Feeding the Whole Person on Easter
© C. O. Bishop 4/13/17 THCF 4/16/17
1st Thessalonians 5:23, and others
One of the interesting things we learn in the Bible is that the human being consists of three parts…one could say we are a triune being, as is God…but it is not quite true. My body is not the real me…and, even my soul is only part of me. And my spirit is not intended to exist separate from a body and soul.
God says that He knows the difference (completely) between the soul and the spirit of Man. He says that we believers are to be preserved complete—body, soul, and spirit—until the coming of the Lord. (1st Thessalonians 5:23 “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.”)
So, though we have some confusion about the differences, God does not. He will give us new, immortal bodies, and our spirits and souls will be eternally in tune with His Spirit. We look forward to the fulfillment of these promises.
We show our confusion about the invisible portions of a human in that we tell people to follow their heart, when God says our heart (soul) is deceitful…that it is not to be trusted. In fact, over in James, where God gives us some New Testament truth about wisdom, he specifically says that the soul is not a good source for wisdom.
13 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.14 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.
The word translated “sensual” in that verse, is the Greek word “psuchikos”—meaning “soulish”: coming from the soul. We can easily be deceived by our own souls, even as believers. I have heard people say things like “Eat chocolate! It’s good for the soul!” when evidently they only mean “it makes you feel good about life.” After I had heart-surgery, they gave me oxycodone—that made me feel good about life, too…but it was deceitful, and potentially addictive. I needed genuine healing, not just medicine that made me feel great for a while! As soon as I could, I got off that medicine, but it was hard, because, just like everyone else, I like to feel good. I needed physical nourishment and healing. But I am not just a body: I am also a soul, and a spirit.
So, how do we feed the whole person: body, soul and spirit…especially at Easter?
Feeding the Body
Feeding the body is no great trick, but it can be done well, or it can be done badly. There are tribal people in South America (Venezuela– the Yanoamo people) who chew certain leaves because they stave off hunger and thirst, and make them have a lot of energy. I’ll bet you can guess what those leaves are: Yep, they are coca leaves. They know they need food, water and rest, but on a long hike through the jungle, they take those leaves along, knowing that they will “feel better” as they travel. It is a pretty mild dose of cocaine, but still not a healthy choice.
So, we make healthy choices in food as best we can, in varying degrees. Some people are simply thinking basic food groups, and some not even that. Some folks, if you aren’t a trained dietician, you will not even understand what they are doing when they plan a meal. And some folks just eat whatever they like, whenever they are hungry. We vary all over the board on that, but we all feed our bodies. We get hungry, and we seek nourishment. This morning, for instance, we began with a fellowship breakfast downstairs, and everyone fed their bodies, and felt satisfied. But what about our souls? Perhaps our souls were being fed, as well, if we engaged in fellowship.
Feeding the Soul
How do you feed a soul? Our souls look for peace, and happiness, and feelings of fulfillment. Fellowship can provide that. Some folks enjoy the catharsis of a good cry, and they watch a tear-jerker movie. Some people thrive on adrenalin, so they either take risks themselves, or watch videos of those who take such risks… they watch action movies, or horror movies, thrillers, chillers, or something. They like the feeling of drama, so they read books or watch plays or movies that fill them with the sensations they crave.
Are these healthy diets for a soul? Well…depending on the subject matter or the activity, actually, yes, they could be. Engaging in competitive sports, running, whitewater rafting, or skiing could be quite healthy. Making things that require skill and patience, whether in stitchery or carpentry, can “feed the soul” on the satisfaction of a job well done. Enduring the daily drama of rearing children, and seeing those children grow to be productive members of society, and then feeling the satisfaction and relief of their maturation process, is a healthy sort of drama.
But there are unhealthy dramas, too, and some people feed their desire for drama on social conflicts, politicking, and gossip, or bullying and manipulating those around them. That is pretty bad food for the soul, and addictive, as well, as it feeds our sin nature’s desire for power.
Can we have unhealthy food for the soul in church? Some people would say we had an unhealthy physical meal this morning, because it wasn’t tofu and greens…but that meal was a special treat, and one we don’t engage in every day.
We could have an especially heart-rending story in a sermon or a testimony that wrings us out emotionally, and moves us at a soul-level. That can be perfectly healthy…or not.
The problem is: emotional drama is addictive, and we mistake it for spiritual food. On a once-in-a-while basis, there is nothing wrong with emotional drama, but as a matter of habit, it tends to take the place of healthy food, just as the coca leaves took the place of healthy food, water and rest, for the jungle tribesmen. But they knew not to do it all the time. We don’t seem to know the limit…we look for more and more emotional highs, and hope for more “signs” from God.
But God says that such things are not necessarily from Him. The false prophets in Jeremiah’s time had dreams and visions…but God says that they caused those dreams, themselves. They deceived themselves and others. He was not the source. (Jeremiah 23:25, 26)
We have read sensational books and watched movies about Jesus, which itemized every blow, every wound, and every drop of blood during the crucifixion, and stressed the emotional impact on the lives of the disciples, as well as upon Jesus himself. We agonize with Jesus at Gethsemane, and cringe at the deadly pain he endured for us. All of these things are true, and, to some extent, they are healthy soul-food, so long as you equally rejoice at the resurrection, and are galvanized to action by His ascension, His final commands, and His indwelling Holy Spirit.
