Thursday, July 12, 2018

How to Build Yourself Up in the Spirit

Since man is triune--spirit, soul, and body (1 Thess 5:23-24)--it is important to know how these three parts are meant to work together and how God instructs you to keep each strong.  The average person, even many Christians, don't realize that your spirit (not God's Spirit, although certainly empowered and strengthened when in harmony with His Spirit) is designed to be in charge of your soul and body.

Your spirit is described in the Word as the inner man, the hidden person of the heart, and the real you that became new when you accepted that Jesus Christ died for you and you received Him as Lord (comparable to Boss or ruler) of your life.  Your spirit is much like the voice of God, which Elijah heard as a still small voice, but nevertheless, undeniable.  It is that inner witness or peace, your "knower" that just has a surety of God's presence and His direction.  The Holy Sprit reveals truth to your spirit, and communicates or bears witness (gives evidence) to your spirit in order to guide or lead you into God's will.

Jesus, in his discussion with Nicodemus in John 3, declares that what is born of the Spirit is spirit.  In other words, building up your spirit is something only God does.  The principle of "What you sow is what you shall reap" is demonstrated in the building up of our spirit.  As we choose to obey His Word and the instructions given, the Holy Spirit, strengthens and edifies our spirit.  A picture of God's kingdom in Hebrews 12 describes "the spirits of just men made perfect."

Therefore, it is important to note the specific Biblical steps or actions that God has promised to reward by strengthening our spirit.  Let's consider four fruitful ways to cooperate with the Spirit of God that produce growth.

By far, the most direct way given in Scripture is found in 1 Corinthians 14:4, "he who speaks in a tongue edifies himself." Clearly praying in the spirit bypasses the mind, for the Word declares we are uttering mysteries in the spirit which the mind does not understand.   Paul wished everyone prayed in tongues.  Jude talks about the difficult times coming yet gives valuable instruction so we do not fall in the evil day, "But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God..." Obviously tongues is not the final goal, rather an essential step to allow God to edify and build up our spirit so we can overcome the flesh and the world and rather be transformed into the likeness of and can have the ability to walk like Jesus.

Secondly, Jesus declares that the words He speaks are spirit and life (John 6:63).  Paul commends the Ephesians (Acts 20:32) "to God and to the Word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified." So when we take steps to let the Word dwell in us richly, the Holy Spirit who is the author of Scripture, can reveal Jesus, His nature and heart.  God's Word is nourishment and life for the spirit, truth to renew the mind (Romans 12:2) and convert the soul (Psalm 19:7) and direction how to present our bodies as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1).

Third, God gives grace to the humble.  When we pray, we humbly acknowledge our need for God and declare His promises trusting Him to do it.  Taking time to seek God, to enter His presence with thanksgiving and praise, and to worship or surrender all that we are to Him, allows the Spirit of God to give grace which empowers us.  Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10)

Fourth, in Romans 8:13 where Paul describes the spiritual battle between spirit and flesh, we are instructed, "if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live."  Jesus describes fasting as a way to become a new wineskin that can hold the new wine.   Fasting, when led by the Holy Spirit, along with focusing on God's Word, is a strong way of feeding the spirit man and starving or denying the flesh from dictating your actions.  Choosing to obey the spirit rather than feed the flesh demonstrates who rules your life. Setting the mind on the flesh (just what it wants) is death, but setting the mind on the spirit is spirit and life.  Parallel to obeying the Spirit in fasting, is obedience to Spirit-leading in any other matter, which exercises our "spirit" muscles from strength to strength, and gives newness of life.

Scripture is filled with examples of people who were mighty in spirit and able to accomplish great things in God.  We too "can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  Paul prayed for us in Ephesians 3:16, "That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man.

The day is coming, and now is, when the deceitful philosophy of the world, the pattern of living for our own fleshly desires, and the rejecting God's standards for holiness has released a flood of decadence in the earth.  The morals of our society does affect us.   Jesus painfully said, "many will fall away."  What will keep us from succumbing to this increasing pressure?  The key is to be strong in our spirit, our inner man, so we have the ability and strength to discern and reject the "lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the body and of the mind," (Ephesians 2:3).  Unless God builds the house, unless we choose to let the Spirit build our spirit, our mind and flesh will dominate and we, like Solomon, will be drawn away from the Lord and His truth.  

