Organic Faith (Part 3): The Ideal vs. the Practical, the Spirit vs. the Flesh, the Spiritual vs. the Material

Published on by Vincent Ragay under

The seeming esoteric idea of this article series came to me about 30 years ago; but it was only recently that I decided to simplify, clarify and make it more reader-friendly. A ripe idea, after all, deserves harvest time.  

When Paul wrote that no one can know a person except the spirit of that person in the same way that no one can know God other than the Spirit of God, he echoed Christ’s cryptic statement that the “wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (1 Cor. 2:11, John 3:8). It seems rather propitious then that Paul would reveal this Key of Truth we have presented as a signal to the hopeful thought that God has finally given humans an open channel through which we can read His mind. For in the same passage, he would conclude that he and his readers (“WE”) have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor. 2:16) And we do when we have the Holy Spirit; and now we know how He teaches us to think the way He – and, it should follow, the way Christ – thinks.

Before we provide ample illustrations of how the Spirit thinks for us, we have to review the tension between the two realms of our existence: Invisible and visible, to wit, heavenly and earthly. This tension has produced many issues that beset humans. And more so in how we comprehend and apply the Word or Truth of God.

Observe how the cycle of life goes: birth, infancy, youth, maturing, old age, death. An infant cannot survive without parental care for it until it becomes an independent person. Growing to become a free, self-willed and productive individual requires more than the proverbial whole village. Today, it also requires a TV network, a chat group or a Facebook friend-zone. In the ideal world of stress-less and carefree first decade-or-so childhood, we practically live under the shadow of our parents. At twelve or so, most of us are introduced to the world as it really is. The rush toward adulthood begins. Simultaneous with the biological signs of puberty, we go through confusing moments as Nature and Society usher us into the next restless ten years of pre-adulthood (from about 15 to 25 or so).

What happens next will depend upon the values, norms and beliefs inculcated upon us by our environment. Definitely, commonalities exist for all cultures; but the belief-systems that will eventually form our world view will have been founded on the bulk we inherited through immersion within the family and primary school. The next two decades (25 to 45) then focuses on a chosen career and, at the tail-end, we go through a new transition phase (a frontier we call Mid-Life Crisis). We begin to question where, who and what we are and where, who and what we will be. Armed with a better and more stable view of the world, we believe we can be better or do more. Most people attain heights of personal success at this stage.

Two more decades (45 to 65) and we realize we have gained greater self-confidence and equanimity as we gradually surrender to the more unyielding issues of life with resignation. The past becomes more pleasurable to visit and the waning-years ahead no longer a much-desired prospect. Eventually, the onset of old-age bodily defects makes death a more inevitable reality than it used to be much earlier on. Heaven, finally, becomes a more certain and a sadly-welcome appointment.

At around 60 or so, we begin to show signs of reliving our childhood. We now have the time and the disposition to appreciate, reminisce or rekindle the nostalgic world of old standard songs, friendships from high school and college and those unrealized dreams we had in youth, as well as the unresolved issues pertaining to the soul and spirit. Yes, we are forced to set our house in order as we approach the prospect of meeting our Maker face-to-face. Crunch time makes us mindful children again to our Heavenly Father. Many of us spend more time in church activities or in charitable work.

Is this a greatly generalized or simplified view, or is it in keeping with Christ’s teaching that the Kingdom is meant for innocent, child-hearted individuals? (Matt. 19:14) Obviously, we call old age a “second childhood” because we do think, yearn and behave like children again. And this entire life cycle is mirrored by Creation, not accidentally but according to the plan of God, as we shall see.

The Bible is one whole narrative of the birth, infancy, maturing, old age and death of Creation. In fact, much like our own passage through life, it began with an infancy of an “ideal” innocent world (Eden or Paradise – a fairy tale, fable or fantasy to some). Later, after a major rebirth in Noah’s time, it reached a youthful existence in the lives of the Hebrews who went through a harsh schooling through slavery and aimless wandering through the desert, leading to an unmatched status and prosperity as a mature nation. They had a set of laws and a way of life all their own, all handed directly by their Heavenly Father. From a priesthood to a Temple, they had it all made as a mighty, respectable and feared nation. Much like a top executive in a corporation whose family resides in a mansion on millionaire’s row. What else is there to aim for in life? A lot of things, many leading to the downfall of individuals. For the Hebrews, a great disciplining came and left only a remnant to carry on the legacy.

