Spiritual versus Physical and Discernment to Tell the Difference
Can you fill a spiritual need with physical substance or material?
Can you fill a physical need with spiritual substance or material?
The real question for a lot of Christians is, ‘Can you tell the difference? Do you have the ability to discern between a physical and a spiritual need? Do you have the guts to fill a spiritual need with spiritual food, or do you find it easier to fill spiritual needs with more physical stuff? Which doesn’t’ really fill either a spiritual or a physical need. It just makes you miserable.
Let’s draw some imaginary lines in the sand to determine where we stand. Imagine a few things as well.
Here is a line in the sand. On the one side are those who believe the Bible is completely true, without error, all sufficient in that it needs no additional revelation, and the relevant guide to living. On the other side of the line are those who do not believe this. Period. They may believe a host of other things and follow a particular belief system, or they may make up a belief system that suits their own idea of right. Pretend you personally are walking that line right down the middle. You say you are on the Lord’s side, but it has never really cost you anything, However, on this particular day, you are put to the test. If you step off the line and fully and completely onto the Lord’s side, it is going to cost you something today. It will cost you something that is very noticeable. It might be a job promotion, or a job in the first place. It might be the person you want to marry. It might be the good will of family and/or friends. But it will cost you something significant today. Which way will you step?
IF you have been spending time studying the God’s Word as given to us in the Bible, then you probably have:
A consistent prayer life
A correct and right view of God’s ability to have His Word written down correctly in the Bible
A growing understanding of God’s authority to set the boundaries between right and wrong
A strong and growing loyalty to the God of your salvation
A growing faith.
These things will strengthen and enable you to step over the line and onto the Lord’s side. If you are calling yourself a Christian, but are not doing the things Christ says to do, then you may find it seems a much better path to step over the line onto the easy side, onto the side that will give you whatever it is that you want at the moment. One reason Christians and
Christians-so-called step off the line and onto the side of the world is they don’t have the discernment to actually tell which side is the Lord’s side. They have a general knowledge of God’s love and the way of salvation; but, their ignorance of God’s righteousness, holiness, and truth allows them to be fooled by ‘gray areas’. Honestly, there are no real gray areas. There may be a lot of circumstances that make for confusion, but the right and the wrong of an issue is there.
For instance, consider abortion.. Either an unborn child is a human being or it is not. That is the real issue. The world is working hard to change everyone’s perception of the problem They throw in all sorts of questions designed to muddy the water, to put abortion into a ‘gray area’ where a lot of things are considered that actually have no real bearing on the issue. We are supposed to agonize over the woman’s right to her own body, rape, incest, and mental and physical handicaps. All these things cannot answer the first question. Is a preborn child a human being or not? Sonograms available today prove beyond any reasonable doubt that a preborn child is a very real human being. That is why those in favor of abortion would rather talk about other questions like rape, incest, and women’s’ rights. Those issues do matter, but they have nothing to do with the right of a child to be allowed to live. It is never right that a child should die for the crimes of its father or the inconvenience of its mother.
We can take it down a notch now. Let’s suppose that you are neglecting Bible study, and that learning to think Biblically seems more trouble than its worth. If you neglect Bible theology and doctrine, then you are stepping over the line into continual ignorance. That makes you someone very easily fooled by liberal theologians, preachers, teachers, and actual wolves in sheep’s clothing. While you may personally be saved, it becomes much harder for you to lead others to Christ. And that lack of leadership will show up in your own home. Your own heart is going to be the one broken.
Bible study is necessary for your own health and well-being. Bible study is often avoided because of other commitments to things like work, church work, a little family time, family chores, and just a few minutes to relax. Most of those things do need to be done. However, doing them to the exclusion of studying and learning the teachings of the Bible will hurt your Christian life. When life throws one of those dreadful pop quizzes at you, you will fail, flunk, blow it, and all together make a mess of things. Too many failures and you may drop out of the Christian walk completely. I know there are very real problems associated with time management and physical fatigue. However, the problems associated with finding time and energy for Bible study do not change the fact that learning about Jesus is very necessary to your discernment. If you don’t know the things Christ says to do, how can you actually do them? And, how can you recognize error and explain theological error to others if you have no discernment yourself? Be selfish in this matter. Put Bible study first. Make the time for it. It is not that you should go looking for error in the church. You just should be able to recognize it when it pops up.
Lack of discernment in individual Christians leads to lack of discernment in the church congregation as a whole.
Church members were too ignorant to actually recognize error when it reared its head
Church members see disagreeing on doctrinal issues as making unnecessary trouble – or they don’t see it as their place to point out the errors
Church members do not see the importance of small errors
Church members see some level of error as acceptable providing it just ‘gets people into church’
Church members have a mental picture of the church as a bigger and better building that requires more members to financially support the lovely building
Church members see inclusiveness as more important than doctrinal purity.
Church members do not know the difference between real doctrinal error and personality
Church members do not WANT to be different from the world, and certainly not separated from the world
Church members LIKE some errors – especially if those errors paint them as broadminded, inclusive, progressives
And so on…..
Christians, instead of being encouraged to learn yoga and all get along, should be encouraged to learn how to rightly divide the truth. That comes from Bible study, with the goal of learning the truth and applying that truth to how we live. In everything we do, there is a way that is pleasing to God and a way that displeases Him. There is no ‘make everyone happy’ ground in the middle. Pay attention to spiritual things.