My heart cry (and the cry of the Spirit!) is for you is to build yourself up in the spirit, that "inner person of the heart" that is "very precious in the sight of God" 1 Peter 3:4

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

How do you train the spirit?

A young man, who was brought up in Christian parental guidance and a graduate of Christian education, was called into the bosses' office.  The boss declared how much the company appreciated his faithful work and wanted to do more than just words, so they gave him a significant financial bonus.  The young man left the office, looked up, and said, "God, I know that was you!"  That is an example of how a person who has a trained spirit reacts to things that happen rather than just think such events are good luck or happenstance.

If our greatest need (see prior post) is to train the spirit, how do you train the spirit?  A beginning answer is to depend upon the Holy Spirit.  The Word declares that the Spirit of God joins our spirit and comes to reveal Jesus, teach and guide us into all truth, and establish the relationship as sons who cry "Abba Father."   He will show us and lead us in the ways we should go, as we desire and seek to let Him work in us.

Man, similar to Peter's infamous declaration that he would never deny Jesus, seems to always think he can change himself, or by his own strength he can improve.  There are millions of self-help articles written with this underlying premise: man can better himself.  However, Paul points out that the ways of the flesh lead to death, it is the spirit that gives life.  Therefore, everyone falls short unless he learns to live by the spirit (empowered by the Spirit).  

Consider the foundation.  God wanted man to be spiritually alive so we could walk with Him (who is Spirit - John 4:24). Our spirit was intended to direct our mind, will, and emotions, just as we move in our body.  However, when man sinned, the central part of our existence, the spirit, died.  God the Father, desiring us to be reconciled to Himself, sent Jesus to pay for the consequences of sin.  Now through the power of Jesus' resurrection, it is possible for all men to be born again, and to receive a new spirit that can know God.  Born-again believers, are not only free from sin and eternal death in hell, but now can become sons of God (John  1:12) with promises that allow them to partake of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).  Man, Romans 8:29 reveals, is predestined to be conformed to the image of His son.  The purpose of training the spirit is to become in our nature what Jesus Christ is.

Jesus, who is the Word personified, revealed to us the heart of the Father and accomplished all that was needed to bring man (us) back to God.  He further declared that He would send the Spirit who would teach us and lead us into all truth.  Now those born of the Spirit are given a new recreated spirit by which they can know God and His ways by revelation.  The Spirit confirms the truth of who Jesus is, and what He has done and taught, so our spirit, our inner-man can grow in wisdom and understanding.  Clearly the more we wait on God and allow the Spirit to show us truth, the more our inner man becomes strong and is able to direct our minds and body to line up.

What do we need to learn and apply to be trained in our spirit to live as God intended?  Obviously it starts with acknowledging that He is God and His promises are true.  Hebrews 6 states that "he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."  So the foundation truth is that God is exactly who He says He is, that He loves each one of us enough to have Jesus die for us, and that He desires us to know Him and be with Him forever.   Since the Word contains His promises, Jesus describes (in John 6) his words as "spirit and life."  The Word of God reveals God's nature, His power, His love, His truth, and everything about Him and His plan for man.  All is available for "Whosoever will," meaning the requirement is that we have to choose life over the death that reigns in our flesh.  We can choose daily to pick up our cross (death to flesh) and submit to the Spirit teaching and training our spirit to take control in how we live.  

So what does the Spirit teach our spirit? The first revelation is who God is and how much He loves us, which produces a new freedom that desires from the inside to respond to this love and please God rather than being forced to keep a set of rules.  Our spirit also learns spiritual disciplines such as prayer, thanksgiving, and praise which helps develop an intimate relationship with God.  Furthermore, the Spirit teaches our spirit to hear and discern the voice of God and His leading, and provides the power to obey Him.  Scripture in Philippians 2:13 describes this as "God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure."  There are many aspects of knowing God and living in the spirit, of seeking His presence and having a constant awareness of the leading of the Holy Spirit, and of being transformed in our thoughts and choices that flow from being taught daily  precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little, there a little. 

The purpose of parental education is to teach and train up a child in the ways he should go.  As the child becomes school-aged and grows in his understanding, nothing is more important than continuing to train the child's spirit, both at home and at school.  Children need to come to Jesus and accept His love and forgiveness at an early age.  Then it is important that all knowledge and truth presented is subject to the spiritual understanding of God's perspective and purpose, so the child's own spirit is trained to know God and to discern the voice of God so he can learn to make godly choices.  Sources of knowledge, such as public education, that can only teach the mind and body, do not have the capacity to train the spirit and instead are a detriment to growing in the spirit.

