Part 4: The challenge to self-posession

BODY, SOUL AND SPIRIT: KNOWING YOURSELF

As living beings, you and I are set in a certain relationship to the seen and unseen worlds. Our understanding of this relationship may be clear, or murky and obscure, or even baffling, depending upon how we stand, act and live in terms of total reality – meaning all that is real and that bears on life and being and eternity.

The Christian is in a far better position to understand this, if he will exercise himself to do so, than even a brilliant, unbelieving psychologist or rational thinker. No one who beieves there is no God, or who thinks there is no devilor evil spirits, no heaven or hell, lives in reality, even if realism lies at the heart of his intentions. He lives in a severely truncated or small reality, limited to what he sees and understands, and he is not finally able to handle his true, existential situation.

We often mention the words “body, soul and spirit”. Paul puts them in a different order:

And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23)

It is no accident that Paul mentioned these terms in the order which he did, for that order places them in their right relationship to man’s whole being. In regard to their mutual functions it also sets them in their right relationship to each other. Finally, it places them in the right relationship to the living God. The progression as he gives it – spirit, soul and body – proceeds from the innermost to the outermost parts of a human being.

For a crude illustration of man’s nature, we might think of a peach. The core of the peach is the nut, which issurrounded by the pit, which in turn is surrounded by the fruit flesh – corresponding this order to spirit, soul and body. That gives you some picture of a man in their actual arrangement. The soul is whithin the body, and the spirit is set deeply within the soul.

The spirit is the very core of man. It is in the spirit that man has his God-given primary capacity to commune with God, who is Spirit and who must be worshipped in spirit and in truth. It is the shrine in which spiritual life is centered. The soul expresses itself through the soul. The soul, in turn, expresses itself through the physical body.

The body is the outer man, the soul is the inner man, the spirit is the innermost man. When all these three are fully alive and free of sin, and functioning in their right relationship to each other, you have a human being as God made him be.

But that is not what you find. Instead, you find human beings with all kinds of impairments and distortions and imbalances, and you find men in whom the wrong part of their being exercises undue controll over their whole being. Because of the inherited sin from Adam, we are all born with our spiritual part broken. This makes a hole inside us that we try to fill with drugs, alcohol, food, sex and anything else they can find, but these are physical or material things that can not fully fill a spiritual void. Only when a person is born again will this empty space within man be filled, as the Holy Spirit repairs the broken spiritual third part of man.

Mam, created for communion with God, was never ment to walk alone, apart from God, indipendent of his Creator. Yet, that is his condition. Just as confusion besets the body politic when lines of command are disoriented, confusion has plagued human affairs because of this dislocation.

Yet, in his lost condition, man, with very few exeptions, does not seek God. It is God who seeks man, for He has made a way of restoration for us. He has made a way back to Himself.

REALITY, “REALITY”, AND REALITY

Believers are told the glorious fact that “he who is united unto the Lord becomes one spirit whit Him.”There is no higher earthly privilege than that. The declaration comes from the middle of a warning against the immoraluse of the body and says:

But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians 6:17-20) 

Your body is a temple, a dwelling place, of the Holy Spirit. Though it serves you marvelously well when in health, it is meant to be a house for the Lord, a place from which worship ascends to Him. In its use, the body is to be a “living sacrifice” – daily yielded deliberately to God for the carrying out of Hid good will, according to Romans 12:1-2.

We who believe are living on two levels at once. One of those levels surrounds us nearly at all times. It is out of accord with the higher, and it bears its testimony in upon us continually. God hasraised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 2:6), but our feet are planted on plain old dirt.

Like all human beings, believers live on the natural plane; we see, hear, taste, smell, and have knowledge there. But we go far beyond that. We who believe are living, by faith, on unseen reality – the reality of the existence and redeeming love and providence of God.

The devil is acutely aware of that fact, and he hates it. He is also aware that life on the natural plane and the act of living in faith are not always in smooth agreement. They clash at times in a way that pulls us between living by whart we see, and living by faith in the God that we do not see.

One of Satan’s classic tactics against believers is to try and seduce us with what I call the argument from reality – an argument against faith based upon objective, or seen, reality. It is one of his strongest arguments, and the reason it is so strong is that quite often, the thing he directs our attetion to, is, manifestly and inarguably, real. When that happens to be the case, it is what he says about it that is false.

He tries at times to pile up objective reality so high against us that it seems to mock and overwhelm our faith. The enemy, pointing at visible cicumstances, reasons or urges upon our minds the total irrelevance and powerlessness of God in our particualr situation.

His presentation od such circumstances to the mind may happen to be highly accurate or factual – in which case he interprets the facts to us in a false ot threatening way – or it may appear to be so when it is only partly so.

Since Satan is a liar, he is not entirely scrupulous about whether he comes at us with actual, or percieved, or even merely predicted reality. His purpose is do dishearten us, to avert our gaze from God on high. Never forget that powers of darkness lie to us through and about reality. They use lies as powerfully as they can to reduce our outlook at earth level to that of a practical atheist. They seek to bring us into bondage to circumstances.

Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them. Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools. They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.” (Psalm 84:5-7)

Satan tries to pound us down by what we see around us. He says that the visible reality is the governing and controlling factor in our situation. He assures us that faith is totally powerless with regard to it. He pressures us to surrender to the momentous or mountainous circumstances.

Denying reality, when reality is real, would be fanaticism. What we must do is to set truth over against it by faith. We must remeasure it. The thing is so close to us it seems bigger than God, but faith gives it right proportions under God.

There is at times a battle within the human soul to assert faith. Quite often, in fact, the main battle of the Christian’s life is not so much to accomplish a certain thing as it is to maintain unbroken faith in the face of all appearences and feelings, contradictions, adversities and delays.

Remember David and Goliath. David took Goliath’s measure by faith. And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26) David knew that God was with him, and that God could make him conquer any enemy.

NATURAL TO SUPERNATURAL – GLIMPSES OF THE WIDER PICTURE

You are endowed with certain faculties – mental, physical, emotional and spiritual. Each is a gift from God. He wants you to enjoy full control and command of those faculties for all their right uses, up to the limits imposed by the fact motality.

The enemy does not. If he can steal your victory and peace in the maner previously described, he may at some point seek to cut in against your full, free governance of some area of your being.

It is easy enough, even for believers, to take those faculties for granted, since they are ours so naturally, yet the fact is that they are far beyond any price. They deserve to be guarded. Those who do so often find themselvesin the keenest and freest enjoyment of them through many decades and even late in life.

That is in line with the Creator who gave them. Evil spirits take a contrary aim. They seek at times to impede or encrouch upon a person’s own power over his actions and thoughts and even physical functioning, to hinder or impair these to whatever degree they can.

In making man in his own image, the Creator meant for humans to have domination over the whole earth – it’s creatures, territories and resources. Man was told to “fill the earth and subdue it”, to “rule… over all the earth” and “over every living creature” – an adventure to be freely enjoyed in daily fellowship with God (see Genesis 1:26-30).

To rule well over the realm to which he was appointed, man had first, under God, to be able to rule himself. Man was made to be a balanced, rational, creative, healthy, able, productive, loving and – without the the least strain – holy being.

When God’s enemy found the way to infect man with the poison of sin, he brought a threefold divine curse – upon himself, on man and on the earth. Out of it came sorrows, pains, hardships, limitations, disease, rebellion and death. Much that blights both the social and natural landscapes simply reflects man’s badly damaged – and spiritually opposed – capacity for true authority – which is embedded in self-rule.

In this crisis, God did not vacate man’s primary position of authority over the earth. In fact, He specifically renewed it with Noah and his family after the flood (see Genesis 9:1-3). Though we sometimes use it perversely, even destructively, we exercise it all the time to great personal and collective advantage.

Never picture God as just waiting for the grand climax. Through the risen Christ, the living Word, and the Holy Spirit, He is undoing the undoer now. He is setting people free every day! Jesus came to loose the bands of wickedness and to let the opressed go free.

God’s strategy against all evil – in which He invites us to have a dynamic part – is so grand in scope, and total in content that it will finally lift all human beings who are willing to have it so out of the region of death and sin and suffering forever and establish them as coheirs with Christ, not over earth only, but over the entire creation (see Romans 8:17, Galatians 4:7, Revelation 5:9-10, 22:3-5).

GUARDING THE ENDOWMENT

Parables sometimes pass before our eyes.

Consider two brothers, a little over a year apart i age, reared in the home of a gospel minister. Both had able minds and unusually strong bodies. Both were ace students who went through high school as if it were an ice-cream eating contest, running up virtually unbroken strings of A’s. Both got admitted to Yale.

To that point there could not have been a greater equality between them of upbringing, of opportunity and achievment. Both had received Jesus and had given good evidence of changed lives in their teens. Yet one, after a brief brush with shaky faith, recovered and decided to go the way of the Lord Jesus.

The other slipped almost imperceptibly away from faith and drifted into rebellion just as he entered into  college. It took barely a year for him to be sadly adrift and unable to deal in practical terms with life.

Fifteen years after they entered college, the slightly older son had a prime education, a bright and pleasant outlook on life, and he was fruitfully engaged in teaching. He had also developed a good ministry to university students.

The slightly younger son was a wasted being. His education was cut short, his mind was clouded and unable to deal effectively with reality. He rarely was able to work, and then only at low-demand,part-time jobs, and he was a grief and a burden to his loving and patient parents.

He was generally disinclined to talk, all drawn up within himself and darkened, yet he ought to have been a first-rate guy. He had lost primary control over parts of his being. That fact was outwardly visible at all times.

This is not to say that all unfaithfulness to the Lord has equal and observable immediate consequences; it does not. But in this case darkness closed in fast and stole away parts of what had,prior to then, been in his free control.

Jesus once exclaimed: If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:23)

Just as there is a steep downgrade for the rejecter of that given light, so there is a swift upgrade for the sinner who repents.

I know a young man who, if you saw him today, you might think to be as fine looking as it is  possible to be. He has a face that looks like a piece of chisled sculpture, he glows with happiness and he is engagingly vital. Yet only two years earlier, this young man was so under the power of sin that he had no dwelling. He lived in misery out on the sidewalks and, as he graphically puts it, “I smelled”.

What hope was there for this near-wreck, in bondage to something he had to have that was destroying his body and being?

Five times he went into a hospital for detoxification, and he got the full treatment each time. But when he came out he was soon sucked back into what had taken him over.

One day someone handed him a piece of Scripture on the street – just words on paper, some might say. But when he read it, light came  flooding in!

Those words gave him a glimpse of Someone he had never known, the liberating Jesus. As he reached out to the Saviour, his inward being was filled with new understanding – and new power.

Satan had this guy halfway down to the grave, a captive to a destroying substance, a slave in an evil kingdom. You should see him now! What men who tried their best was helpless to do, Jesus did in hardly any time at all!

The key question is how do demons succeed in putting into practical effect their program for man? There has to be a basis for them to do so. There are five major avenues through which evil spirits gain a certain access to, and a degree of advantage over, human beings:

* Through sin.

* Through unbelief or belief in lies.

* Through false religion, false worship, or occult practices.

* Through alcohol, narcotics and hallucinogenic drugs.

* Through giving vent to extreme emotions.

When a man’s will gives way repeatedly to temptations to sin, a basis for demonic activity in his life exists in that area. Temptation is the most common work of evil spirits and, as it proves effective, it may be succeeded by more severe stages of demonic activity – oppression og possession.

A believer who fails to guard his heart and mind and allows himself to reveive an evil influence from any source need to recover spiritually by turning straight away from it in an act of obedience to God, thereby taking himself out of the devil’s trouble zone. If that is not done quickly, and influence takes hold on the individual, then confession and repentance will be needed.

