were not following Christian doctrine. Paul wasn’t a pushover. He was a tough guy for Jesus.

God used his past in his ministry. It made him the apostle and missionary that he was. It gave him the toughness, but Christ transformed his character so that he was also soft and kind in the proper contexts.

Our life before we met Christ and began to follow him is useful for our testimony. It also helps us to never forget how far Christ has brought us. We must not forget it. We must use the parts of it we can to further God’s kingdom.

Paul only used his past when it helped the gospel. He didn’t fall back into old patterns, at least as the Scriptures record his life. He became one of the biggest examples of how God can change a person’s life in the blink of an eye. God can use any of us, including our past, to show how he transforms us in our testimony for him.

Posted in Inquiring Minds | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Book of John Purpose

This entry is part 401 of 422 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by blenderfan from Pixabay

What is the purpose of the book of John?

Many times it’s a lot harder to figure out the purpose of the book of the Bible because the writers of the New Testament don’t broadcast their purpose in writing. But we don’t have this problem with the Gospel of John.

In John 20:30-31, the apostle gives us the purpose for writing his book. He tells us that these things were written that we may believe that Jesus is the Son of God. This belief will lead us to eternal life in the name of Jesus.

John composes his gospel in what most scholars agree is the two books, the first contains signs and I am statements, and the second book concerns the Passion of Christ, his death and resurrection.

Every one of the signs John gives are meant to give evidence that Jesus is divine. The I am statements look into the Old Testament past, where the name of God (Yahweh) essentially means “I am.” Jesus claims to be God almost every time he says, “I am.”

After he says “I am” he follows it up with an image in the statements. For instance, “I am the Bread of Life.” This image conveys something about Jesus’ entity. In this example the Bread of life refers to his ability to provide for his people.

John gives us an extended Olivet Discourse that expands upon what Jesus said to his disciples in the Upper Room before his arrest and crucifixion (John 13-17). Then John follows along with much of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) in the Passion narrative about Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.

John adds 90% unique material from the synoptic Gospels. Much of what he says about Jesus cannot be found in the other three Gospels. He is writing later than the others and presenting a new or different perspective on Jesus.

But his purpose is not to inform or fill in the gaps of the other Gospels. His point of writing later is to look back and record the events of Jesus’ life and ministry that give us the deepest glimpse into him as the Divine Savior of the world. John places a heavy premium on belief in Jesus and his divinity.

Posted in Inquiring Minds | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Inner Person

This entry is part 80 of 84 in the series Holiness Matters

Image by Bessi from Pixabay

So many components make up who we are and what we do. Our motivations and intentions lead us to the choices we make and our actions. But what does the Bible have to say about all of the inner parts of who we are?

All of the things inside of us that no one else can see the Holy Spirit sees. He knows every part of our innermost being. Jesus does a deep under the hood transformation in us when he makes us new creatures.

Although none of us can truly understand every component that makes us who we are, I want to explore some of these components. The Bible provides insight into many of these aspects of our person. Let’s take a look at how God has made us.

The Biblical Heart

At the beginning of our journey, we talked about the biblical mind and how the Bible uses the Hebrew model of our mind and heart together. God didn’t design us to just use reason alone or to react with emotions alone.

Reason and motions, along with the other parts of our mind, combine to help us with all of our mental tasks, especially decision making. The biblical heart is not a blood pumping organ but an integrated mind.

Every aspect of the inner person is guided by the heart, the mind of each person. Jesus changes every part of us on the inside. As we will discuss, he changes our motives, intentions, and our desires. He makes us new and devoted to him.

Our Motives

Before we met Jesus, we were only concerned with ourselves. Our selfish motives directed every action we took. Our motives are the brain children of our actions. We don’t do anything without our motives in place.

Our motives decide how we proceed and why we do what we do. We tended to act out of whatever advancement we received before we met Jesus. But all that changed when we began to follow him.

Now our motives are completely different. We act out of a desire to please God. Everything we do is to glorify him. Our goal for our behavior and actions considers our love for God. We don’t act out of fear of what he would do to us in his judgment.

One of our motives as God’s children is to act out of our identity in Christ. Because we know who we are in Jesus, we now act out of our brand-new identity as his creatures. Our goals have changed. He has made us work out of a desire to help others instead of our own selfish ambitions.

Our Intentions

If the motive is the brainchild of the action, our intentions are all about our intended results. When we commit to an action, the intention is what we expect to happen. Before we met Jesus, I intentions were for our betterment, to further our cause or self.

