The Three Layers of Being

We are created by God. Most people would agree. There’s little disputing that. Even those who don’t believe don’t really take issue with it. It’s a relatively benign phrase. But what does it even mean and better yet, what do we as believers do with this knowledge? Moreso, what does it require of us?

The theology of place, person, and purpose that comes out of the Garden continues to astound me. And now especially, how it reveals to us as beings created by God, its respect to importance of each layer of our design.

It goes like this: as created by God we are first created human. Adam (and Eve), meaning “Red,” the color of clay, is how we are created from the earth. Not unimportant. In fact, it clues us into the idea that we are to take dominion over the land to till it and grow from it. God said it “was good.” We are “king of the hill.”

Secondly, then it gets even more good. Like the created animals we are sexual beings. Defined as “Ish” and “Isha,” “Man” and “Woman, ” we are to “be fruitful and multiply.” By naming the animals we are empowered to have dominion over them. We are therefore “top dog.”

But now, now, it gets Very Good! Now we are designed as reflectors of Trinitarian Glory. Instead of being separate and above, we now have identity rooted in Another. This is our gendered identity, “Zakar” and “Neqibah,” “male” and “female.” In Hebrew these words refer to aspects that complement one another, complete one another. Translated as “To Remember” and “Vulnerable,” (literally, Bored Through), we “fit together.” Because when this happens, God as Trinity is reflected: two-in-one mirroring Three-in-One. Romans 1 states that if we add another combination it is exchanging “The Truth for The Lie,” in other words, “it ain’t happenin’.” Because this is where God exclaims it is now “Very good,” this gendered identity is the pinnacle of His creation, the most important. So, humanity: important. Sexuality: more important. Gender: most important.

The issue? There is a spiritual component to all three layers.

The world has stated the opposite to be their “truth.” Upside down. Humanity is now most important, “my body, my choice!” Sexuality is next: “I can do what I want sexually, you’re not the boss of me.” And gender? Well, “today male, tomorrow, female. Gender is ‘fluid.’” 71 gender identities. Least important.

So I asked what it requires? Being who you were designed to be means risking the ire of the world by believing in the “Very Good” Truth that God is worthy, worshipping appropriately, not depending upon futile and passing desire and feelings but that you actually be the gender God designed and behave accordingly. That you love those who do not believe with you but hope/pray they may.

Blessed are Those Who Mourn

“Blessed are those who mourn.” You see, there’s blessing in the simple act of mourning. Even before the “and they shall be comforted.” In fact, the comfort itself, I would submit comes from the act of faith it takes to enter into the existential reality of loss. Because that’s when, and only when, we get to see Jesus in our stories, I get to believe it’s worth it, that’s the faith part, to feel the loss so Jesus can give it His worth. There’s something both transformative and redemptive about the act of mourning. If we are not seeing Jesus in the midst of our pain, his fingerprints on every shame-soaked, sin-drenched, sorrow-filled page of our stories, we are not seeing Him redeeming our stories, and that means we are not seeing Him as Lord of all, reconciling all things to Himself.

Disappointment and Faith

If we are not living in a constant state of disappointment we are not living by faith. We are led to this Truth by Paul’s exposure to his shame in Romans 7. “Wretched man that I am” is not about the guilt of doing something wrong but the shame in not being able to do anything about it. He can’t help himself. That is the power of the flesh. In his weakness he asks a good question, “Who will deliver me?” He knows he has to look outside himself for hope and help. He knows that his problem (himself) doesn’t need a program, a procedure, or a plan, but deliverance. His aid rests in another beyond himself. And it’s a delivery from a condition, not a circumstance. “The body of this death” is the locus of his deep need. It points to a prisoner who has, shackled to his ankle, another prisoner who has died. And it’s now up to him to carry death from then on. This is a fitting picture of the flesh. Dead but attached. A heavy load. But we keep going back to try to find life in this dead body, apart from God. We are looking for life in something that will only bring more death, helplessness, and hopelessness. “There is a way that seems right to a person but the end therein is death.” Yet Paul goes on to answer his question with “thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

A posture of desperation can lead to a life-giving, life-gripping perspective of  dependency. This informs the very next verse whose context is unfortunately ruined by the words “”Romans 8” which follows. The continuity and context is marred with that addition. It disrupts a most beautiful flow. We go directly from helplessness in ourselves to hope in God through Jesus to “there is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” No condemnation! Free from the penalty, and now the power, of the flesh. This means, by the way, we have no right for guilt or regret.

