Monthly Archives: July 2015

A Biblical Psycho-theological of the “New Man In Christ”, Part II

Let us see from a Scriptural and psychological (the Bible has more psychology in it than it does “theology”) how our representation of a Christian – or really, the Christian himself – “works” when it comes to “working out what God has worked in”, for “it is God who is at work within us, both to will and to do.”  Many forms of temptation or trial could be used for this example, but let us choose anger which has many forms, such as wrath, envy, jealousy, fighting, quarreling, bitterness, resentment, and is the opposite of love (the complete Christian virtue), and is the sin against which so many believers battle.  What is said here about anger would apply to any other sin, such as lust, lying, etc.

Beginning at “one o’clock” on our sketch (see previous blog entry for diagram), an occasion or provocation to anger (or stealing) enters our consciousness through our eyes, ears, or another sense.  Somebody ways something mean or even strikes us, or our automobile.  Immediately our mind (3 o’clock) begins to formulate our response (if any) by interpreting, analyzing the incident, the experience. It makes a world of difference as to WHO said (did) it, WHY (accident, intentionally, reason?), WHEN (right after similar experience), WHERE (in church, grocery line), etc.  This is the point at which wrong reaction is prevented, never allowed to happen.  (This is equivalent to “counting to 10” before we react.)  Right here is where one’s perfect spirit (Christ in him) goes into action, influencing our thinking.  “Be not conformed to world” – reacting as unbelievers – “by renewing of mind”, “taking every thought captive”.  Here, as at every successive point, DO NOT ASK, “Lord, give me wisdom.”  You got it, the very mind of Christ!  Use it,  God is able to do beyond what we even think, BY THE POWER RIGHT NOW WORKING WITHIN US.  So, ask, “Be my wisdom.”  If we think rightly, the problem, the trial, the temptation is all over, right here.

But let’s suppose we become justly angry (in whatever degree – irritation, etc.) because the person has broken a law and should be “punished”, or you become angry unjustly.  (We are now at 6 o’clock on our sketch.)  A “righteous” anger is produced by Christ himself, our new spirit, just as he was angry more than once, with reason, while here upon earth.  Examples of this in our own experience would be parents vs. children (when warranted), teachers vs. students, a judge vs criminals.  (A society that is not “angry” enough with murderers to execute them is not “Christian”, as they claim with their “mercy”.)

In case our anger is unwarranted, the Spirit of Christ in us “goes to war” against the flesh by urging forgiveness.  (Arrows emanating at this point represent the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, etc. which crowd out the “works of the flesh” as flowers do weeds.)  The supreme response of the Spirit at this point is “joy”, no matter what the temptation or trial.  “Rejoice always”, “Let my joy be in you”.  “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you fall into any kind of problem, trial, temptation.”  (The arrow at 2 o’clock might represent the gifts of the Spirit, such as discernment, wisdom.  Jesus did not get mad at the loose woman of Samaria, nor even with his murderers, because of those gifts; “they don’t know what they are doing”.  So we with children, “deprived”, spiritual weaklings.)

A striking example of conflicting emotions is that of “love”, to use that ambiguous and misused word. From wrong thinking about an object of temptation (eg. “seeing” in every woman a sex object) can come the wrong kind of “love”.  The response of the Spirit, however, is also love, but the real thing, loving one’s woman-neighbor so well that adultery does not enter his mind.

The results of our emotions are decisions to act; the angry man (rightly or wrongly) resolves what he will do; “forget it” (because there’s nothing he CAN do); get revenge, “punish” (possibly deserved), or take it out on somebody else (the next person that happens along, or whatever he can get away with doing it to).  Righteous anger decides what response is most appropriate (again, cf. Christ).  Re revenge, etc., Christ in us persuades us to turn the other cheek, to do good instead (agape love), or turn it over to God.  All this is meant by – “Be angry, but don’t sin”; “let not the sun go down on your wrath”; “vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  In none of these decisions have you repressed anger (which is bad, resulting in ulcers, etc.).  You have handled it, dealt with it.  This is “counting to 10” at the remedy or curative, corrective point.  Notice the various points at which we can head off, abort, short circuit temptation.  (Many example in the Bible.)

If (11 o’clock!) we decide to act to temptation wrongly (by anger, theft, adultery, lying, swearing) we express or perform this response with our bodies, and the process of temptation/sin has come full circle, starting the whole process over by our action becoming an “event” in somebody else’s life, or our own!  If, on the other hand, Christ in us persuades and actually enables us to a Christ-like response, we not only break a potential vicious circle, but set up a new chain of event-thought-feeling-will-act; enemies become loving, thieves become generous, cursing people praise God.

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A Biblical Psycho-Theology of the “New Man in Christ” (Part I)

new man in christ

Editor’s Note:  This is a two-part series based on the diagram above.  The first part centers on Interpretation, while the second focuses on Implementation.  