We did whatever would affect our own success. We weren’t concerned about the plight of others. If you think I’m pushing the idea of selfishness before Christ too far, just think back to your old life before him. An honest look at your motives and intentions in the past will bring the same conclusion.

But now our intentions are completely different. We do not seek a selfish outcome. We want to further the kingdom of God. Jesus taught us to seek his kingdom first and his righteousness, and then we would see all of these other things come to pass (Matthew 6:33).

Intentions involve the planning that we do. The Bible tells us that we seek our own plans and intentions but the Lord directs our steps (Proverbs 16:9). We can plan all we want, but if we don’t include the Lord in our plans, they are doomed to fail.

It is much better for us to plan with the Lord in mind. What I mean by this is that we intend righteous results instead of our own desires. We want to see God’s kingdom on this earth. If there’s something we do in our lives that brings that result, this is our intended path.

When you make your plans, do you include all the possibilities for intercession from the Lord? If the Lord wants us to do something, it should be our main plan. We must prioritize time in his presence and Word ahead of all other things. The Lord blesses those who plan with him in mind.

From the conversations we hold to the actions we take, we work for the Lord. We pray for God’s kingdom to come (Matthew 6:10). We are the Lord’s representatives on this earth. We hope to guide others to him. God purifies our intentions.

Our Desires

Before we met Jesus, our desires were all about us. We had evil desires and we didn’t even care. We did what we wanted to do and we gratified ourselves. If we got something out of it, that’s the path we chose in the action we did.

The Bible talks about both good and evil desires. But before we met Jesus there was no reason to do what he wanted. All of that has changed. Now we have godly desires that replaced our selfish desires.

Habits are very important and hard to break. But when we try to remove a habit, we must replace it with another. All of our old habits the Holy Spirit is working to replace in us. He is putting godly and righteous habits in place of the old ones.

Our old desires only sought to please us. But now we have new desires, first to act out of our love and gratitude toward Jesus, and then to please him in everything we do. We want to do the right thing, not for our sake but for the sake of the kingdom of God.

We want to put into place in our lives these godly desires the Bible talks about. Jesus has changed the very core of our being. By his act of love in dying on the cross for us, for giving us of our sins, and cleansing us from unrighteousness, it’s the least we can do to glorify him.

Our Personality

Personality is the sum of who we are. It includes our thoughts, our perceptions, our attitudes, our unique life imprint. But how much of our personality does Jesus change when he makes us new creatures?

It’s my understanding that Jesus can use our personality for the glory of his kingdom. Take Paul for instance. He was a rough guy. But even after Jesus saved him, he was still a pretty rough guy. He dealt with some of the underbelly of the church, those who did not understand what it meant to be Christian.

For those who needed to be dealt with harshly, he was the man who made that happen. But at the same time, when the situation called for a softness and kindness to others, Paul was able to accomplish this.

Peter is another example. Before he met Jesus, and even as one of Jesus’ disciples, Peter said what he thought. He had no filter. He would even say things he intended to follow up on but didn’t really want to follow up on them.

In the upper room he said he would die with Jesus. Then he denied Jesus three times to avoid going to the cross with him. But I’ve got to give Peter credit. Church tradition tells us he was hung upside down on a cross because he couldn’t stand to be crucified just like his Savior.

These are powerful testimonies, and perhaps indications of how much Jesus changes of our personality. Whatever you can use for the praise of his glory Jesus doesn’t change in us. If you can use that rough strength in us, he will.

But I believe there are parts of our personality that must change. Psychologists tell us that much of her personality is unchangeable. But Jesus can do anything. If there’s something in us that doesn’t glorify him that he can’t use to further his kingdom, I believe he changes it to make it usable.

Most of your personality will not change as a Christian. If you were bullheaded before you met Christ, he will use your bullheaded personality to kick down the gates of Hell. If you were quiet and unassuming before you met Christ, he will use you in the background for his glory.

God changes what he needs to change in us. It’s not that he makes us better, but that he makes us holy, godly, and most able to serve him in his kingdom. He has a place for everybody. If he can use Peter and Paul, he can use you.

Soul and Spirit

There is so much debate and Christian scholarship today about dichotomy and trichotomy, how we are composed as human beings. Dichotomy states that we are made up of the soul/spirit and the body. Trichotomy postulates that we are made up of the soul, spirit, and body.