Walking in the Spirit as opposed to walking in the flesh provides very interesting differences. The Greek for “walk” is the word Greek word “peripateo.” We use the prefix “peri” for words like “periscope” and “perimeter” which means “around.” “Pateo” is the word for “path.” We get “patio” from this. Its root is “pat” which literally means “to strike” or “make an imprint.” When we march around and around beating that path it creates a deep rut. The “pat” becomes a “pit” over time from which there is no escape. Psalm 40:1-3 comes to mind. The desperation for deliverance is now more clearly understood. “In waiting, I waited for the Lord. He turned to me and heard my cry.” David was then lifted out of the “pit of destruction.” He didn’t, couldn’t, climb out on his own. There’s no ladder for him. Helpless and hopeless in himself.

Walking in the Spirit on the other hand implies movement (Spirit is “pneuma” means wind, direction, movement) and rather than getting stuck, beating that path frees us to move with intentionality and purpose. There’s no being stuck demanding life in that which doesn’t give life, only death. Psalm 40 again: “He set my feet upon a Rock, making my footsteps secure.” On that Rock (Jesus) I can walk, I can move forward.


And from a free heart I can praise God. Verse 3, “He put a new song (the old song is the crying) in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.” Now the freedom from the flesh releases us from demanding comfort from our false gods, expecting life from “that which I would not do” as Paul exclaimed. And since there’s also no condemnation for having gone there, we can view our stories of idolatry, immorality, and individualism (the three lusts) honestly. So what do we do now with the existential reality of pain from unsatiated hunger and unquenched thirst that our lusts and false gods had relieved?

We groan. Just groan.

Anticipating pushback; groaning is not grumbling. Grumbling is groaning apart from faith. Grumbling and griping is our reaction to God not feeding our demands. It’s believing that He owes us. He does not. There are two ditches on each side of the road of faith: demand and denial. Both give us the illusion of control, relief. To believe we really have no hunger (anorexia) or that we have a right to anything that provides relief (gluttony) is actually faithlessness. Faith is this: even though we experience unsatiated hunger for life to work and unquenched thirst for deep relationship and even God seems far off, we trust anyway that God is there for us (YWHW), that He is good to us (Love), and that He is in control over us (Sovereign).

And so, we are led through Romans 8 to much groaning. Groaning is merely our spiritual stomach growling. We are hungry, without guarantee of being fed; not completely, not in this life. But as we groan, like the earth itself is groaning, something deeper is occurring. Paul describes it like “childbirth.” That produces, in the end, life. So the route to life is death. The pain is worth it, in other words. Even the Spirit Himself groans for us as He intercedes for us.That pressure, that crushing sorrow we experience in growing faith, ultimately gives birth to seeing God’s goodness. We go from groaning to birth in Romans 8:28. “All things work together for our good.” The goodness (love) of God produces, in His sovereignty, value to our stories. “All things” (our stories) “work together for our good” (redemption).  In other words, our disappointment that the world, as it is, is not even close to the world as it was intended to be, causes us deep and profound pain (spiritual, social, somatic) that God then uses to actually benefit us. He has conquered that sin and shame. In essence He says to the enemy, “I see your evil and I’m not getting rid of it, it doesn’t threaten me. I’m actually going to use it for their benefit. So I see your evil and I raise it a redemption.” We are experiencing crushing, disappointing, hunger. If we don’t eat “satisfaction” from our idols, God will then reveal Himself as YWHW Jireh (the God Who is there and Who provides) and gives our pain value.

He is worth the wait.

And that will inevitably lead us to love others. If I’m not using them to feed my gnawing distress, I can then give to them out of the redemption of my story. Back to Psalm 40: “many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.”Let others see this movement of yours as you walk in the Spirit. Don’t hide your light under a bushel as it’s not your light to hide. It’s His. Your story, whatever the sorrow, sin, or shame, is arranged by God to glorify Himself and give to others. And that is love. That is how we move from being our own demanding, denying, story to the story of the Gospel particular to us. We are the contextualization of the Gospel, a redeemed story.

And at the end of this process we start to taste, even feed on, the very “fruit” we were hungry for in the first place: the fruit of the Spirit. It’s counterintuitive to the flesh but when we trust Him we’ll eat from that fruit of love, joy, peace, etc.

