At age 18, shortly after I became a follower of Jesus God called me and began to equip me to be a teacher of the Bible and related subjects. In fact, He “spoke” to me these words: “Bill, I have called you and will equip you to be a teacher of the Bible and related subjects in and to the worldwide Body of Jesus, without any exclusiveness.”
While I sometimes have been unfaithful to that “call” because of sin in my life and due to horrible bouts of deep depression–the dark night of the soul–God has remained faithful to me all the while. I have been privileged to teach the Bible and related subjects in China, South Korea, Central and South America, and throughout the United States of America.
God has been faithful in equipping me to teach as He promised me. I have been privileged to read the Bible completely through from cover to cover for many years, in addition to daily in-depth study. God sent me to study for 1½ years at one of the nation’s premiere Bible Colleges. Then I was privileged to complete my B.A. degree in Education and Psychology at a state university. Finally, God gave me the opportunity to complete two M.A. degrees at a leading Christian university, one M.A. in Church History and one in Education. God has been very good to me in equipping me to teach the Bible and related subjects. Later in life, I was awarded a “Lifelong Learning Ph.D” in Adult Education.
Yes, I have taught the Bible and related subjects in many places and under many venues throughout the world during the few years of my brief pilgrimage and sojourn here on planet Earth. Beyond my sojourn here, I look forward with joyous anticipation to continuing to teach in Jesus’ coming Kingdom on earth and, later, in eternal realms . . .
Please begin this study by reading and taking time to meditate upon Psalm 139: 13 – 18. I mean it . . . Take about 15-20 minutes to read the passage, reflect upon it, contemplate it, and “inwardly digest” it before you read any further in this teaching.
In general, God created us humans as three-part beings, patterned after his own tri-united being: God as Father, God as Son, and God as Holy Spirit. One God, three Persons. Three Persons, one God. Essentially, we humans are spirits who live in bodies and who have souls. We are one, yet we are three; we are three, yet we are one. Three key references for this teaching are Zechariah 12: 1, Luke 1: 46 and 47, and 1 Thessalonians 5: 23.
Please look up those references—and subsequent biblical citations—and study them carefully. We want this teaching to be a Bible study, not a study of my thoughts and ideas. The Bible is the Word of God; my finite and limited thoughts and ideas are not! I’m human and make mistakes, but there are no mistakes in God’s Word, the Bible; don’t take what I teach at face value; check me out . . .
Okay, let’s get started with our study. Begin by picturing on the “viewing screen” of your imagination a bulls-eye—with the central “circle” representing our spirit, the next “ring” being our soul, and the outer “ring” being our body. Spirit. Soul. Body. That’s who we are. Our primordial ancestors, Eve and Adam, were created as whole, complete beings consisting of spirit, soul, and body—all three “components” or “parts” functioning together in perfect, unified, balanced harmony. However, originally there was a major difference between Adam and Eve—and us.
Before the entrance of sin into human experience, Eve and Adam were sinless. In that sinless state, the spirit component of their beings predominated (but was not domineering). That is, the spirit exercised mastery over the body and soul, but mastery only in the sense of “chief among equals,” so to speak. There was perfect harmony, concord, balance, symmetry, and unity in their total beings: body, soul, and spirit. When they sinned, their spirits died, in the sense that they atrophied, dried up, withered, and became powerless.
Now—ever since sin entered human history—the spirit component of human nature is no longer predominant nor does it exercise mastery. On the contrary, due to sin the spirit component of our beings has been subjugated and is under the combined mastery of our bodies and souls—for the most part. The “flesh” rather than the spirit now holds sway in the lives of the vast majority of humans.
When we are born the first time (that is, born physically), we are born with dried up, withered, atrophied spirits. That’s what the Bible means when it says we are dead in trespasses and sins unless and until we are born anew (Ephesians 2: 1; John 3: 3 – 8; 1 Peter 1: 23). As we grow, in the normal course of events we learn to live by the flesh instead of by the spirit—unless and until we are born the second time, of the spirit.
According to the Bible, the amplified definition of flesh is: “our five senses, logic, and reason operating apart from the influence of Holy Spirit interacting with our spirits; it is the entire nature of humans acting independent of the influence and interaction of the Spirit of God.” That’s the Bible’s definition of flesh. It’s living for self, rather than living for God. It’s living self-filled, egocentric lives rather than God-filled lives.
AHA Moment: I always thought “flesh” (or the fleshly nature) in the Bible was something evil inside me which caused me to commit “bad acts” such as what we call the “sins of the flesh.” Rather, whenever I act independently, disregarding God’s Spirit Who lives inside me, I am “in the flesh.” Read Romans 8: 10 – 13, a key reference about flesh.
Now let’s return to studying the subject of spirit, soul, and body. Read John 4: 23. This reference declares that God is Spirit. What is the essence or substance of spirit? Of what is spirit composed? Without turning to a lot of biblical references, we can readily determine that one of the basic “ingredients” or “components” of spirit is light. That takes us back to Adam and Eve whose original, pristine makeup I want us to examine in a bit more detail. But before we do that, let’s go back even further—to God. Everything must begin with God, the Originator, Creator, and Sustainer of all creation.
We read in Daniel 2: 22 that light dwells with God. That is to say, light is part of the very being and substance of God who (as we’ve already read) is Spirit. Light is part of the very essence of God—part of his person, makeup, and nature. Light is embodied in God. God is Light. Read 1 John 1: 5. All natural light (including the entire range of the light spectrum, both visible and invisible) and all spiritual light are simply outrayings of God’s essential being. God is light; all light has its origins in God; all light emanates and originates with God. God alone creates light.
What is natural light? By definition, Light is “radiant energy”. It is the basic illuminating, life-giving source throughout the universe. Light “creates” life by the marvelous chemical process of photosynthesis which converts radiant energy to chemical energy. Light also has healing properties and is “stronger” than darkness. Humans cannot create light; all they can do with light is discover and unlock it’s different aspects and properties, harness it, use it, and develop it. Parenthetically, did you know that recently at the Fermi Laboratories near Chicago, scientists discovered a new property or aspect of light: light that can actually go faster than itself . . . or slower depending upon certain other conditions? What’s that all about?
By merely expanding the above definition and explanation of natural light, we can surmise that spiritual light possesses in the spiritual realm the same illuminating, life-giving, and healing powers as natural light in the natural realm, but with far greater power and in far greater measure and intensity. From the pure light which is God, and in which He dwells—to the brightest star in the universe, to the tail of the tiniest firefly—all light, natural and spiritual originates with God.
We read in Psalm 104:2 that God is clothed with light. 1 Timothy 6: 16 informs us that God lives in light (not that He lives in a beam of external light as does a stage actor in a spotlight, but that God “inhabits” light; the very realm in which He lives is composed of pure light). James 1: 17 sums up the matter of light’s origin by stating very cogently God is the Father of all light.
Also, we must never overlook the well-known statement, “Let there be light, and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good . . . . “ in Genesis 1: 3 and 4. God has the ability to create simply by speaking. In a sense, we can do the same with our words, but that’s another story altogether. Compare that statement with Isaiah 45: 6 and 7. Stay with me here. Don’t let me lose you. I really am going someplace with this information about light. The Bible teaches in Proverbs 20: 27 and Psalm 18: 28 that the spirit of man is the lamp or candle of God. In other words, that component of us which is spirit has as its main “ingredient” light—the light of God. It is part of the very essence of God, an essence which is light.