I tend to lead toward the trichotomy point of view. But we argue about things we can’t be sure of. Humans are a mystery. Our Creator made us wonderfully. So while I have my view, I could be wrong.

Sometimes I like to suggest that rather than trying to figure out our makeup and how everything works together we could think of it a different way. There is a spiritual side to us, an eternal part of us that will live on past physical death.

There is also a physical part of us, the body, that is just a tent or shell for this life. It will pass away. But what about our soul? Where’s that housed? I suggest that our mind contains her school, the imprint of who we are.

If we look at things this way, then we have an eternal spirit/soul, a mind, and a body. This is just a suggestion of another way to look at things. The eternal part of us, who we are and the part of us that connects with God (our spirit) will live on to eternity. The mind houses are sold for now. It’s the command center for how we live. And the body will pass away, be made new in the resurrection.

As I said, I am humble about the possibilities of explaining how God made us. I want to leave a bit of mystery because I believe God is so creative that we’re not going to be able to explain the entirety of how he creates. Suffice it to say, the eternal part of us will know him forever.

Conclusion

The Psalmist isn’t wrong. We are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). These are just the musings of another guy trying to figure out these things. But I can tell you that Jesus changes the parts of us that need his changes the most.

He doesn’t make us mindless drones. The Bible preserves the personalities of the biblical writers. You can see their personality and conflicts as they interacted with one another. As long as we use the proper channels, our different opinions and backgrounds can make us stronger together.

God can use you as he made you. After all, he took great joy in crafting you in your mother’s womb and making you the person that can serve him the best in your corner of the world. Be confident that God is making you the holy person he can use for maximum impact in his kingdom. Leave a comment and tell me how God is using you in your unique approach for his kingdom.

The Inner Person

So many components make up who we are and what we do. Our motivations and intentions lead us to the choices we make and our actions. But what does the Bible have to say about all of the inner parts of who we are?

All of the things inside of us that no one else can see the Holy Spirit sees. He knows every part of our innermost being. Jesus does a deep under the hood transformation in us when he makes us new creatures.

Although none of us can truly understand every component that makes us who we are, I want to explore some of these components. The Bible provides insight into many of these aspects of our person. Let’s take a look at how God has made us.

The Biblical Heart

At the beginning of our journey, we talked about the biblical mind and how the Bible uses the Hebrew model of our mind and heart together. God didn’t design us to just use reason alone or to react with emotions alone.

Reason and motions, along with the other parts of our mind, combine to help us with all of our mental tasks, especially decision making. The biblical heart is not a blood pumping organ but an integrated mind.

Every aspect of the inner person is guided by the heart, the mind of each person. Jesus changes every part of us on the inside. As we will discuss, he changes our motives, intentions, and our desires. He makes us new and devoted to him.

Our Motives

Before we met Jesus, we were only concerned with ourselves. Our selfish motives directed every action we took. Our motives are the brain children of our actions. We don’t do anything without our motives in place.

Our motives decide how we proceed and why we do what we do. We tended to act out of whatever advancement we received before we met Jesus. But all that changed when we began to follow him.

Now our motives are completely different. We act out of a desire to please God. Everything we do is to glorify him. Our goal for our behavior and actions considers our love for God. We don’t act out of fear of what he would do to us in his judgment.

One of our motives as God’s children is to act out of our identity in Christ. Because we know who we are in Jesus, we now act out of our brand-new identity as his creatures. Our goals have changed. He has made us work out of a desire to help others instead of our own selfish ambitions.

Our Intentions

If the motive is the brainchild of the action, our intentions are all about our intended results. When we commit to an action, the intention is what we expect to happen. Before we met Jesus, I intentions were for our betterment, to further our cause or self.

We did whatever would affect our own success. We weren’t concerned about the plight of others. If you think I’m pushing the idea of selfishness before Christ too far, just think back to your old life before him. An honest look at your motives and intentions in the past will bring the same conclusion.

But now our intentions are completely different. We do not seek a selfish outcome. We want to further the kingdom of God. Jesus taught us to seek his kingdom first and his righteousness, and then we would see all of these other things come to pass (Matthew 6:33).

Intentions involve the planning that we do. The Bible tells us that we seek our own plans and intentions but the Lord directs our steps (Proverbs 16:9). We can plan all we want, but if we don’t include the Lord in our plans, they are doomed to fail.

It is much better for us to plan with the Lord in mind. What I mean by this is that we intend righteous results instead of our own desires. We want to see God’s kingdom on this earth. If there’s something we do in our lives that brings that result, this is our intended path.