But if all we want is the emotional drama, then, in the long run we are not much better off than the folks watching sad movies, and the like. I am covered by the blood of the cross…I don’t need to “have my nose rubbed in it” on a regular basis. I remember His sacrifice, and I am overwhelmed that He chose to die for me. I don’t see myself as someone that would even be attractive to God. But for some reason, “God so loved the World…”
I don’t have to understand it…I don’t even have to “feel” it. I only have to choose to believe it by faith, and receive His gift of eternal life. My soul will be fed as I walk with Jesus. I will experience all the reasonable, valid emotions just as He did, without any false drama, or self-induced emotional turmoil or ecstasy. But…How do we feed the Spirit?
Feeding the Spirit
When each of us who are believers placed our faith, individually, in Jesus’ shed blood at the Cross, as being full payment for our sins, we were born again, as children of the living God. And He says, that, as babies, we need to develop an appetite…that we must sincerely desire… what? Not emotional upheavals and turmoil of the soul, but rather “the sincere milk of the Word” of God, “that we may grow thereby.” (1st Peter 2:2)
What part of us does God’s Word primarily “feed?” It primarily feeds the spirit. We are born again with a new nature, and our spirits are alive to God, and hungry for His presence. Can it also feed the soul? Absolutely! As we read His word, we can be thrilled by the exquisite joy of seeing God at work. We are grieved at the hardness of the hearts of humanity. We are fearful of the judgment of God, and desire to be freed from our sins and our guilt. All those feed the soul.
We feed our spirits by taking in God’s Word. So, when we consider the Crucifixion, and Resurrection, and Ascension, we need to apply our attention to what God actually says about it, so that our Spirits are fed: not just “how do we feel about it”, which excites the soul, but leaves the inner man un-nourished.
So, What Does the Scripture Say?
- To begin with, it says that the entire human race fell into sin with Adam. He was our representative, and when he fell, we fell with him. (Romans 3:23; Romans 5:12)
- Then it says that the result of sin is death: separation from God. That was our natural state…and, had we died in that position, we would have been eternally separated from Him. (Romans 6:23a)
- It also says that God reached out in Love, to save the whole human race…he offered a free gift of salvation to anyone who trusts in Him. (Romans 6:23b)
- That gift is offered in the person of His son. God says the eternal life he offers is in His son. Whoever has the Son has the life. Whoever does not have the son, does not have the life. (1st John 5:11, 12)
- He says that Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies, and that he came specifically to do that, in the course of offering us eternal life. (Luke 24:25-26)
- God says the good news (the Gospel) of salvation is of first importance, and that it consists of the following truths:
- Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.
- He was buried in fulfilment of the scriptures.
- He rose again the third day, also in order to fulfill scripture.
The Death and Burial and Resurrection of Jesus are the core issues of the Gospel, which, being believed in, is the power of God, to save those who believe. (Romans 1:16)
We understand the death of the savior, that it had to happen, or we would still be in our sins; unforgiven, and hopelessly lost. We see, too, how the burial at least gave testimony that Jesus really died—he was not just “playing possum”, or even in a faint. He was dead. And he spent three days and three nights in the place of the dead, fulfilling yet another prophecy, that he would spend three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
But, what about the Resurrection?
Here’s what the Apostle Paul said about it:
1st Corinthians 15: 17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.
18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.
19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
So, the resurrection had to happen too, or we would still be in our sins, just as surely as if he had never died for us. But he’s Alive! He is Risen! Not only He is alive, but He has ascended to the throne beside God the Father, and eternally represents us there, as our advocate.
Folks, these are facts! I honestly don’t care whether you are “moved”, or stirred by these words: what is important is that you believe them! That you choose to place your dependence on Jesus’s shed blood at the cross as full payment for your sins, personally!
Sometimes I ask people, “Do you believe that Jesus died for your sins?” and they reply, “Oh, I believe He died for the sins of the whole world!” So, I ask again, “But did He die for your sins, personally?” And they repeat their creed that he died for the sins of the world. Do you see the problem? They know the facts, but they are not willing to apply those facts to their own specific case. Perhaps they don’t believe they need a savior. Perhaps they feel that they don’t understand it all. (Well guess what! I don’t either!) We are not required to understand it all. We are required to accept it by faith, apply it to our own personal case, and receive the gift of eternal life. It is just that simple.
The Resurrection is God the Father’s “stamp of approval”, showing us that Jesus was really who He said he was, and that His death and burial really accomplished all that He intended. And we are resurrected with Him, to live our lives for God! Let’s embrace the resurrection in our daily lives, and live because He lives!
Lord Jesus, strengthen us to do your will, and to follow you in our daily lives. Help us to embrace the full value of the Resurrection!