Mid-Year Crisis then came when the Messiah appeared and changed the rules entirely. People thought life was as simple as bringing a sheep or goat to the Temple and bleeding it for God. Today, in a parallel world, a church membership or religious calling fills up our weekends and holidays with meaning and purpose, so to speak. Some often avoid the “more important matters” altogether and settle in to the “pious” routine. Why rock the boat?

Vital life issues paint a new horizon for those at this stage. For the ekklesia, it became a harsh and even bloody experience through persecutions, rejections and mass dispersals. Tribulations beset and tested those who desired to enter the Kingdom. The Father’s messengers remained steadfast in their work of keeping the flock intact and alive. Life also deals us with challenges that leave many destitute, despairing, discouraged or more determined. Those who endure receive their reward. Many die with a smile on their face, having fought the good fight. They had focused their eyes on the Lord seated at the right hand of the Father in Heaven, which, for some today, is but a fanciful vision and, for others, just a mental meme we turn on when we are in church or when we get sick.

John, in the last book of the Bible, gives us an amazing picture of New Jerusalem, the heavenly city reserved for God’s people. Although the book may have written much earlier, many believe John wrote it later in his final years. By then, the Temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed and the whole nation was practically dispersed and non-existent – a worse death than death itself. John’s vision blessed believers with an enthralling view of God’s promises in moving, majestic pictures of heavenly glory – a kind of sleep-or-trance-inducing drug for the scattered and forlorn disciples. John’s parting words also gave the early disciples urgent hope and, thus, they prayed for the quick return of Christ, the destruction of all things and their passage through the pearly gates of New Jerusalem. For John wrote: “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20)

So, as you can see: Even the Bible is parenthesized by the two ideal worlds of Eden and Heaven. Like our paradisaical infancy-and-childhood and our old-age years filled with heavenly longings sandwiching our wild-and-free youth and our career-driven adulthood. Is God not wise to point out where we came from and where we can be, by His will and by our faith? That is, the invisible (Eden) before the Fall and the invisible (Heaven) after the Resurrection? The innocent world of childhood and the restful world of quiet retirement? Our earthly lives, then, begin with us becoming children of God and ending with us receiving our reward of eternal rest. Nevertheless, through our material existence, we often live only for “food that spoils” and neglect the “food that gives eternal life”, except in the latter years.

Paul reinforces our point by referring to signs and miracles as “childish things” he will put off when the “perfect” comes. (I Cor. 13:11-12) John then carries on that theme with his teaching on “perfect love”, a stage in spiritual life when punishment and fear no longer possess power over believers. (1 John 4:18 NASB) Yes, these are ideal or spiritual principles we may find hard to appreciate when we are caught up in the “practical things” of this world. “Bread” now even refers to money and not to food!

This Key of Truth is by no means a way to make the spiritual or ideal become real or practical through specific steps or formulas by which we can achieve discipline or compliance among people. Thinking so has made many to go astray. It would amount to what Paul pictured as “bringing down Christ from Heaven” or “raising Him up from the dead”, perhaps, alluding to the devil’s unrighteous work through teachers who claim the name, position and power of Christ. In short, they mislead people by providing physical manifestations of Christ’s words, works and wonders and, thus, mesmerize the ignorant and simple-minded to think the word is distant or inaccessible to them. On the contrary, it is “near you, in your mouth and in your heart”. (Rom. 10:6-13)

By definition, the practical is what we do in relation to a principle and is the application of a concept into visible or material terms, such as engineering being basically Applied Physics — the application of the physical principles. Thus, Newton’s basic equation for mechanics (F=ma) was conceived from an ideal world of objects moving in frictionless space and forces acting on it in perfect values and directions. Using that to design and build concrete columns to support a building’s floor-system is the practical application. Often taken for granted, such visible and useful designs mask the invisible forces that are at work at all times. For by God’s invisible power, “we live and move and have our being”. (Acts 17:28) And, yes, we can also build homes, roads, bridges, skyscrapers . . . .

And churches! Yes, in the meantime that we await the final appearance of the King who reigns in Heaven, we have built temples, cathedrals, basilicas, churches and other physical as well as worldly structures (or faith-systems) with which we apply our interpretation of the once-and-for-all-time-delivered Organic Faith. Surprisingly, the development of Organic Faith parallels the life cycle of humans and the work of God.

At the infancy of the children of Abraham’s faith, judges and prophets delivered the message coming directly from the Father in Heaven. No temples were built yet, only simple altars or high places where people, often individually, met with God — or with gods who were slowly growing in number. Yes, misapplications of the Faith began to be introduced that early. Fake news was a-plenty even then. And how we readily believe false or invented ideologies, doctrines and belief-systems!

After that, the Kingdom of Israel was established, giving a living and visual application of the coming heavenly grace through sacrifices made under the Law of Moses. Yet, it was merely a “tutor”, not the True Master. The leaders of Israel could not get enough of that paradigm, until today, even after the Messiah had come and changed the “rules” – actually, He clarified what the “visual” realities meant in “spiritual” realities – a reverse Key of Truth which Old-Testament hold-outs have sorely missed. In all of this, however, remember this eternal principle: The invisible or the spiritual is as real as the visible and the material. The spiritual thought must be seen in spiritual things; the worship in spirit must be seen in worship in truth. And one’s worship is true not only in right action alone but, first and foremost without removing the true action, also in right spirit.  

And what is right action? It is what James defined in practical terms as “visiting the sick and caring for the widows”. Those who do so, do it for the Lord. But where is the temple there? Where is the priest? How is that worship at all? How is that assembling? Where is the music? The collection? Sorry, he was showing his Organic Faith through his works. He did not deal with when or who should do it. The real need and the urgency demand the good deed from all of us at all times. “Doing it to others” is a far better worship that is pleasing to God than all the things we in the comforts of “church”. Real comfort is giving it to others.

The Kingdom of God did come and was preached to the chosen nation of God. It talked of a new birth, a new beginning and a new Way of Life. It was a complete reset, renewal or replay of Creation but in ideal or spiritual terms which the apostles worked hard to convey through the Holy Spirit. However, the Jews did not want a part of that painful change. They wanted the practical and visible things that gave them the power and control they needed to remain in their lofty positions. And so it is with so many who have power over the lives and souls of millions today. Their long-established practical application of the Word will not allow them to give up their clout or their glory in their worldly kingdoms.

Christ condemned the Jewish leaders who misunderstood and misused the Word to lord over the people and to enrich themselves by making the House of God a “den of thieves”. Thus, He overturned the tables and prophesied the destruction of the Temple – a visible or practical view of what He would do later on. For though God had shown His glory in and through the Temple, after the death and resurrection of Christ Who is the visible, living Glory of God, it lost its original purpose and true value. By overturning the false pride and power of those Pharisees, Sadducees, Lawyers and Scribes through the destruction of the Temple later on, He provided a visible action of His heavenly act of sitting on the throne beside the Father.

And here is why most people miss the real essence of worship: In the Heavenly Jerusalem, we will need no temple for we will worship the True Temple there — God. And even now, we must “worship The Temple”, not “worship in the Temple”, a misapplication of the real spiritual thought “worship” by our failing to understand what worship in spirit and truth is. Christ introduced that new paradigm and yet many choose to remain in the old. For the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and it is there in our invisible souls, spirits and beings that we worship Him. Thus, we worship the True Temple (the focus of spiritual worship) living in the temple of our body (spiritual thing or action involved) by offering a holy, living body sacrifice.

Our body is but a small temple where the Spirit of God lives, granting us an initial view of the True Temple and showing us the reality of true, heavenly worship. Worship in spirit and in truth, as Christ defined it, is right where the Holy Spirit reigns and, therefore, where God rules over His Kingdom. If you can see that and understand that with your mind and spirit, you can then worship freely in spirit and in truth.

In a way, false-religion leaders have it right when they set themselves on the throne of God and people end up worshiping them instead of God – kneeling before them in their services, kissing their hands and paying tribute (hard, material cash – no promissory notes, please). But the problem is that the Spirit does not dwell in their lives and so their idolatrous self-worship (not inner-worship as it should be) is ineffective and worthless. Blind guides (as Christ called them)! Unknowing or deceived characters (false teachers — the spiritual thought) are pictured as having physical, visual impairment (blind — the spiritual word). The best way to test the nature of any popular televangelist or leader of a church or denomination is to choose other thought-word pairs the Lord used and find out if they fit perfectly. One strike can already mean a strike-out. We do not actually need seven as the Lord did; but knock yourself out. (Matt. 23) One word is enough for a wise person; but seven will not convince a wicked person.

True worship involves the presence of God in our lives directing us at every moment. It is not a switch-on-switch-off routine we accomplish by artificial and ritualistic deeds set by rules and edicts invented by people who wish to maintain the youthful practices of the Jewish temple-worshipers in the past. The perfection in love and grace the Holy Spirit came to accomplish is nowhere to be seen or felt either in their deeds or in their fruits. For maturity in Christ demands attaining the “height, depth, length and width of His love” – if any engineer can measure that, we can then build the tower to Heaven. But neither Applied Science nor Theoretical Physics can fathom the Math of spiritual realities. An angel can measure one side of New Jerusalem, using a stadia, at about 1,500 kilometers; but where can we get an angelic stadia? Until the Holy Spirit gives us the final key to that particular mystery, we will never understand the spiritual combination to reveal the “true” measure or meaning. 

The story of Organic Faith, unlike humans and Creation does not end in death. For its ultimate goal is to give eternal life to humans.

Finally, we will cite a specific illustration — the life of Solomon – to serve as a warning and to bring the point home.

To many, King Solomon had a colorful and enviable life. Born into the palace of the greatest king of Israel, he possessed many things majority, if not all, of us today will never have: wealth, honor, glory, servants, security, education, literature, arts, music, horses, adventures, admiration, love and a reserved throne. Ideal is not enough to describe his childhood and youth. And his mature years even surpassed those many times over. He added more gold to the gold he inherited from his father. And he accumulated more wealth, gold, silver, palaces, lands, horses, chariots, ships, knowledge, wisdom, psalms, proverbs, wives — and gods.

We can say Solomon lived an ideal life all throughout his life in wild abandon. Gradually, he lost his way somewhere in the middle and abandoned God through his vain life. He woke up one night in his old age and considered everything he had done and wrote his conclusions: All he ever did was out of vanity. The spirit will return to God. Obey His commandments in your youth and keep it till the end. At least, he finally came around. For in a way, he became a child again and ran back to his Father.

Great and majestic though Solomon was in his prime, he had nothing in comparison to what God provided the lowly things in Nature. The lilies of the field are better arrayed. The birds, though they do not work or enslave others to gain wealth and power, eat and lead happy and fulfilled lives. The world is far from ideal, true, but the Kingdom of God is. It provides us with our essential needs: for the body and the spirit. Food to nourish and Truth to save us. Yes, Christ used Nature to point out the reality of spiritual ideas and truths. He also used Solomon’s life to make us aware that dwelling on the ways, the promises and the pleasures of this world only leads us away from His Organic Teachings and Faith.

We have taken roundabout trips – like circling around a rotunda four times – on the road to our journey to seek Organic Faith. It was necessary to help us consider the fact that the visible, practical or material and the invisible, ideal or spiritual are one and the same in entirety. The destiny of our soul is the same as the body. Resurrection (reunion of the body with the spirit) is unto eternal life or death.

Many still get lost or lured to dwell in the practical or the material while forgetting the other. Some try to balance the two. Others stay in the immaterial while neglecting the material. What is the proper place to choose? Right where we are: body and spirit, visible and invisible, practical and ideal. But the secret is in mortifying the body or dying to the carnal self. That may involve fasting, self-denial, self-control and great spiritual discipline. Doing that requires going deeper into the practice of Organic Faith. We have only begun the journey.

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