When you make your plans, do you include all the possibilities for intercession from the Lord? If the Lord wants us to do something, it should be our main plan. We must prioritize time in his presence and Word ahead of all other things. The Lord blesses those who plan with him in mind.

From the conversations we hold to the actions we take, we work for the Lord. We pray for God’s kingdom to come (Matthew 6:10). We are the Lord’s representatives on this earth. We hope to guide others to him. God purifies our intentions.

Our Desires

Before we met Jesus, our desires were all about us. We had evil desires and we didn’t even care. We did what we wanted to do and we gratified ourselves. If we got something out of it, that’s the path we chose in the action we did.

The Bible talks about both good and evil desires. But before we met Jesus there was no reason to do what he wanted. All of that has changed. Now we have godly desires that replaced our selfish desires.

Habits are very important and hard to break. But when we try to remove a habit, we must replace it with another. All of our old habits the Holy Spirit is working to replace in us. He is putting godly and righteous habits in place of the old ones.

Our old desires only sought to please us. But now we have new desires, first to act out of our love and gratitude toward Jesus, and then to please him in everything we do. We want to do the right thing, not for our sake but for the sake of the kingdom of God.

We want to put into place in our lives these godly desires the Bible talks about. Jesus has changed the very core of our being. By his act of love in dying on the cross for us, for giving us of our sins, and cleansing us from unrighteousness, it’s the least we can do to glorify him.

Our Personality

Personality is the sum of who we are. It includes our thoughts, our perceptions, our attitudes, our unique life imprint. But how much of our personality does Jesus change when he makes us new creatures?

It’s my understanding that Jesus can use our personality for the glory of his kingdom. Take Paul for instance. He was a rough guy. But even after Jesus saved him, he was still a pretty rough guy. He dealt with some of the underbelly of the church, those who did not understand what it meant to be Christian.

For those who needed to be dealt with harshly, he was the man who made that happen. But at the same time, when the situation called for a softness and kindness to others, Paul was able to accomplish this.

Peter is another example. Before he met Jesus, and even as one of Jesus’ disciples, Peter said what he thought. He had no filter. He would even say things he intended to follow up on but didn’t really want to follow up on them.

In the upper room he said he would die with Jesus. Then he denied Jesus three times to avoid going to the cross with him. But I’ve got to give Peter credit. Church tradition tells us he was hung upside down on a cross because he couldn’t stand to be crucified just like his Savior.

These are powerful testimonies, and perhaps indications of how much Jesus changes of our personality. Whatever you can use for the praise of his glory Jesus doesn’t change in us. If you can use that rough strength in us, he will.

But I believe there are parts of our personality that must change. Psychologists tell us that much of her personality is unchangeable. But Jesus can do anything. If there’s something in us that doesn’t glorify him that he can’t use to further his kingdom, I believe he changes it to make it usable.

Most of your personality will not change as a Christian. If you were bullheaded before you met Christ, he will use your bullheaded personality to kick down the gates of Hell. If you were quiet and unassuming before you met Christ, he will use you in the background for his glory.

God changes what he needs to change in us. It’s not that he makes us better, but that he makes us holy, godly, and most able to serve him in his kingdom. He has a place for everybody. If he can use Peter and Paul, he can use you.

Soul and Spirit

There is so much debate and Christian scholarship today about dichotomy and trichotomy, how we are composed as human beings. Dichotomy states that we are made up of the soul/spirit and the body. Trichotomy postulates that we are made up of the soul, spirit, and body.

I tend to lead toward the trichotomy point of view. But we argue about things we can’t be sure of. Humans are a mystery. Our Creator made us wonderfully. So while I have my view, I could be wrong.

Sometimes I like to suggest that rather than trying to figure out our makeup and how everything works together we could think of it a different way. There is a spiritual side to us, an eternal part of us that will live on past physical death.

There is also a physical part of us, the body, that is just a tent or shell for this life. It will pass away. But what about our soul? Where’s that housed? I suggest that our mind contains her school, the imprint of who we are.

If we look at things this way, then we have an eternal spirit/soul, a mind, and a body. This is just a suggestion of another way to look at things. The eternal part of us, who we are and the part of us that connects with God (our spirit) will live on to eternity. The mind houses are sold for now. It’s the command center for how we live. And the body will pass away, be made new in the resurrection.

