JohnSWilson3 Blog

“But we are…of faith to the possession of the soul.” (Part 2)
December 23, 2011, 2:32 pm
Filed under: Q - Letter to Hebrews

The phrase “possession (obtainment) of soul life” used here in Hebrews is similar to what Jesus said in the good news that Luke wrote. Luke uses this similar word for possession or obtainment that Hebrews uses. (I have added the actual Greek word or additional meaning in parenthesis in the below passages):

Luke 17:33; Whoever seeks to keep (peripoiesasthai) his (soul life) will lose it, and whoever loses his (soul life) will preserve (zoogonesei) it.”

To put off the flesh, to put off the old man, is to deny, to lose the soul life. In this passage Jesus makes it clear that we are not the ones who are to try and possess or obtain our soul life, because He is the one who possesses us, we are His possession, therefore we must “lose the soul life,” we must put it off, because the life that He desires to have expressed is His life. This passage relates to an earlier statement Jesus made in Luke’s gospel:

Luke 9:21-27; But He warned them and instructed them not to tell this to anyone, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day.” And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his (soul life) will lose it, but whoever loses his (soul life) for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”

Interestingly the gospel writers felt this statement of Jesus was so important that each writer mentions it. Matthew and Luke mention it twice and in the gospel of John Jesus mentions it during his last week in Jerusalem. This would indicate that Jesus may have mentioned this on numerous occasions during his three year earthly ministry. In Matthew’s and Mark’s gospel Jesus says the same as Luke in one instance (Matthew 16:24-26; Mark 8:34-37) but then in an earlier instance (Matthew 10:38-39) says to the disciples not to try and “find” the soul life but in losing the soul life one will “find” it. In John 12:20-33 Jesus speaks about not loving the soul life in order to keep it for “life eternal.” In this passage from John’s gospel, during Jesus’ last week in Jerusalem, He makes a profound statement:

John 12:20-33; Now there were some Greeks among those who were going up to worship at the feast; these then came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip came and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip came and told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves (philon) his (soul life) loses it, and he who hates (mison) his (soul life) in this world will keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him. “Now My (soul life) has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” So the crowd of people who stood by and heard it were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, “An angel has spoken to Him.” Jesus answered and said, “This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes. Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die.

Our soul is precious to our Lord. So much so that He came to save it, to find it, to keep it, and possess it, and He has done so! But that’s not where it stops, that’s not His full thought. His full thought, His full desire is to see the fullness of His life lived through it. Jesus is not just our example, because His life is in us and is our life, He is working His life in and to and through us. The life that Christ experienced is the same we will experience if we go on with Him. Jesus denied the soul life, it ultimately went into death, and lived by the life of His Father. As a result His glory, full of grace and truth was expressed. Now the greater work is His life being fully expressed through His ekklesia who gather in every place around this world, but our soul life, those things that focus on self, must go into death. And this is learned as we live a shared life together.

If Christ is now our life, and by faith we understand that we are now His possession, and Christ will be faithful to complete what He started in us, then we can by faith deny this soul life, take up the difficult circumstances of life, our crosses, as they occur, with the realization that it is meant for our good and will in the end bring glory to Christ, because His life will be expressed in the process. And as Paul noted in his letters, especially to the ekklesia in Corinth, this will often be learned as we gather together, thinking not of ourselves but of our brothers and sisters as we love and serve one another by His life. Jesus says that this is how we are to follow Him. Jesus says this is where much fruit is born, the fruit of His life. Jesus tells His disciples “in the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

And for some reason I have the idea that the word “possession” doesn’t mean just going around the thing once and having it in it’s completeness, but perhaps a cycle of sorts, a cycle of seasons in life perhaps, indicating a continuous process, perhaps as one goes through the cycle the cycle gets smaller and smaller until at some future point in time you obtain the thing in the center, that which is complete. This cycle involves crucifixion and resurrection. The continuous cycle of crucifixion and resurrection is the life of the ekklesia. Perhaps how often we gather together to express our Lord has some measure of how much of His fullness we experience, how much of is fullness is expressed. May we know Christ together in His completeness, in His fullness, as we together experience Him and endure the difficult circumstances of life together with Him by faith with love. Perhaps the problems that we see with the “institutional church,” the lack of faith with love, is this very thing that has been lost because of religious traditions, because of the soul life not being put off. But this is the issue with every ekklesia, that which hinders the life of Christ from being fully expressed in and to and through His body.

We cannot truly follow our Lord, live by His life unless we take no thought for this soul life of ours and by faith take up those difficult circumstances and allow them to do its spiritual work of helping us know Christ better. When we allow our indwelling Lord in us to divide between soul and spirit, when He lays before us that which must be put to death, may we hear Him, believe Him, and follow Him and by faith put that which is contrary to Him to death. Letting the soul life go into death, denying the soul life is the deep work of the cross of Christ. Frank Viola puts it this way: “God takes away to establish, and what He establishes is always better than what He takes away.” (Frank Viola, “Revise Us Again.”) Something I don’t think we have really yet to experience in any large degree. But it is a comfort to know that Jesus is with us to the end. So then let us together deny this soul life and fix “our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has ensured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart.”

I think these words from “Revise Us Again” by Frank Viola sums this up:

“Let me pass on a word of advice. If you ever hit a fork in the road with the people with whom you do church (whatever that looks like), there’s one sure way that the Lord can get what He wants. Drop whatever is causing the problem, and let it go into death.
“There is nothing for us to cling to except the Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing. So let that other thing that is causing division go into death. Give it up, and watch what the Lord can do.
“This is the principle of death and resurrection. Whenever we place something into death, if it is born of Christ to begin with, it will return again. It will come forth out of the ground. But when it comes forth, it will always look different from what it looked like before it died.
“Everything looks different in resurrection.”

Some, including myself, have difficulty understanding what it means to lose the soul life, we are very attached to ourselves, to our way of life, to our personalities, to our likes, dislikes, and wants. We are selfish, we are self serving to the limitation of the life of Christ in His body. To lose the soul life, to deny self, to be selfless, to serve others is to allow Christ to get what He wants. He will shine brighter through our soul life and He will be more fully expressed in and to and through His ekklesia. May the Lord have His hearts desire! “But we are not of withdrawal to destruction of wellbeing, but of faith to possession of the soul life.”

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