WHAT GOOD IS MY BODY?
WHICH IS MORE SPIRITUAL?
Have you ever pondered which is more spiritual - to desire to die and
be with Christ or to live and be of service?
I had always "majored" on Paul's desire to be with Christ. But as I studied the first chapter of Philippians, I saw the significance of Paul's choice to live in a mortal body for the sake of others.
In the past it had always seemed more "spiritual" for Paul to wish for heaven. But was it more spiritual? What caught my attention and impressed me was not that Paul had an immortal spirit that could survive his body. What impressed me was that his usefulness among the church people at Philippi depended on living in his body a few years longer.
SIGNIFICANCE OF OUR BODY
What an exciting message - the great significance of your body, my body
- the lifetime chance to be a blessing and bring glory to God here in
Stop and think. You're holding this magazine in your hand. You're holding it with a physical hand. You can see it, you can read it. At this moment your physical existence is of great importance to you and those around you.
In order that God's will should be done on earth as it is in heaven our body must be dedicated to God as a living sacrifice. How will God's will be done here on earth? This world is not going to be evangelized by spirits without bodies. The seventy years we have, more or less, on this earth make it possible to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior to the whole world. God wants our bodies. When our bodies die and our spirits go to heaven, we have lost the wonderful opportunity to witness in this present world.
Because we have been born, we have the opportunity to work, play, sleep, walk, talk, see, listen, and respond to God's plan in this physical world. All these things we can do only because of the gift of a body.
A FALSE BODY AND SEX CONSCIOUSNESS
The twenty-first century has bumbled into a false body and sex consciousness,
that was nurturerd in the twentieth century. We have picked up attitudes
about our bodies that distort the true perspective about human life. One
attitude, learned from the media, is that the physical is all that's important.
We acquire a false body-consciousness. Our main concerns have to do with
the body and the things that make it sick, weak, addicted or mortal. We
seek to pamper the body and indulge its appetites.
Sex is a great, mysterious God-given power but the undisciplined "joys of sex" have led to shame and sorrow. Many seek to justify or legitimize the practice of premarital sex, wife swapping, homosexuality, and pornography. When the body dominates the minds of men, the sins of the flesh multiply. In the midst of this disorder, some other tragic words dominate the news. The statistics for divorce, marital infidelity and abortions increase each year because so many live under the tyranny of lust.
AN EQUALLY WRONG BUT A CONTRARY IDEA - BODY IS EVIL IN ITSELF
Quite another idea, however, dominates the attention of many theologians
and Bible teachers. This is the idea that treats the body as evil in itself.
This is not so much a doctrine as an unchallenged attitude which says
something like this. "As long as I have my body, as long as I live in
the flesh, I am bound to sin and evil." The body is considered to be the
same as what scripture refers to as "the old man" or "the old nature."
The layman in the pew picks up the attitude that although the body has some legitimate functions, yet really his body is the source of his sinfulness. Therefore he concludes that as long as he is bound to his body, he must also be bound to his sin. His deep sinfulness, then, loses its moral quality because the man is not responsible. Its his body's fault.
Usually this indictment against the body is not stated in such a way as to condemn it as altogether sinful, but rather it is inferred by such words as:
"We have no power to change the old nature with which we were born. It is part of our very being."
With this attitude a person will feel that God can forgive him, but release
from his sin is only possible when he is released from his body.
SANCTIFICATION OF THE SEPULCHRE!
We are this stuck with the idea Augustine referred to as the "Sanctification
of the Sepulchre" over 1500 years ago. This means that the day we die
we will be freed from out bondage to sin. If this were the case, a fatal
heart attack would do more for us spiritually than the redemptive work
of Christ on the cross. Such a dour view of the body leaves many double-minded.
The body is good in some ways, but evil in others. So even though we care
for our body as a friend, we still suspect that the nasty thoughts and
deeds we may have are caused by our human, physical existence.
WHEN MY SINS ARE FORGIVEN, WHY SHOULD I STAY AROUND ANYMORE?
A third attitude held by some is expressed in the following ways: "All my sins are forgiven, I've received Jesus as my Savior, so why do I have to stay around this world anymore?"
Others meet so much trouble and sorrow in this world that they sincerely wish to be done with this physical existence. At times of distress they will say, "I wish I could die." "It's not easy to live this life." "Sometimes I wish I could get away from all this depression and conflict."