As I said, I am humble about the possibilities of explaining how God made us. I want to leave a bit of mystery because I believe God is so creative that we’re not going to be able to explain the entirety of how he creates. Suffice it to say, the eternal part of us will know him forever.

Conclusion

The Psalmist isn’t wrong. We are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). These are just the musings of another guy trying to figure out these things. But I can tell you that Jesus changes the parts of us that need his changes the most.

He doesn’t make us mindless drones. The Bible preserves the personalities of the biblical writers. You can see their personality and conflicts as they interacted with one another. As long as we use the proper channels, our different opinions and backgrounds can make us stronger together.

God can use you as he made you. After all, he took great joy in crafting you in your mother’s womb and making you the person that can serve him the best in your corner of the world.

Be confident that God is making you the holy person he can use for maximum impact in his kingdom. Leave a comment and tell me how God is using you in your unique approach for his kingdom.

Posted in Holiness Matters | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Old Testament Literature

This entry is part 400 of 422 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by Shutterbug75 from Pixabay

What categories of literature are found in the Old Testament?

In the Old Testament, there are many main genres accompanied by sub genres. If you put the Old Testament books into categories, you have the law/Torah/Pentateuch in the first five books. Then you have historical books, wisdom literature, poetry, major prophets, and minor prophets. These are the Christian categories of the books. The Hebrew Bible has only three categories of the books, Torah, Canticum, and Navi’im.

There are many sub genres within these major categories. For instance, many of the prophets use poetry to convey their message. Within the law books you have sub genres of commands, narrative, and priestly law.

Poetic books like the Psalms also have wisdom literature embedded in them. Within the Psalms also you have different types of Psalms like Psalms of lament, Royal Psalms, imprecatory Psalms, and many others.

So you can see there are many sub genres to the genres, the main categories of the Old Testament. I placed no more than five main categories of Old Testament literature. But the literature inside of these five categories is so rich that it defies having a simplistic view of the categories and genres of the Old Testament.

Posted in Inquiring Minds | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Redeemed Mind

This entry is part 79 of 84 in the series Holiness Matters
Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

I’ve had several atheists and unbelievers who were thinking through Christianity ask me questions about what it means to be made new in Christ. They were afraid they would become mindless drones for Christ.

It’s often the concern of those considering becoming a Christian that they will lose their individuality if they follow Christ. It raises the question of what Jesus changes in us when he makes us new creatures.

I’m sure there have been some bad examples of Christians who have become drones in a sense. They listen to everything there pastor tells them. They don’t research for themselves or make their own decisions based on their walk in holiness with the Holy Spirit.

It’s good to have direction in church. But as we mature in the Holy Spirit and in Christ, there are decisions we must make for ourselves. We must also mindful of the community standard of our church. These matters of conscience must be considered and weighed carefully. And we must not push those personal views on other Christians.

But when we come to Christ, he makes us new creatures. He is transforming us through the power of the Holy Spirit to be conformed to his image. So as we consider these inner parts of the person, let’s take a look at how Jesus transforms our minds.

Our Reasoning and Thinking

One of the first things that must change in us is the way we reason and think. Paul spends extensive time talking about thinking and reasoning in his letters. Most notable are Romans 1 and 2 Corinthians 10.

In Romans 1:18-23 Paul describes the fall from God’s grace that begins in the mind. To suppress the truth is a mental choice. He speaks of the knowledge of God, another mental attribute of humanity (Romans 1:19).

People are without excuse when it comes to the knowledge of God (Romans 1:21). Through suppressing the truth about him, they choose to ignore what’s playing before their senses. The senses have a direct link to the brain. Our perception of the world around us starts with the senses but is analyzed by the mind.

Paul also talks about acknowledging God, another mental attribute of humanity, and gives the result of ignoring the truth about God (Romans 1:22). People become futile in their thinking. Every thought they had is fruitless and wasteful, empty of wisdom.

Paul presents a negative view of the mind before Christ. But he’s not wrong. We see a lot of futility in our unsaved world. Wisdom is lacking among our leaders and in many establishments.

Romans 1 continues with the end result of futile thinking, turning against the natural order and God’s giving people over to their base desires. Without Christ, the mind deteriorates and decays like the world around us.

Paul gives another example in 2 Corinthians 10 about the importance of having the mind controlled by Christ. Here, he talks about the spiritual battles of the mind. The mind is a powerful weapon in spiritual warfare (2 Corinthians 10:4).

With a will that belongs to Jesus, we can stand against the arguments and the opinions that go against God and his kingdom (2 Corinthians 10:5). The mind is fully engaged in these spiritual battles. We don’t attack the person we debate.

