The work God is doing in this workshop He has made, “our present life in the flesh,” is the MOST IMPORTANT thing going on in time and in eternity.
I want to wrap up this series and move on to a level of the prophetic word above what I have known before. In my letter on Christ Jesus, I saw that Jesus had two specific purposes in His life and ministry. The first was to prepare Himself for the Day of Passover, the Walk of the Atonement; the second was to prepare a people for the Day of Pentecost, the birthing of the Church. In the same way, the purpose of our lives and ministry is to prepare ourselves, Christ as us, as the fulfillment in all fullness of the Day of Atonement and to prepare a people for the Day of Tabernacles. Thus, I want to discover what that might mean.
I write in a spiral, coming back around the same topics through each series, yet with a differing focus, and on a higher level. When something flows through my fingers that I think is just wonderful and new, something I've never seen before, I go back to some earlier volume and find the same thing back there. Only, I never saw then what I see now, and I will see further tomorrow and forever, as will you.
I find, now, that the topic of “Body” must follow “Spirit.” After that, I am writing a letter comparing the two gospels all the way through. Finally, I want to end with a chapter on “Victory” – What is Victory? The Victory of Christ in the gospel is focused on, finds its fulfillment in, the Body.
There is so much confusion in Christian thinking concerning the body and concerning the flesh. And there is good reason for that confusion: God contradicts Himself big time. It's not just that Paul says something different than James and Jesus seem to say; it's that Paul also contradicts himself.
Most people assume that flesh is “evil,” that it has nothing to do with God or God with it. Thus, they emphasize those verses that seem to cast the flesh as bad, they darken the majority of verses that present the flesh as neutral, and they adamantly IGNORE those verses that tie the flesh into marriage union with God. Most are also confused about the difference or sameness between the “flesh,” sarx, and the “body,” soma. This confusion is entirely God's fault, for He says so many differing things on the topic.
My study titled “Sarx and Soma in the New Testament” has continued to be the most opened article on my website all the way through. I don't know what people do with it, but I suspect too many use the study to denounce the flesh, and thus to denounce and control people.
God created Adam as both God's likeness and God's image. That means two things. First, likeness means that Adam was fabricated to be just like God in so many, many ways, but beginning with just like God in heart. Second, image means that Adam's purpose was to be the revelation of God, so that God Himself might dwell in all fullness in Adam and show Himself to His creation through Adam. Adam was God's likeness and image in all of his makeup: spirit, soul, and body.
Yet God does nothing apart from human consent, thus He gave Adam a choice. If Adam had eaten of the tree of life, he would have been sealed forever into full union with God as God-revealed in all the realms of the heavenlies and in all physical realms forever. Adam would have been God-revealed through his spirit; he would have been God-revealed through his soul; and he would have been God-revealed through his body.
More than that, Paul pointed out in 1 Corinthians 12 that we bestow more honor on our weakest parts. Thus God held a special place in His heart for Adam's body. Adam's body, as God designed it, was most incredibly the likeness and image of God.
We have seen that the lie of the serpent is not immediately visible in the serpent's words, as nonsensical as they were. The lie, rather, is found in the assumptions beneath the serpent's words, the reasoning out of which they came. Because most Christians assume that the serpent was speaking the truth, they then also assume that the assumptions out from which he spoke were also true. Those assumptions, that is, the lie, are then woven all through Nicene Christianity, all through Christian theology.
The articles that I write that are more important are not necessarily the ones that are most popularly read. Part of the reason is the titles. I consider the article “The Dragon and the Beast” to be one of the most important in Through Eyes of Fire, along with “Appearance Versus Substance” and “Adam's Grave.” Though I will continue to mention Adam as a teacher, I find myself satisfied, now, that I have plummeted the depths of what God intends us to know concerning him as we bring an end to his folly in the earth.
Adam's physical body, his flesh, was the primary target of the serpent's assault; Adam's body was the weakest element in his construction, the doorway into Adam's heart.
As I shared earlier in this series, when the serpent said, “You shall be like God,” those words were the battering ram that shattered everything to pieces, opening the entrance into Adam's heart and mind for both lie and curse.
It is easy for us to believe that our spirits could be “like God” since God is a Spirit, and spirit is “heavenly.” It is not hard for Christian thinking to postulate that the soul could even be “like God”; Thomas Aquinas stated that we are “like God” in our reason, that is our mind. But the body? No. The body just does not look like God in any way you cut it.
The body is weak; the body gets tired; the body stinks; the body wants things it doesn't have; the body hungers and thirsts; the body “weighs us down.” The body looks absolutely ridiculous. Eve may have been beautiful and Adam a hunk, but most of us fall woefully short of either.
Adam knew he was just like God, spirit, soul, and body. But the moment he saw the glorious outward appearance of the serpent, he doubted himself. What the serpent really said in his words,“You shall be like God,” was this. “Adam, your body, your outward earthly appearance CANNOT be God-revealed. No way!”
And Adam believed the serpent. Believing the serpent, that he was not already 100%, spirit, soul, and body, just like God, was the fall of Adam. Adam believed that Jesus, hanging bloody, naked, and bruised upon the cross, (“The Dragon and the Beast”) could not possibly be the express image of God's Person. Adam believed that if God showed up in the earth, God would look like the glorious serpent, He would not be Adam himself.
Thus Adam's first actions in his unbelief were to work on his body, to make it look better than it did. Covering his body with fig leaves was Adam's declaration of hatred for the image of God in the earth.
Let me give my present understanding of the difference between sarx and soma in the New Testament, the difference between flesh and body. Soma, the body, refers primarily to the organ of the physical body, though it is often used to mean the human limitation and weakness found in that body. Sarx, the flesh, refers primarily to the human limitation and weakness found in the physical body, though it is often used to mean simply the organ of the physical body. The two can often be interchanged, and are interchanged by the writers of the New Testament, with no or little affect on the meaning.
Both sarx and soma, flesh and body, are 100% neutral in themselves. There is nothing good in the flesh; there is nothing evil in the flesh. The flesh, the human body, is simply a vessel. What the vessel contains is what is good or evil. Flesh breathed upon by demons is evil. Flesh filled with God is pure and holy and good. The difference is the source, not the actions or the weakness of the body.
People who do not believe that God fills their flesh now with all of His fullness, join with Adam in seeing the flesh as their “problem.” They believe, with Adam, that it is their job to make the flesh look like Christ ought to look like, that is, the glorious outward appearance of the serpent, BEFORE God will ever deign to come and live in them. Those who teach “obedience first,” live according to the flesh in the rebellion of Adam.
The reason Jesus was hated and murdered was that He looked entirely like a man, that is, like God in the earth. If He had looked like the serpent, everyone would have worshipped Him. No one wants the flesh to be the image of God; it's just too humiliating. Being “like God” ought to look better than that.
There is a trigger in the human mind, a trigger that does not come from Christian theology, rather it comes from Adam's rebellion THROUGH Christian theology, that automatically reads EVIL when seeing the word “flesh,” in the New Testament. Thus those verses that place God in the flesh are studiously ignored, or relegated to a deified (outwardly superman) “Jesus” that is not a Man, God-revealed, at all.
Let's bring in the most important verses that must rule our knowledge of the flesh. All other verses must come in under these verses to serve them and to expand their meaning. All other statements in the New Testament concerning the “flesh,” must be read and understood by and through these absolutes.
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. John 1
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God manifest in the flesh... 1 Timothy 3
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. – that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 2 Corinthians 4:7 & 11
And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
Now the body is... for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? — But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. — Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 1 Corinthians 6:13-19
For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. Ephesians 5:30
The single most telling statement concerning God's purpose for our flesh is 2 Corinthians 4:7, – that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. It is here we must begin. If this purpose of God is not the beginning and the ruling definition for our flesh, then we cannot know what to do with anything else God says in the Bible concerning our physical bodies.
