Tag Archives: Spirit


Are you perfect yet?  Me either.  And yet, that is the goal: not ‘pretty good’ but perfect.  Really?  Take it straight from Jesus:

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. “ (Matthew 5:48)

And Paul says, the reason he struggles to teach everyone about “Christ in you”  (See: Don’t Miss This!) is:

“… so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.” (Colossians 1:28b)

You’re thinking, “If following Jesus means I become perfect, then either I’ve failed or the whole thing is a hoax.”  Not to worry; Jesus’ brother, James, wasn’t perfect and he knew we all mess up:

“We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.” (James 3:2)

And Paul knew he wasn’t perfect, not by a long shot.

” Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect,… (Philippians 3:12a)

But he knew that perfection was the ultimate goal:

“…but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Philippians 3:12b)

So, what’s the deal?  If no one attains perfection, how can that be the goal?  Why does Paul work so hard to “present everyone perfect in Christ”?  It’s the last two words, “in Christ,” that make all the difference.  Perfection is something Jesus does, not something we attain by our own striving.  It comes for all believers in the future, at the end of the age and the renewal of all things .

But right here and now, it is important for us to know that the word, perfect, in Greek, also means, complete.  And that helps us understand.  When someone trusts Jesus, Jesus completes that person by installing the essential, missing piece, His eternal life and Spirit in their soul (See: Don’t Miss This).  Their connection with God is restored immediately and the process by which He will one day  perfect them begins.  All that has been prepaid by the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

“But when this priest [Jesus] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God… because by one sacrifice he has made perfect [complete]  forever those who are being made holy [perfect].” (Hebrews 10:12&14 with my explanations)

So, are you perfect?  Not yet.  But, with Christ alive in you, you will be.

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.


James 3:2; Phil 3:12; 1 Co 13:10; Heb 10:14 & 12:2; Eph 4.13

When You’re Ready

My wife and I got mugged in Savannah, not physically but verbally, by a guy holding a sign and yelling Bible verses at us.  He literally followed us down the street, trying to “save” us by forcing Scripture on us.  He probably thought he was earning brownie points from God.  I was annoyed.  More than that, I was frustrated, wondering how many people he had chased away from God’s grace that day.  If you get accosted by someone shoving God or the Bible down your throat, don’t fight back; run away.  Because God doesn’t work that way.

It’s not that God doesn’t care; He really does.  Jesus’ brother, James, wrote of how God intensely yearns for His Spirit to live in us, just as He intended.  (That is my rough and loose paraphrase of James 4:5)  God is passionate that we be restored to the fullness of spiritual life by having His Spirit alive in us.  He wanted that for us so much He paid a terrible price to accomplish it.

BUT HE DOES NOT FORCE HIMSELF ON US!  He waits for us to be ready.  James continued his thought with this:

“But He [God] gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6 – my explanation in brackets)

“The proud” in that verse are those who think they have life figured out on their own and who have no use for God.  He waits.  Stuff happens.  Sometimes “the proud” become “the humble.”  In the words of Bob Dylan (Like a Rolling Stone)

You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hangin’ out
Now you don’t talk so loud
Now you don’t seem so proud
About having to be scrounging for your next meal

When “the proud” become “the humble,” when they are ready to receive Him, then God approaches.  With grace.  Not with loud, angry shouting.  He sent His Son to find you and rescue you.

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17)

Jesus invited people to come to Him and find rest, saying He was “gentle and humble in heart.”  (Matthew 11:28-30)

I remember seeing a video on Facebook about a guy who rescued an abandoned, starving dog.  The dog was aggressive, unwilling for anyone to approach but the guy just sat there and waited him out.  After a long time, when the dog was ready to receive it, the man gave him “more grace” – care, nourishment, healing and a new life.  There was no yelling involved, no signs, no scolding.  It was very much like my own experience with God, Who waited until I was not so full of myself.  Then, when I was ready to receive His grace, without holding anything against me, He gave me the life of His Son, Jesus.