We don’t fight flesh. But we do use our minds in those arguments and debates to express godly truths and godly wisdom that comes from above. The mind is the weapon of choice when we come against the lofty ideas that oppose God.

The Bible offers a different way. First, the redeemed mind is continually renewed by God’s Word. In Romans 12:1-2, Paul focuses on the renewing of the mind. I will address renewing your mind in a later post.

The redeemed mind also considers at least eight different categories of godly thinking my thinking on these things (Philippians 4:8). Paul says we can use our Christian mind to think on the godly things around us instead of wicked things.

It’s clear in the Bible that before we meet Christ our minds are used for the bassist of desires, lusts and passions that lead us astray. But when Jesus makes us new creatures, he redeems our reasoning and thinking so we can think God’s thoughts after him, as an old saint once said.

Our Intellect

Jesus transforms our intellect when we come to him. In making us new creatures, he renews the way we think. If the intellect is the CPU of our brain like the computer, he gives it proper processing.

Jesus changes the way we think from beginning to end. We start with godly thoughts instead of debase thoughts. We start with wisdom instead of foolishness. We don’t want to use our minds to think of even more ways to sin against God.

The Christian intellect seeks to gain insight, wisdom, and knowledge by God’s standards. We desire to please God in our thoughts and thinking processes. He changes the entire process of thinking.

We don’t think of quick ways to deceive others or deceive ourselves. We don’t use our minds to suppress the truth. We seek the truth in all things. We seek to use our minds and the most righteous way possible. We want to come to godly conclusions.

Our Emotions

Our volatile emotions have always been a problem. But before we met Christ, we didn’t care if we hurt other people. We didn’t care if we did the most destructive harm possible with our anger, fear, envy, and jealousy.

Back then it was all about us. Our selfish emotions got the best of us. But Jesus is renewing our emotions, our heart as part of our mind. As I mentioned in my last post, the biblical understanding of the mind includes the heart as the seat of emotions.

So our emotional responses become part of our thinking process as Christians. And we care very much about how we use our emotions. It’s not that we won’t have volatile emotions. But we must seek to do the righteous and holy thing with them.

We can use our emotions either for God’s glory or for wickedness. God has the same volatile emotions we have, but every time he has them they are righteous emotions. We can have righteous volatile emotions also.

For instance, the Bible tells us to deal with our anger and not sin (Ephesians 4:26). We can have righteous anger against this world’s wickedness and the devil. We hate the sin in this world and that it leads people astray

So our emotions are also redeemed. Most psychologists today teach us that thinking greatly affects emotions. Emotions are based on the thought processes we have and our thinking. So it makes sense that the Bible would include emotions with thinking.

Jesus wants us to have righteous emotions. I confess I often let my emotions get the best of me when I think of this world and its systems. But those emotions can be righteous ones.

Like David in the Psalms, we should be genuine as we go to God in prayer. Bring your emotions to God first. Let him see your unruly side. We will have emotions, volatile and otherwise. But our actions and thinking show Jesus’ redemptive work.

Our Decision-Making

because of Jesus, we approach decision-making in an entirely different way in the world. We make decisions based on what Scripture tells us, the principles and commandments found within its pages. God’s Word is full of wisdom from him.

Our decision-making is also based on counsel of the Holy Spirit. The Bible is a living word to us for today because the Spirit illuminates Scripture, guides us as we read and apply it to our lives. We don’t just read words on the page. He speaks with us concerning God’s desires for our lives.

We also have the counsel other Christians who are wise and mature in Christ. They help us to weigh the options and see what we can’t. Because Christians have many different backgrounds, I Have Experience we don’t. Within the godly counsel of many is the wise path that pleases God.

As we make our decisions, we want to honor Christ and glorify him. The world has no such filter. People make selfish decisions. They don’t use godly wisdom. Their choices are usually successful. But we trust in God and his Word to make godly decisions

Our Creativity and Imagination

Many Christians don’t include imagination, but Jesus redeems our creativity and imagination. The Bible word “create” is only used for God. Humans build but God creates. We use the things God created creatively. This is how we, in a small way, show the creativity God has given us.

Nevertheless, before we met Christ we used our creativity and our imagination to do wicked and perverse things. We abused the creativity God has placed in us. But now that we know Christ, we use our creativity to glorify him.

I thank God for the creative insights and ideas he gives me into Scripture and his character. We can use our imagination to think of what heaven will be like instead of the evil things we used to imagine.

