Sanctification:  Restoring the Soul through the Word of God

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A well-worn Bible
We really stretched our spiritual muscles in our last exercise—Sanctification: Restoring the Soul through Prayeras we learned how the Holy Spirit teaches us to talk to our Heavenly Father through prayer, and how He uses those prayers to…

Make us One with the Father in His Person; and,
Make us One with the Father in His Purpose.

 Additionally, through these prayers He opens up an emotional “love-line” between God and us; creating a place where we are free to express our deepest feelings and concerns without censure; and where, as our spirits and hearts become united with God’s over time, we are able to absorb and share in the things which are nearest and dearest to His heart.

Prayer, however, isn’t the only tool that the Holy Spirit uses in the restoration of our souls; He also relies on the Word of God to instruct us on how to listen to God, and to discern His will.  In much the same way that the Spirit employs prayer to bring our hearts into one accord with the Father’s, He uses the Word to transform our minds from ones programmed for evil by the world, our flesh, and the devil, into ones which have been rewired for righteousness by God—that is, ones having been brought into alignment with the very mind of Christ. 

Mind Under Construction

Mind Under Construction

For some insight into this mind, we need look no further than Philippians 2:5-8, where the Spirit through the Apostle Paul admonishes us to…

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by being obedient, to the point of death, even death on the cross. 

This sort of humble, selfless mindset certainly doesn’t resemble the ones we brought with us into our new relationships with God; rather, ours was more like the one described in Ephesians 4:17-18…

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.  They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 

To put it another way, while they were in their unregenerate states…

…our minds served no useful purpose as far as God and His kingdom were concerned;
…our mind’s ability to grasp or comprehend the Truth of the Gospel was clouded over;
…our minds were estranged from and even hostile to God;
…our minds were uneducated or untaught in the ways of God; all because…
…our hearts were rigidly firm in their will and purpose, and not easily penetrated by the Truth of God’s Word…

 …conditions which were due to the fact that…

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14). 

All of this changed, however, when we were Born Again and the Holy Spirit moved in with us, beginning the transformation of our once darkened minds into ones filled with the light and life of Christ—and, ones in complete agreement with the will and purpose of God our Father.  A change as radical as this, though, isn’t something that takes place very quickly or easily.  It can only be brought about as we, who were previously uneducated and untaught in the ways of God, begin to learn…

Who God really is;
What His purposes are for mankind;
What His plans are for the earth; and,
The means He uses to see that these plans and purposes are achieved. 

Since this kind of information is not and has never been available to the minds of natural men, in order for us to obtain it, we must trust the Holy Spirit for its provision; for, it is He who…

…searches everything, even the depths of God.  For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him?

So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.  And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Holy Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual (1 Cor. 2:10-13).

And, it is these spiritual truths which He has made available to us is the Bible, the Spirit-inspired training manual on God and His Ways—and, the book also known to us as the Word of God.

Truth is


The Bible as the Word of God 

Although we often hear it spoken of as such, what do we really mean when we say that the Bible is the Word of God?  Well, in checking the dictionary for the meaning of the word “Word,” we find it formally defined as…

…a unit of language, consisting of one or more spoken sounds or their written representation, that functions as a principal carrier of meaning…[1]

…which is just a fancy way of saying that a word is the spoken or written representation of a person’s thoughts—a definition wholly consistent with the way it is used in John 1:1-4—where, the Word spoken of is a Person, who is none other than Jesus Christ

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

In this passage, the Greek term used for Word is logos which, roughly translated, means collected thought and wisdom and, in this case, refers to the collected thought and wisdom of God.  That is, in describing Jesus as the logos of God, John is saying that Jesus is the embodiment of the collected thought and wisdom of God, who was spoken into the world, not only during its creation and throughout all human history, but also in His Incarnation—something which he makes clear later in John 1:14, where he tells us that…

the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

In essence, he is saying that everything God thought about truth, righteousness, holiness, love, compassion, humility, mercy, grace, integrity, strength, perseverance, selflessness, and so much more, was expressed to us in Jesus.  And, not only that, everything that God intended for mankind to be was manifested in the flesh for us by Jesus.  As the righteous and obedient Son who came to carry out His Father’s will on the earth, He was, is, and always will be the Divine Template for what a Child of God should be like; and, He will be the One against whom we will all be measured—that is, as we all…

…attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.  Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ (Eph. 4:13-15).