Since Adam and Eve’s dominant component was their spirit (before the entrance of sin into the picture), their very beings shone with light. They were glorious, scintillating, shining beings arrayed in light just as God is. This is how Adam and Eve were “clothed” in their innocence and perfection before their lives were “darkened” by sin. They were literally clothed in light before the entrance of sin into their lives. Adam and Eve were spectacular, iridescent light-beings beyond human language to describe.
Parenthetically, Jesus is never called the “Second” Adam as some misuse the term; He is, instead, referred to as the “Last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15: 45). There’s a big difference, but that is another subject beyond the scope of this teaching.
The artistic representations of Adam and Eve we see in religious books and magazines portray them in their pristine, pre-sin state as sort of naked Tarzan- and Jane-like superhumans. Such drawings and paintings belie what they were really like: marvelous beings clothed in light, beings who literally shone as the mid-day sun, scintillating with all the colors of the light spectrum as they walked and talked in unbroken fellowship with the One Who is the Father of Lights. Only the One who is called the Last Adam—as John saw him in Revelation 1: 14-16—can compare with, yes, and surpass in splendor, our first parents as they existed before the entrance of sin into their lives!
And only the sin-removing blood of that glorious Light Bearer, that One Who is the Bright and Morning Star—the Last Adam—can restore sin-darkened men and women to that awesome state of bright fellowship with the Father of Light that Eve and Adam once experienced. Let’s cast off our works of darkness. Let’s cast off the gross caricatures we’ve seen since childhood portraying our first parents as Tarzan- and Jane-like and see them as they really were: bright beings of light who radiated from within the spirit components of their humanness. We see how far we’ve really fallen when we behold with our “spiritual eyes” what Adam and Eve were like before the darkness of sin overpowered them.
AHA Moment: I’ve never before realized how tragic and far-reaching was this event called the “Fall” of humanity. We humans really have fallen into a deep, dark pit, haven’t we? How do we find our way out of that dark pit back into the sunlight radiating from Jesus, the Bright Morning Star? How is God in the process of reversing the effects of the Fall and bringing us back into his glorious light?
What utter and great, enveloping darkness descended upon the earth and the universe as a result of our first parents’ sin, when Adam and Eve realized they were naked! What occurred that caused them to realize they were naked? Simply this: the “clothing” of light they had been “wearing” no longer covered them. The light of their now darkened spirits diminished and faded within them—body and soul now assuming dominance over spirit—and they realized they were naked.
In Genesis 3: 7 they contrived to cover themselves with fig leaves. Shortly thereafter, God clothed them in coverings of skin (literal translation of Genesis 3: 21). God didn’t go out and kill animals to make Adam and Eve some fur coats. They had been clothed as God is clothed—in pure light. (Psalm 104:2), but now because of sin and spiritual death, God replaced their lost “skin” of light with newly created human skin to cover their now naked physical bodies.
Since early infancy, most of us have been taught that God killed and skinned some animals and from the skins made little G-Strings and a brassiere, clothing Adam and Eve with those skimpy, makeshift costumes. God clothed them with skin—human skin! Not animal skins. God simply created human skin to clothe their now exposed bodies which previously had been clothed with light. Before the blight of darkness settled in upon humanity, Eve and Adam were bright and glorious, shining created beings. After sin, they became as we are today—clothed in restrictive human skin, their formerly bright, glowing spirits now encased and imprisoned within body and soul and buried deep within their beings by the ravages and effects of sin.
They had been covered with light because the spirit component of their beings was predominant. Now, they were covered with skin because their body and soul were predominant, with their spirits subjugated and hidden away inside. Their spirits became atrophied or “dead” due to the entrance of sin into their lives. Gone was clear, unbroken fellowship and communication with God—Spirit to spirit. Now there entered into human experience brokenness, disharmony, imbalance, non-wholeness, disunity, confusion, and—most of all—fear.
The human spirit was the first component of human beings to become darkened or should I say “un-en-lighten-ed.” In God’s marvelous plan of redemption, restoration, and reconciliation of all things (including all humanity), the human spirit is the first part of our tri-beings to become “en-lighten-ed” again.
AHA Moment: I sure have a long way to go to get back to that pristine state Adam and Eve experienced before they “fell.” But I’m not doing this all by myself. God’s Spirit lives within my spirit where we are are fused and melded together as one spirit (1 Corinthians 6: 17). By the Spirit’s power at work in me I am able to cooperate with God in embarking upon the lifelong changes necessary for me to be changed back into the original image of God.
Let’s look a bit further now at this matter of our darkened spirits. We need to know from where we’ve fallen in order to catch some sense of where we’ll be raised again as God’s masterful plan of full and complete salvation continues to unfold in our lives.
After Adam and Eve fell from their brightness, the next notable person about whom we read of light still shining out from his spirit was Moses. But how dark and dim was his light compared to that of our first parents. Moses’ relative “dimness” compared to their “brightness” shows the ravages of sin upon the human race in a relatively short period of time.
We read in Exodus 34:29 that when Moses descended from the mountain with the two tables of stone, he had been so much in touch with the living God that ” . . . the skin of his face shone and sent forth beams of light by reason of his speaking with the LORD.” The New Testament commentary on this event in 2 Corinthians 3: 7 tells us that Moses’ face shone with brilliance and glory.
Another human to retain within his being a portion of that light of God was John the Baptizer. We read of his light in John 5:35. Yet, we do not see his light; he was merely called a light. Eve and Adam were clothed in light; Moses’ face shone with light; John was merely called a light. Do you see how sin in the experience of humankind has slowly dimmed the actual light of God shining forth from the spirits of his children? We see the progressive—or should I say regressive?—ravages of sin down through the ages of time. From being clothed in light, to merely being called a light. How far we have fallen!
Not only do we read of Adam and Eve who had been clothed in light, of a man whose face shone with light, and of a man who was called a light, but we also read of another race or species of created beings who share these characteristics of light: Angels. We’re not going to study them in this teaching, but here are two biblical references as a starting point or jumping off point for your own further study about angels: Matthew 28: 3 and Revelation 10:1. The angels are clothed in light—as God is—because they are wholly spirit-beings.
There is one light, of course, who is THE Light. I refer to Jesus. Let me reiterate this point at the outset: all of the characteristics—and greater—regarding light that were a part of the first humans we will find to be part of the person and nature of Jesus, the Head of an entirely new race of created beings. Whatever the first—finite—Adam was, the last Adam—Jesus—is even more so—and in infinite measure.
Now let’s look at a few references in the Gospel of John. John 1: 4 tells us that Jesus is the light of all humanity. There are profound depths of truth we still need to have Holy Spirit teach us about how Jesus gives life to all humans, or rather, how his light gives life to all humans. In verse 5 we read that the light of Jesus shines on in the darkness and that the darkness cannot overpower that light. In verse 9 we read that the true light illumines every person who is born on this planet. We understand that since the creation of humanity there have been a total of 70 to 80 billion people who are estimated to have lived on planet earth, of whom 7 + billion are presently alive. By what amazing process does Jesus illumine every person who comes into the world?
Other references in John’s Gospel (8: 12 and 12: 46) inform us that Jesus is the light of the world and that whoever follows him will not walk in darkness. Are you walking in darkness? Are there areas of your life which are still shrouded in darkness? Are you following him? If you are, there should be progressively less and less darkness in your life as Holy Spirit occupies a larger and larger space in your spirit.