God created imagination to glorify him. Our creativity flows from God’s character. Look at the universe he created. That’s only the beginning of what God can do. And he wants to see what his children can do with their imaginations for him.

Conclusion

I’ve only scratched the surface of talking about God’s redemptive work in our minds. It will take more than a couple of posts to explore what Jesus does for us as he redeems our minds.

We will continue to discover the wonderful things Jesus has done in our minds for several posts. I will cover more subjects than just these ones. And I will attempt to provide greater detail as we continue on this path.

Leave a comment about the things you notice Jesus has changed in your thinking and decision-making since you’ve been walking with him.

Posted in Holiness Matters | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Forgiving Others

This entry is part 399 of 422 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

Could you help me understand and apply John 20:23 in context?

John 20:19-23 concerns the authority of the believer here on earth. As in other passages in the Gospels, Jesus sends out the disciples as he was sent by the Father (John 20:21). When Jesus sent out the 12, he gave them authority over sickness, demons, and to preach the gospel (Matthew 10:1; Mark 3:13-15; 6:7-13; Luke 9:1-2).

Here in John 20, Jesus performs the same action by breathing the Holy Spirit on the disciples, giving them authority by the power of the Holy Spirit (John 20:22). Some people believe this is John’s approach to Pentecost, which we see later in Acts 2.

But I disagree with that. I believe this is the place where the disciples can be considered saved. We received the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14). And then immediately after he breathes the Holy Spirit on them, he sends them out as his apostles. First they are saved, then they are given their mission.

After receiving the Holy Spirit in salvation, Jesus also gives them the authority that he has from the Father. He does this in the form of talking about forgiveness. But other passages in the New Testament give them authority through binding and loosing (Matthew 16:19; 18:18).

God basically gives Christians the same authority Jesus had on earth. One of the examples of this authority is that God agrees with the decision of the disciple in forgiveness. When they forgive others who have wronged them, God forgives them. When they don’t forgive others, God allows that to stand in the spiritual realm.

But there’s also another principle at work that we must remember. While this power is given to Jesus’ disciples, Jesus has also told us a principle about forgiveness that if we don’t forgive others, God will not forgive us (Matthew 6:14-15; Mark 11:24-25).

I must be clear that we are not talking about the forgiveness of a person’s sins by God. He does not allow disciples to decide his forgiveness of a person’s sins toward him. So the authority to forgive we are speaking of here only refers to when you are wronged and forgive that offense toward you.

The authority we demonstrate from Christ and the Father has its limits. While we have the power to bind and loose on earth, that authority being matched in heaven, if we don’t forgive others, God will not forgive us.

When we use our authority in Christ, it is attached to our relationship with him. It is also attached to his reputation. For instance, we cannot use our authority in Christ to do things Christ would not do. This would be using his name and reputation in a way that he would never permit.

Forgiveness of others is only one example of how we can use our authority in Christ. But it comes with the added issue of forgiving others instead of holding a grudge. So John 20:23 demonstrates the principle of authority of the believer in the area of forgiveness.

Only Jesus can forgive sins (1 Timothy 2:5-6). Paul says in 1 Timothy that Jesus is the only mediator between God and people. And the authority he gives us to forgive others he agrees with from heaven.

It’s almost like a check that must be signed by two individuals to make it valid. We sign the check of forgiveness and then Jesus signs it in heaven in agreement. Then the forgiveness takes place.

But we are required to know the whole counsel of the Word of God so that we understand we cannot use the authority Christ gives us unless it is in relationship with him and within the bounds of his reputation and what he would do.

Posted in Inquiring Minds | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inspired Living Word

This entry is part 398 of 422 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Why is the Bible considered the living work of God when many of the writers talked about very personal things at times and even put in their own opinions?

This is a question about the inspiration of Scripture. Although we can’t understand completely exactly how God inspired his word through the hands of the writers of Scripture, passages like 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tell us that God breathed the Scriptures and they are profitable for believers.

The views on inspiration range from God dictating word for word everything to the writers of Scripture and making them write them down by the Holy Spirit to God barely having any influence on the human writers of Scripture.

I settle on the idea that even down to the words God inspired the writing of Scripture. But he also allowed the human authors to write through their own eyes, as it were. After all, every writer of Scripture came from a culture and background. It would be impossible to filter out these parts of that person as they wrote Scripture.