It is this Word, then—this collected thought and wisdom of God made visible to us in the Person of Jesus—that the Holy Spirit has scribed, or written down, in a book called the Bible.


What We Need to Know about the Bible

When we speak of the Bible, what we are actually referring to is the collection of books considered to be the sacred texts of both Judaism and Christianity.  The word itself comes from the Greek word biblia, the plural form of biblion, which is a diminutive of biblos—the word meaning book.  It got its name because books were originally made from byblos, or papyrus—the plant that was used to make parchment, or the material upon which books were written.  Byblos was also the name of the Phoenician city that exported papyrus to other parts of the ancient world.

The Jewish Bible, written mostly in Hebrew, came first and consisted of three parts:  the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings.  Later, when the Christian Bible came into being, it was written in Greek, Latin, and Syriac, and contained the same books of the Hebrew Bible, only in a different order—and, with the books of the New Testament added to it.  In order to distinguish between the Jewish and the Christian Scriptures, the terms “Old Testament” and “New Testament” were introduced, and were in general usage by the end of the second century AD.  Although the Greek word for testament is usually translated as “will,” the Hebrew for it is translated as “covenant.”  Therefore, when we speak of the “Old” and “New” Testaments, what we are actually referring to are the covenants that God made with His people during each of these two eras.

Now, in order to add to our knowledge about and to enhance our study of the Bible, there are a few more things that we need to understand about it—the first being, it is unlike any other book that has ever been written.  It is unique in all of literature because it is the only trustworthy source of God’s words—and of His self-revelation to mankind—that exists in the world.  Actually, the Bible is not just one book but a collection of books—sixty-six, to be exact—that have been arranged in a systematic, progressive, and comprehensive way so that God’s revelation of Himself could be made known and understandable to any and all who chose to receive it.  Although it was transcribed by many men over the course of fifteen hundred years, men who employed a variety of genres and styles in its recording, it is remarkably consistent in its message, in its portrayal of the person and purposes of God, and in its honest representation of the nature and character of humanity.

The only way to explain such a consistency in its content over so great a period of time is to say that, in spite of its having so many human scribes, the Bible has only one author—and that author is God Himself.  Only the One who is able to declare that…

…I the Lord do not change… (Mal. 3:6), and …I am God, and there is none other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done (Is. 46: 9-10)…

…could be capable of accurately documenting a story which transcended the generations of the very ones who took part in recording it.  Through the means of divine inspiration, or through the intimate involvement of His Spirit, God made known His thoughts and words to a select group of men, and then He guided them in the ways in which those thoughts and words were to best be presented.  While each presentation reflected the personality of the man who was doing the writing, as well as the times during which he lived, the words were always God’s; words which repeatedly conveyed the timeless truths that every man and every generation should know.

Scribes at work on the Word

We learn more about this matter of inspiration in 2 Timothy 3:16, where we are told that the Bible was…

… breathed out by God and [is] profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

This breathing out by God means that the words of the Bible were imparted directly by the Spirit of God, an impartation which made the Bible a living book imbued with power.  Hebrews 4:12 confirms this when it tells us that…

…the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

In other words, as a living book, the Word of God is able to penetrate our innermost beings in order to confront us with the truth about God and ourselves, and to convict us of our deviations from, or our rejections of, that truth.  As the only real source of truth in the world, the Bible, then, becomes the only trustworthy guidebook which man has for life.  Not only does it teach him how to live successfully—that is, to live like Jesus—in the here and now, it also instructs him on how he can obtain eternal life, or the life in the hereafter, which God has promised to give to those who will come to Him through faith in Jesus.