Psalm 40:4 then, and only then, reveals, “blessed is the man who puts his trust in the Lord.”

Truth for a Lie

Please stop telling people, in an attempt to counsel or encourage them, that they need to “believe the truth” when first they need be exposed to why they’d believe a lie in the first place (sin). Otherwise it will not be the least bit helpful. Of course, it’s true that “the Truth will set you free” but that never takes place in a vacuum. The lie they’re believing is functioning too well for them or they wouldn’t believe it. It provides a sense of comfort (idolatry) and until they can see why it’d be worth it (faith) to reverse their belief (repentance) don’t take their lie from them.

Oh, yes, you’d be right, but it will leave them desperate, with nowhere to go. Jesus said “when the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none.’ Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first.”

The Truth, to a guarded, shutdown heart only hardens it further thus creating even more pressure to believe the lie. But, the Truth given to an exposed, naked, shame-filled, lie-doubting heart (grace) will then soften it. And that is when Truth can begin to take up residence and transform.

The Function of Flesh

There is deep fleshly functionality to our sin. Our sin nature’s behavior “works” in that it provides for us a denial of God. According to Romans 1, “unrighteous behavior suppresses the Truth” (of God: His character, and His ways). It functions to justify our being faithless (self-protective, self-reliant, and self-exaltive). Therefore, shaming, demanding, insisting, cajoling, or focusing on someone’s behavior in an attempt to get them (or us) to “stop it” is not only ineffective, it is essentially another gospel.

It’s a heavy burden and hard yoke (which is antithetical to the Gospel. It is decidedly NOT Good News). If we’re committed to self-protection because deep down we believe God is not there, good, or sovereign (which is the heart of sin), more law doesn’t cut it (it will actually increase the sinful behavior). It takes faith (that God is “worth it”) to supersede our flesh. “As you have received Christ Jesus as Lord so walk in Him,” and “walk in the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” For that we desperately need grace…which God supplies in abundance in all manner of ways. To think we can just “stop it” is like trying to kill a tree by picking the leaves off; that’s called pruning and actually just helps the tree grow better.

Realizing our helplessness and hopelessness over sin is where we need to start as “God gives grace to the humble.”


If your goal is to be seen as being right (even if you are) and not be loving (seeking another’s good first), you are missing the mark (sin) and if you’re missing the mark you are missing the point (commanded to love: neighbors, church, spouses, enemies, etc.) and if you’re missing the point you’ll end up missing the boat (the Kingdom of God) and that’s a shame. We love because He first loved us.

Hesed informs Agape.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Reason For No Regretting

I have no guilt or regret over my sin for three reasons: first, while I do have godly sorrow, “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.” Secondly, God is taking all that sin, shame, and sorrow from my story and redeeming it, giving it actual value for the Kingdom (where sin abounds grace that much MORE abounds). He is actually turning my sin itself into a spiritual gift whereby I have something worth sharing, something with which to love others and after all, that’s why and how I was designed in the first place, as a lover. And thirdly, that He does all that proves He has victory over the presence, penalty, and power of sin. This is all to His glory as He is essentially telling the enemy “I see your evil and I raise it a redemption! It doesn’t scare me. It doesn’t catch me off guard. Watch me use it for my glory and their good.” We have a good Father who doesn’t give bad gifts to His children.

Finding Rest in Him

It has dawned on me that “honor Him as God” and “give thanks” from Romans 1:18 is literally “worshiping Him in spirit and in Truth” from John 3. If spirit (“pneuma” which means wind, direction) is about movement, and Truth is about foundational character/nature, then worshiping in spirit is about thanking God for His movement and action (it’s what God does) and honoring Him is about reverence for Who He is. Truth is about Who God is and His spirit is an outflow, or overflow if you will, of His Being.

Now, map that onto Matthew 11:28-30 where the concept of burden/yoke will makes all kind of sense. Burden (character) and yoke (movement) inform what I carry and how I move with it. In other words, if I am blind to who I am (my “truth,” if you please) then I’m going to be under heavy burden (heavy laden, no rest) and that will cause me weariness (hard yoke, inability to move). My trying to earn an identity is too much to bear: I was never designed for it. That’s hard work, an impossible struggle. But His burden (who He is and how I am a reflection of Him) is a light burden, I “learn” rather than “earn” who I am. Now i can move freely, easily, out of the abundance of this “rest.” So my “spirit and truth” is a reflection of His “spirit and truth” because I am the image of God, the reflection of His glory on earth.
Let’s take it a little farther, and understand I am always of the precipice of heresy…so fair warning.

