January 20: We Are Embodied Souls

Before we move on, let’s explore one more implication of the fact that we are living souls.

Genesis 2:7. Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person (soul). NLT.

We’ve been saying that God gave us a spirit and a body and when they come together a person becomes a soul, a nephesh, a human. What this means is that we must take a holistic view of man. We are body and spirit and soul. All three.

spirit soul and body

Our culture today seeks to separate the body and the person (or soul). We can see this in the society all around us:

  • Abortion: the fetus is a living body, but not yet a person.
  • Euthanasia: the person is not viable, so the body can be terminated.
  • Sexual liberation: intercourse is no big deal, while sexuality defines the person.
  • Homosexuality: the body is designed as one gender, but sexuality (the free person inside) is expressed as the opposite gender.
  • Transgenderism: “I’m trapped in the wrong body.” My true person is not determined by my biological sex.
  • Body obsession: My body is simply a tool I use to express my true person or to find my true identity.

Each of these takes a low view of the physical body. And each of these creates a divide between body and soul. All of this is not rooted in Genesis of course. It is rooted in history’s movement towards a “facts/values split.” Over the past couple hundred years we have adopted a fragmented worldview. Science is separated from theology. Then the objective is separated from the subjective. Then facts are separated from values. Finally the body is separated from the soul.

Jesus came to reveal to us the unity of the body, soul, and spirit. He is the incarnation of God. He came in the body to show us what Genesis said from the beginning– the body is good and animated by the spirit, and together the give a portal to the soul — the true person.

If “to live is Christ” then we must accept that the life of Christ in us will control not just our spirit, but also our body and our soul. He died for it all. We must submit it all to him.

Romans 12:1. I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. NLT.

For the deep thinkers out there, here is a conversation about embodied spirituality (including James. K. A. Smith whose book I used for yesterday’s blog).

For the rest of us, here’s a CCM classic about God using us body and soul.

I am indebted to Nancy Pearcey’s book Love Thy Body for many of today’s thoughts.

January 19: A New Narrative

You are a living soul. You have a spirit and you have a body, but you are a soul. You are desire. Therefore you become what you love. You become what you worship.

Here’s an example:

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And this:

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And how about this:

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Yes, I know these are all extremes (or are they?), but somewhere deep inside we know this to be true, that whatever we find glorious, beautiful, empowering, or fulfilling we will worship and thus we will become. In the Bible this is called idolatry. An idol is something that both takes the place of God, and removes humanity from its place of imaging God. A thing, or status, or feeling, or relationship becomes the image of God to us, but it was never intended to carry that weight. And ultimately it will fail and leave you heart broken.

The Source of  Life

God is the source of true fulfilling, beauty, glory, and power. Through Christ, God has written a narrative for us that fulfills these desires and motivates our worship. This narrative is written in the pages of scripture and written in our image bearing souls. It’s a story that we all find to be glorious and beautiful- the story of unconditional love and self sacrifice.

The Signs of Life

The new life inside of us, Christ’s life, must be the power for a new life story.  A new narrative arc if you will. Is your life story something like “I shop therefore I am?” Or is it “I find love through flirting?” Or something else?

Christ brings us a new narrative. A new story to be a part of. A new social imaginary. A new way of seeing all of life. Because we are souls we will worship. And because we are souls filled with the life of Christ, we can worship God in and through Christ. We can love what he loves.

So what do you worship each day? What do you pursue? Are you pursuing the love of Christ? Are you listening to the story of God’s loving pursuit of you, or are you listening to the stories of false loves, and unsatisfied dreams?

As you ponder these questions, here’s the new narrative as told by Jimmy Needham. Enjoy.

January 18: To Live is to Worship

 

To live is Christ. To live is to worship. To live is to desire. Therefore to live is to align my desires with Christ’s.

As we have seen from Genesis, man is a living soul. Man is desire. First and foremost this is what makes us human. This is image bearing – to desire and to desire God. What this means is that one of the most important questions that we must be asking every single day is “what do I desire?” Or in discipleship, “what do you desire?”

We have been told we are primarily thinking creations. “I think therefore I am.”

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But what if Rene Descartes was wrong? What if our thinking is influenced by something even deeper? Just think about all the times you have known something but acted differently (maybe like Paul’s self description in Romans 7). This is not to say that we need less knowledge. We need more. But we need to understand that love must precede knowledge if there is actually going to be life change.

Philippians 1:9-11. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Note Paul’s progression here. Love must abound first, before knowledge. Knowledge without love is actually dangerous. And knowledge alone can’t change anyone’s heart. But love can. Love is poured into us by God himself. It comes to us in the indwelling life of Christ. It is from this Spirit induced love that we then seek knowledge- knowledge that won’t be used to destroy but to build up. Knowledge used to increase and display the love that is inside of us.

We live to love. We live to worship. We are all seeking something. Something to worship. And we are seeking it all the time.

The question of life is not “do you long for something?” It is “what do you long for?” Jesus Christ and his gospel gives us an ultimate reality to long for. Ultimate love. Ultimate grace. Ultimate healing. Ultimate purpose. Ultimate glory. Ultimate life. To live is to worship, and worship (desire directed love) is what will keep us running towards Christ’s life.

