Posts Tagged ‘ reality ’

Question: Is everything spiritual?

Last night I watched ‚everything is spiritual‘ from Rob Bell together with my wife. In this DVD-message, Rob Bell talks about the creation account and what part we as human beings play in that account. Besides sharing some mysteries from the world of physics in order to cause us to marvel at the Maker, he comes to this conclusion:

a) Man is the only part of creation that was created 100 % spiritual (as God and the angels) and 100 % physical (as animals, plants and all matter).

b) Thus, since every human is both spiritual and physical, it all comes down to having your eyes opened to who you are and which realms/realities/dimensions you should think/believe/think in.

To make it short: while a) is true, b) is not a correct conclusion. The simple fact he overlooked was the fall of man! The Bible makes it clear that, while we were created originally as Rob Bell describes it, we fell from this kind of life, which is the reason people do not experience the spiritual dimension of life. If it was just as Rob Bell put it, the death of Christ wouldn’t be necessary.

Paul teaches pretty clearly, that we are born (spiritually) dead, and Jesus points to the necessity of being born from above, or, again. He said that we have to be born again, by the Spirit, in order to SEE the kingdom of God, that is, the spiritual reality/dimension. So my conclusion: this teaching gives a very good introduction…to Genesis 1 and 2. But to stop there is to not cross the line between Judaism and Christianity.

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Question: Is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit a concept or a practical reality?

Now this is another question which I’ve been thinking about lately. I am meeting with some young guys from our Youth Group every week. It is a leadership training, where I want not only to teach them things, but I want to think stuff through with them. (That is because I feel that the statement is true: The first generation believes it, the second generation assumes it, and the third generation denies it. Whoever said that…it’s true.) They need to develop their own views and convictions to be a real benefit to the body of Christ.

We are going through different books together, right now it’s Calvary Distinctives. Now at Calvary Chapel we are big on the three different Greek prepositions which point to the different ways God relates to us/works through us by the person of the Holy Spirit. But this time I really wanted to get down to the knitty gritty: Who is this…Encarnación? No, but seriously, I wanted to find out with them what these things practically mean for us. We made a list that looked like this:

para (beside): conviction of sin, encouragement, comfort; Jesus said to his disciples about the comforter: He will be with you always.

epi (upon): annointing, empowering, equipping, authority (which here refers to a supernatural authority, independent from the question if it’s backed up by the character of the person)

en (in): indwelling, sanctification, personal growth, authority (which here refers to the authority that comes with integrity)

Now there were actually two questions which came up in my mind: First, is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit only a ’spiritual reality‘, or is it ‚practical or nothing‘? Can I say that God lives in a person, or is at home there, even when there is no practical implications such as repentance, personal growth, sanctification? Secondly, and this is a conclusive question: if it not so much meant as a theological concept or spiritual reality, then couldn’t I say that God also indwelt believers under the Old Covenant?

I’ve been taught, that the indwelling is a mark of the New Covenant, made possible only by the blood of Jesus. I always believed it, but never really studied that for myself. Is that true? One of the boys wrote me an eMail some days later, and asked me this same question. He read first Peter 1:11 and was wondering what the deal was. It is talking about the OT prophets there, and it says that they were „trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.“ ‚In‘ is of course the same Greek preposition.

So I thought about it and asked Dave Guzik to find an answer. He pointed me to the OT prophecies for the New Covenant. And it’s true, the Ezekiel and Jeremiah passages do speak about something inward rather than something outward. But did God really mean the indwelling, when he said that he would put his spirit inside them? Now please don’t get me wrong here! Of course I believe in the indwelling! I just wonder about it’s nature (see question 1), and about how unique it is to the New Covenant.

A day later, as I was reading in Ezekiel in the morning, I read this verse in my ‚today’s chapter‘: „Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!“ (18:31-32) Now God here tells them to go and get themselves a new heart and a new spirit. The only way in which this can make sense – and I believe that that’s the way it was meant in this context – is that this simply refers to a new attitude. So my question is this: could it be that the indwelling speaks very practically of ‚God in someones life‘, made possible by that person through a changed attitude (repentance)? If the answer to that question is Yes, than of course this was also possible and available for a believer in the OT.

The point I am struggling with is this: imagine you were a very carnal Christian. There were not really any real outward implications of God dwelling in your life. Imagine you would travel back in time and see a man like Moses. A man deeply committed to God, walking with God and – in the truest sense of the word – a holy man. With the understanding of the indwelling as I have it now (as a doctrine), you could go to Moses as a carnal Christian and tell him, that God lives in your heart, is at home in your life, while in his live that wasn’t the case. I don’t know, but I wonder if God maybe wants us to think about him dwelling in our hearts in a more practical sense. When would you normally say, that someone lives in your heart? When you love him. Can you say: I don’t love him/her, but he/she lives in my heart? Not really…

I have to think now of the Corinthian church, who was very carnal, and to whom Paul wrote: „Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own“ (1 Cor. 6:19) as a reason to not commit sexual sins. So maybe it is possible. But it is still very wrong (for which the Corinthian church is a perfect example) to seperate the spiritual reality from the lived-out practicality. Maybe someone can share his thoughts on this?

Let it hit you

Last wednesday I had a conversation with a friend of mine about heaven and hell and who goes where and why. We both share the same view, but I have certain questions that haven’t been answered yet. After over one hour of talking on this matter we came to this conclusion/application:

It is possible and common to keep the reality of a certain doctrine at a safe distance. We think we ‚understand‘ them, intellectually, and we are afraid to ask more questions or to think longer about all the implications. We stop at: this is what the Bible says, believe it, accept it. But we don’t really let it hit us, because we are afraid that we will end up with more questions or doubts and by chance wreck our faith.

What we need is a stronger faith in the person of Jesus Christ, which allows us to be hit by certain realities (brought to us in the form of doctrines), without these kind of fears and worries. We are not more convincing to the unbeliever if we keep certain doctrines in ‚intellectual quarantine‘. I believe the opposite is true: they will know that we do think, which is why we do struggle, but that our trust in Jesus is so strong that we can handle to follow him and actually live with certain questions.

So let the reality of heaven and hell, the reality of saving grace and the reality of Christ’s indwelling hit you today! Let it overrun you, overwhelm you, churn you. Deal with it as a holistic being – spirit, mind and emotions. Come and marvel.

Question: Is uncertainty spiritual?

I read something else which I feel balances what I wrote before. It is from P. T. Forsyth’s book „The person and place of Jesus Christ“, Lecture 1: Lay Religion.

„The root of all theology is real religion; of all Christian theology, and even apologetic, it is Christian religion, it is saving faith in Jesus Christ. It is justifying faith, in the sense of faith in a forgiving God through the cross of Jesus Christ. But this religion cannot be stated without theology. If theology can be shewn to be irrelevant to a living and evangelical faith, then the Chruch can afford to treat it with some indifference, and to leave its pursuit, lie philosophy, to the Universities. But the Christian religion is theological or nothing. We are but vaguely and partially right in saying that Christ is the Gospel. Years ago to say that was the needful word; but it is now outgrown and inadequate.“

A question I ask myself at this point: Is it enough to say that Christ is the Gospel at this point in time? In my culture? The first edition of this book came out in 1909.

„The Gospel is a certain interpretation of Christ which is given in the New Testament, a mystic interpretation of a historic fact. It is the loving, redeeming grace of a holy God in Christ and His salvation alone. Theology, it is true, does not deal with thoughts but with facts. That is the great note of modern theology. But the Christian fact is not an historic fact or figure simply; it is a superhistoric fact living on in the new experience which it creates. The fact on which Christian theology works is the Christ of faith and not of history only, of inspiration and not of mere record, of experience and not of memory. It is the Christ of the Church’s saving, justifying faith.

A Christianity without such faith is not Christianity. Spiritual sensibility is not Christianity, nor is any degree of refined unction. A spirituality without positive, and even dogmatic, content is not Christianity; no are gropings when stated as dogmas; nor is a faith in the broad general truths of religion. Christian faith must surely dogmatise about the goodness of God in Christ, at the least. A conversion which is but a wave of spiritual experience is not the passage from death to life. Religion can only be made more real by a deepened sense of the reality of the salvation. An access of religion which does not mean, first or last, a deeper repentance and more personal faith in Christ’s salvation may be sincere enough, and it is certainly better than worldliness and unconcern; but it is not believing unto life. It is not New Testament Christianity. And, tender as we should be to it as a stage, we must be very explicit when it is offered as a goal. Gentle as we may be to it as a search, we must be quite plain with those who proclaim it as the great finds.“

A clear warning and call to only accept uncertainty about who Christ is and what he’s done for us as a stage but never as a goal. That would fly in the face of all who are trying now to promote even uncertainty about Christ’s nature as a higher form of spirituality. It is not. Even though the disciples started out that way, Christ was constantly teaching them and revealing himself to them – all his revelations centered on himself as a person.

I understand that this teaching might be a reaction to the over-emphasize on the new birth as a „at-one-certain-point-experience“. Now while of course a birth by itself is a one-time-event and not a process, there is a whole process leading up to that point (pregnancy) and another process starting at that point (growth).

So is uncertainty spiritual? No. But if this uncertainty leads you to seek, knock, and ask, it can be helpful in leading to a deeper understanding, a deeper trust and a closer walk with Jesus. There is some things which we can never know in an intellectual sense. But that doesn’t mean that we should look up to a state of ignorance as something noble. Blessed are those who don’t see (intellectually), but yet believe.

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