Sometimes just to have the vocabulary for a thing is a huge step forward. When I started working with computers years ago, I realized immediately that there was a vocabulary involved. And learning the basic vocabulary having to do with computers was pretty essential in learning to use them.
Somewhat similarly, when I was an atheist in university, I kept experiencing things that I had no way to describe and no vocabulary for. How can an atheist describe spiritual experiences? Maybe that’s one of the reasons why, when I finally came to believe in God and later in Jesus, that it all just flooded into me. Because I had already had things happening to me that I didn’t understand and couldn’t describe until I learned the vocabulary of the Bible that helped to understand those things.
If you’re secular, basically “your mind” is about as far as the vocabulary goes. Maybe it’s different now but back when I went to university, they sure never ever talked to me about my “soul”, or my “spirit” or my “heart”. Can you imagine going to a university that offered “Soul 101” as a course? Yet the Bible talks about those things all the time. And understanding what they are and what the differences are between them is a mighty step forward in understanding what are the essences of the beings we are. But university sure isn’t going to teach you that. Maybe you’ll hear some rock song about how your girlfriend “broke your heart”. But what is a heart? Is that all just metaphorical or some ancient wives’ tales?
For me, it was an incredible breakthrough to have the vocabulary of the Bible to describe my existence and experiences. Jesus spoke in one place of our “soul” and “heart” and “mind”. (Matthew 22:47). In another place He said, “that which is born of the flesh is flesh…” (John 3:6) On the cross, Jesus prayed, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.“ (Luke 23:46) And Paul, writing to the Ephesians, said that we should put off “the old man” and put on “the new man” (Ephesians 4:22-24). These are all ancient Biblical terms but they brought light and clarity to my soul that I was utterly lacking before.
So many people bemoan their present state. “Oh, I’m so tired!” “Oh, I’m so afraid!” But they don’t really know, evidently, God’s way of partitioning our beings. The Bible is full of expressions that use this viewpoint. “While our outward man perishes, our inward man is renewed day by day.” (II Corinthians 4:16) Jesus said, “It is the spirit that quickens; the flesh profits nothing.” The Bible says of the Word of God that it pierces, “even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit… and is a discerner of the thoughts and the intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
There is ageless wisdom and understanding in the Bible that bring us to depths of understanding that university degrees never reach. Wisdom, understanding, knowledge. The Bible can help us to both treasure these things and to know how to apply them practically and daily in our lives.
Recently “my flesh” has been pushed. I’m pushing myself to get off to the next stage of my life. If I didn’t know better, I could say, “Oh, I’m really tired!” “Oh, this is so hard!” But I know that’s just the reaction of “my flesh”, according to how the Bible describes it. Because, truly, my spirit is fine and I’m excited about what’s going on and up ahead.
Admittedly, it’s a little hard on my flesh right now. But if I didn’t know God’s Word and how these things are described in the Bible, then I wouldn’t recognize the partition between “me” and “my flesh”. I’m not my flesh. It’s not the main thing, it’s not the real me. It’s part of me and part of my existence. But I am a soul, I have a spirit and a heart and a mind. So even if I have to push my flesh right now, if I still take care of it and don’t exceed the guidelines of the Lord, then this is generally what the Lord said, to “take up your cross daily” (Luke 9:24) and follow Him.
I am benefiting so much at this time by being able to keep a Biblical view of things and what’s going on. I’m trying to go forward for Him. It involves some measure of personal and physical sacrifice and discomforted. But like Paul wrote, “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18) When we can take to ourselves these simple, basic principles from God’s Word, the terminology He uses to describe us, His creations, then it just helps overall to understand who and what we are, how our spiritual insides are constructed and how things work, what are our components and how we are partitioned.
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