He waits for you, too.

Quotes:  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
Like a Rolling Stone lyrics: http://www.bobdylan.com/us/songs/rolling-stone#ixzz3UwbEdylf

Powerful Word

What’s the big deal with the “F word?”  Used to be that people would use adjectives to help us understand what they meant.  They would talk about a melodious bird or a twisted relic, a cantankerous geezer or a dog-eared book.  Their descriptive words would jumpstart our imaginations.  Now, they say, “F’n geezer,” or “F’n bird” and my imagination shrivels. My interest sags.  My daughter says I’m old fashioned and that I have allowed the “F word” to have too much power over me.  Power?  I think not. It’s not powerful, it’s lazy.

Let me tell you about a Word with astonishing power, so much so, there’s no word in English that completely conveys it’s meaning.  The Greek word, Logos, is translated in English as “Word.”  But, as it is commonly used in the New Testament, it’s much more than a combination of letters.  Logos means the mindset and understanding of God, the way God thinks and interacts with the reality He created.  Logos is the Greek root for the word, “logic.”   The apostle, John, called Jesus “The Word,” the “Logos.”   He meant that Jesus was the full essence of God’s Mind.  By this he equates Jesus, “The Word,” with God:

” In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)

Logos” is a word with power.  God’s plan to restore humans to their full potential and life, as revealed in both the Old and New Testaments, is to plant His “Logos” in their soul, like a seed that will grow.

““… “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (Jeremiah 31:33b)

“And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezekiel 36:27)

When God’s Logos is planted in us it grows and changes us with power.  His law is put into our minds, His Spirit lives in our soul.  This planting of God’s Logos is made possible as we accept God’s gift of forgiveness and cleansing, paid for by Jesus on the cross.  In Jesus’ words,

“…I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16b-17)

Now, there’s a “Word” with real power, living, growing, transforming power.  Compared to “Logos,” the “F word” has all the power of flattened roadkill.

Now, consider this from Jesus’ brother, James:

“Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” (James 1:21)

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

No Middle Ground

If you don’t love your brother you might just as well murder him.  There is no middle ground.  Hold on!  Step away from the gun.  I am making a point (actually John is) in a blunt way.  There is no middle ground between love and murder when considering whether your actions are motivated by the Holy Spirit or by Satan.  Your actions reveal to whom you belong.  Here’s how John sets it up:

This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:10)

Somebody asks, “Hey, John, what if I just sort of tolerate my brother?  Do I really have to love him?”  John’s response is:

This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. (1 John 3:11-12a)

There is no middle ground.  Any attitude toward your brother that is not produced by the Holy Spirit is motivated ultimately by Satan.  The Spirit produces life; Satan comes to kill and destroy.  John says, you either are a child of God and have His Spirit, or you do not and are a child of Satan. That sounds harsh to us.  We want shades of gray, ambiguity, moral no man’s land.  But spiritual reality leaves no middle ground.  It is like the sharp edge of a sword, dividing one side from another.   Jesus taught this “either-or” message in the sermon on the mount”

 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’  But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Matthew 5:21-22 )

There is no middle ground.  You either are in step with, and powered up by, the Spirit of God, Who gives life, or ultimately serve the one who brings death.  That teaching is tough.  It doesn’t sound reasonable.  But it is true.  We might compare it to the attitude of a college football coach who will not accept anything less than 100% from his players.  Any player who is half-hearted, who simply goes through the motions, might just as well go sit with the other team.  No middle ground. The difference with John’s teaching is that who you are, which “team” you are on, is not based on personal effort but rather on a gift, God’s Gift, His Spirit.  That is why John calls those who live by the Spirit “Children of God.”  They have been born into new life in a new family.  In his Gospel, John explains it:

Yet to all who received him [Jesus], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:12-13)

If this doesn’t rub abrasively against your natural instincts, you should read it again, chew on it some more.  There is more coming…

Accepting the Gift

Unemployed, you have missed the last several mortgage payments on a house worth less than you paid.  You are about to be foreclosed.  A registered letter comes to the door.  You sign for it and tear it open:  “This is to inform you that someone, who would like to remain anonymous, has offered to pay off your mortgage obligations.  If you choose to accept this gift, the bank has agreed to suspend all foreclosure proceedings.”  Nice letter, eh?  Nice gift.