Some feel that this is what Paul meant when he said, "I desire to depart
and be with Christ which is very far better." But Paul was not trying
to get away from the sin, trouble and sorrow of the world. Paul had seen
a vision of the glory of Christ. His desire was not to get away from problems,
his yearning was to be with Christ. He expressed what Thersa of Avila
confessed after she saw the glory of God in a vision. "It is a nameless
sorrow to have seen the eternal and to have to live the temporal." Another
who had a vision of the glory of Christ said, "I almost die of pain because
I cannot die." Even though the Apostle had tasted the "glory," he decided
it was best not to "break camp" and leave his converts.
LINK WITH THE SPIRIT AND LINK WITH THE WORLD
Paul had a clear grasp of an important fact: His link with God was through his spirit, but his link with earth was through his body. As Christians, we need never lose our link with God and the invisible world, but at the same time we have the advantage of having a body that gives us our touch with the visible world. When we die, we lose our visible realm; even though we maintain our connection with the invisible realm. But as long as we have a body, we maintain contact with both realms. This is our unique position. As Christians, our body gives is the chance, the opportunity, to bring down heaven's grace to this visible world. When we die, we lose that power. Our body is of great value since it is our "passport" that grants us the right to live and walk on the earth in God's service! We need to see our bodies from the scriptural viewpoint.
ARE YOU GNOSTIC?
What is your attitude toward your body? You may not know it but your
attitude will be rooted either in Hebrew Scripture or in an aspect of
Greek philosophy. Some Greek philosophers taught that the body was essentially
gross and prone toward evil but the inner spirit was inclined toward good.
This philosophy was called Gnosticism.
The Hebrew Scriptures had no relationship to Gnosticism. The Old Testament
teaches that the whole creation was originally blessed by God. The Hebrews
accepted the account of divine creation. God created the heavens and the
earth, the sea, the land, the birds, the animals and He created man. When
He was finished with His work, the Bible tells us in beautiful language,
"God saw everything that he had made and behold it was very good." How
simple and uncomplicated. Everything is very good that was made by Him
and for Him. Man was created with the right and ability to have fellowship
with Him. This is important in directing the way we think about our body,
and the whole material world as well.
GNOSTIC THOUGHT CREEPS IN
When the Christian Church began to break out of its geographical Judaism and spread into the Gentile world, the Gnostic doctrine began to creep in through some of its more philosophic members. The Gnostics seemed to have a special ambition to get Christians to embrace this dualistic philosophy.
The Gnostics taught this: God is one, but He is far away, hidden and unknowable. From this distant God proceed a series of essences or emanations. When these emanations are close to God, they are pure. The further away they get from God, the less pure they become. Spiritual creations such as angels or other orders of beings also come from these emanations.
When these emanations get far away from God they penetrate the material world. They taught that the material world was not created by God. It was made by another being called the "Demiurge." This gross creation was not pure like the spiritual world; it was evil. So the spiritual world became mixed with the material world. To the Gnostic, this mixture explains the good and evil in the human race. Since man's body is material, man is part of that mixture. Our physical body enshrouds a divine emanation or spirit. Therefore man's spirit can be good, but his body is evil.
Remember now, this was not the early Christian nor the Hebrew viewpoint;
it was the Gnostic viewpoint. It came from pagan sources in the Greek
and Persian world. The church was influenced by such teachings - ideas
that were in opposition to the doctrine contained in both the Old and
New Testament. The "leaven" of Gnosticism was at work in the church as
early as 100 A.D. and grew in influence for three to four hundred years.
BIBLE TEACHERS AND GNOSTICISM
Many evangelical Bible teachers will deny any connection with Gnosticism,
but even so, its leaven still pervades their thinking about sanctification.
Many Christians carry around an inner suspicion that as long as they have
bodies, and are human, they are automatically sinful. This is a serious
error and not true to what the Scriptures teach.
GOD HAS NO ARGUMENT WITH OUR PHYSICAL EXISTENCE!