GETTING TO THE NITTY-GRITTY

When the whole army of Israel was paralyzed with fear at the threats and boasts of Goliath, the “ruddy and handsome” teenage shepherd, David, could have come on the scene and prayed up a storm for the Lord to overcome that surly giant and deliver Israel. David could have prayed day after day after day after day about it.

Instead he quickly sized the situation up with pricise spiritual accuracy – “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” – that is faith speaking – and David went at the giant directly “in the name of the Lord allmighty”, slung a stone at him and put a sudden, final end to all his false, intimidating power (1 Samuel 17:4-12, 26, 40-52).

God acted with and for David as that young man acted in faith against the precise center of the crisis. The fear-paralysis that had stopped the Israeli army cold was broken, and that army came surging out of its trenches to chase the fleeing enemy troops.

God is ever pleased to act for those who act in faith for Him. If David, no matter how well motivated and sincere, had done anything other thanwhat he did, no change in that situation would have resulted. The problem was Goliath and his defiance of Israel and of God; so Goliath had to be dealt with frontally, directly, quickly.

Saints can wear themselves out and considerably deepen their adverse condition if they do anything but the one thing that has to be done, the one thing that specifiically targets the problem itself and goes against it to conquer it. Lesser actions, if you strip them down to their essence, might be called a holy avoidance of the actual issue.

David did not, thank heaven, chase off to three seminars in three cities on how to overcome the enemy, learning every theoretical thing there is to know about it and a lot more. He did not buy the best six books on overcoming and study them down to the finest points until he knew them nearly by heart. He did not obtain the three most outstanding series of tapes on overcoming by three of the best Bible teachers of his day, and, though he prayed, he did not pray until he had worked himself up into a lather.

Praying, even lengthy praying, is in many cases good, but the instant it becomes a substitute for doing the thing that has to be done, it becomes a holy exercise, largely void of real faith, and itis likely to lead to some etreme of largely empty self-exertion.

DRUGS AND THE SUPERNATURAL

There is a direct and mysterious relationship betewwn certain chemical agents and the supernatural. Certain drugs can carry the user into the realm of demonic experience. We can call them chemical-supernatural agents because these drugs can, and often do, introduce people into the reality of the supernatural realm.

That is not a mere assertion. It is a fact based on the written testimony of many individuals who have directly experienced it.

A person who takes such chemicals into his body opens up avenues into his inner being for the working of evil spirits. He also opens his body, particularly his nerves and muscular system, to functional interference and to physical damage.

Alcohol, narcotics, and hallucinogens are potent elements for cutting in on a person’s own control of his body and mind. Powers of darkness therefore widely promotetheir use among populations of the world. Some narcotics are central to tribal religious practices: they provide a shortcut to the supernatural.

That is no secret; it is an advertised and well-known facet of the narcotics experience. William James, author of The Varieties of Religious Experience, who is said to have used nitrous oxide as an hallucinogenic agent, wrote:

“Our normal waking consciousness… is but one special type of consciousness: whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different… No account of the universe in its totality can be final” which ignores them.

James stressed that the existence of theses forms “forbid a premature closing of our accounts with reality”. Timothy Leary, who for a time acted as the “high priest of LSD”, the mass evangelist of dope among young people, spoke beguilingly of “consciousness ecpansion”.

When he formulated his passion for drug-induced experiences into a cult, he sinificantly called it the League for Spiritual Discovery – for LSD, a high powered, extremely dangerous hallucinogetic drug. He promoted it, alongg with peyote and marijuana, for what he called “sacramental use” in reaching altered states of consciousness.

The claim is often madde that reaching such levels of consciousness is good, broadening, beneficial, liberating. A closer loook shows that it is quite the opposite.

There are pleasures of a sort that is available, and there are terrors too. Evil spirits are able to produce stunning supernatural effects, unsuspected dimensions of the weird, full of colour and radiance and silvered lightning – and they are equally able to produce extremes of terror and chaotic, crashing misperceptions. Therein lies the difference between a so called  “goood trip” and a “bad trip”.

In closing of this chapter; I will not dwell too much on drugs and its use within religion. I think it is obvious to the born again believer that one is not to get involved with such practices.

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