God created our flesh specifically to reveal the life of Jesus to others, and it does so even in its present dying state. Everything else God says in the New Testament about either “the flesh” or “the body” teaches us how 2 Corinthians 4:7 is fulfilled in our lives. But if we believe that our flesh is “evil,” that it cannot be found inside of Jesus, that it cannot be filled with God, that it can never reveal the life of Jesus or be transformed from the inside out into His very Body, then nothing else God says will ever teach us the truth concerning our flesh.
Life swallowing up our mortal bodies I will leave for the chapter on “Victory.” Here I want to look at our flesh as it is presently dying.
A caterpillar is a skin-changer. Consider the phrase I have used previously to denote the popular view of judging all things by outward appearance. “The old skin must be shed before the new one can come.” That view is entirely from the outside, seeing by how something seems to appear in the present moment, without considering for one moment what actually happened.
Here is what happened. “The old skin is not shed until the new one is fully formed and ready for full exposure.” Half a second before the new skin bursts onto the scene fully formed, the old skin looks its worst to all who see by outward appearance. Yet that new skin was forming all along underneath the old, and no one could see it, except those who can see by reality and not by outward appearance.
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8:11
Someone objected to my calling our present state of “Christ as us” the caterpillar state. This person believed that no, “Christ as us” is the butterfly state, having come forth fully from the chrysalis. That's the problem with using the things God created to understand God's truth, we like to put strait-jackets on them.
Here is my understanding. Right now, we are in the womb of the Church, in-between being conceived of God and the birthing into the full light of day. That birthing, that butterfly coming out of its chrysalis, IS the redemption of our physical bodies, the resurrection, the moment in time, in the twinkling of an eye, when we know the full experience of incorruptibility and are just like Jesus in all ways as He is right now in all outward experience.
But right now, when I read Romans 8:11, I can only shake my head in wonder. I “feel” and “see” NOTHING of what Paul claims the Holy Spirit is doing right now in my body.
Of truth, I see our present state as both the caterpillar and the chrysalis. In fact, there's hardly any difference between what both picture to us. The caterpillar doesn't worry about a thing, he just eats and eats and eats Christ. The goo in the chrysalis doesn't worry about a thing, it just speaks and speaks out from the Christ that is its DNA, knowing the DNA of Christ Himself is transforming all that goo into a butterfly. At the same time, I see us now as the fully formed butterfly, beginning to press against the chrysalis in order to cast if off.
We do not think highly of ourselves. We are more than happy to be the caterpillar in all joy, eating of Christ. We are more than happy to be sticky goo right now, confident that Christ in us will make something good out of that goo. And we are quite happy to press against the restraints, but only as Christ through us, never in some “burden” of our own.
The flesh is NOT evil; and our time of transformation inside this present flesh is the most glorious honor ever granted to any created being.
The butterfly is what we speak – Christ. We call that which “is not” as though it is. But we don't imagine that our present outward appearance is the full inheritance. Yet we rejoice in our present weakness, knowing that it is here alone that all the power of Christ is perfect.
We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.
It's a very simple equation, really, but one that we so easily forget when we find ourselves in the press of what other people think we ought to be and do, that is, in the face of Eve.
I want to include here a question asked of me and my response. The question I consider to be of vital importance, because it must be asked and then fully answered inside each one of our hearts.
– What of the statement Paul made “In my flesh dwells no good thing”? Did he mean the residue of sin in his members? He called that evil. Just what is he talking about? –
We cannot take Romans 7:7-25 out of its context. It does not mean what people take it to mean when they separate it from Paul's gospel before and after. Paul says very clearly in 7:4-6 that we have NO relationship to the law. Then, in verse 7, Paul brings the law back in. Then, in Romans 8:2, he states again, so clearly, that we have no relationship with the law of sin and death. Romans 7:7-24 is all about a "Christian" trying to have a relationship with the law, a “what-if” scenario. It's either Christ or the law, we can't have both. If we engage with the law, then there is no good thing in our flesh and we are under bondage. But if Christ is our only life, then the Holy Spirit lives in our body, and, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6, there is NO sin in our bodies.