We see from the advent of Jesus Christ that God has no argument with our physical existence. When David desired to build the temple, he was told that he couldn't do so because he was a man of war. God instead gave him a promise. He said that one of "his seed," his descendants, would be an everlasting king over the world. This promise of a Messiah was fulfilled in the birth of Christ. Jesus said, "A body thou hast prepared for me." Jesus was born of the seed of David, "according to the flesh" (Rom. 1:3).
John says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." This eternal Word of God, this spiritual Expression of His, was "made flesh and dwelt among us." The Greek word translated "flesh" is the word "sarx." It does not mean that Jesus seemed to be flesh; it means that He had a real, material body. The book of Hebrews tells us that "in the days of his flesh," Jesus cried out to His heavenly Father. He prayed as one of us, as a man. Because of His humanity, He is qualified to be our High Priest. He is qualified to be a mediator between God and man. As a mediator, Christ came to reconcile fallen man and bring him back to his redeeming God. He came to bring harmony between heaven and earth; the material with the spiritual.
Jesus Christ also came to raise up our dead bodies through the glorious power of His resurrection. A great aspect of the counsel of God is contained in His promise to raise the dead. It pleased God to send His Son, not only to redeem the human spirit, but also to redeem our humanity which includes the body (Rom. 8:23). Our time on earth is one of preparation. If we do not bear the image of the earthly, we will never bear the image of the heavenly (1 Cor. 15:49). We expect our "great change" on the day Christ raises up our bodies.
In this light we see that our short time here on earth is our great chance to represent God, the Father, to the world of men. Our life here is significant. It is favored by God. God is pleased to make His dwelling in us so He can manifest His grace and love through our mortal bodies now!
YOUR BODY, A LIVING SACRIFICE!
We have all faced the temptation of trying to "hang on" to Christianity that makes us feel safe and secure without upsetting our pattern of life. We, of course, want to know that our spirits will go to heaven when we die. We want our circumstances to continue peaceful and convenient. We desire good health and long life.
We assert our rights to legitimate things such as a good home and family. We must have jobs that are fulfilling and offer social acceptance. And above all we must have predictable security - and of course, heaven thrown in too.
The rich young ruler asked the question, "What must I do to be saved?" He had everything this world could offer. Jesus faced him with the fact that this 'good life' was his idol, his supreme preference. He instructed him to sell all that he had and give to the poor and then to come and follow Him. Now the young man had a problem. He wanted to be assured that his soul would be safe in heaven, but he also wanted the body to be safe and comfortable here on earth. However, he wanted to be free from the nagging unrest he felt within. He went away sorrowful.
DELIVERANCE FROM THE POWER OF SIN
In Paul's letter to the Roman believers, he begins by speaking of the
salvation of their souls. He then introduces the possibility of their
deliverance from the power of sin and of their lives being lived by the
power of the Holy Spirit. Then, in chapter 12, he tells the separated,
Spirit-filled believers to present their bodies to God as a living sacrifice.
He considered this to be their reasonable service in the light of the
mercy God has showered upon them.
WHAT IS A LIVING SACRIFICE?
What is a living sacrifice? What does this mean? It means that the body can be used for any purpose that God sees is necessary. In the fields around Jerusalem they kept the temple flocks. These, of course, were living sheep but were devoted for sacrifice to serve God's purpose and teach the people redemption. The Christian's body is to be such a living sacrifice, devoted to the will and purpose of God. The heart attitude should be that of the will of God is going to be done at any cost. "I dedicate my body to this holy purpose for God."
One of the strongest witnesses to the meaning of being a living sacrifice is found in the life of C. T. Studd. Born of wealthy parents, he was educated at Eton and became an internationally famous cricket player. He received Christ through the influence of his father who had been converted under the ministry of D. L. Moody. After surrendering his heart and life to Jesus Christ, he responded to God's call to be a missionary in China. Along with seven other young men he sailed for China in 1885 to begin working with Hudson Taylor. During this time in China his father died, and C. T. Studd inherited a small fortune. Instead of keeping the inheritance, he decided to give his fortune away. He wrote at least four checks, each being the equivalent of $25,000 plus others of over several thousand dollars each. These he gave to Mr. Moody, the evangelist; Mr. Muller, for his orphanages; Bruce Tucker, for his work with the Salvation Army; and others. HE also set aside three thousand dollars to provide financial security for his wife, but Mrs. Studd rejected that proposal, so they gave that money away too.
