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The Spirit, His sword and His work

 

These notes are the recording of just the initial studies into a number of related issues, which have arisen out of our lives in recent times. The issues are anger, rights, fear, love, God's sovereignty, heart cleansing, dying to self, submission to the Lord and the dividing of soul and spirit. The list could go on as many things inter-relate.

These are the initial notes of an exploration perhaps planned by the Lord. A fuller knowledge and some firm conclusions are yet to come.

Hebrews 4:12 is a very instructive verse as it tells how the Word of God is a refiner of our lives. It says:

" For the word of God [is] quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and [is] a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12)

What is this sword and how does it divide parts of us from another? Is it a continuous process? What contribution do we make towards it ? How does it all work?

I discerned a connection between our studies on resolving anger in relation to the giving up of our rights in this life and saw that it was very likely that this process was an example of Hebrews 4:12 at work. What follows in an attempt to explain that connection and its application to our lives.

Firstly, the relationship of giving up rights as a basis for not sinning in anger. The scriptural basis for this is found in 1 Cor 6: 19-20.

" What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's. (1 Corinthians 6)

This says that we do not belong to ourselves, but that we belong to Christ. Moreover, since we were purchased at a price ( the price of his shed blood ) so we should glorify God in our body and in our spirit which are God's. Anyone that belongs wholly and solely to another person, having been purchased by them ( as a slave would have been purchased ) has no rights, because they must do all things for their owner as he wishes. Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, tells them all this in the hope that it will correct their selfish and sinful ways.

So, do we have a right to be angry when something goes wrong? No.

" Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: (Ephesians 4:31)

Do we have a right to decide something without asking God? ie do we have a right to be independent in anything in this life? As much as we might like to think we have such rights, we do not. For as soon as we are born of the Spirit and saved, if we are going to be obedient to God's Word, we must then give up all rights we formally acted upon. The relationship between rights and anger is that if we have no rights ( and trust Christ with our lives) we have no cause to be angry, because there is nothing that can happen to us that will cause us to feel or act angry, for we will have all in Christ.

But how do we resolve our anger? The answer is to remove the notion that we have any rights in this world? ( Even parents cannot guarantee that their children will respect and uphold them, despite the scriptural injunction to do so ) How is this done? We cooperate with God so that He can do it for us. It is the process of circumcision of our hearts to remove from them all thoughts and attitudes which lead to actions that uphold self instead of Godly things.

+++++++++++++++++++example++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For example, have I the right to expect that my spouse will give me everything that I need. No I don't! He/she may in fact provide everything I need and be happy in doing so, but it is not my right to expect it. John the Baptist himself once said:

" John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven." (John 3:27)

So all we receive in this life is initiated out of heaven. In the example, how does heaven contribute to my spouse's giving to me? Answer - by so changing his/her heart so as to be giving out of love, meeting my needs and even perhaps some of my wants. If my spouse is willing and open to the Lord having his/her heart changed, then heaven will provide through him/her, without me ever having to think, say or act to obtain my "rights" in the marriage.

If my spouse is not open to the Lord changing his/her heart, then I must wait patiently whilst the Lord works in him/her to act towards me in scriptural Godly ways. In the meantime, I must forgive, love to the best of my ability and bless God for his goodness to me. Any resentment that builds up in me, will inhibit the progress of both partners. My spouse too must learn to live with the consequences from God of his/her actions.

Our wedding vows, which are our human attempt to express what we would like to be able to guarantee are no more than our human expression. They do not guarantee anything and either party cannot demand as rights, the fullfillment of those vows. Only by living in Christ can both parties have any chance of giving the other what they promised them.

+++++++++++++++End of example++++++++++++++++++++++++

+++++++++++++++++++++++Another example++++++++++++

For example, have I the right to expect that my children will always treat me in the right way. No I don't! They may in fact do this and be happy in doing so, but it is not my right to expect it. John the Baptist himself once said:

" John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven." (John 3:27)

So all we receive in this life is initiated out of heaven. In the example, how does heaven contribute to my treating me right? Answer - by so changing their heart so as they know how to act towards me. If they are willing and open to the Lord having their heart changed, then heaven will provide through them, without me ever having to think, say or act to obtain my "rights."

If my children are not open to the Lord changing their heart, then I must wait patiently whilst the Lord works in them to act towards me in scriptural Godly ways. In the meantime, I must forgive, love to the best of my ability and bless God for his goodness to me. Any resentment that builds up in me, will inhibit the progress of both them as well as mine. They too, before God, must expect to reap the consequences of their decisions and actions.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++End of example+++++++++++++

These are just small examples of how all this works in life. Most people would carry with them literally scores of expectations about their "rights", mostly unconsciously. The outworking of these expectations in life has a profound effect on all relationships, including our relationship with God.

Moreover, unmet "rights" bring about poor communication, resentment, bitterness, worry and anger. But we must remember that our needs can only be met through Christ and what He can do in us and the people with whom we live and fellowship.

How is this circumcision done? By a knife, the sword of the Spirit of God, which is the word of God , piercing to the division of our soul and spirit. Why our soul and spirit?

My Bible Commentary (1) says that " The inner life of a Christian is often a strange mixture of motivations, both genuinely spiritual and completely human. It takes a supernaturally discerning agent such as the Word of God to sort these out and to expose what is of the flesh...... The Word of God has the penetrating power of a double edged sword and reaches into the innermost being of a person so that it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. ....In doing this, it is able to discriminate successfully between what is spiritual in man and what is merely soulish or natural....

In other words, as the Spirit of God attempts to influence our human spirit, we may attempt to fight against the spirit by using the soul, which is empowered by the fleshly carnal nature. It is the continuous war that Paul talks about in Romans 7, until the Spirit has a more firm control over our souls as well. Hence it is only as the manifestations of this carnal nature are circumcised from our hearts by the Lord, that we can have victory over such things as anger. But firstly we must become wholly the Lord's by giving up all our rights. Which gets us to a key verse, that of John 12:24.

" Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." (John 12:24)

Dying in this sense is giving up all rights to have a life of our own, for if we do then we do not have life as John's next verse specifies.

" He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal." (John 12:25)

++++++++++++++++++++++An example++++++++++++++++++

An example of the working of Hebrews 4:12 in our lives would be as follows. Someone is rude to me. My soul reacts and is offended and I am angry. My spirit reflects on what else I could have done. Together my being is confused, perhaps hurt and just what the right response to make now and next time this happens is not at all clear.

The Holy spirit speaks to my spirit and reminds me that firstly the Word of God says to forgive the person for the offence - they know not what they do. Secondly, that because I am in Christ, I have no right to expect that these things will not happen to me. Because I trust in my relationship with Christ and His ability to improve this relationship, I then have to trust Him to do it - in His way, in His time.

So, the Spirit of God has divided my soul reactions from my spirit reactions by using the Word of God as a sword to separate out for me what is true and Godly, the response from the Spirit rather than the response from the soul.

++++++++++++++++++++End of example+++++++++++++++++

So, because we are not our own, because we are bought with a price, because God allows us to decide how to use our life, because he will circumcise the old life if we ask Him, because we cannot have true life in Him without His life in us, what real choice do we have to keep to our old life, if we want his new life and fullness in us?

Treating anger.

To go back to the specific case of anger, we know from psychological studies and from life itself that anger is normally a secondary emotion. The best example of this is the emotion of fear which generally underlies much anger. A parent of a child who runs our onto the road is likely to express anger towards the child rather than fear, but fear is the primary emotion with anger following on immediately. In this respect fear is a healthy response whereas the anger is not.

However, fear can be a crippling emotion that stops us living our lives to the full, or at the worst, prevents normal life from proceeding. Initial fear may also come from the implied threat or the actual happening of violence, aggression, burglary or physical danger, where normal " human rights " may be violated.

Human beings like to be able to control everything and feel frustrated, angry or obstructed if they cannot. Often they are quite unaware of their controlling or manipulating behaviour. Christians who are not in complete submission to Christ ( most of us to some degree ) will not like God interfering with their lives. Selfish independence or rebellion - all sins of the flesh are not brought to death easily, in what should be a major benefit of the cross.

Scripture tells us that there is nothing that can happen to us that will be beyond what we can stand, so even in the worst of situations, we can trust God that His purposes in our lives are being served, even if we don't understand it at the time.

Scripture tells us that perfect love casts out fear - so where is this perfect love in our lives that casts out fear? A scripture that says something about this is:

" A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger." (Proverbs 15:1)

Where does the soft answer come from? From love, love that is not fearful of wrath or anger. So how do we get that love, so that all fear is gone? By having the love of Christ.

However, the related issue is whether or not we have these rights when trusting Christ for and in our lives. Do I have the right to expect that Christ will prevent my car from being stolen. I don't think so, as He might have some purpose in our lives and for His glory that our lives are interrupted by such an event. This proved to be true in our lives recently.

Do we have a right not to be snubbed or spoken to harshly? No, because we are instructed in many ways how to handle people that do that to us. It is love covering over a multitude of sins that is one of the scriptural answers. Do we have the right to expect peace in our lives? Obviously no, because scripture predicts that it will not always be there. Do we have a right to act independently in the matters of life and get angry or frustrated when this causes problems? No, we don't have that right. Scripture says that

" And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose." (Romans 8:28)

How then can we believe we have rights that may be in opposition to God's will for our life and get angry when things don't turn out the way we want?

If ALL THINGS work together for our good, because we trust God and His Word, then we have no right being angry when one or more of the "all things" is not to our liking. If God is sovereign and can bring upon us some circumstance, or allow some event to happen to us, then we have to learn to trust Him with the outcomes, that it might be meant for our admonishment or our refining, even if it is unpleasant for the time, or even for an extended period.

A related issue is when our rights are actually taken away from us - for whatever reason. This will normally cause anger. However, if we realise that in Christ we have no rights, because He is in charge of our lives and everything is relative to Him, then we will learn not to be angry. This is why assertiveness teaching and much of the feminist movement is against the teachings of Christ. Losing our rights is nothing, in return from what we have in Christ.

So, anger that is underpinned by independence or the need to control life, or anger that is caused by the primary emotion of fear, are both out of place in the life of the person who is reborn and is submitted to the perfect will of Christ. Hebrews 4:12 is one of the ways in which these processes can be described.

The only right we can safely say and believe we have are those rights which Christ bestows on us - the right to expect eternal salvation - the right for us to have the Holy Spirit in our lives - the right to deliverance in God's time and the certain right to participate in the sufferings of Christ whilst we are on this earth.

Fortunately, the circumcision of rights from our heart is the work of the Master, although needing our approval and co-operation. We must strive to cooperate with Him at all times, in every way.

Reference

1. Bible Knowledge Commentary by John F. Walvoord and Roy Zuck. New Testament Volume Pages 789-790.

Ken Walker 1993