Wednesday, March 2, 2005

Matter and Matters of the Spirit

Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. (3 John 2)
Many Christians seem to have an either/or mentality when it comes to prosperity. Either you can prosper in the world and in material things, or else you can prosper in your soul — but you cannot do both. They pit one against the other.

The apostle John, however, very conspicuously brings them both together. “I pray that you may prosper in all things … just as your soul prospers.” Expressing the heart of God, he links them together, laying one on top of the other. There is a priority, prosperity of the soul, but they both work together.

You see, there is no conflict between the material world and the Spirit, as some suppose, for the material world comes forth from the realm of the Spirit. The problem occurs when people focus exclusively on one side or the other. On one hand, there are people who believe that reality is completely and only about the material world, that which we can experience with our senses. On the other hand, there are people who think that the material world is inherently evil and that only the spiritual realm is good, or of any value.

Both views miss the mark completely — they do not represent Biblical truth. They utterly miscomprehend the purpose of God and the nature of the universe. There is no contradiction between the natural and the spiritual, or between heaven and earth. Notice how Jesus brought the two together in the Lord’s Prayer when He taught us to pray, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” God is not out to eliminate that which pertains to the earth, to do away with the material world. Rather, He is out to bring the earth into line with the prosperity and wholeness of heaven.

God has blessed the natural world with His presence. This was the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ — the Second Person of the Godhead taking on human flesh to dwell in the material world. His purpose was not to destroy, but to redeem. In Romans 8, Paul tells us that all of creation is groaning together, waiting for the revelation of that redemption to unfold.

In the early Church, there was a group of people who taught that spirit is good, but matter is evil. These were the Gnostics, and they were roundly condemned as heretics. A similar group taught the Jesus was spirit, but did not really come in the flesh. These also were rejected by the early Church because they were not consistent with the apostolic witness.

The apostle John, in his first epistle, dealt with an early manifestation of such teachers when he wrote,
Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. (1 John 4:2-3)
So John is fully consistent with the will and purpose of God when he says, “I pray that you may prosper in all things.”

God wants you to prosper in the world as well as in your soul. He wants to bring His redemptive work into all things, and He wants to do it through you. So embrace His grace, believe His Word, and come into agreement with His wonderful plan for you, your family, your home and your business — these are your ministries.