God is YWHW. God is “There.” God shows up as “I Am That I Am.” So, if I am to reflect Him properly in who I am then I am a reflected “I am that I am.” “Those who come to God must believe that He is.” So…God is, in His “thereness,” an emotional, volitional, intellectual God, supporting the fact that He is a relational God, always moving toward Someone. Throughout eternity He moved within the Trinity. Then He created us and moved toward us that we might reflect His glory, to walk in righteousness. We are in those ways like Him; as His image. But we sinned; we fell short of that glory. We stopped “walking with Him in the cool if the day.” We stopped reflecting those characteristics of Him. The shekinah glory faded and we were no longer bathed in that light. We “saw that we were naked and were ashamed.” And that equals confusion in who were are, who we’re designed to be.

What to do?

Rather than increase our burden and make our yokes harder by trying to run, hide, cover, and blame (fight and flight) to avoid our shame, we need to stand naked, exposed, in the fact that something’s very wrong with us. We don’t “have” a problem, we ARE the problem. There’s nothing we can do to get that glory back. Not on our own. Sacrifice is necessary to “fashion garments.” Fur over fig leaves! But a sacrifice of death must occur for that righteousness to be worn. There’s a penalty for that din. So when we get dressed every day we are to be reminded, no matter how pretty our shirts and shoes…Light it ain’t. Glory’s coming but not now. And that leaves (no pun intended) us with the existential reality that life as it is is not life as it should be. Groan! We will one day be bathed again in His glory but now, in the “already, not yet,” we wait in “faith, hope, and love.”

So now what to do with our sin?

Watch it get redeemed!

If there’s “no condemnation to those who are in Christ,” then we do not wallow, ever, in guilt or regret. In fact, quite the contrary. That very temptation, that issue where we succumb to idolatry, immorality, or individualism becomes Sacred Space, Holy Ground. With that as context let’s look at why it took Israel 40 years to take a trip that should have taken only a few months.

Why? What was God’s purpose?

God showing Who He is to His people is infinitely more important than getting better, fixed, or repaired. In other words Revelation trumps resolution.

God’s purpose now, in time, is to reveal Himself. Show Himself off. To absolutely everyone. He is, according to the first chapter of Romans revealing both His wrath and His righteousness. Everyone is a recipient. Of either one or the other. Never, and hear this well, never both. We either move from wrath to righteousness or remain in wrath. To be teleologically theological (our overriding purpose for life must be centered and founded in God Himself) we have to get this: that if we are made righteous through Christ then we are not and cannot be objects of wrath. So everything, including our past and present sin, shame, sorrow, and suffering, takes on new perspective. Looking at when Israel journeyed through the desert we find that God took each struggle, each bit of suffering, each sin, as an opportunity to reveal more of Himself. They were a redeemed people and that’s what He does. Remember that Israel really didn’t know much about who God was. Oh, they had some stories, some oral tradition from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; even from Joseph, but they didn’t KNOW Him. Moses was chosen for this purpose. He spent 40 years earning an identity, becoming “somebody.” Then he killed that Egyptian and in his shame and fear he ran away. He spent 40 years becoming “nobody.” Now God had him right where He needed him. Posture informs perspective. A posture of desperation creates a perspective of “I am the problem.” And that’s when and where God shows up. He told Moses to remove his shoes for he was on Holy Ground. And then he gave His Name. Now, Israel going through the desert, got the same procedure. God would reveal Himself as YWHW Jireh (God the Provider), YWHW Nisi (God the Banner, our Warrior), YWHW Rophi (God the Healer), etc. Israel, knowing God better could now build a monument to this newfound understanding of God, worship appropriately and move out accordingly. They’d continue, not by sight (knowing where they were going), but by faith in Him who sent them. He wanted them to know, love, and worship Him well before they crossed the Jordan.