A lot of the writers of Scripture were influenced by the cultures around them and wrote Scripture sometimes in response to those cultures. One example is Paul, who even quotes from Greek poets to make his points. Moses may have written the creation narrative in response to the narratives produced by the nations around Israel.

Beyond this, the personal experiences the writers of Scripture include can be beneficial for us. These are people got handpicked to write his words. They are holy and righteous people that made mistakes in their past. But we can learn from those mistakes, and the Holy Spirit would not have allowed anything in God’s Word he did not want there.

Even the negative stories and things that are put in the Scriptures are beneficial to us. They show us that people are human and not perfect. They also show us that God can use even those who sinned against him and made mistakes in their lives. It shows God’s grace is greater than sin.

As far as them including their own personal opinions, you may be referring to Paul who includes his opinions on marriage throughout 1 Corinthians 7. In such a case, he makes sure that you understand it is his opinion, and not the Lord’s.

However, as I mentioned before, Paul was chosen by God to write the Scriptures. The opinions he has and introduces must be agreeable to God or God wouldn’t have allowed him to write those things. I am not aware of any other writers who expressed their own opinions without letting us know as Paul did.

We do not completely understand the inspiration of Scripture. But we know that Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for each of us. Even when it comes down to personal opinions that are found in Scripture, we can trust that God allowed those things to be placed there. We must trust that he chose the people he wanted and gave them the words to speak for him.

Posted in Inquiring Minds | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Jerusalem

This entry is part 397 of 422 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by IrinaUzv from Pixabay

Will the New Earth and the New Jerusalem resemble the original Garden of Eden?

Not necessarily. The New Jerusalem is a city for the saints of God to dwell in with him. It is described in Revelation 21-22. The New Jerusalem is described as both the bride of Christ (the saints) and a city for the saints to dwell in with God for eternity (Revelation 21:2-3).

John the apostle makes reference to the prophets as he talks about God wiping away every tear from the eyes of the saints. This will be a place of joy. John contrasts what the believer will receive in this New Jerusalem and what the unbeliever will no longer have an opportunity to inherit (Revelation 21:7-8).

John can only manage to describe the New Jerusalem with precious jewels (Revelation 21:10-12). The high wall ensures safety for all of the inhabitants of the city. He further describes that there are 12 gates total, three on each side of the city.

The angel measures the city, showing God’s ownership of it (Revelation 21:15-21). Some mathematicians when taking these numbers literally suggest that the city would be constructed to house over 15 trillion people.

But as you can already see as you read the chapter, the number 12 factors greatly in every part of the city from the foundation to the gates and every other description of it. Some people take this literally and some people take it figuratively.

John then describes the city is full of light because the Lord dwells there with the saints (Revelation 21:22-27). The point of all of this is that God has finally made a place to dwell with his people, to be their God and they will be his people, as much of Scripture talks about.

Finally, in the beginning of Revelation 22, a river of life flowing from the throne through the city is described (Revelation 22:1-5). This river of life feeds the trees along side of it and continues to provide life everlasting.

The Garden of Eden resembles the original state of this present Earth before sin destroyed it little by little. It doesn’t take more than six chapters in Genesis until God has to destroy and re-create the earth through the flood.

So the Garden of Eden is probably a long gone possibility for humanity. Instead, the Bible begins to talk about a new heavens and the new earth in Isaiah (Isaiah 66:17-22) and in several New Testament passages, most notably Revelation (2 Peter 3:10-13; Revelation 21:1)..

Throughout the prophets and the New Testament, the shift toward heaven and earth passing away and the new heavens and new earth taking place occurs. So the new heavens and new earth in the New Jerusalem will be different from this heavens and earth.

It will be an eternal place, a place that will last forever and ever. God will never again need to re-create anything. This will be the final destination, the home of all who believe in Jesus. That’s not to say that there won’t be gardens like Eden in this new heavens and new earth. We don’t really know much about what this will all look like.

There are several positions scholars and theologians take concerning the new heavens and the new earth. Some believe it will be a brand-new place, so that this current earth and world completely passes away and God re-creates everything as he did in the beginning of Genesis.

Others believe the language of this world passing away only means that it will not be the final product. God will rejuvenate what is here at the end of time to make it eternal. I’m sure there are a few other mediating positions between these two.

But however God chooses to do this, it will be an amazing place no one wants to miss out on. This is why while we have the opportunity now, we need to be telling others about Jesus so that they may join us in this new heavens and new earth.

Posted in Inquiring Minds | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment