12. Exercising Our Spirit
Faith is the capacity of the spirit to do work. I have the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith works by love.
12. Exercising Our Spirit
To redeem something is to buy back that which was lost or kidnapped and held captive by another. God redeems our body, our soul, and our mind, but He does not redeem the human spirit. God ended our old spirit; He put it to death on the cross of Christ. Then He birthed a new spirit within us.
Our new spirit has no connection to Adam. Adam’s spirit and our former spirit were not like our new spirit. Adam was not one spirit with the Lord in the way that we are because he had not eaten of the tree of life.
Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever. 1 Peter 1:23
Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. 1 John 3:9
And that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:24
Peter says that the seed by which our new spirit was created came out of the loins of Father God, an incorruptible seed. John says that what is conceived of God cannot sin, that is, it is incorruptible. Paul says that our new man, our new spirit, is created in TRUE righteousness and holiness, that our spirit and God’s Spirit are one.
There is only one Being in the universe who is incorruptible. God. All created creatures are corruptible. Only God is incapable of sinning or of even considering the shadow of sin.
God cannot be tempted with evil. Jesus, when He walked this earth, was tempted in all points just like we are tempted, that is, Jesus was carried away by His own lusts and enticed – though He did not connect with the sin that offered itself to Him through His mind and through His body.
Do we dare to suggest or to believe that our own re-generated human spirit, conceived of an incorruptible seed, conceived of God, living in a fused union with God’s Spirit, is incorruptible? That our spirit is a partaker of the divine nature, as Peter said?
This is too much for us to comprehend. Paul said, “Let this same mind be in you that was also in Christ, who, being found in the form of God did not count equality with God to be something to grip tightly, but rather emptied Himself and became a servant.” (I paraphrase) People argue about what Jesus’ emptying Himself meant; few see the words, “Let this same mind be in you.”
To be like God is to be meek and lowly of heart, always to be thinking about the other guy as better than one’s self, always giving Himself away for others.
The New Covenant we signed with God when we entered the waters of baptism commands us, over and over, to be just like God, to love as He loves, to forgive as He forgives, to serve as He serves, to be holy as He is holy, to overcome as He overcame. How could God expect us to be like Him unless we are?
Paul said, “Since we already live in the Spirit, let’s walk in the Spirit as well.”
Always in the past it was presented as, “Get out of your flesh, brother, and get in the Spirit.” But we are always in our re-generated spirit. There is never a moment when we are not. We are always in God; there is never a shadow of separation, except in our own wrong thinking.
Does anyone ever say, “You’re out of the body, brother, you need to get in it?” Yes, teachers say such a thing. “Wake up, Johnny, come back into the classroom, please.” What was Johnny’s problem? Was he actually departed from his body? No, his problem was that his mind was somewhere else.
And so our problem as believers in Christ was not that we were not “in the Spirit,” we were. Our problem was we forgot, and our forgetting was reinforced by anti-gospel theology. Instead of being reminded, “Hey, brother, be encouraged, Jesus carries you in Himself, and He is in you with tenderness and joy right now,” we were taught to condemn ourselves and to weep over our failure.
I love to listen to my daughter play the piano. Her skill is a beautiful combination of trained body and trained mind, connecting together in her fingers to create great pleasure for others. Were I to try to do the same thing, I would produce only discord. My daughter can play well because she practiced for many years.
Training and learning to use our spiritual body, our spirit, is NO DIFFERENT. There are a lot of similarities between being trained to walk in and function through our spirits, to move in spiritual productivity that brings profit and benefit to other people, and being trained to use the physical body and mind.
The New Testament is filled with directions to us on how to train ourselves to function in our spiritual body. Much of that instruction, however, has been short-circuited by the incredible idea that “heaven” is some location we “go to” where we will then enjoy “salvation.” This non-Biblical definition of the heavens has done more damage to the church of Christ than anything else in history.
When we understand that heaven is a realm of being in which we walk and live fully right now in our spiritual body; that we are in heaven right now as much as we will ever be; that salvation has nothing to do with going somewhere, but everything to do with becoming and revealing what we already are fully upon this earth, then, so many things in the New Testament now make perfect sense inside the present reality of Christ in us.
But the primary Scriptural focus on how we exercise our spiritual body is found in 1 Corinthian 12-14. And the place in which we are to learn how to live and walk and bring benefit to others through our spirits is the local church.
If you want to train your physical body and mind to play the piano what do you do? You practice. If you want to train your spirit to heal the sick and raise the dead what do you do? You practice. There is no difference.
What is the role of the mind in our make-up as a human soul sandwiched between two bodies? What would it be like to live and walk in a fully trained and functioning spirit?
We have to be careful with that, because just as a fully trained baseball player functions differently from a fully trained concert pianist or from a fully trained construction foreman, so there are many variations of gifts and workings in the spiritual realms. Just as some parents try to force their children to look a certain way outwardly and to become what the parents want them to be, so many religious leaders in the church try to impose an outward definition of “Christ” on other believers. In both cases the results are never good. Neither are the results good when we try to force our own definition of “Christ” on our spirits.
But it is as right and natural for us to train our spirits and to relate with other people and the heavens of God through our spirits as it is for us to train our bodies and to relate with other people and the earth through our physical bodies. It is wrong thinking that makes the “spiritual” things religious and unnatural.
And that’s where the mind comes into the picture.
Everything we are in body and in spirit, in heart and in soul, processes through the mind. The mind is a central processing unit, just like a computer. In the computer, everything is stored in the hard drive. In order for the CPU to operate, it must draw out what is already in the hard drive. It then runs the data from the hard drive using the programs stored in the hard drive and it processes new information coming in from the keyboard or the Internet according to the programs coming out of the hard drive.
The hard drive is like the heart. “Out of the heart the mouth speaks.” Out of the hard drive, the CPU operates. The CPU cannot do anything unless it draws first out of the hard drive. What is important is what’s in the hard drive, that is, what’s in the heart.
Nevertheless, no matter what goes into a computer or comes out of a computer, all of it is processed by the CPU on its way in and on its way out. So it is with our minds. This central pivot role played by the mind is God’s deliberate intention. “Mindlessness” for the sake of being “spiritual” is ungodly; it is demonic.
For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. 1 Corinthians 14:31-33
Everything that moves through me must be subject to my own mind. This is God’s order. To remove the human mind from this central pivot role is to subject everything to confusion and not to peace.
However, we take the metaphor of the computer one step further. The CPU can do nothing unless there is installed in it a specialized program called an operating system. Once that operating system is installed, everything that takes place in the CPU, coming in and going out, is completely controlled and regulated by that operating system.
In the computer world there are a number of operating systems one could choose from, including Windows, Linux, and Mac. But in our human makeup, our minds have two main operating systems by which they can operate.
Our mind processes everything that passes through us coming in and going out in both the physical realms of earth through the body and the spiritual realms of heaven through the spirit. The human mind is itself neutral and serves the critical role of gatekeeper in our lives. A violation of the mind in its function is a violation of our very person.
But the mind can operate only with an installed “operating system.” And the human mind has two different operating systems by which it can work.
A human mind that follows the operating system of the physicality of this world, judging and processing everything by what it sees and hears, according to the reasoning of this world, turns everything that passes through it to death. This mind gets its “electrical” frequency or anointing from demons and draws its information out of a heart that is hardened against God.
Now, before we go on, we have this distinction – there are many things that the mind does process by the physicality of the body, that is, all those things that rightly pertain to the earth. My mind uses my physical eyes and the “knowing” that is in my physical fingers to type these letters on this page. Yet the processing of my mind is anointed by the Holy Spirit and the information that it is processing onto the page comes out of a heart filled with God’s word and a knowledge of His ways. But knowing which keys to hit has nothing to do with my spirit, that knowledge is completely natural.
And so a human mind that follows the operating system of the Spirit of Christ, judging and processing everything by what it sees through the eyes and ears of Christ, through the capacities of the Spirit, according to the reasoning of God turns everything that passes through it to life.
However, if I try to build a house using only my spirit and my ability to hear the anointing of God, the house will fall down. I knew a brother whose fellowship tried just that. They knew nothing about construction, so they followed the anointing of God upon their spirits to build a barn. It fell down. It was a hilarious story that the brother used to bring balance to our understanding.
And so the seeing of the natural eye is for the functioning of the natural body and not the spirit; and the seeing of the eyes of the spirit is for the functioning of the spiritual body and all those things related to the heavens.
When we are in proper balance our spirit and its capacity, our body and its capacity, and our mind in its functions all work together in a seamless harmony. God gave us the physical body to relate with and function in the earth, and He gave us the spiritual body to relate with and function in the heavens.
My spirit does have the capacity to project the power to heal into the faith of another person. That power to heal moves physical organs and cells into a right balance. Our spirit does have the power to heal. The problem is we don’t believe it. And faith does not mean trying to drum up something. Faith is the simple practice of the obvious. God fills us; what could be more obvious?
Let me point this truth out. The separated Christian “belief ” says that it is God who heals, not us, and of truth, those who live inside that darkness ought to think that way. But we who live in conscious union with a God who fills us with all of His fullness think differently. I do not distinguish between “me” and God. God fills me; end of story. So when I impart of the river of life to someone, that healing IS flowing out of me.
So what is it that we need as humans to learn to walk in and to bless others through our spirits? We need a new operating system by which our minds can function properly in the way God intended. We are transformed by the renewing of our minds. We change the way we think.
And it’s not “Stop using your carnal mind, brother.” No, it’s “You have the mind of Christ.” There is a carnality of thinking, but nowhere does God ever say that I have a carnal mind. God says only that I have the mind of Christ. Speaking what God speaks is how we change our thinking to reflect His.
Saying “You (or I) have a carnal mind” is carnality, the only thing it has ever produced in anyone is death. Saying “You (or I) have the mind of Christ” is the mind of the Spirit, it is life and peace and such great joy.
But of course, most of us as Christians have tried to use both operating systems at the same time, without understanding anything, really, about either one, trying also to bring in a third program called “the Law,” thus producing the travesty called “Christianity” and all the religious nonsense that goes with it.
Comparing ourselves to a computer simply gives us a framework of reality inside of which the Spirit of God can make so many things that He says in the New Testament alive and real inside of us.
So what does it look like not only to live in the Spirit, but to walk in and to function through all the power and life of a fully functioning, fully trained spirit as a son of God in this world?
We start with 1 Corinthians 13. Paul teaches us to move through our spirits to strengthen one another in the life of Christ in the church, some powerful stuff in Chapter 12; then he inserts an entire chapter on LOVE before continuing on with a further unfolding of how we practice life through our spirits in the church.
Spiritual power, as man sees it, is “power over” something else. That way of thinking comes from a satanic definition of God.
God’s spiritual power is power alongside, power that encourages and lifts up, power that strengthens and supports, power that gives life to another and sets them free to move in the integrity of their own person. The whole motive and thinking of spiritual life and power that is godly are completely other than the human conception of power to manipulate and control. Yet the power of God that is in our spirits is incredibly powerful! And it is completely at our disposal.
So it begins with the love of God manifesting through us, but that takes us to the next critical point. You and I are upon the earth as the image and likeness of God. We are supposed to be just like God; that’s why He created us. It is our function and role upon this earth to reveal in the physical realms in this age upon this sinful and cursed planet the nature and Person of Almighty God.
But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all. 1 Corinthians 12:7
The manifestation of the Spirit that Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 12 in the building up of the church in love is given for the purpose of preparing us to be the revelation of Jesus Christ upon the earth. That time of preparation is over; the time of fullness is now.
The building up of the Church prepares us as the body of Christ for the fullness of the Spirit. The fullness of the Spirit upon us now is the revelation of Jesus Christ as the proof and vindication of all that God speaks from the beginning.
Now, if you’re anything like me, you’re thinking at this point, “Dear God, I certainly have not learned to walk in my spirit sufficiently to be ready for the Spirit without measure.”
And that is completely true. However, that is not where salvation is found. Salvation comes entirely by the arm of the Lord Jesus Christ. No one is ready. And yet we are. He is salvation and our unreadiness is simply the background by which the Lord Jesus brings salvation by His own arm.
So what does our spirit do as it functions in all its capacity inside the fullness of the Spirit of God? Our spirit discerns and understands all the workings of evil and of demon spirits and it drives them towards full exposure and judgment.
Our spirit sees God in all things and knows His purposes and His ways. Our spirit turns the lights on so that darkness is judged and destroyed. Our spirit reveals the tender love and invincible power of our Father.
Our spirit releases the glorious liberty of Christ into every dark and hurting crevice upon this planet. Our spirit does all of this in conjunction with and through our mind and body.
Our spirit brings heaven to earth. Our spirit reveals God in the flesh.
Strength/skill is the capacity of the physical body to do work. My body is holy, and I can love God with all of my strength.
Knowledge/wisdom is the capacity of the mind to do work. I have the mind of Christ, and I can love God with all of my mind.
Faith is the capacity of the spirit to do work. I have the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith works by love.
Jesus said that faith is like a mustard seed. It starts out quite small. Yet the tiny plant coming out of that tiny mustard seed never stops growing. It simply gets bigger and bigger until it is as large as a tree.
Faith works in the same way.
But strength only increases if it is exercised and trained. Knowledge and wisdom only increase with application and study and much reflection. Faith only increases if it is exercised and trained. If we do not use faith to accomplish work, faith cannot grow.
The ability of faith to accomplish God’s will in the earth is without limit, since God is without limit. More than that, faith grows, one might say, by multiplication. The more we see God move through our faith, the more excited we are to see God move and the more we expect God to do what He says.
The disciples cried to Jesus, “Oh Lord, please, give us faith. (Increase our faith.)” This is what my students want. They want knowledge of how to write to flow into them by virtue of their presence in my classroom. They want to learn by osmosis; just plug in the hose and pour the knowledge in.
It doesn’t work that way, that’s why Jesus gave the disciples a cryptic answer.
You want strength? Exercise and practice. There are no magic pills that give us strength. You want knowledge? Study – yourself. I can guide my students, but I can never “make” them learn. You want faith? Exercise and practice.
Now, all of our human makeup comes to us from the Lord Jesus Christ. Our spirit and the Holy Spirit are one spirit. The faith that we walk in is the faith of Christ Himself. The life that we live in the flesh we live by the faith of the Son of God who loves us and who gives Himself for us.
Nevertheless, faith is not different from strength or knowledge. We increase our faith by exercise, by the right “nutrition,” by practicing, and by study.
But here is the incredible thing about faith. Faith will grow. Our faith will grow so large that the glory of God will move through it and cover the entire earth. There is no limit on faith because there is no limit on God. To say “this far and no more” is to kill faith. Faith is either growing or retreating; it never sits still.
Faith is larger than strength/skill and knowledge/wisdom. The capacity of our faith to do work in this world is without limit. We use our faith to prove the will of God in both heaven and earth.
Faith births Life. Strength walks in the Way, wisdom pursues and reveals the Truth, and faith births and gives Life. All of it is Christ.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. — Christ is made unto us wisdom. — The life I live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
We no longer see ourselves as some entity or “self” separate from Christ. Therefore we look always with expectation to Christ planted in us, and we never judge ourselves as “carnal” nor do we see any part of ourselves as being something other than the good things of Christ inside of us.
Even when we blow it and treat others in hurtful ways, still we walk always in the full knowledge of the Blood and we measure ourselves and others only by all the measurement of Christ. Christ Himself transforms us from the inside out; transformation comes no other way. What we judge, we become; what we measure is measured back to us.
We accomplish work in this world by using the strength and skill of our bodies and the training and knowledge of our minds to bring forth good things for other people. Faith also works to accomplish good in the earth and for those whom we love.
Few Christians live by faith. I did not begin to live by faith until a few years ago. Yet for decades I walked with God, learning of His ways, following after Him to know Him. I heard His voice; I sought Him in the night watches. I believed in Him with all the tenacity of my heart.
But I did not live by faith. Rather I lived by an unending stream of curses flowing through my mind. Curses that spoke shame, and “You are carnal, brother,” and separation from God, not in big ways, but in little ways. We do not live by the big things of “faith,” we live by the little things of faith, the everyday thought patterns. I always expected the curse. I never expected God’s favor. I did not live by faith. God carried me, yes. Faith was in me as a tiny seed, yes. But I did not practice faith because I did not know the confidence and expectation of God.
I did not know faith as a way of living until the last few years as I have learned to speak and to think only Christ.
And understand – most Christians and most Christian theology demands that we think God’s curse over our lives in all the practical little ways of thinking. I was taught for years that to think curse over myself was godly and to think favor over myself was ungodly. Yes, faith was taught, but the mixture always came out on the side of thinking the curse in the everyday things with faith reserved only for the big things of life.
Now I have learned to think God’s favor – the expectation of God in all things – in the little everyday thought patterns of daily life. Speaking what God speaks teaches me to expect God in power and in might in all of His fullness moving through me. We cannot have one without the other. If we do not expect God in the little patterns of our daily thoughts, we will not expect God as He reveals Himself in glory in the earth.
Faith is the expectation of God. Faith is that capacity of the human spirit through which God moves into His creation. Unbelief, that is, faith in the curse, keeps God out of the earth. Faith allows God to show up in creation. That’s why faith is the only thing that pleases God. Faith makes God present. Unbelief keeps God absent. Unbelief is faith in the curse.
Faith makes Christ – all that God speaks – personal in me. Unbelief keeps Jesus back then, up there, someday, far away from me. Faith sits itself boldly in the throne of God, remembering always the Blood. Unbelief remains in the outer parts of God’s house, always inspecting itself and judging itself guilty of some fault and unworthy of God’s authority.
Faith sees the Creator, the Redeemer, the Resurrected Christ inside the heart. Unbelief sees selfishness and deceit inside the heart. Faith is Christ living as us in this world.
Now, here is how faith works. My wife and I extend God’s favor over our children’s lives in the expectation of faith. We are always expecting God to show up in their lives in wonderful and surprising ways. We are always expecting God to keep them from evil. When we hear of difficulties they face or of foolish things they might do, we do not drop into fear. Rather, we continue in the full expectation that God holds them firmly in His grip and that He works all things together with them for good. When we hear of God speaking to them or of favor and protection coming their way, we give thanks, but we are not “surprised.” That is what we expected all along.
I did not teach my son to “fear” sin. Rather, I taught him to understand the normal course of human life in this world, and the passions and turmoil that pass through him. I taught him that I, also, had gone through the same things he goes through and that these are normal but to always walk in confidence in God regardless of any mistakes. I taught him that mistakes are normal and that God is our Savior. I do not fear for my son.
On the other hand, too many Christian parents raise their children under the spirit and teaching of fear. They are “afraid” of sin and its consequences, so they extend that fear over their children. But fear is faith in the curse; it is expectation. In the minds of too many Christian parents, sin is the powerful one, always close by, and the Savior is distant and far away.
Thus when the children go out, they go out under the covering and expectation of fear. But that fear places Jesus far away from their personal innards, far away from their gut. Therefore sin is the only thing they can know. Even if they may not do outward acts of “sin,” they are still living in sin because they are not living in faith.
Rather, with my son, I taught him that Jesus is in his gut and that sin is peripheral. Thus he goes out under the covering of the expectation of faith, that His Savior will always be billowing up from within him all the time and in so many wonderful and unexpected ways. Should he sin – and what young man does not do foolish things? – then he is free immediately to place his foolishness into the Lord Jesus and to see only Christ in the midst of himself, and God keeps him.
But my wife and I, by the exercise of the capacity of faith in our spirits, continue to extend a covering of confidence and expectation of God’s favor and goodness over our children, and we continue to hear the evidence of God showing up in their lives. We expect nothing else.
So many Christians believe that godliness equals thinking under the curse. They believe that to think God’s unlimited favor over our lives, that He always does wonderful things for us and through us, exceedingly abundantly beyond what we ask or even imagine, in the everyday circumstances of our lives, is to practice an “ungodliness.” They think that to imagine curse and lack and limitation over themselves and others is an expression of Christian “faith.” And they are always able to find a handful of verses to argue their point and to keep themselves at arm’s length from God.
Now, we understand that the purpose of physical strength is to accomplish physical work, for both need and enjoyment. The purpose of mental ability is to accomplish mental work, for both need and enjoyment. We understand, then, that the purpose of spirit ability, faith, is to accomplish spiritual work, for both need and enjoyment.
As believers in Christ, we are always engaged in good works, we cannot think any other way. We engage in good works physically, mentally, and spiritually. But our use of the capacity of faith to bring blessing and benefit to other people is of far greater value than what we can give through strength or through wisdom.
However, James makes this clear – we never imagine that we are doing someone good “by faith” when we refuse to give a cup of water to one who is thirsty. In other words, faith does not eliminate using our strength to give; rather, it lifts the giving of our natural strength to a much higher level. Thus, when we give a cup of cold water, an act of physical strength, our faith also is continually imparting the river of life. The person who drinks the water to quench thirst is receiving far more from us than they immediately know.
Physical strength makes use of physical objects to benefit others. Mental ability uses facts and experience to benefit others. Spiritual ability – faith – uses the Word God speaks to benefit others.
Faith is the capacity by which we expect the fulfillment of every word God speaks in our lives in all fullness. Through our faith, God Himself moves into the earth. The work of faith is to prove the will of God in the earth. “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” God’s will is ALL that He speaks fulfilled in the reality of this earth and this present age.
God says that we are already raised with Christ in His resurrection. Then, in seeming opposition, God says that we are groaning and hoping for a resurrection of the physical body that has not yet happened. God says both words, clearly.
How do I receive the word God speaks concerning resurrection? I receive all that God speaks by faith. Am I fully resurrected right now? Absolutely. And I speak that reality with all confidence. Do I groan and long for a resurrection of my physical body that has not yet happened? Absolutely. And my faith, my expectation of God expects God to move out of eternal heavenly reality and reveal Himself in power in the physical realms of time.
Unbelief in anything God speaks, no matter how eloquently or how fervently argued, cannot prevent God from doing what He says in and through those who expect God in all that He speaks.
Faith sees God. Faith expects God in all that He speaks, in every word proceeding from His mouth, that He does what He says in us in this age and on this earth in all fullness. In every word that He speaks, in the negative and the positive, in the pleasant and the harsh, in the sweet and the painful. In all that God speaks.
Faith expects God in fullness in the flesh; faith cannot expect anything else.