I want you to also examine Hebrews 1: 3 where we read that the Lord Jesus is the sole expression of the glory of God; he is the Light-Being, the outraying of the very light-nature of God the Father. Jesus in not only the light of the world in the sense of spiritual light, but he is also the only true light of the created universe in terms of natural light—radiant energy.
As the creator and sustainer of the atomic structure of the entire universe (as we read in Colossians 1: 16 and 17), He is the very first principle, the first cause, the sustaining power by which all things adhere together, cohere, consist, and have life. His actual being is the very outraying of all the light in the universe as it flows forth from God the Father. His unveiled being is brighter than a thousand suns, far surpassing the brilliance and splendor of countless galaxies.
Let us not limit the Lord Jesus to his humanity alone—to a babe in a manger, to a man of flesh and blood. He is also far above all principalities and powers and has ascended to the heavenlies, a place of eternal Light! Yes, he is fully human, but let us not forget he is also fully God, and that one of his characteristics is that he is light.
AHA Moment: I sure hope I’m not one of those people who deep down feels that Jesus is somehow limited in what He is able to do, or that He is still just a baby in a manger. If He really is God the Son, then He truly is all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere and everywhen at all times. I don’t want to put Jesus “in a box” and be one of those people of whom it has been said “Your God is too small.” Either Jesus is God and able to do everything . . . or He is not God!
There are other biblical references that reveal this facet of Jesus’ nature. For example, how often we have skimmed over the amazing account of Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain in Luke 9: 28 – 36 and Mathew 17: 1-6. You recall the incident. Jesus, accompanied by Peter, James, and John, went up on a high mountain. There, Moses and Elijah appeared in vision and were talking with Jesus. As they talked, the veil of his skin was momentarily stripped from Jesus and the three disciples caught a fleeting glimpse of his true being. They saw his face shining clear and bright like the sun, and his clothing became white as light. This is Jesus as he now is, as he really is, no longer veiled by his humanity, yet fully human. His spirit has total ascendancy over his soul and body.
The word “transfigured” in these references is the exact word found in 2 Corinthians 3: 18 where we read of how we are gradually being transfigured (changed) into the image of Jesus. Think of it! As Jesus was on that mountain, brilliant in scintillating splendor, so shall we be one day, helping to re-illuminate the entire darkened universe with the outraying of the unveiled Jesus within us! I wonder if Peter, James and John realized what was occurring. Did they realize they were seeing—in a sense—what they would one day become?
We will never be as God. No. Never! But we will be created beings shining with the splendor of God within as our spirits resume their rightful “status” as part of our beings. Do we honestly realize what God has in store for us, his twice-born sons and daughters? Everything—and more—that Adam and Eve lost, we shall regain as God the Holy Spirit transfigures—metamorphosizes—us into the very image of the only begotten Son of God!
Peter, a short while after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into the heavenlies, experienced just a short foretaste of this royal splendor in an interesting incident recorded in Acts 5: 15. People kept bringing the sick to Peter that perhaps by just his “shadow” falling upon them they might be healed. Interestingly, in the Greek language the word here for shadow is not a word which necessarily means shadow—a dark spot cast by something intercepting the sun’s light. It is actually a word which means a shining of divine energy, a radiance as a beam of sunlight or as a laser beam of light.
It was not Peter’s shadow that healed; it was God’s healing light within him—an actual tangible light emanating out from within his spirit that healed the people. Praise God for at least this one New Testament glimpse into what God has in store for his children as they are filled more and more with the light of God, now veiled by our bodies and souls.
Some final references: Matthew 5: 14- 16; Romans 13: 12; 1 Thessalonians 5: 5
AHA Moment: If this is correct about my being changed into the image of the Lord Jesus, that’s amazing! Maybe I don’t need to resist and fight my changes quite so much. Maybe I don’t need to experience fear every time I am faced with change—fear that I may lose some part of myself or someone or something dear to me. Maybe instead of fearing change and running from it, I need to run toward and embrace change!
Summary to this point: We are spirit, soul, and body. This is foundational. I’ve been attempting to lay a good foundation for you. Good builders build upon good foundations, don’t they? We’ve just about finished the foundation for this particular subject and will soon begin framing in the superstructure.
I want you think about and ponder a couple of points: 1. We are not human beings having an occasional human experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. And I want to share this concept with you as we continue on with this lesson. 2. We shall never cease from our explorations, and the end of all our explorations will be to arrive at where we started and know the place for the first time. Question: In light of what we’ve been studying thus far, what do you think those statements mean?
Now let’s re-examine the human spirit just a bit more. Although it is that component of your tripartite, unified being which is God-conscious, It’s also that part which has been darkened by the existence of sin in our human experience. Before we humans become God-conscious or receive Jesus into our lives, our spirits are darkened, or atrophied, or dried up, or withered, or “dead,” according to the Bible (Ephesians 2: 1, for example).
Remember, human spirits were at first bright, shining, glorious components of humans. But sin entered and darkness came. Human spirits died, but our bodies and souls continued to live. In the beginning, human spirits were the foremost—or chief—or preeminent—parts of our beings, but now they are dominated and subjugated by our souls and bodies due to sin.
Through the finished, completed, all-sufficient work of Jesus on our behalf, God has potentially restored our spirits to their original place of preeminence. From his perspective of eternity, God views the process as already completed, but we don’t see the completed process yet because of the lingering darkness of sin.
One of our family vehicles is a pickup which I use for errands, for hauling, and for odd jobs. It has a six-cylinder engine which I keep tuned up so it runs properly. Once, I asked a mechanic if my pickup could run on only four cylinders instead of six. He told me it could run, but it would have less power and use more fuel, and to run it for any length of time on only four of its six cylinders would finally ruin the engine. It wasn’t made to run on four cylinders; it was made to run on six.
Humans—you—me—were created to function best when our spirits, souls, and bodies are fully operational. Unfortunately, the vast majority of humans run on only two of their three components: body and soul. This is equivalent to my pickup running on only four cylinders. Oh, sure, we can function with only our bodies and souls, but we have less “power,” operate less efficiently, and might eventually cease operating. It’s certainly better if we’re fully functional—spirit, soul, and body, instead of just our bodies and souls operating while our spirits remain “dead.” We weren’t created to operate with only our bodies and souls; we were created to function with our spirits, souls, and bodies functioning equally. Just as God functions equally as Father, as Son, and as Holy Spirit. One God, three persons, three functions.
AHA Moment: I’ve never given that much thought about how humans are “crippled” and not fully functional if our three component parts are not functioning equally. How crippled and handicapped am I? Maybe I need to pay more attention to the needs of my soul—my mind and my thoughts. I’ve just been blundering through life not really realizing how important it is that I change my mind so I have the mind of Jesus and think God’s thoughts about life in general.
Parenthetically, I now want to attempt to answer a question that many of my readers have asked me over the years: “What happens to our three component “parts” when we die physically?” I’ll try to summarize what is a rather extensive teaching of the Bible as a whole. When we die physically, our spirits return to God immediately. Our bodies and souls are buried in the ground (or otherwise disposed of) to “sleep” until they are resurrected and re-united with our spirits at the time Jesus returns to consummate his Kingdom. No matter how long or short the “sleep” of death will be, when we wake up it will seem to have been only a very brief moment.
To be totally fair in summarizing this important subject of physical death, there are many Bible teachers who feel that when we die both our spirits and souls return to God immediately upon death, to be later reunited with our bodies which have been “sleeping.” Each of these two views can be almost equally substantiated from the Bible. I simply feel that the first view has a bit more biblical evidence, but it’s really a choice which view to believe. I certainly wouldn’t argue or be contentious about the view I happen to hold.