Since God’s purpose in authoring the Bible was to make Himself known to mankind, it would follow that He intended His Book to be for all people of all time, and that it was not something reserved for just Christians and Jews.  This would mean that everything in it would have application, at some point, for every person who has ever lived, and that its principles and truths would be so universal that they would be relevant to every age and every culture.  This would make it possible for even the most seemingly disparate people to be able to comprehend them; meaning that the peasants working in the rice patties of ancient China, the tribesmen hunting for heads in the jungles of Africa, twenty-first century penthouse dwellers, and kings and con men throughout each generation would all be able to learn the truth presented within its pages.

The Bible is about Jesus

Some of the other things about it that we need to know are…

The Bible is a multi-layered presentation of truth.  By that, I mean that it presents us with a number of important truths, on several different levels or dimensions, all at the same time.  Through the stories of real people, who are taking part in real life activities, at real times in human history, we not only learn important lessons that we can use in our everyday lives, we also learn about God’s prophetic or future plans for all of mankind, for the earth, and for His enemies, and learn about the person and character of God, as well.

The Bible is consistent in its method of teaching.  Throughout the Bible, the way in which God explains spiritual truths to us is by taking the things with which we are familiar and using them to teach us about those things which are beyond our comprehension—that is, He takes the things that we can see, which are temporal or earthly in nature, to explain those things that we cannot see, because they are spiritual and eternal in nature.  And, toward this end, He purposefully incorporated things in His creation which He could use for His divine illustrations.

The Bible is ALL about Jesus.  He is there at the very beginning, He is there at the very end, and He is there in every chapter and verse in between.  Throughout the Old Testament, He is seen covertly—that is, some aspect of His Person is hidden within the pictures or types that were created by the lives of the Old Testament characters; and, He is represented in each of the feasts and in the rituals of the Old Testament system of worship.  In the New Testament, though, He is seen overtly or openly, making His appearance in the flesh as the fulfillment of each of those Old Testament pictures or types—and, as the physical manifestation to us of the collective thought and wisdom of God!  And, it is through His application of this thought and wisdom, which permeates every page of the Bible, that the Holy Spirit is able to transform our minds from the carnal to the spiritual, to restore our souls to their original function as mediators, and to teach us how to…

…prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Rom. 12:2).

Restoring the Mind and Emotions

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2Instead of our usual musical selection, and to add to our understanding of the Bible we have been talking about, here is the video, “The Bible:  The Story Behind the Story,”  which is also available for viewing in our Video Vault…

 

 

 

[1] word. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/word (accessed: June 04, 2016).

Treasures of Truth…

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During the course of our previous two visits, we learned two important things:  that God, for some reason, has chosen to use trees to tell His story of redemption; and, that God, for some reason, has chosen to use me, a very reluctant prophet, to give you an explanation for that choice.  But that presents something of a challenge, doesn’t it; I mean, how is it possible for any of us to know the mind of God concerning issues of this or any other kind?  After all, God is Big and we are small, God is Spirit and we are flesh, God is Infinite and we are finite, and God is Holy and we are not.  How, then, can we—the small, fleshly, finite, and sinful ever begin to understand Him—the Big, the Spiritual, the Infinite, and the Holy?

Amazingly, God has made that possible for us through:

  • The gift of His Spirit…

    The Spirit of Truth who comes to live within us when we are born again; and,

    The Spirit of Truth who, according to Jesus in John 16:13, 14, will guide you into all truth…for He will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

  • The provision of His Word…

    ...which was in the beginning with God, and was God (John 1:1);

    …which was breathed out by God, and…”profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16);”

    …whose unfolding gives light and imparts understanding to the simple (Ps. 119:130); and,

    …the sum of which is Truth (Ps. 119:160).

  • The wisdom that has been made available to us through prayer, for…

    If any of you lacks wisdom let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him (James 1:5);” and,

    Yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding; if you seek it like silver and search for it as hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord [for, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” (Prov. 1:7)] and find the knowledge of God.  For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity… (Prov. 2:3-7).