God’s gift to us wipes out the obligations we owe for sin – completely – if we accept it.  His Son, Jesus, Who never sinned and therefore had no personal punishment due, willingly died a brutal and tortuous death to cover what I owed.  And you.  If you accept His gift, God suspends His foreclosure on your life.  God told Isaiah He would do this and told him to write it down:

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.  (Isaiah 53:4-5)

If someone offers to pay off your mortgage, your first response might be something like, “What? Does he think I’m in poverty?  Does he think I can’t do this on my own?  Give me a bit more time and I will get this fixed…”  But if you hang on to that attitude, you won’t accept the offer.   In a sense, accepting his offer involves a willingness to acknowledge that you really do need his help.   In the same way, accepting the gift of Someone Who went to His death on your behalf requires a change in attitude, acknowledging that such a gift is absolutely necessary.  Most of us would rather hold to the notion that, “I got this; I’m doing pretty well on my own; I’m a good person.”   But if you do continue to believe those things, you cannot accept the gift. Do you remember how Isaiah responded when he caught a glimpse of God’s glory?

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”  Isaiah 6:5

Isaiah knew a humbling truth:  compared to God’s perfection, he was just as sinful as his neighbors.  We humans are all in the same boat of sinful imperfection.  We all deserve the same punishment.  We tend to compare ourselves with others and think, “At least I am not as messed up as that guy…”   Somebody illustrated the fallacy of such comparisons like this: “If the requirement to get to Heaven was jumping up and touching the moon, there would be no significant difference between the contestants for ‘Biggest Loser’ and a member of the Celtics.”   The requirement for going to Heaven isn’t touching the moon, it’s having spiritual life.  And everyone who has ever sinned – that’s you and me – is spiritually dead.

God is willing to correct that condition, to give us His life, His Holy Spirit to live in our souls.  But first, because He is perfectly just, He must require that your punishment for sin be paid.  Because you cannot pay, because, even if you could pay you would sin again the next day, He paid.  He allowed His Son, Jesus, to pay your sin mortgage in full – forever – if you accept.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the (punishment for the) iniquity (sin) of us all.  (Isaiah 53:6 – my explanations in parentheses)

Accepting this gift begins with understanding the words, we all.  It requires acknowledging your own personal sinfulness and complete helplessness to fix your own spiritual deadness.  That’s what being “lowly and contrite” means in Isaiah 57:15 (See “In a Nutshell”). God said He will revive (bring back to life) the soul of the lowly and contrite. He will forgive and restore a person who is lowly and contrite.   That is, He will do so once the bill is paid.  And He offers to pay the bill.  Accepting this gift is like what you would do with the mortgage letter example we began with: – you say, “Yes.”   If you understand that there is no way you can fix yourself to become perfect, no way you can pay what you owe for being imperfect; if you understand that you really need God’s forgiveness, then say “yes” to Jesus.  Probably want to say, “Thank You,” also…

Resetting Your Receiver

The Rockies were playing the Diamondbacks but the only thing on my TV was an error message: “searching for satellite signal…”  The help screen suggested my receiver needed to be reset.   There it is, folks, a great metaphorical description of the human condition!  We need to be reset.  We are dead, disconnected and searching for the signal, searching for the Spirit of God.  That’s what makes Isaiah 57:15, where God says He will “revive the spirit of the lowly,” such great news.  To revive means the same as to reset – to do what is necessary to connect the signal and bring us back to life. (If you don’t follow this, check out “Dead Man Walking”

But, maybe you don’t feel so dead.  Maybe you are wondering if this idea fits with the rest of the Bible.  It not only fits, it’s the whole point.  In the first few pages of the Bible, Adam and Eve stopped trusting God, were banished from the Garden of Eden and prevented from getting to “the Tree of Life” (Genesis 3:24).  That is a picture of their spiritual deadness, the condition of all humankind.  But the last chapter of the Bible shows a picture of how that condition will be reversed, for those given “the right to the Tree of Life” (Revelation 22:14)!  Spiritual deadness and how it can be reset or revived is the basic theme of the Bible.