1.  The outer circle represents the human body.  The arrows are the countless impressions that we receive (good and bad) from our environment (people, food, books, etc.) and our responses to them, both positive and negative.

2.  The middle circle represents the human soul, comprising (popularly) the mind, emotions, and will. This circle is demarked from the body by a broken line because the body and soul are an inseparable unity in which they influence each other so much (psychosomatic) that it is hard to tell where one begins and the other lets off.  (Cf. brain/mind)  Our environment, which includes Satan, reaches our soul through our body, which is one reason, amongst others, that the Bible speaks of our soul as well as our body as “flesh” (see Rms 7:18; Gal. 5:16).

3.  The innermost circle represents the redeemed human spirit, which is nothing less than God, or Christ himself, in his Spirit.  This is the plain meaning of the expression, “Christ in you” or we “in Christ” (150 times in the New Testament) and I Cor. 6:17.  The size of the circle is not significant; our spirit not only fills our entire body but reaches far outside of it (by means of telescopes, TV, memory, imagination, and prayer).  The arrows indicate that the sprit influences both the soul and thus the body and our environment – other people, etc.

The distinction between soul and body is not as clear in the Old Testament as in the New Testament (and more than the Trinity – in whose likeness man is triad) for the same reason, namely, the Holy Spirit had not yet in those days “been given” (John 7:39), that is, made his home in human “hearts”.  In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit was very active, but always on the outside of human beings, coming and going.  In the New Testament the Holy Spirit became “the Spirit of Christ”, indwelt Christ fully, who pours him(self) into us like a funnel, permanently.  (Acts 2:33)  That there is a distinction between soul and spirit is evident from I Thess. 5:23 and Hebs 4:12.  (Note contrast too between thoughts and attitudes.)  This latter text demonstrates two important facts; many “good” deeds are not spiritual (emanating from faith), but are simply soulish, destined for destruction.  On the other hand, the sins of a Christian can be disowned (Romans 7:17,20) as “motions of the flesh”, knee jerks of our old, dead-an-buried “nature” and not the products of our new self, the fruit of the Spirit, Christ in us.

A scriptural theology of regeneration (new birth) and sanctification is impossible without a distinction between soul and spirit.  The Bible says plainly that a Christian is not just simply a converted, changed, forgiven person, but a brand new one (II Cor. 5:17) twice-born (John 3:3).  We know that his soul is not replaced; he sins in thought, word, and deed, and yet the Bible speaks of him as actually perfect (not just theoretically), a partaker of the divine nature.  In short, at conversion we receive a heart-transplant, a brand-new spirit (Ezek 36:26,27) which, in turn, sanctifies gradually our soul (Jeremiah and Hebs 8:10; 10:16).  At the same time, we must not think of a Christian as having two selves, two egos; he is but a single (new) person.  His old self was crucified with Christ, and “pronounced dead” at his conversion.  The “civil war” that Paul describes in Romans 7 is between a person’s head, which tells him one thing, and his will, which does something different.  The solution to that terrible fix, as Paul says, is to have a new, perfect, permanent, victorious Spirit who rules and controls both body and soul, our thinking as well as our feelings and doing.  Any “struggle” or warfare  that a Christian has is not intra-soul (which can drive to suicide) but between his powerful Spirit (who is God, remember?) and the left-overs, grave-clothes of sin in his soul.  In such an unequal contest, there is no “game”, no real battle.  “If God be for us…” – no opposition!  All this is represented in the sketch above by the arrows that emanate from the spirit, while none (repeat, none) invade it from without.  Only God has access to it.  It is immune, impregnable, invulnerable to all else,  (It is God/Christ, who can neither sin nor be tempted – nor tempts anybody else;  “the Evil One ‘has nothing’ (no point of contact) in me”, said Jesus.  “He that is born of God cannot sin.”

The “spirit” of an unbeliever is a “God-shaped” vacuum.  It is dead, empty.  Satan occupies it in varying degree (cf. Judas and Legion) and times (Matt 12:43-45).  For the rest, he is like a ship without a rudder, his deeds determined alternately by his head, then his feelings (mostly), external circumstances and other people.  An illustration of this is the Old Testament tabernacle, in which the Holy of Holies (representing God) was off-limits even to his chosen people (until Jesus tore the barrier and escorted us in), and for the last 500 years of the Old Testament was EMPTY!  The countless laws of the Old Testament, not the “believers” hearts, are what kept them in line, until Christ.  The unbeliever is in a class with the animals (who are said to have “souls” as well as man).

*The cross represents the fact that victory, self-rule by the Spirit, is only through the cross, just as Christ “ruled” himself and destroyed Satan via the cross, and we become victors by dying to self.  (The Bible uses the word “cross” more often us to us than it does to Christ!) (Cf Mark 8:34; Gal 6:14)