When public education was first instituted in this country, the Massachusetts law, called the "Old Deluder Satan Act of 1647", was designed to teach the Word of God so Satan wouldn't be able to deceive.  Unfortunately, public education has rejected the Word of God and now can only teach the mind and body, ignoring and often contradicting the spiritual development.  Children, or adults for that matter, who are not continually being taught and trained in spirit will always be immature and not capable of knowing the truth which sets them free indeed. 

From an eternal perspective, what could possibly be so important that it would distract us from daily being trained in the spirit by the Word and the Spirit, or from making sure that those in our charge are placed in an environment that acknowledges the Holy Spirit and is open to training our spirit to rule over our mind and body?

Greatest Need: To train the spirit

You reap what you sow.  So what's wrong with this picture.  We spend many hours and much money on training the mind and body, but have only token concern for training the spirit.  Yet in Ephesians 2, Paul points out that following the desires of body and mind makes us children of wrath, enemies of God.  Obviously man needs to be educated and changed, and the only way that really happens is when the recreated spirit is developed to lead the mind and body, yet little is mentioned and less done in the area of training the spirit.

True change comes from within.  When a man is born again he receives a new spirit as a new creation.  As this recreated spirit grows and becomes strong, our empowered inner-man is able, by the Spirit of God working through our spirit, to put to death the deeds of the flesh (Romans 8:13).  The spirit of the believer is to dominate the desires of the mind and body.

In similar manner to the way we received Christ Jesus, we are called to walk in Him.  How do we learn to walk in Him?  Rather than just be saved from sin and hell, we are called to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ through renewing the mind (Romans 12:1-2; Romans 8:29).  The spirit, knowing the truth and ways of God, directs the thinking of the mind, adjusts the emotions, and enables the will to choose the life-giving way of the Spirit.  Jesus declared (John 6) that the word was spirit and life, so obviously the Word contains the principles and encouragement to accomplish the task.  There is a need to having teaching and training to learn the ways of the Lord and to be corrected when we fall back into the old man ways.

What did God intend when He made man, and then after the fall, when He redeemed man?
Man was created by God in His own image and likeness, as a spirit that has a mind (soul) and lives in a body.  Everyone knows that we are not our body, since it is possible to lose various body members and still be the same person inside.  Understanding how the soul or mind relates to our central being is more difficult.  Our soul, often broken down into our mind, will, and emotions, controls many of our actions.  Our born-again spirit, where the Holy Spirit resides, is the inner man, the new man that is called upon to direct the soul (mind) and to controls the actions of the body.  Notice David saying, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name." 

Once the Spirit of God reveals to our spirit who God is, His nature, and His infinite love shown through Jesus' death and resurrection, then we can only fall on our knees and desire in responsive love to please Him.  Love of God is stronger than duty, than the proverbial "I should do better." The Spirit then leads us into all truth, line upon line, precept upon precept, in a process of training our spirit until we become like Christ Jesus.  1 John 2:6 states we should "walk just as He walked."

Why are there so many immature Christians and why are there so many headlines of Christians who do ridiculous things that make us look bad?  Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:2 that some were not ready for meat, but needed the milk of first principles again.  How long do we need to hear over and over that God loves us and forgives us our sins before we receive it and move on to being transformed? Very few Christians press in to let the Spirit complete the good work He has begun in us.

The world can only offer training for the mind and body.  The major fallacy of public education is likewise, its inability to train the spirit and thus, produce real change.  Even Christians are often deceived to think that the purpose of  education is to achieve a worldly career and financial success.  However, God's purpose for education is to train up a child in the way he should go, meaning the young person develops into one who knows God, thinks in the ways of God, and walks humbly in obedience to the Spirit of God.  Those who are led of the Spirit are sons of God according to Romans 8:14.  What value is mind education and worldly success if a person loses his soul, or fails to be the light and salt God intended them to be.  Jesus says salt that has lost its flavor is to be trampled on as the dust on the path. 

Now that we understand the need and the problem, the question is, how to train the spirit so that we become what God intended?

The next post will speak to this issue.