It's either all Christ or all the law; there is no mixture, no going back and forth. Those verses in Romans 7 are all about the agony of a Christian trying to live in both at the same time. If you are filled with all of God, then God dwells in your flesh, and He is good. More than that, Jesus, when He walked the earth, said, "Don't call Me good, only God is good."
What makes us good is God. What makes evil is trying to have both God and not-God. John said that those who try to mix the two, He will vomit out of His mouth. Paul said that those who try to mix the two, that is, those who try to live inside of Romans 7:7-24 are "fallen from grace."
The only reason we read Romans 7:7-24 is to rejoice in verse 25, thank God for Jesus – our only life. Those who contemplate living inside of Romans 7:7-24 are dancing with death, circling around the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, trying to find life in the law, the very thing that always kills all. Those who try to live in Romans 7:7-24 divide themselves, split themselves into two, creating the false self. That's what the law does; it's awful. That's why God commanded Adam not to live there.
Galatians 2:20 sets us free from all that. We are dead. There is no evil in us, nor any claim of the law. The life we live right now in the flesh is only Jesus.
I am only now seeing that this letter is not on the corporate body of Christ, but rather the place of God's working, this furnace of affliction God has given us called “the flesh,” our present physical bodies in all of their weakness and lack.
I am a cabinet-maker and some of my happiest memories are working in a wood shop, well-equipped with high quality tools, with a nice selection of raw materials to choose from, forming and fashioning wood into something beautiful and useful. If I had the money, I would most certainly build a really nice shop in my backyard and equip it with the finest of tools. I would also fill another such building with a wonderful selection of the finest woods – preferably in a relatively rough state. (Prior indiscriminate machining can eliminate the most beautiful elements in a log.)
Think of “the life we live in the flesh” as that double shop, the place in all the universe where God is doing His finest work. The Nicene Creed is written on the assumption that this present flesh-time is evil only and that God's “salvation” is to “get us out of here.” I am convinced that we will know forever that our present life in this flesh is the MOST IMPORTANT time and place in all of creation, both heaven and earth.
But before exploring this “cabinet shop” of the flesh where God is doing His finest work, I want to address a question, already asked in this series, but asked again recently. “Will we know Jesus in outward form, that individual body that came out of the grave and ascended into the clouds?”
Although my bottom line answer remains the same, “I don't know,” I have thought more clearly on this idea. Let's make it practical and real. An idea floated in the Nicene interpretation of the end if the age is that “every eye will see Him” by means of television. This placing of Jesus into the image of the beast comes out of the very real understanding that Jesus' physical body, the one that ascended into the sky, was finite and limited. That body could be in only one place at a time. When Jesus breakfasted with His disciples on the shore of the sea, He was not, at that same moment, appearing to Lazarus, say, in Bethany.
If that is true, than you and I will never see Jesus. There are too many pushers and shovers who will get in line far ahead of us.
But if Jesus duplicates that same body, so that He appears in physical form in a hundred million places at the same time, what is that? Why would Jesus clone that same body many times over? And what would it be if one of Jesus' body clones came into the same room with another? That would be weird.
If Jesus is to walk this earth in that same finite and limited body that the disciples saw after the resurrection, then either of these two scenarios would be the only way it would work. But if Jesus is to appear in many different physical bodies at the same time, why would it be so wrong to know that He does appear, in full literal reality, in your body and mine?
Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, spirit, soul, and body.
I say, “I don't know,” because I don't, yes, but I do now think that Jesus' full return is, literally and actually, in your body and mine, as us. “Christ lives in our hearts” is real and actual; the “by faith” part is only how we presently KNOW that absolute and literal reality.