Therefore, when the time comes for us to try and plumb the depths of God’s reasoning about anything, the first thing we must do is pray for wisdom and expect the Holy Spirit to be ready, willing, and able to guide us into the truth that we are seeking.  Next, we need to get out our picks and shovels, or the tools which will help us as we begin digging for the treasures of truth that are hidden in God’s Word.  Two such tools are:  an understanding of the way that God reveals Himself to us; and, an understanding of the way that God teaches us about spiritual things.

Of course, the most obvious way that God reveals Himself to us is through the things that He says—after all, His Word isn’t called His Word for no reason.  However, an equally revealing way, and one that is often overlooked, is through the things that He doesthat is, in the way that He acts in a given situation, as well as in the way that He relates to the people involved in those situations.

For instance, from the very beginning of the Bible, we are introduced to a God who purposefully separates things, repeatedly making divisions or distinctions between them, before passing judgments upon them.  We see this taking place throughout the creation story, where, in Genesis 1:1, we learn that God’s intentions were to create two separate and distinct realms of existence, the heavens and the earth; while in the verses that follow, we learn how He went about doing that.  The process was simple:  He spoke, His Word was activated by the hovering Holy Spirit, then that which was spoken became reality; the results, on the other hand, were beyond impressive:

  • God spoke light into darkness, separated the light from the darkness, and then He gave them distinctive names;
  • God commanded the waters to be divided by an expanse or an atmosphere, with this resulting in the creation of the heavens;
  • God commanded the waters under the heavens to be collected and set apart so that dry land could emerge, thus creating the earth;
  • God called vegetation to come forth from the newly created earth, separating it into distinct kinds;
  • God then went on to separate day from night, season from season, fish from fowl, and one kind of living creature from another;
  • Then, God created man, separate and distinct from all the other living creatures, and gave him dominion over all of His other works;
  • Finally, God separated the woman from the man in order to provide him with the companion and helper that he would need in life; and,
  • All of this God judged to be good and very good.

This revelation of a God who divides, separates, and then judges, is an extremely important one for us to remember; for it will be a recurring theme throughout scripture, one eventually leading us to the final division and judgment of humanity at the Great White Throne spoken of in Revelation 20:11ff, but it will also prove to be essential to our eventual understanding of the part that trees play in God’s story of redemption.

Now, as for discovering how to use the second tool in our treasure hunting arsenal—that is, an understanding of the way that God teaches us about spiritual truthslet’s look at Romans 1:19-20 to see what insights the Apostle Paul can give us on that subject.  There, he says…

For what can be known about God is plain to them [men], because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.  So they [men] are without excuse.  

To me, this is one of the most profound and enlightening verses in scripture because in just fifty-two words, we learn:

  • That God has manifested or made known to us such otherwise inexplicable concepts as His eternal power and divine nature (some translations say “His eternal power and godhead”) through the things that He has made; and,
  • That, in order to do so, God intentionally incorporated things into the natural world that could later be used as living illustrations or object lessons for some spiritual truth or reality.

This is just another way of informing us that God’s method of teaching has always been to take the known and use it to explain the unknown; or, in other words, to use the things that we can see and are familiar with to explain those things that are beyond the reach of our normal comprehension.

As you may recall, this was the same method that Jesus used when teaching His disciples the spiritual truths that they needed to know.  When Jesus wanted His disciples to understand the spiritual realities of who He was, He used such common ordinary things as bread, water, light, darkness, birth and death to make those things known to them.  And when He wanted to teach them what the kingdom of heaven was like, He used parables, or stories about events in everyday life—such as sowing, reaping, marriage, feasts and celebrations—to explain what life would be like in the coming kingdom of God.  Teaching in this way certainly wasn’t new, nor did it originate during the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry; in reality, Jesus was just doing what He had seen His Father do since the dawn of time—use the known to explain the unknown.

Now that we have been equipped with a rudimentary knowledge of the tools of that we will be using for the job, it is time for us to begin digging for the treasures of truth that God has hidden for us in the trees–a task which we will undertake when we meet together the next time.

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2

 

Searching for truth isn’t always easy, as Sanctus Real reminds us in “These Things Take Time…”