Mr. and Mrs. Studd depended on the bank of heaven. One the basis of the Word of God, they considered it a glorious investment. God has promised to give a hundredfold for everything we give to Him. He believed he would receive ten thousand percent interest for his investment in the "Bank of Heaven." His time in China was not without hardship. He was so ill he almost died. He finally recovered enough to return to England in 1894.
During the time at home he ministered in churches and colleges, challenging young people to give their lives to Christ and to claim the gift of the Holy Spirit. He also ministered in America.
In 1900 he sensed that the Lord was leading him again to missionary service, this time in India. He faithfully ministered to both saved and unsaved until several severe asthma attacks forced him to return to England. So in 1906, at the age of 52, he came home, completely broken in health. Certainly, from a natural viewpoint, no one would consider him a candidate for any further missionary service.
But four years later God called him again, this time to the heart of
Africa. What doctor would pass him physically? What mission board would
accept him? C. T. Studd concluded that the only board that would send
him would be the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. He found a young
man named Buxton who was willing to go with him. So on December 15, 1910,
they sailed together for Africa. People said he wouldn't last more than
a few months in tropical Africa. But the renewing power of the Holy Spirit
in his body enabled him to minister there for seventeen years. As they
sailed from Liverpool, he wrote in his diary, "On retiring to my cabin
the first night, God spoke to me in a very strange fashion. He said, 'This
trip is not merely for the Sudan. It is for the whole unevangelized world.'
C. T. STUDD -- NO SACRIFICE CAN BE TOO GREAT FOR ME TO MAKE FOR
C. T. Studd has often been quoted by evangelical Christians. One of his statements has become the creed of those who want to give themselves entirely to Jesus Christ. He said, "If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him." His bodily life was expendable. God had the right to use it for anything. He often said to his co-workers, "Christ wants not nibblers of the possible, but grabbers of the impossible." God could put him in any place, no matter what the danger. The following verse best shows his abandonment to God's will and purpose:
"Some wish to live within the sound
Of church or chapel bell,
I want to turn a rescue shop
Within a yard of hell."
During the time C. T. Studd and his co-workers labored among the tribes of central Africa, thousands turned to Christ through their intercession and ministry. Revival broke out among those tribes as he insisted that all Christians must give full consecration - spirit, soul and body - to Jesus Christ.
He carried this treasure in an earthen vessel. His passion, vision, and love were expressed by often rising at 3:30 each morning to search out the commands and promises of his Master. His desire was to get to know God better. In the morning he would often preach to over a thousand natives, sometimes for several hours at a time. His messages were red-hot from the fires of his morning devotions. There was a reckless abandonment about the way he regarded life or death. The question was frequently asked, "What if Studd dies?" Here is his reply: "We will all sing Hallelujah. The world will have lost its biggest fool. And with one less fool to handicap Him, God will do greater wonders still. There shall be no funeral, no wreathes, no crepe, no tears, not even a death march. Congratulations all around will take place and 'I, if I be offered up, rejoice and congratulate you; do ye also rejoice and congratulate me' " (Phil. 2:17, 18, Lightfoot's Translation).
Because of his intercession and abandonment to the plans and purposes of God, God was able to trigger a movement that would reach the rest of the unevangelized world. The Worldwide Evangelization Crusade is the expression of that vision. This mission has over 800 missionaries around the world and has been the inspiration for many other missionary organizations, including Bethany International, located in Minneapolis, MN.
Why could C. T. Studd go to China? Why could he go to India? Why could he last of all go to Africa and have this tremendous impact? Because he understood one very simple issue: You cannot serve in a visible world without a visible body. But if a body is presented to God as a living sacrifice, Christ can be magnified in the body both by life and death.
(This summary of C. T. Studd's life is based on the book, C. T. Studd:
Athlete and Pioneer by Norman Grubb.)
CLICK HERE FOR PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION
EVANGELISM AMONG THE TIBETAN BUDDHISTS | ONE MEDIATOR BETWEEN GOD AND MAN - DO ALL RELIGIONS LEAD TO HEAVEN? - 1 TIMOTHY 2: 5-6 | SEEKING GOD'S WISDOM | WHAT GOOD IS MY BODY? | FEELINGS | THEOLOGICAL REFLECTIONS -- GALATIANS 3 : 8 | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR