These reflections help us look into the Bible to discover what God is saying to us today. We find Bible passages to read and questions to ponder. The themes are in the process of being listed in an index with each theme ultimately divided into seven sections. We hope to be completed soon.
“… the spirit of man which is in him .” (v.11) RSV
Human beings are not spirits, they are souls, but they do have a spirit. In our reading Paul refers to “the spirit which is in him” (v.11). When Jesus was dying on the cross he “cried with a loud voice and said, ‘Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!’”, or as the old version said: “He gave up the ghost”.
This spiritual aspect responds to beauty and love. All humans have a spiritual side to them, though some may ignore it and overlay it with material pleasures and concerns; they may also overrule it by depending on reason and science.
We ignore our spiritual side to our peril. We should feed our spirits by taking time to be quiet and enjoy beautiful things, especially nature. However these things alone will not connect us to God. Or if they do so, it will be very abstract and impersonal. The Christian faith describes us as being spiritually dead (Ephesians 4:18). This is made clear in our reading when Paul writes, “The unspiritual man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him …” (v.14).
God is Spirit and those who wish to be in touch with him and in fellowship with him, have to be made spiritually alive. We need to be “born from above/again” (John 3:3), and we need to be fed spiritually with “the pure spiritual milk” (1 Peter 2:2). If we also worship God regularly both on our own and together with others, then we will grow strong in our spirits. The things of God will become our chief love.
Jesus worshipped in the Temple and in synagogues. He often went off by himself to pray. Such spiritual disciplines are vital for all people. Without them we lose touch with God and we become weakened and subject of other forces.
Lord, thank you that you have made me so that my soul is restless until it finds its rest in you. Teach me to love you and to seek you day by day. Amen.
“… as we await … the redemption of our bodies.” (v.23) RSV
Sometimes we are given the impression by religious teaching that our bodies are wicked, or at least weak. The Greeks used to teach that the body was merely the casket that held the divine spark. The body could be either indulged or denied, but in either case it would not affect the spirit of the divine within.
This is so wrong. God created the material world and said it was “good” (Genesis 1:31). This included the bodies of Adam and Eve. The human race was made so that body, mind and spirit were all interrelated; no one could be fully human unless all three aspects were functioning properly.
Our bodies are a gift and not just a necessary evil. When we die we will shed our mortal bodies, but that is not because we don’t need them anymore. We leave this earth as body-less souls. We go to be with the Lord, but there will await “the redemption of our bodies” (v.23). The bodies that we shall have will be the body of the risen Christ.
God treats our body as equally valuable as our mind and spirit. Why else would he deign to take on human flesh and become man (John 1:14)? God has forever taken on himself human flesh. He became like us so that we could become like him.
Just as God transformed the mortal flesh of Jesus into immortality, so he will transform us in like manner; but that still lies in the future. Meantime, we treat our bodies with love and respect. God comes to us through our bodies as well as through our minds. God reveals himself through all our senses. Let us enjoy the presence of God in the air we breathe, the food we eat, the nature we see and feel, the bodies we touch.
Like all great gifts they can also be used by the devil! We can sell our souls for “a mess of pottage” as did Esau, or the caresses of a Delilah, as did Samson. Beware!
Thank you Lord for the gift of my body. May it be to me the Temple of the Holy Spirit, the House of God. Amen.
Not all people are saints, though of course many people are very good. Maybe we tend to think that only first class Christians are saints, those who have lived exceptionally good or generous lives, and in particular those who have died for their faith.
We may also call people saints even if they make no specific claim to be Christians and yet their lives are exceptionally good and ‘saintly’.
But in the Bible there is not a single saint! I use the word advisedly, for the word is never used in the singular. In fact it uses the word ‘saints’ in a very particular way. It does not use it to describe people of virtue, but people of faith in Jesus Christ.
Paul writes to many churches and always refers to the believers as ‘saints’. Yet so often he is writing because the churches and the people in them are in a mess or falling short of their high calling. They are all therefore regarded as ‘saints’ whether good ones or bad ones. The reason they are called ‘saints’ is because that is how God views them. He sees them not a sinners or merely humans, but as his children, clothed in the righteousness of Christ (Galations 3:26-27).
We too need to adopt a positive attitude towards ourselves. Let’s see ourselves as God sees us, rather than being depressed by our weaknesses and failures. A great sculptor once said that when faced by a large lump of rock or marble he did not see a shapeless and rough mass, but he saw the object to be carved already inside; it was his job to set it free through hammer and chisel. God also sees who we are in Christ and he will bring that potential to the light of day.
Dear Lord, you have such faith in me, more than I have myself. Help me to let you have your way in me and make me into the saint that in Christ I already am. Amen.
For weeks now we have been eulogising the elevated position that humans and the human race have in creation and before God. Man is “little less than God” (Psalm 8:5), and made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). He is “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). Yet man is also a mess. From time immemorial he has been in rebellion against God’s love and law. He has become both individually and corporately a sinner.
A sinner is not necessarily a person who is doing evil and wicked things. No, he may be quite a decent person. But he is not living out of faith and love towards God. And as it says, “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). And also, “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Herews. 11:6).
Sins are only the manifestation of sin. It is because we are wrong at the heart of our being that we also commit sins. Our actions reveal our heart, and it is our heart that God is interested in. Do we have a heart for God? Do we love him with all of our being?
Sin starts with rebellion, “I’ll do it my way.” That is how it is described in the Garden of Eden. We chose to ignore God’s generosity and his limitations and ate the forbidden fruit. This heart of rebellion is described well by John; he says it is to love the world (the created order) before we love God. He writes: “Do not love the world … the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life …” (1 John 2:15-16). This is not implying that we should reject all the goodness of this created order. By no means! It is saying in effect what Jesus said: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness (and then) all these things shall be yours as well.” (Matthew 6:33).
Forgive me Lord when I put my will before yours. Grant me a new heart that I may seek your good and perfect will. Amen.