A couple of hints regarding getting a firm grasp on sound doctrine are:
Prayerfully ask the Lord to help you understand. I knew a preacher who was a native of India. When he began his Christian life he said there was basically no one to help him get started. He did have the Bible. So, he would get on his knees, read a passage, and they pray for understanding. The Lord answered his prayers.
We have options that were not available to my friend from India. We have churches to attend that do preach the Gospel. We have Bible helps available to us with centuries of sound Bible principles explained in written word. Many are available free on the internet.
To help with individual Bible study, read old Bible commentaries like Matthew Henry. Read a passage of scripture and look and see how it was interpreted in the past. http://chistnotes.org is a fantastic resource that is entirely free.
Check to see if Spurgeon did a sermon or expository notes on a particular passage.
Look for similar passages and commentaries and sermons on those passage.
Like Brother John from India, pray constantly for understanding and discernment.
Remember, the scripture that we have in the Bible is sufficient and relevant to whatever dilemma you are facing. The reason for reading commentaries and sermons is to see how church leaders of the past have interpreted scripture in general and certain passages in particular. You are still studying the Bible without looking for additional revelations. By the way, Brother John prayed on his knees. That was what he felt called to do. I read about a man who prayed best standing on his head. He said the best prayer he ever prayed was when he fell head first into a well. While hanging by his toes from the bucket rope, he prayed a really good prayer for help. If you have arthritic knees, don’t worry about praying on your knees. Just try to stay awake and focused.
The need for the Christian to fill their own spiritual needs has at least two parts.
First, the individual Christian needs to be filled with the knowledge of God. There is a hunger inside the Christian that can only be filled by learning and living according to what the Bible says.
Second, the teachings of the Bible need to spill out to those around.
I am not speaking in the abstract when I say that a greater knowledge and understanding of the truth of the Bible is the only way to fill the need for spiritual things. I am not speaking of some emotional experience. I definitely mean concrete study and a growing understanding of Christian principles. Christians need to learn to think Biblically. Every thought, every decision, every action, should revolve around what the Bible says and what the Bible allows and disallows.
You know, Christians have a spiritual need to give. That’s right. There is a longing in the heart to give to the work of God. This is most often done through your church. Through your church giving, the church staff and buildings are maintained. Missionaries are supported. Your heart wants to be part of that, so you give money. And, you will be blessed for you gifts. I don’t know what your blessings will be, but blessings you will have. Job was a ‘giver’. And what he got, at least in part, was a better understanding of God’s authority over creation. He was also eventually given material wealth, but he certainly suffered mightily before he got to what we would call the easy part of his life. The reason for mentioning Job is to remind us all that the ritual giving of the health and wealth gospel is not doctrinally sound. If Ichabod Jones puts a nickel in the offering plate believing that the Lord must give him two dollars in return, he is trying to fill a material desire through what he thinks is a spiritual means. Enough nickels given from people like Ichabod Jones will make the so called preacher rich, but it won’t do much for Ichabod. Ichabod has reduced God Almighty down to a mental image of a slot machine that pays off big after enough nickels have been dropped into the slot.
A sincere desire to do what is good for our own souls and the souls of our families is the best and surest way to provide for our material needs. God says to seek first HIS kingdom and all the things we need will be added to us. In seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, the Christian gains an increasing knowledge of who God is, His characteristics, His righteousness, His worthiness to be worshipped, and His great love for His children. The more a Christian seeks God, the more he finds Him. The Christian digging into God’s word begins to understand that crying after the things of the world is not necessary because God is going to care of His own child. The means by which He cares for His children is most often through the work of their own hands, but nevertheless, the provision comes from God. The outcome is in His hands.
Matthew 6:24-30 is very often quoted, but how often is it taken to heart by the hearer?
24No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
25Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
26Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
28And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
31Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
34Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
It appears that the entire world is traveling deeper and deeper into perilous times. We should be as prepared as possible, doing the physical things that we can do to try to make our lives safe and comfortable. But our first thoughts should be on the spiritual needs of ourselves and our families. Seeking to fulfill our spiritual needs first will lead us to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. The Bible is very clear that seeking God first will lead to having our material needs met.
Seek ye first the kingdom of God. This is seeking to fill our spiritual needs.
God Himself clearly states that if we seek to fill our spiritual needs our material needs will be met. (I know – I just said that in the previous paragraph – but it is so important that it needs repeating)
Whatever the perilous times bring to the individual Christian, Christians families, and Christian churches, God is able to handle the situation. Our job is to seek God. His job is to care for His children.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.
He is Able to Deliver Thee
’Tis the grandest theme through the ages rung;
’Tis the grandest theme for a mortal tongue;
’Tis the grandest theme that the world e’er sung,
“Our God is able to deliver thee.”
He is able to deliver thee,
He is able to deliver thee;
Though by sin oppressed, go to Him for rest;
“Our God is able to deliver thee.”
’Tis the grandest theme in the earth or main;
’Tis the grandest theme for a mortal strain;
’Tis the grandest theme, tell the world again,
“Our God is able to deliver thee.”
’Tis the grandest theme, let the tidings roll,
To the guilty heart, to the sinful soul;
Look to God in faith, He will make thee whole,
“Our God is able to deliver thee.”
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Remember to pray for:
Those worshipping false gods
Christians to love one another as Christ loves us