Thinking through Suffering (…a Dialogue) Pt. 5

Thinking Suffering 5

Sunday 07/19/20

Series: Do we REALLY believe?

MESSAGE: Thinking through Suffering …a Dialogue Pt. 5


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Thinking through Suffering …a Dialogue

This week we focused on questions 15-19 in our ‘Thoughts and Questions’ list which is downloadable by the link above. 

The first question is a follow-up question to the one we left off with last week which was:

If you were going to have to explain the role suffering plays in forming Christ in you, to a Sunday School of 6th graders…how would you explain it?

The rest of the questions address the soul of man and how it is distinguished from the spirit and body. This is a VERY important section since it unlocks an ability to grasp MANY topics which are addressed in scripture.

Again, our goal and intention in doing this is to allow this dialogue format to help us think through these questions and so help solidify much of what we have been teaching since the beginning of the year.

Key passages we’ve covered which touch on these topics:

  • 2Cor. 4:6-11 – Suffering, Jesus formed in us
  • Ephesians 1:1-11 – holy, blameless, in Christ, Created for good works
  • Ephesians 1:19-22 – Temple, tabernacle, dwelling place
  • Phil. 3:7-14 – Knowing Him, faith, maturity in Christ
  • James 1:2-4 – Trials
  • James 1:12-18 – Temptations, life
  • James 2:18&20 – Faith, works
  • 1Peter 1:6-9 – Trials, soul salvation, faith
  • 1Peter 4:12-19 – Trials, glory, Christian suffering
  • Heb. 10:13 – Temptations
  • Heb. 10:35-39 – Need for faith, patience, life
  • Heb. 12:1-14 – sin, weights, maturity, chastening, righteousness, holiness 

One message which touched on MUCH of these things was ‘Suffering…who for the Joy’.

Thoughts & Questions:

15. What questions do you suppose they might ask?

  • Why does it have to hurt?
  • Why aren’t we just born mature?
  • Why did God make us able to rebel and fall? If oneness with Him is really the best thing for us, wouldn’t love have been to make us fully convinced of that to the point where we would not believe lies and therefore choose separation?

15b) How would you answer those questions?

  1. Why does it have to hurt? Because it is contrary to what you have become in the fall. All change is difficult and all positions change requires effort… It’s uphill. 
  2. Why aren’t we just born mature? Because the destination can only be truly appreciated by means of the journey.
  3. Why did God make us able to rebel and fall? If oneness with Him is really the best thing for us, wouldn’t love have been to make us fully convinced of that to the point where we would not believe lies and therefore choose separation? If He did that, then one of the points of Creation would not have been served and that is to prove that loving, honoring and serving God IS the natural and right thing to do. This can only be demonstrated when people have an option. Also, love can only be true when it is freely given and it would not be freely given if we were created to think that way. We had to be free to choose.

16. What is the difference between the body, soul and spirit?

The body is just the vessel we inhabit. It is given to us as our way of interacting with the creation. It offers us the ability to enjoy and experience all God made. 

Our soul is where we think, feel and desire. It was never intended to define us, it was designed to allow us to experience both material and immaterial things, process it and respond to it. It is that part of us by which we express ourselves and our responses to what we experience. 

Our spirits are WHO we are. As such it is the vital principle of life. That which gives us our default definition..such as life or death, light or darkness…etc.

So in concert, our spirits are where we ARE light, love, joy, peace, patient, kind, temperate …etc. 

Our soul is the means by which we express and experience all of those things.

Our bodies are the vehicle through which we express our inward parts and by which we experience and enjoy the natural creation. 

17. Describe how the Bible explains the salvation AND the timing of salvation for each of these. [Body – Soul – Spirit]

Salvation of the spirit is a rebirth. Our spirits are WHO we are – so the change there is the most immediate and profound. We literally go from darkness to light – death to life – separation to union – division to wholeness…etc. all at once and in an instant of time.

Salvation of the soul is a conversion. It takes time. It requires exposure to God – meaning His words and His ways, time to process that information, willingness to accept them as the right and final word, willingness to conform to it and love enough for Him to believe He can and will complete that work in you. THAT is why all testings, trials, oppositions, temptations and persecutions are aimed at the soul – meaning they are tailored to get a reaction from your mind, will & emotions.

Salvation of the body is a regeneration. All that is death and decay will be transformed into life and continual regeneration. This will take place all at once just like our spirit did when we came to Christ initially. It is part of our great hope and the final end of our salvation. 

18. What is a pure heart?

One that has only ONE allegiance. It is single in purpose, single in devotion and single in love. It is a holy heart.

A godly marriage is THE primary earthly example of this which is why God HATES divorce. He says that it covers one’s garments with violence! This word usage was understood back then. In marriage a man was said to claim and protect his wife by covering her with his garments. So to be unfaithful to her or turn her away was to “un-cover her” or to cover her in treachery and violence. 

A similar language is used in regard to our purity of heart towards God. If we begin to love the world, it is called enmity with God – meaning “treasonous violence” towards God.

All of this will help you in your understanding of some old testament passages where God says He will strip Israel bare and expose her nakedness to the nations. By saying this He was referring to removing His covering which was His presence. This is also the primary meaning of the nakedness and shame Adam and Eve felt in the garden. It WAS physical nakedness as well – to be sure, but what made them hide was shame. The shame was connected as much with their spiritual nakedness as it ever was their physical nakedness. You will find the concepts of covering, glory, nakedness, God’s presence (or removal of it) and shame all linked in scripture.

So with all of that understanding under our belts…a pure heart is one of complete devotion to God. To belong to Him ALONE!

One last thought on this which goes a long way to clarify another passage which might seem foreboding when read if not understood is this – A pure heart is simply one which is living out the confession of Jesus as Lord. He is your sovereign, your King and your devotion is to Him alone. Our time right now on Wednesday nights should help you conceptualize this. David was King in Israel…but not just a political sovereign, because of his character and heart he was a MUCH LOVED king, so devotion to him and his reign was much easier than if it were simply offered as a duty or obligation. This is why we sang the song this morning – More Like Falling in Love. So, when we live out our confession of Jesus as Lord, from a heart of true devotion to a King we adore…we become holy. THIS understanding bridges the gap between something Jesus said with something the writer of Hebrews said.

The Hebrew writer said, “without holiness no man will see the Lord.”

Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

19. What does that have to do with Loving God with all of your heart?

Technically it means with all your life. You have to remember that in the east, and particularly the Hebrew people thought holistically. As a very pertinent example let’s consider the  Commandment found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 

“(4) Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!  (5)  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” 

Many miss this, but the first part of this statement which is often called the “shema” or LISTEN intently with the intention to obey completely – they statement is set forth as an example for the following command. The Lord is a unified Lord. Therefore, you be unified as well…loving the Lord you God with ALL OF YOUR LIFE.

The word “heart” used here is the word lēḇāḇ and means heart, mind, inner person. The primary usage of this word describes the entire disposition of the inner person that God can discern. It is also used to describe the place where the rational, thinking process occurs that allows a person to know God’s blessings

The word Soul in the same passage seems to be broader in meaning – at least potentially. It is the word Nephesh and means breath, the inner being with its thoughts and emotions. 

Most of its uses fall into these categories: 

  • breath, literally or figuratively (Jer_15:9); 
  • the inner being with its thoughts and emotions (Jdg_10:16; Pro_14:10; Eze_25:6); and by extension, the whole person (Gen_12:5; Lev_4:2; Eze_18:4). 

Moreover, the term can cover the animating force of a person or his or her dead body and is even used in reference to animals in a number of the above senses: the breath; the inner being; the whole creature; and the animating force. 

When this word is applied to a person, it doesn’t refer to a specific part of a human being. The Scriptures view a person as a composite whole, fully relating to God and not divided in any way.

The word might or strength means greatly or with abundance and with powerful might.

So, it follows that to love God with all of your heart means with all of your life and vigor. 

In your thoughts it means complete devotion to God and all He loves and approves. No other thoughts are welcomed in or contemplated by your mind. The same with your emotions and your desires. As such – it claims all of how you live.

God Bless!

I hope this message will bless you richly…not because I taught it, but because it reveals Christ. He alone is our blessing and if in any way – whether big or small, 100% accurate or even just partially so – I have revealed our great God and Savior to you in a relationally knowable way, then this was time well spent on both our parts.

We at Living Grace Fellowship encourage you to place your trust in Jesus Christ, deliberately choosing Him and bowing the knee to Him as your Master and Lord, so as to come to realize Him as your Savior.

You have a special place in God’s family & kingdom. The fact that you exist… that you are His creation, says you were in His heart, you are His delight!

If you do not know Him, please reach out to us. Give us a call at the number located on every page of this website or use our ‘Contact Us‘ page. We would be deeply honored, if you gave us the privilege of introducing you to the Lord. Neither money nor attendance at our church will EVER be mentioned.

If you HAVE been spiritually fed by this ministry and WANT to give, we truly appreciate that and you may do so here, but please understand that all the outreaches of this ministry are FREE for you and anyone to enjoy at no cost.


Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" that did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keep authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provides teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!