Let’s return to our general teaching about body, soul, and spirit. Please turn to your Bible and read and meditate upon John 3: 1-8. Nicodemus, a leading political and religious person of his day, called upon Jesus one evening for a private interview. Nicodemus was an extremely important and well-known man—sort of like Senator Ted Kennedy and Billy Graham combined in one person—if you can imagine such a combination. Obviously, Nicodemus had a functional body and soul as evidenced by the fact he was present in his body, conversing with Jesus and asking him questions.
Here’s my paraphrased translation of their dialogue:
Nicodemus: “Jesus, I know you’ve come from God. The miracles you’ve been performing prove that. I’d like to visit with you and ask you some questions.”
Jesus: “Nicodemus, unless you’re born again, you can’t ever experience God’s Kingdom.”
Nicodemus: “What?! I’m a grown man. How could I possibly be born again?”
Jesus: “You were born once physically. Now you must be born again—but this time it must be a spiritual birth, not another physical birth.”
Nicodemus: “I have no idea what you’re talking about, Jesus. How can such a thing happen?”
Jesus: “It’s simple, Nicodemus. You’re alive and functioning well in your body and soul, but your spirit is dead because you’re a sinner. You need born again in your spirit. You ask how that happens? Here’s how. The Spirit of God, who is invisible like the wind, enters your spirit and brings it back to life; that’s what I mean by ‘born again.’ God’s Spirit touches your spirit and instantly—like sparks from smitten steel—in an atomic instant—your spirit and the Spirit of God become fused as one, inseparably joined forever!”
Who is this being—this person—named Holy Spirit who enters our lives? The simplest way I can describe him is this: He is Jesus himself in his “unbodied” form. He is God in his spirit “form”. God as Father. God as Son. God as Holy Spirit. One, yet three. Three, yet one. God came to earth in bodily form as Jesus the Son (completely human, yet completely God). God comes into our lives in spirit form as Holy Spirit. Generally speaking, Jesus was with his followers while he was here in human bodily form 2,000 years ago. And, for the most part, God was with his followers in the Old Testament. But, since Jesus’ resurrection, he is in his followers, rather than merely with them.
Obviously, I can’t describe Holy Spirit (the unbodied Jesus) perfectly; no one can, but I hope these simple thoughts will help you understand a little better Who is living inside you: God, in spirit form. God the Son, Jesus, in his unbodied spirit form instantly comes into our lives when we are born again. Okay, if Jesus has come into your life in the person of Holy Spirit, that is an accomplished, settled, once-for-all-time fact in your life. That great transaction is forever done. In a sense, it becomes a “past tense,” completed experience. You have become a ‘”new creation” as we’re taught in 2 Corinthians 5: 17 and Galatians 6: 14, 15.
AHA Moment: I know I am “connected” with Holy Spirit because He came to reside permanently inside me when I was born again in my Spirit. But I wonder if I have somehow neglected Holy Spirit simply by not realizing Who He really is and by not cultivating a close, personal relationship with Him. Sometimes we emphasize our relationship with Jesus at the expense of our relationship with Holy Spirit. Oh, I know they’re one and the same, but I wonder if I’m as “close” as I could be to the “person” named Holy Spirit?
Please understand clearly where we’re going here. The Bible clearly distinguishes between our spirit and our soul. However, many believers in the Bible mistakenly use the two words interchangeably and therefore miss one of the Bible’s central teachings. “Spirit” and “soul” are not one and the same. Oh, there are a few biblical references which might seem to indicate that spirit and soul are one and the same, but if you study all the references on the subject, taken as a whole they clearly teach that spirit and soul are two different components of our beings.
Now, let’s embark upon an imaginary journey into the micro-universe of our spirits. Picture within you at the very core and center of your being a tiny, yet complete, micro-universe. Let’s call your spirit God’s inner kingdom. Didn’t Jesus say the Kingdom of God is within us? That’s the realm of the spirit: God’s inner kingdom within us—if our spirits have been made alive by the new birth; otherwise, it’s a “kingdom of darkness,” so to speak. Let’s look at this bright, scintillating inner kingdom.
In that marvelous new spiritual creation at the core of your being, the Spirit of God Almighty sits enthroned in regal, awesome majesty. From within, learn to “release” him to do his inexorable work of transforming you into the image of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! You are his sublime, creative, artistic masterpiece God is still working on. One day while golden bells ring and rank upon rank of heavenly beings assemble for the ceremony, God will unveil you—his finished masterpiece—to the entire creation. Romans 8: 19 – 25.
Your inner, spirit-kingdom is a place of all-pervasive, hushed stillness more quiet than the vast interstellar universe, yet it is a domain where celestial music reverberates and resounds throughout its vast realms. It is a place of awesome silence, yet a place of busy communication where Deep calls unto deep, Spirit communes with spirit, and Friend embraces friend.
The language of our spirits is that of God, heaven, and angels—a pure and untainted language undefiled by human profanity and lewdness. The language of the spirit is one in which every word is pure and complete, hiding nothing, expressing all. For example, those who choose to sing in that lovely, lilting language make melodies in their spirits (Ephesians 5: 18 and 19), melodies which harmonize and resonate with countless numbers of heavenly beings in far-off realms of light and music. The human spirit (our micro-universe) harmonizes with the rhythm of the spheres in the vast macro-universe.
Those who choose to speak or pray in those heavenly languages (1 Corinthians 14: 15) are speaking and praying in a pure, undefiled language which flies right to the very ears of God and sounds lovely and musical in his hearing. It is the unlimited language of the spirit, not limited in expression as are all human languages.
The human spirit makes us all one with that great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12: 1) who peer over the parapets of heaven—those who see and hear all which transpires on earth’s orb. In the spirit, we are one with all those who have departed this mortal life for heavenly realms of unclouded day where there is no night and trees of life forever bloom.
Your spirit is eternal and infinite—transcending the restrictive physical limitations of time and space. In the spirit, there is no heretofore and no hereafter; everything is here—now. It is a realm of absolute simultaneousness. It is a domain completely filled to the full by the One who is I AM before, now, always and ever. He is all-in-all in that bright kingdom of eternal day where crystal rivers of life dance and sparkle always. Your inner kingdom is “located” in that state of being we call eternity and is everywhere and everywhen. King Jesus rules in that inner eternal realm with absolute justice tempered with mercy, with honor, and with benevolence.
In your spirit there is always peace which passes all human comprehension (Philippians 4: 7) because Jehovah Shalom (“God who is Peace”) reigns therein. That peace generates heavenly joy which is unspeakable and full of glory (1 Peter 1: 8)—joy which springs up as rivers of living water (John 7: 38 and 39), originating deep within your spirit. Peace and joy flowing out from your spirit guard your souls (minds) against dark, negative forces which constantly war against your mind. (Colossians 3: 15)
One of the most powerful actions you can undertake is to focus within where God’s Spirit resides and is one with your spirit. Prayer originating in your spirit (either in your native language or in a heavenly language) is you talking to God. Meditation in your spirit is a means of you hearing from God. And, of course, we “hear” from God when we read and study the Bible.
Understand that your spirit is a “power substation” from where God’s power is “released” out into our souls and bodies, and from there into the world in which we live and move and have our being. Our spirits are also “conduits” of God’s power flowing out to others, but we must learn to release that power from within us; it is always and ever God’s power, not ours.
From far away in the depths of our spirits, energizing, life-giving light radiates out with a iridescent brilliance far surpassing that of the noonday sun. Why else does Jesus call his followers the lights of the world? He is the Light of the world; we are but reflectors of that light which lightens all humanity. “Let our light shine!” Jesus exhorts each of us!
AHA Moment: I’ve never really given much thought to the marvelous “inner kingdom” within my spirit. Oh, I know the Kingdom of God is a mystery (Luke 8: 10), and that someday I shall inherit it (Matthew 25: 34), but in the meantime, Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is within me (Luke 17: 21). I guess I need to learn more about the Kingdom of God if it really is within me already. Maybe I should go back and re-study what the Bible has to teach about that marvelous inner Kingdom.
Once you were born again, thereafter all sin originates in your soul (and to some extent in your body). Your spirit has been saved: it is pure and sinless, full of light, full of Holy Spirit. Your soul is being saved. Your body will be saved when you are changed at death. So, that brings us full circle back to the soul. That’s the prevailing issue in our lives. That’s the area where we really need to work hard (in cooperation with Holy Spirit) in a lifelong process of rooting out sin from our souls and changing into Jesus’ image.
Let’s now dig a little deeper into the realm of the human soul and see what we can do to emerge victorious from some of the dark challenges we find therein. By the Bible’s definition, the soul constitutes our minds, our wills, our egos, our affections, our personalities, our intellects, our thought processes, our characters, our desires, our attitudes, our emotions, our selves, our feelings, our beliefs, our reason, our understanding, our values, etc.
Our soul is a composite of all those facets that make us who we are. And it is in those areas of our lives upon which God began focusing his undivided attention the moment our spirits were born again; he will continue such unrelenting focus until the very day we die—and then beyond that into the next stage of our eternal lives. God is extremely and utterly serious about transforming us fully restoring us into his image. His will in that regard is inexorable; nothing will hinder its accomplishment.
To examine the soul, we need to focus first for a few moments on the human brain which is the “seat” or principal “location” of the soul. The brain is not the soul, and the soul is not the brain, but the brain is that component of our physical beings through which the soul operates and functions and through which we are conscious, sentient beings.
The human brain is a unique creation of God, unmatched and unrivaled in any other created species—at least on this planet. Our souls which “reside” in our brains possess almost creative powers. We can think things through, make plans, devise, imagine, conceive, design—almost in a purely creative manner. Of course, we must always remember that God alone is able to create from nothing. Our creativity is not the same as his, but is certainly a unique form of creativity. Our souls and brains have fantastic capabilities which remain largely untapped. Most scientific estimates teach that we use only 5% of our full brain capacity and power.
It is my own opinion that we probably won’t begin to realize our brain’s and soul’s full potential until after our death-change. Nevertheless, God expects us to develop and change our souls as much as possible in this life before our change comes. In a sense, then, God has given us humans minds almost like his—certainly patterned after his—except ours are finite and limited, whereas his is infinite and limited.
But remember, deep in our spirits dwells Holy Spirit who possesses the whole, unlimited, infinite mind of God—and we can tap into that awesome potential. In fact, God says to us: “Have the same type of mind that Jesus has.” Philippians 2: 5. Yes, to a degree we can learn to think God’s thoughts, think like He thinks. His Spirit within our spirits helps us learn to think God’s thoughts—at least to a limited degree.
Where do we find God’s thoughts? In the Bible, of course! Do you feel there might be a connection between our reading and studying the Bible and whether or not we are coming to think more and more like God? Simply put, we must learn what God has to say about everything. How? Become familiar with his Word, the Bible, and allow it to change the way we think.
AHA Moment: Have I been neglectful of the Bible? After all, if it really is God’s infallible, unalterable, LIFE-giving, power-full Word, I need to read it and study it much more than I have been doing. Generally speaking, God “speaks” to us primarily through His written Word, the Bible. If I’m not diligently reading and studying the Bible, then I’m not “hearing” all that God wants to share with me.
God designed us to have thoughts like his and to behave like him—as we see him best portrayed on earth’s stage of life by Jesus—God the Son. We have the ability to think to reason, to make choices and decisions, and to form ethical, moral, and spiritual attitudes. God’s plan is for us to be like him. But we don’t become like him instantly overnight by divine fiat. He doesn’t wave a magic wand over us or sprinkle us with magic dust and we instantly become like him. Such godly character traits must be developed, and that requires a lifetime of upward struggle, of change, and of both good and bad experiences from which we learn and change.
How can our souls come to know and understand God’s mind, thoughts, attitudes, and will? How can we learn to think like God? How do we understand what kinds of changes are necessary in our lives? For starters, study 1 Corinthians 2: 9 – 16. God’s Holy Spirit living inside us “transmits” or “broadcasts” God’s thoughts to our minds from within our spirits.
Then, when we read and study the Bible, that knowledge coming from outside links up in our souls with the knowledge being broadcast from the Spirit within. That two-pronged approach is God’s method for us to come to know and understand God’s thoughts and his plans and purposes for our lives.
The challenge is not so much in merely knowing God’s thoughts and his will. That’s relatively easy. The challenge is in doing what we know God wants us to do. The challenge is changing our thoughts and our behavior. The challenge is making the necessary changes. The challenge is in being transformed. How do we do that? How do we obtain the necessary power or energy or strength to make the necessary changes? Do you recall what Jesus says about people who cry to him, “Lord, Lord,” but don’t do what He tells them to do? We can name Him Lord and Master all we want to, but if we’re not doing his will and obeying Him, we’re fooling only ourselves.
AHA Moment: What amazing creations are my brain and my mind! I’ve never given much thought to that part of who I am. I really am fearfully and wonderfully created! (Psalm 139: 14). I praise God that He has made me such a masterpiece and pinnacle of his creation. I want my mind to be the very best that it can be. With that in mind, I pledge this very day to cooperate even more fully in God’s fantastic plans and purposes to renew and restore my mind.
I want to teach a few minutes now about an experiential phenomenon called the “baptism in Holy Spirit” or the “empowering of Holy Spirit.” Matthew 3: 11; Mark 1: 8; Luke 3: 16; John 1: 33; Acts 1: 8. Perhaps you desire to be baptized or empowered by Holy Spirit. All it takes is for you to make a quality decision to “open” your spirit so Holy Spirit (Who already lives inside you in your spirit) can begin to flow out from you in a new way (John 7: 38 and 39) into the lives of others around you. The baptism in Holy Spirit does not come upon us from outside where God zaps us with some sort of cosmic, holy ray from outer space.
No, the baptism in Holy Spirit comes from inside—from where Holy Spirit has already taken up permanent residence in our spirits. The baptism in Holy Spirit occurs when we make a quality decision to “release” Holy Spirit’s power from within us. The baptism in Holy Spirit is not “receiving” Holy Spirit; you already did that when you were born again in your spirit.
It is “unleashing” the power of Holy Spirit from within us so He can work in new, more power-full ways in our lives and in the lives of those around us. It is “freeing” Holy Spirit from within to do more miraculous, life-changing acts in our souls to change us more into the image of Jesus and to flow out to others to help them change, too.
When people are baptized in Holy Spirit, they have differing “reactions” to that incredible new spiritual power cascading out from their spirits into their souls. Such reactions depend upon their own soul’s makeup and composition; remember, each of us is unique and we differ from one another in countless ways. Don’t ever try to impose your own spiritual experiences upon other people. What may “fit” us may not “fit” another person—and we do that person great harm by attempting to duplicate our own experience in their lives.