I am the container of another Person; I am NEVER alone.
I am the Ark of the Covenant.
May I suggest again that the work God is doing in this workshop He has made, “our present life in the flesh,” is the MOST IMPORTANT thing going on in time and in eternity.
Of truth, the metaphor of a wood shop and the crafting of a piece of fine woodworking is identical all the way through to the metaphor of a caterpillar being transformed into a butterfly.
The butterfly that will be, the cabinet (ark) that contains Himself God is crafting, takes on its eternal form and shape entirely by what happens inside the shop, inside the eating, the goo-ifying, and the transformation.
This body of flesh.
The life of Jesus revealed.
God's task is to so merge Himself with us that He might always be the One seen and known through us.
This merging of God and Jesus was complete, two Persons in One. Jesus is not just our pattern, but also our life, Christ as us. Thus Christ as us is already programmed to complete this full merger with the Person of the Father inside of us.
Now, there are certain elements or difficulties in this merger. First, both God's consciousness must be in my full awareness inside of me and my consciousness in my awareness must be inside of God. Jesus said, “The Father has never left Me alone.” We are always two persons together. But the tricky thing for God is that He will never violate our person.
Coming into full union, communion, and expression with us, His consciousness inside of ours and ours inside of His in continual ongoing experience is hindered by this propensity in God NEVER to violate another person nor push anyone around. And at the center of this conundrum is the human heart, a heart as bold and daring as God's.
You see, the human heart, created to contain Almighty God, and thus crafted to be like God's heart in all daring confidence and extravagant recklessness, has imagined itself to be empty of God. Thus God begins this task in His workshop, our life in the flesh, by a complete merger of His heart and ours, the Mercy Seat.
Jesus did not “set aside His divinity” when He walked the earth; there is no such thing. That whole way of thinking comes out of Nicene definitions. When God shows up in the physical realms He IS a Man. Man is God's appearance in the physical. Since we are one with the Spirit of God, man is also God's appearance in the heavens, we just can't see that yet.
Yet man, as the express image of God's Person, is never alone. Man is always two persons together, the person of the human AND the Person of the Father, walking together as one. The Father has NEVER left Me alone. – I and the Father are One.
Now we can place a difficult verse. And understand, it is here alone that this verse must fit, inside this perfect union of two persons in one, revealed into the earth through the same body and into the heavens through the same spirit.
Who, Jesus, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered, and having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him. Hebrews 5:7-9
This verse in Hebrews MUST always flow together with Jesus' assertion that He and the Father are One. We cannot see this as separated entities, the first pleading with the second, the second demanding “obedience” and making the first suffer until he has it right.
New Covenant obedience MUST carry a totally different definition than the obedience of the Old Covenant. Yet when I see people teaching “obedience,” it is evident to me that they are teaching the law and not marriage union with Christ. There is no curse in New Testament obedience; thus, the “suffering” in this verse is not curse, but workmanship – the fellowship of His sufferings.
God perfected His perfect union with Jesus before Jesus went forth as the Christ of God. The two walked in full consciousness together, inside of one body, every step of the way.
The “obedience” of the New Covenant is a perfect synergy together, God with us and we with God in one body. We can walk with God as His revelation through us because we are Christ as us.
The life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loves me and gives Himself for me.
There is one place alone where God can accomplish His great work, this merging of Himself with another – that place is inside of the weakness of flesh.
I can of Myself do nothing. – My strength is made perfect in weakness.
Inside of a dying body.
You see God's reckless brinkmanship? He has set Himself to pull off this most difficult of tasks even for God in this short space of time while a dying body is dying, but before it is dead, to come into a perfect union, communion, and expression through another person, you and me, without ever once violating our persons.
Every tool in a wood shop that applies to wood is a chisel, in one shape or another. A saw blade is simply a large number of small chisels in a row or in a circle. A planer is a wide chisel; a router is a shaped chisel. A screw is a spiral chisel, a nail a pointed chisel that drives through and remains.
That I might know Him in the fellowship of His sufferings. – Whom He loves He chastens and scourges every son whom He receives.
Never do we see this work of God upon us in terms of any law carrying any curse. What curse is there in being shaped into the Ark that contains and reveals Almighty God?
That the genuineness of your faith being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it be tried in the fire, may be found unto praise, honor, and glory at the revelation, at the unveiling, at the removal of the outer covering of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:7
Jesus, the express image of God's Person, hanging bloody, bruised, naked, and unashamed, saying,“Father, forgive them,” to the most offensive people on the planet.
Would we be like Him?
You can tell a son of God. Poke him with a chisel and see what comes out. Any piece of wood that strikes back against the chisel is ruined and tossed into the bin for the wood stove. I've had a piece of wood striking back against the chisel take me in the gut and knock me to the floor.
To abide in Him is to abide in Him in the midst of His sufferings.
Jesus hurt upon the cross, not just from the physical wounds, but far more from the jibes and mockery of these offensive men. Why did He not strike back?
Because He was not ashamed of being the image of God in weakness.
Those who strike back do so because they are ashamed of themselves. In other words, they believe that they got a bum deal from God, that their weakness is not what they should be, that they deserve far more.
Shame is the cloak of arrogant pride. The only way to defeat it is the full acceptance by faith that this body of the likeness of sinful flesh IS God's flesh, the place of His revelation – in weakness.
A son of God, when he or she is cut by the chisel in the hand of God (and no chisel ever touches us that is not in His hand), hurts, yes, and in that hurt and confusion, may take a bit to come around, yes, but in the end, a son of God first, in all ways, justifies God. And second, gives thanks. And third, speaks only kindness and blessing, “Father, forgive them.”
You see, to the wood, the hand is invisible. All the wood sees is the chisel coming at him. Faith alone will share the fellowship of His suffering. Faith alone sees God in the midst of the pain.
As I look at my list of the ten commandments of the New Covenant, I see only one that is entirely in our hand, only one that we can do or not do, only one that God Himself does not, by outward appearance anyway, fulfill in our lives.
You see, in this great task God has set for Himself, to become seen and known and touched through us, His body, all of everything is God's doings, in His hand and wisdom to accomplish His expression through us. And in all of everything, our place is to rest utterly in our present and perfect full union with Him.
Everything except one.
In the midst of the endless assault of chisels, when people hurt us badly, when we lose everything we hold dear, when our way ends in ruin, when we are humiliated and put down, we give thanks.
Give thanks, give thanks, give thanks, give thanks, in all things, for all things, through all things.
We can do that because of the Mercy Seat, our hearts, and because of the Blood sprinkled there. We take all that hurt, those chisels in all their offensiveness to us, and we draw that offence into love, here within our hearts, here above the Blood, where God meets with us and we with God.
And here, inside this Communion between God and us, between the cherubim, we give thanks.
Those who give thanks inside the pain, justifying God and blaming no one, know Him in the fellowship of His sufferings. Those who strike back against the chisels have no idea whatsoever what we are talking about.
The marriage union between God and us is found entirely inside the marriage union between our giving thanks and our dying flesh. It is here alone that the great work of God's revelation is crafted. People in heaven only can worship God in all joy, but they cannot be crafted into His image at present because they have no place of God's workmanship, they have no dying flesh.
No man ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it just as Christ does the Church.
Paul's words are true, that is, until that man becomes a Nicene Christian. Then this marriage between God and flesh goes right out the window.
God-revealed is known only through those who, hanging exposed for all to see, bloody and bruised, having lost everything, having been denied and betrayed, yet knowing nothing of shame before either the face of Eve or of his mother, those who are content to be the flesh of God. And inside the Joy set in their hearts, without blaming anyone, they draw all that is offensive into Life. – The express image of God's Person.