January 17: Desire v Desire

We are souls, which means we are desire. The imago dei in us means that we not only have desire like God, but that we also desire something beyond us, that is God.

Often Christians think that the key to the successful Christian life is to suppress or deny all desire. In this sense we are adopting an Eastern way of thinking. The Eastern religions tell us that the key to happiness is to desire nothing so that you are never disappointed. Attachment, they say, is what causes suffering, therefore the way to eliminate suffering is to eliminate desire or to not love anything too much.

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But this is not the way of the indwelling life of Christ, and it is not the path that the Bible teaches for us.

Galatians 5:16-17. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

The path of life is not one of desire suppression. It is one of desire fulfillment. Galatians 5 (above) describes a battle of desire happening in our souls. Victory comes by “walking with the Spirit” so that the desires of the Spirit over power the desires of the flesh (selfishness).

Now don’t worry, on our journey together this year we will talk all kinds of ways about the Spirit, and the flesh, and how all of this is connected to Christ. But for now, what we need to understand is that desire is good. Desire comes from the source of life (God) and is a sign of life. Desires are proof of life.

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To live by the indwelling life of Christ is to live from desire. It is to let all desires lead to Christ himself. It is in this way that we will find victory over all other desires that would compete for our deepest affections and thus seek to enslave us. The desire for Christ must outweigh the desire for the things of the flesh. And of course it can, because Christ can fully satisfy all of our deepest longings.

January 16: Deeper Desire

As we saw yesterday, we are living souls. That is, we are living desire. To be alive is to desire. When we talk about living we are talking about desiring.

Humans are living souls, but so are the animals. We have desires and so do they.

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Genesis 1:24. And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures [souls] according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.

So what separates us from animals? The image of God. And the desires we have that flow from the imago dei. Humans desire love, justice, grace, forgiveness, righteousness, honor, security- in short we desire things that are bigger than us.

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Our spirit of life was breathed into us by God. Therefore our desires image God’s desires. Yes we have base physical desires, but unlike the animals, our physical desires reflect deeper emotional and spiritual desires.

This truth becomes very important if we want to understand how to live, and how to live with and from desire. We always choose what we desire. Our affections drive our transformation.  In short, we become what we love (we’ll come back to this later).

2 Corinthians 3:18. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 

We are transformed into Christ by beholding Christ, worshiping him. If “to live is Christ,” then living is desiring Christ. Letting all of our lesser desires point us to a deeper desire for the glory of Christ. And then letting that fulfilled desire for Christ transform all of our lesser desires along the journey, or “from one degree of glory to another.”

 

January 15: Life is Desire

Back on January 11 I got ahead of myself and introduced the idea that we are living souls, but I hadn’t finished laying the foundation of imaging God through impact and intimacy. But today we are ready to pick up that discussion. Go back and read the January 11 post if you can, but here’s a summation: We have been given a body and a spirit from God, which together creates our soul. We ARE a soul.

Genesis 2:7. then the Lord God formed the man of the dust of the ground [body] and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life [spirit], and man became a living soul. 

The word “soul” is the Hebrew word nephesh. This word comes from the root word for throat. We are living throats. The throat is how we eat, drink, and breathe. It is how our physical desires are met.

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The Source of Life

God is the source of life and he is the source of desire. God is a desiring God. He desires love, glory, honor, and respect. But remember, God is not just a giant cosmic egomaniac. He is a Trinity. So when we say God desires things like love and glory, he is thinking of the other members of the Trinity. The Father wants love and glory for the Son. The Spirit for the Son. The Son for the Father, etc.

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The Sign of Life

To be alive is to desire. We are desire. How do we know that we image God? Because we desire. How do we know that we are living from Christ’s life inside of us? Because our desires have changed. Our desires are the same as his.

Stay with me over the next couple of days as discover the importance of desire and its connection to “To live is Christ.”

 

 

January 14: Intimacy With Others

 

We’ve said that God made us to image him through impact and intimacy. Yesterday we explored intimacy with God (a topic we will come back to many times on this journey). Today we want to understand that God doesn’t only want us to have a relationship with him, but also with others.

Genesis 2:18. The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Consider the radical statement that God just made. “It is not good…” As you probably remember so far in the text everything has been “good.” But now suddenly something is “not good.” But that is not the most radical part. God has made a perfect place, a copy of his heavenly temple, in a garden paradise, and has put a “perfect” person there. But this person still needs something more.

Think about the humble nature of our God. He is essentially saying, “people need more than just me, they need each other.” You see God can meet all of our deepest needs, but he can’t meet every need we have. We need other people for that. We need intimacy, love, and acceptance, from each other.

But why would God make us to need other people?

Here again we go back to imaging God. God is a giver. A sharer. A sacrificer. This is what love is. If all we had was God we would not be able to sacrifice and give. We wouldn’t be able to love unconditionally. So Adam alone would not be good.

Christ came to give us his life. And this life includes intimacy with God, but also intimacy with others. It includes learning to love unconditionally. Christ himself is the fulfillment of Genesis 2:18. It is not good that man should be alone. Because of Christ we are never alone. Never separated from the God-man. We can have intimacy with God and intimacy with mankind. And that is good.