Some people weep when they are baptized in Holy Spirit. Some people privately and quietly have the experience. Some feel waves of energy flowing through them. Some feel bathed in liquid love. Some feel great cleansing from sin. Some laugh. Some speak in tongues, the language of the Spirit. Some are very vocal and shout for joy. Some feel unparalled excitement. Some fall in love anew with God. Some fall prostrate in worship. Some kneel. Some begin a new relationship with estranged loved ones.
Some are healed, mentally, physically, or emotionally. Some resume churchgoing. Some begin or resume giving money to God. Some find new insight and understanding of the Bible. Some feel called to minister to others in new ways. Some begin to exercise some or all of the “gifts of Holy Spirit” for the first time. 1 Corinthians, chapters 12 – 14; Romans,chapter 12. Some begin to display anew the “fruit of Holy Spirit” in their lives. Galatians 5: 22 and 23. Some experience new leases on life. Some see visions and dreams from God. And so it goes . . . .
Regardless of our differing individual experiences and reactions to the baptism in Holy Spirit, there is one common event that occurs in all of us: the newly Spirit-baptized person begins afresh a lifelong process of change, development, upward struggle, metamorphosis, and internal warfare in the soul. There are no exceptions nor shortcuts; God’s will for us to change cannot be thwarted or derailed. Change will proceed on schedule, and continue right on when we step from time into eternity. The only difference before and after one’s baptism in Holy Spirit is that after the baptism in Holy Spirit there is new, fresh power to make the changes God requires. And fresh, new, creative power to be a witness to other people.
“You’d better change your mind, young man, or you’re really gonna be in trouble!” With those words we have now come to the very heart of this teaching about spirit, soul, and body.
I was quoting my Mother in that exclamation in the above paragraph; she often used that expression when she caught me doing something wrong as a child. What was Mother actually saying to me? She was saying, “Billy, what you’re doing is not the real problem; it’s your wrong thinking that is causing your wrong behavior; Billy, your thinking needs straightened out!”
How about you? Of the following two, what would you say is the bigger problem for you: your wrong behavior OR your wrong thinking? If you were to somehow get your wrong thinking straightened out in some areas of your life, would that help you correct your wrong behavior? Think about those questions. While you’re thinking about them, I’m going to introduce the concept of a scary, weird, old-fashioned, harsh-sounding Bible word: REPENT!
What types of images instantly pop into your mind (your soul) when you just now read that word. Did you picture a dirty old drunk kneeling at an altar in some run-down Gospel mission on skid row—mumbling, crying his heart out, promising God he’ll quit drinking? Or maybe this image popped into your mind: people streaming down an aisle in an evangelistic meeting, promising God they’ll never commit some horrible sin again.
Or, perhaps you remember an old movie where some young girl sobbed her heart out because her boyfriend charmed her into committing “the unpardonable sin.” Or maybe you remember seeing a television program where some hardened criminal repented of his sin just before the switch was pulled for the electric chair. Did images like that (or some similar ones) pop into your mind when you read that word, “Repent!”? Maybe you visualized a cartoon picturing some religious fanatic carrying a placard which proclaims: “Repent! The End of the world is near!” Or perhaps you’ve heard or read of “poor lost sinners” screaming and begging God not to send them to hell.
I have a surprise for you: most of those types of images about what it means to repent do not necessarily have anything to do with the clear Bible meaning of the word, “Repent!”
Let’s continue our study by turning to a reference in the little book of 2 Timothy 2: 24 – 26. Without dissecting this reference and getting too “picky” about it, let’s look at a general biblical principle I see encapsulated or summarized therein. First, this reference says teachers must be skilled and patient when they teach about repentance. I’ll try to be that kind of teacher because this subject of repentance is very critical for our relationship with God. I’m convinced that if you come to a proper understanding of the meaning of repentance—and then form the habit of practicing it every day—God will help you revolutionize your life in ways you never dreamed possible.
This reference in 2 Timothy implies if repentance is taught properly, God will give you opportunities to practice repentance as a way of life and come to know Him better. Thus, God will restore to you his own thoughts and you will be able to escape from a very clever trap in which the devil has held you captive. I see that principle there in seed form, at least, and the principle is found throughout the Bible. This reference says in effect if you come to understand the meaning of repentance, you will be able to re-arrange your “de-arranged” mind. (I didn’t say “deranged” mind; I said “de-arranged”; there’s a significant difference!)
I know this reference doesn’t say that word-for-word; I’m just trying to get you to see a general biblical principle about this subject of repentance. To see that principle more clearly, I suggest reading that passage in two or three modern language versions of the Bible.
Okay, let’s zero in now and examine more closely the word “repent” or “repentance.” There are about four or five words used in the Hebrew and Greek languages of the Bible which have been translated “repent” or “repentance” in English. The most basic meaning of the Hebrew and Greek words is “to change one’s mind.” The words occur over 100 times in the Bible. Of course, a lot of words occur over 100 times in the Bible, but this many occurrences does indicate that repentance is an important subject in the Bible. The Hebrew word is nacham or shub. The Greek word is metanoeo (from where we get the English word, metamorphasis).
What does the Bible teach—in general—about repentance, about “changing your mind”? Well, the Bible has a lot to teach about repentance, but you must keep in mind what repentance is, not what it is not! Please remember that it means simply to “change one’s mind.” It does not mean to cry . . . and moan . . . and sob . . . and weep . . . and be sorry . . . to promise God never to do something again . . . to plead with God not to send you to hell . . . to promise to do better next time if only God will forgive you this time—those things are what repentance does not mean.
Repentance means to change your mind. Period! That’s all. Nothing more. Nothing less. And if you believe it means those other things, then you’ve permitted (by choice or default) the devil to entrap your mind as the above reference in 2 Timothy claims.
AHA Moment: I guess I need to get pretty serious about working together with God in repenting—changing my mind. This is “heavy” stuff, and I need to get moving on this matter . . . now! I’ve got a long way to go, but God is helping me and—together—we can accomplish all He has in His mind about me changing my mind.
What do we need to change our minds about? I’m glad you asked. Let’s see how I can put it? Perhaps this way. Each of us has a particular viewpoint, a particular mind-set, a specific way in which we perceive and comprehend life, reality, the universe, God, ourselves, and others. For the most part, the way in which we perceive and comprehend those things is due to what we have learned—through our 5 senses—since we were born.
That’s just the way it is; we’re all “products” of this world, this time, this generation, our education, our family, our friends, our experiences. We’ve had our minds (our souls) shaped and molded in certain ways simply by virtue of the fact we’ve been born on this planet. And, all of those influences have been further influenced by a phenomenon called SIN! That’s part of the reality of who we are. We—you and I—are sinners!
I’m not going to spend a lot of time teaching about sin. Most of us know enough about it by first-hand experience. I think I’ll just say this: sin is a dark, malevolent “force” or “power” to which each of us has fallen prey. Sin has distorted, and twisted, and flawed, and marred, and darkened each of our minds, causing us to be less than the whole beings God intends us to be. If sin is not dealt with at decisive moments in each of our lives, it will eventually destroy us. It’s terminal, like many cancers . . . except worse. God has given us a remedy for that terrible sin-sickness, but that’s for another series of lessons.
Well, this thing called sin is why we need to learn about and practice repentance as a daily way of life. God created us to live on a very high level of life where we perceive and comprehend reality as He does—where we think his thoughts and know his mind. Repentance—changing our minds—brings us back to a point where we can think like God again, feel as God feels, perceive as He perceives, and comprehend as He comprehends.
By means of practicing repentance, we begin to develop a mind like his and think thoughts like He thinks. Honestly now, just for one day—or even for one hour—wouldn’t you like to see everything as God does and think as He does? What a tremendous new insight into our own lives that would give us—about ourselves, about who we really are! Read Psalm 139: 17, 18, and 23. Colossians 2: 9 & 10. Revelation 1: 6. Romans 8: 37. Ephesians 2: 8 – 10.
Now let’s amplify a little the Bible’s basic definition of “repent.” This will give us a pattern to work from as we practice repentance: “Repentance is to consistently maintain a state of mind in which I perceive reality through God’s eyes, and, as a result, I change my life by the power of God’s Spirit who dwells in me.”
Incidentally, even modern secular psychiatry and psychology have some insight into this process of repentance. It’s a timeless, universal concept. In those circles it’s called “cognitive restructuring,” a term used by mental health professionals, meaning “building new thought patterns and habits of thinking.” So you see, even mental health professionals teach about repentance. I’ve tried to emphasize it in my own counseling over the years. It is also known as “Neurolinquistic Programming.”
Read Luke 15: 11 – 32. Of course this is the familiar story of the Prodigal Son. Now that we’ve read it, I have this question: “Is there anything about repentance in this story Jesus told?” If so, where is it? What verses? Yes, verses 18 and 19 are about repentance. This young person made a quality decision in his mind—he changed his mind—he came to his senses—and said: “I will set out and return home to my father; I will say to him, ‘Dad, I have sinned (there’s that word ‘sin’) against God and against you.”
Notice this story does not say this young man wept and screamed, wept and moaned. He didn’t spend hours bemoaning his horrible plight or blaming someone else for the mess he was in. He wasn’t kneeling at an altar with tears streaming down his cheeks. None of those things happened. Instead, this young person simply came to the realization he had “blown it.” He realized his thinking had become de-arranged. He realized that God’s thinking had been best all along. He mulled things over and realized he had made some wrong choices and decisions along the way.
He came to his senses and understood that he had de-arranged his thinking about God and about life in general. He accepted the fact that he had been irresponsible with all that God had given him. He came to realize he was not perceiving the realities of life on planet earth through God’s eyes. He made a decision in his mind; he committed an act of his will. Notice he did not make a mere emotional decision. Purely emotional decisions never last.
On the other hand, rational decisions colored with emotion last the longest. This young man changed his mind. And on the basis of that decision, he got up and started home. I imagine those first steps toward home were perhaps some of the hardest he had ever taken. But now he had changed his mind—he had repented—he had made a quality decision—and now God empowered him from within to get up and start back towards God and home. An old song goes: “See, the Father greets him out upon the way, welcoming his weary wandering child!”
This business of radically changing our minds is disturbing to some people. Picture this—when in a quiet and gentle way a new plant emerges from the earth, the earth is disturbed in the process. Like the emerging plant, new (or re-newed) ways of thinking within our souls may be disturbing. But the new ways of thinking break through our self-imposed disturbances and mental limitations into new freedom such as the plant enjoys once it has broken through into the bright sunlight. We tend to resist change and its inner disturbances, but the new life and freedom true repentance brings are well worth the temporary inner disturbances.
How about you? Are you a “prodigal thinker?” What is the Father asking you to repent—change your mind—about? God speaks to us in a gentle inner voice about things we need to repent of.
Repentance does not mean God is going to change your mind for you. Neither does it mean you have to grit your teeth and struggle desperately out of a mental cocoon of de-arranged thinking. Neither does it mean you have to perform some type of penitential acts. It means you change your mind. Then, on the basis of you having changed your mind about something . . . then Holy Spirit inside of you empowers you to change both your thoughts and behavior based upon your change of mind.
You change your own mind; no one else—not even God—does it for you. But after you repent, then God helps you change your behavior. When we change our minds, changed behavior follows. You can do it. You really can. Millions of people do this every day and make significant changes in their lives—some even without the inner power of Holy Spirit. If some humans can make such changes without the assistance and empowerment of Holy Spirit, you can certainly change your mind with his power. You just have to decide—change your mind. Then God will give you the inner power to change your behavior.
Remember, repent means to change our minds. Period! It means to change our thinking, to turn around our thinking so it’s more like God’s thinking, to begin thinking differently than we’ve been thinking, to begin to see reality as God sees it. You see, in a sense, the “eyes” of our souls have “cataracts” and we see things as being very cloudy and fuzzy. God wants us to see things clearly as He sees reality.
Now, let me give you 3 reasons why God wants us to repent; there are more than three, of course, but these three are perhaps the most important reasons. First, God commands us to repent. It’s not optional to repent. You might ask, “Does God have the right to command me to repent?” C’mon now, who’s running things? Who’s in charge? God commands us to repent. It’s that simple. He doesn’t suggest we repent. He commands it. Acts 17: 30 and 31.
The second reason? We need to learn how to repent because God is a good God! When we begin to see how good He really is, we should just naturally want to change our minds in order to become more like Him. Every one of us has an inner desire to be good. Oh, a lot of people won’t admit it, but we do want to be good—not “goody goody”, but just good: upright, honorable, honest, responsible, clean, reliable, wholesome. When we begin to see that God is a good God—instead of a stern, mean, old heavenly tyrant—as many of us have been taught—we then want to repent. Romans 2: 4.
The third reason? Look up 2 Corinthians 7: 10. This is the big one; this is the one all the hell-fire and damnation preachers use when trying to persuade people to repent. Well, let’s take a real close look at this reference. It says, “Godly sorrow produces repentance . . . . ” And that’s absolutely correct. That’s what it says. It means if we have God-like sorrow we will repent. It means if we have sorrow like God we will repent.
What is Godly sorrow? God sees how we hurt ourselves and each other . . . He sees how we fail to live up to our full potential . . . He sees how we need to be more like Him . . . He sees how we fall so far short of the lofty purposes for which He has created us . . . He sees how our relationships are so incomplete and fragmented . . . God sees all these things in our lives—and much, much more—and He feels sorrowful about them! Our lives cause God to be sorrowful. You see, this reference tells about how God feels about us at times, not about our own sorrow.
And when we begin to comprehend and understand how God grieves and sorrows about us . . . when we understand his mercy and goodness . . . we understand how he wants us to change . . . how he wants to lift us out of the quagmires and quicksand of life we have plunged ourselves into . . . Then we begin to change our minds and allow God’s Spirit within to empower us to permanently and forever change our lives.
Yes, we need to feel and experience God’s type of sorrow which causes us to repent. It is not a human, emotional type of sorrow which causes us to repent. Human sorrow is usually just a passing emotion and doesn’t change much of anything—at least not for long. That’s basically what 2 Corinthians 7: 10 means. So you see, we don’t have to weep and moan and cry and feel deep human sorrow. We need to feel and experience God’s sorrow . . . and then repent.
Okay, now let’s look at some companion concepts about repentance. Turn to 1 John 1: 9. Let’s examine the word, confess, in this reference. That’s a key word. It’s a word which in Greek means “to speak the same things” or “to agree with.” It has the same root meaning as our English word, “homogenized.” It means to be in agreement or to be like-minded. It means to be in agreement with God or to think the way God thinks. This reference is saying that when we do something wrong—when we sin—when we find our minds to be de-arranged—all we have to do is agree with God about that matter. Then He forgives us. Confession is merely to agree with God in his assessment of something wrong in our lives.
That’s all. Just agree with God about sin, wrongdoing, or de-arranged thinking. It’s really a very simple, two-step process. 1. When we sin or find something in our lives we need to change our minds about, we simply agree with God—see it as He sees it. 2. He forgives us and then we begin the inner process of changing our actions and behavior by means of the power of Holy Spirit who lives inside us. In brief, in a mature, responsible manner we agree with God that things need changing (that’s repentance; that’s changing our minds); next, God forgives and cleanses, and then empowers us to make whatever changes that are necessary. A beautiful, simple, two-step process.
You may be thinking, however: “Okay, that’s all well and good, but what if I keep sinning or keep thinking in de-arranged ways? What happens then?” Good question. Turn to 1 John 2: 1 and 2 and think through what that reference teaches.
Through the years I have studied much about human thinking and behavior. Based on many years of my own experience and upon my studies, I want to share with you 7 major areas in the lives of most Jesus believers wherein we need to repent—change our minds—the most. Oh, there are many, many more areas of our lives in which we need to repent, but these are the 7 main areas into which I have distilled many years of study and research. These are key areas where our minds need to be changed.
1. We need to change our minds about who God is and what He is like. For any number of reasons, lots of us have grown up picturing God in our minds as some type of angry, bearded, crotchety old man sitting on top of a stormy mountaintop somewhere off in a fairy tale heaven just waiting to cast thunderbolts at us if we do something wrong. God is not angry at you! He is good, not mean and angry! In a sense, Jesus is God “focused” in such a manner so we humans can better comprehend God. If you want to know what God is really like, look at Jesus. The Bible asserts that “Jesus went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed of the devil.” Acts 10: 38.
2. We need to change our minds about Jesus. Jesus is not some namby-pamby, wishy-washy, minor deity with long, stringy hair who was sort of God’s goody-goody errand boy just wandering around loose saying nice things and healing some people. No, Jesus is fully God and fully human. And Jesus is Lord. What does “Lord” mean? It means Jesus is in charge. He is our Master. He has complete control of our lives because He is the only One who can work everything out for the good of all. If Jesus is not in charge of your life, then you need to re-arrange your mind about Who He is. There just might need to be some major re-thinking about who is in control of your life.
3. We need to change our minds about who we are. First of all, we need to openly and honestly admit that we are sinners who fall short of God’s master plans and purposes for our lives. We are not good in the same way God is good. Only through God’s forgiveness and cleansing of our sinful conditions can we be good. But let’s not let this matter of our being sinners trip us up or fool us. We have been forgiven of our sin. We are not worms crawling in the dust—just waiting for God (or other people) to step on us and grind us down.
No! We are God’s highest order of creation, destined for greatness as He works out his plans and purposes in our lives. We need to change our minds about who we are and begin to rise as eagles in the heavens to all the greatness for which God has created and destined us. We are not worms. We are children of the King, living in the King’s household, being groomed for the great things the King has planned for our lives.
4. The Church has its faults and is not perfect—because it’s comprised of humans. If there were such a thing as a perfect Church, the minute you or I joined it, it would become imperfect. The Church—like it or not—was destined by God to be comprised of imperfect human beings living and working together to represent God and Jesus and do their work on this planet. If you do not have a vital relationship as an active member of a local congregation (whatever the “brand name”), there is some question—from the Bible—about your respect for God and His “body” on earth, the Church. In it’s most basic sense, just two or more of you gathering together whenever you can constitutes a church.
One cannot be considered to be an authentic believer in Jesus if one is not linked up in some meaningful and vital way to a local congregation, because the minute one becomes a believer in Jesus, church becomes part of the total package of God’s salvation. Yes, some of you need to change your minds—repent—about your relationship (or lack of it) to God’s church.
5. Have you accepted God’s free offer of total forgiveness for your sin—and left the matter with God? That’s really all I wanted to say about sin. Stop carrying your sins around with you. If you gave them to God, then he’s taken them and forgotten them—and you should, too. Change your mind about your sin. Walk away from it. Forget it.
Even though Jesus came to live inside your spirit in the person of Holy Spirit, it’s true that sin lingers in our lives from that point, but when it rears it’s ugly head, recognize it as such, change your mind about it, and be rid of it. Don’t keep pleading with God and begging him to forgive your sin. He already has! Accept that and get on with the new life he has mapped out for you. Change your mind—repent—about sin.
6. Uh, oh, here’s a biggie . . . Your M-O-N-E-Y! An obscure reference in the Bible, 3 John 2 states that above all things, God wants you to prosper! How can you be prosperous? By giving God money. “Wait a minute,” you say, “if I give my money away, I’m sure not going to be prosperous; I’m going to have less money.” Sorry, that’s the way it works in God’s economy. It’s just the opposite of this world’s economic systems. God doesn’t want you to give it all away, of course, but whatever, wherever, and whenever he tells you to give. To give is to gain; to keep is to lose. He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose!
Just a couple of more thoughts about money—because this one usually hits home the hardest. God has allowed you to be a steward or “business administrator” of a certain amount of time, talent, and treasure during your lifetime here on planet earth. The only way to “increase” these is to “invest” them in God’s work. Let me give you a brief Bible definition of success and prosperity. Success is “steadily and consistently moving toward accomplishing God’s plan for my life, according to my potential; it’s a journey, not a destination.” That’s different from the world’s view of success, isn’t it? Maybe you need to change your mind about success. Prosperity means “to have enough for a good journey.” Yep, that’s the way the Bible defines it. Maybe you need to change your mind about prosperity.
You and I are on a very brief pilgrim journey from birth to death and then on to the next stage of God’s great master plan for our lives. The only way for us to have enough for a good journey—enough time, enough talent, and enough treasure—is to keep giving enough away so that God can give you a good “return” on your “investment.
7. You need to change your mind about your health and well-being. God wants you to live in good health right up until the day you die peacefully in your sleep with no pain. He wants you to have a healthy body and a healthy mind (that’s where repentance comes in) because you are the “temple” of God’s Spirit.
Have you ever seen a once-beautiful church building that has fallen into disrepair and ruin? I saw a number of them when I was in China. Many of your “temples” have fallen into disrepair because you have not kept up with your routine maintenance and repair on your bodies and minds. God wants you to have a healthy body and a sound mind. He has not given you a sickly body and a timid and fearful mind.
Yes, some of you need to change your minds—repent—about divine health and healing for your minds and bodies and work as hard (in cooperation with God’s power in you) to get well and to stay well as you’ve worked in becoming unhealthy physically and in de-arranging your minds. Of course, I am not denying that accidents happen and that bad health challenges happen to good people.
There you have it, dear readers. Upon your new birth (saved, converted, renewed—all concepts meaning the same as “born again”), God began in you a lifelong process of transforming and renewing you back into his image by continually helping you to change and renew your mind. It’s a matter of choices and decisions. It’s up to you. There’s a saying: “If I’m not green and growing, I’m ripe and rotting!” What’ll it be? What choices and decisions do you need to make—starting right now!—about changing your mind?
Body. Soul. Spirit. That’s you. You, too, are a tri-une being just like God is Father, Son, and Spirit. Your spirit has been saved. Your body will be saved. Your soul is being saved—if you choose to cooperate with God in the lifelong process of transformation and change. Quit playing church. Quit playing at being a believer in Jesus. Away with empty religious practices, rituals, and traditions. Start fresh and honest with God and yourself. And start the process now, today!
Life Enrichment Services, Inc
Revised and Updated December 2020