Sunday, January 13, 2008

Worship in Spirit

Reflecting over Practically Walking in Spirit II, 1/11/07, I realize most Christians would accept what I have written as a basic understanding of overcoming sin. This post seeks to explore further an in spirit experience, which is not a task I expect will be accomplished fully as it is larger than my understanding. Nonetheless, stirring thinking and feeling over the topic is fruitful for spiritual growth. Hopefully anyone reading these posts as a series will have picked up on a flow of thought. I will work soon on a summary.

Jesus identified the two great commandments:
And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind: and your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27

I find the absence of "spirit" from the list of how we shall love God significant. However, the omission is logical.

Consider these words of Jesus:
"But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." John 4:22-23

Here an absence of the words heart, mind, soul, and strength, which are often heard in a description of the human being worshiping God, is noticed.

Consider the following scripture:
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12.

Though a larger meaning of the Hebrews verse is within the flow of context, I highlight 4:12 here to establish the spirit is not the soul and the soul is not the spirit. Considering this, the use of spirit in the context of worshiping God, and its absence in the context of loving God provides insight into a meaningful separation of these two terms. I suggest the following: the soul is the essence of the human which dwells in the body. It is both mind and heart in tandem. It is the individual and his or her unique personality. The soul will move to an existence out of the body after death of the body. The spirit is separate from the soul. The spirit is birthed by God when one receives by faith the spiritual work, effect and efficacy of the Atonement. Hence the phrasing in the NT, “born of the spirit” used three times by Jesus in John 3.

The word spirit is a reference with some measure of nuance, but in its broadest sense is an inclusive term of the life and light of God, and He is described simply as spirit. Narrowing from this broadest sense to the least human experience of the term, one may be alive in the body, fully experiencing one’s own soul yet be completely dead, and thus, in the dark in spirit. I think this is what Jesus means when He refers to living bodies with souls as “the dead” in Matthew 8:22 stating, “...let the dead bury the dead.” In the middle of that spectrum of usage is the Christian born of the spirit.

Using an analogy, I am perfectly capable of driving at night. Darkness all around me will not hinder my starting the car and manipulating it forward as mechanically designed. However, if I do not turn on the headlights, my driving will be less than successful. My knowledge of driving may be likened to the intellect; my desire to move forward is my heart; the car is my body for movement. The darkness all around is my beginning and end, and the ride anywhere will be rough--unless I turn on the headlights, the spirit.

Our souls, the fullness of our hearts and minds, are renewed by and ever toward loving God because being in spirit has turned on the light. We are instructed to be in this supernatural communion between Him and us for worship. Our worship of God is a state of the conceptualizing, imagining, beholding, and identifying Him to reverence Him as the all in all. Here is the challenge: accept that in doing so, we are experiencing Him within us. Is the prayer experience a speaking to God in heaven? Why would we see Him as so distant from us? He is not just observing us; He has determined to join Himself to us. I think this is supported by John, chapter 17. Our spiritual knowledge is separate from natural understanding and through the in-dwelling Holy Spirit knows the Truth, Jesus. This spiritual knowledge develops our mode of living as a human. We shift from the limited, dark knowledge of our natural soul, into someone illuminated from within by the way of being which is in heaven. (Living from the soul may express scripture and give verbal assent to an intellectual understanding of Truth, and yet fail to be in spirit...another post maybe?) The human mechanism on our end is the direction of our will to submit to the conscience as it is filled by Him. This daily act is not about introspection and attempting to fix our own problems through any human means or understanding. It is about trusting in Jesus to lead, guide, and comfort while He completes the work within us He has authored.

The consequence of fully interacting in faith with an in-dwelling Christ is to realize more completely the illuminated life which is in spirit. How abundantly we are then released to the fullest of our capacity to love God with all our mind, heart, soul and strength, and our neighbor as ourself!


Craig V. said...

I'm not sure I can get quite as much out of Hebrews 4:12. It seems to me that this verse supports both that 'soul' and 'spirit' have different meanings and that soul and spirit are intimately related (so that the power of the word is evident in that it can pierce them). From my Grrek, I seem to recall that 'spirit' is the animating principle or, to make the language more down to earth, our spirit is what makes us alive. I believe that all have spirits, in the way the Scriptures use this word, but I agree that apart from the Holy Spirit we live a kind of death. I'll have to think on this some more after others have commented.

On a personal note (if that's allowed) I lost a close friend over the weekend. Please keep me in your prayers.

ded said...

You are, of course, correct again. It is very encouraging to have you as a reader! It seems to me that this verse supports both that 'soul' and 'spirit' have different meanings and that soul and spirit are intimately related (so that the power of the word is evident in that it can pierce them).
In analyzing, I was deliberately separating them to make a point; but they are never so separate as to be disengaged from one another.

I believe, the Spirit of the Lord is the life force of the new creature; and the spirit of the age, the anti-christ is the life force of the fallen nature.

Sorry to hear of your loss.
Praying for you is a given.

Craig V. said...

I like the term 'life force' and also the distinction between the Spirit of the Lord and the spirit of the age. This also seems to me to fit Paul's distinction between the spirit and the flesh.

Steve Sensenig said...

I confess that I've never taken the time to figure out what is meant by "spirit" vs. "soul" and what differences, if any, exist.

I always find your insights very...well, insightful! And you've given me more to think about in this.

Have I mentioned lately how glad I am that you're blogging? :)

Hope to see you again soon.

ded said...

Hey steve,

Always fun to have you visit here and comment.

It might well be asked, "What difference does separating the terms matter, since these two components of our being are not disengaged?" My post tomorrow will attempt to describe why I think this line of thinking may benefit the Christian. Come back tomorrow!

ded said...

Steve, et al,

I spoke too soon. Josiah and Meredith (son and daughter-in-law)
spent the night at home last night. I had no time to write...maybe tomorrow while the snow flies!