John wrote of Jesus: “In him was life, and that life was the light of men” (John 1:4).  The thing that was different about Jesus was that He had life.  He was not spiritually dead, like everybody else.  Moreover, He was “The true light that gives light to every man” (John 1:9).  Jesus taught that this life and light is in the Spirit: “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and they are life.” (John 6:63).   

Jesus knew we were spiritually dead, but could be reconnected.  He said:

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to lifeJohn 5:24  

He came to reset us.  Now, if getting my TV working were only that simple…

Dead Man Walking

God says, in Isaiah 57:15, He will live with a person to revive him, to bring him or her back to life (see: “In a Nutshell”).  We asked, in what sense are we dead?  Why do we need to be revived (see: “The ‘Why?’ Question”)?   The answer has to do with the makeup of a human being, and how that makeup became damaged.

Humans are like animals in that we both have bodies and souls.  Our bodies are all the physical stuff we use to get around on the planet, our hardware.  Our souls are the software that we use to run the hardware, our minds, emotions and will.  Our minds and emotions think, “Man, I’m craving a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!”  And then our will decides to make one and eat it.  Our souls (mind, emotion and will) tell our bodies (hands, arms, legs, teeth, etc.) what to do.  Humans and animals alike have hardware and software, bodies and souls.

But humans were designed by God with the capacity to be connected to Him by His Spirit.  Just as our bodies are designed to be operated by our souls, our souls are designed to be informed by His Spirit.  To use the previous example, His Spirit says, “It would be cool to go make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and share it with that hungry guy over there.”  The soul “hears” that and then controls the body to do that.  Getting hungry?  Go ahead and get a sandwich; I’ll wait…

So then, an animal has two parts: hardware and software – body and soul; humans have three parts: hardware, software and signal – body, soul and spirit.  We humans compare to animals in the same way cell phones compare to calculators.  Cell phones and calculators both have hardware, run by software.  They both do interesting things, using only hardware and software.  But cell phones also receive information from an invisible signal, process that signal, “inform” the software to make phone calls and use the internet.  When cell phones can’t receive that cell signal, we say they are dead.

Human beings are designed to be in steady contact with God by His Spirit, His invisible “cell signal.”  But our ability to receive that signal is broken.  In that sense, we are dead, spiritually dead.  Our souls, our software, senses that something is missing, something is not working right; which is why we spend so much of our energy trying to fix it.  Anywhere you go on the planet, religions tend to dominate what people think about and how they live.  But we cannot fix the connection because we are dead (and vice versa!).

How did that happen?  It is explained in the first couple of pages of the Bible.  God told Adam, “On the day you deliberately disobey Me and decide you don’t need Me, on the day you think you know better than what I have been telling you, on that day you will surely die.”  Well, He didn’t say it exactly like that; it had to do with eating the fruit and all that.  You can read it for yourself, but that is the essence of it.  Adam did disobey God, and he did die that day.  It wasn’t his body that died; his hardware didn’t die.  His soul, his software, didn’t die; he was still able to think and feel and decide.  What died was His spirit, his intimate connection to God.  He lost the “signal,” like a dead cell phone.  Adam became spiritually dead, he and all his descendants (that’s you and me).

Now go back to Isaiah 57:15, where God says He “lives with” the contrite and lowly in order to “revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.”  That means He connects the cell signal of His Spirit to those people to bring them back to life – real life.  There is a whole bunch more to this… We’ll get back to it next time.