For us, now, the same thing: each event of suffering, sin, shame, or sorrow is another opportunity for God to show up, revealing more of Who He is, that we might worship
appropriately and move out accordingly. We get on the altar as living sacrifices. And this makes each trial and every temptation holy ground, sacred space, because He is giving us His name and His grace. We walk now by faith as well which grows more each time We’re humbled by pain-filled circumstances. “God gives grace to the humble.” Our rest is that He is our “light burden.” As we grow “in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ” our “need” to perform, to please others, to perfectionism decreases. We know ourselves better (as defined and designed by Him) and can move in delightful freedom. Knowing that He in fact uses it all to redeem us, set us apart, create spiritual gifts, allows us to love others even better, and therefore gives us the peace, joy, etc. that we are hungry for. In other words: the fruit of the Spirit.


The Ease of Sanctification

The 4 Es in the sanctification (setting apart, making holy) process: expose, entrance, engage, and embrace.


Exposure: this is about grace. Exposure is grace. It hurts so I know it goes contrary to modern evangelicalism, but it’s a vital component to our story of redemption. While it’s humbling i must realize that “God gives grace to the humble.” God was us to come to the awareness that we have no help, no hope in ourselves. We do not just have a problem, we, in fact, are the problem in our total depravity. “My people have committed two evils, they have forsaken Me, the Spring of Living Water and dug for ourselves cisterns, broken cisterns that don’t hold water.” In other words, we are very thirsty but we are drinking sewage to quench that thirst. Jesus exposed the woman at the well to her immediate thirst, her relational thirst (all those husbands) and her deepest thirst (worship God in spirit and in truth). So for us, we need to be brought to such an existential reality. We are in need, we cannot meet our own need, we are weak. It takes grace to let us in on that. That awareness is spiritually discerned, it takes outside help. It takes grace, agift from God, because without that understanding we’re doomed. It starts the process of redemption. Grace is exposure; exposure is grace.


And grace sets us up for receiving faith. “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” There is no aid to our condition without knowing God, honoring Him as God and giving thanks to Him for what He does as God. Faith is worship. Worship is faith. The understanding that God is worthy is how I come to God, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. – Hebrews 11:6. The two are inseparable. I must have faith which means I must know something about God and rely on it. What must I know about God beyond all else? That God is worthy. It’s His glory from which we have fallen, which is primarily the belief that He’s not worthy…but I am. My faith, my worship, is either in me or in Him. This is the “assurance of things hope for, the conviction of things not seen.” All of Hebrews 11, in talking about what happened to these people of faith, is revealing why they moved into their worlds as they did. They believed in, relied upon, depended on the worth of God Himself. Through that faith, the righteousness of God is revealed (Romans 1:17), which is nothing more than the extensions of Who God is and what God has done. That faith, that foundation of God’s worth, allows me the courage to risk
entrance into my exposure, my deepening awareness that I am the problem and He and only He is the solution. Grace gives me faith, more of Jesus Himself. And this faith is the free gift from God. So grace is a gift which informs my faith, which is also a gift.


Now that I have faith, I get to engage not just my behavior, but the “wicked way,” “the way that seemed right” that got me to where I am. My direction of life was two-fold: self protective and self-exaltive. This is where i am demanding control over my own life because I have believed that God is not there for me (God is not YWHW), good to me (God is not Love), nor in control over me (God is not Sovereign). I’ve got to trust my own sinful strategies because God is not worth relying upon. He’s not worthy. That is faithlessness. It is my commitment to a direction of life that moves away from God, His glory, His Truth, and eventually God Himself, Romans 1:18-32. “Metanoia” is turning away from that direction, informed by faith (which is informed by grace), toward God, toward His worthiness, toward loving Him. It’s a movement. I repent of wrong directions, not just the behavior produced by them. While faith is free, this E is a killer. It costs everything: my whole life. That’s why it takes faith, I’m not going to do this directional exchange if I don’t believe God’s worth it. Dying to self (protective and exaltive) is my spiritual worship, Romans 12:1. Spiritual is the word “pneuma” and means movement (wind, aim, direction) and worship is where I attribute worth to God. It comes from the old Anglo-Saxon word “worthship.” So my faith, my worship, is both directional and relational. I “keep on presenting my body (being) as a living sacrifice” in the way I move, direct my life, how I live. And what’s great about this repentance is that it, too, is a gift from God. According to the Westminster Confession of Faith, repentance is “an evangelical grace,” it’s a gift of God. It’s not so much something we have to do, it’s something we get to do. So this is how I engage with faith in how I move into my world. Grace upon grace!


When I practice this grace-drenched, faith-controlled, repentance-filled movement toward worshiping and loving God, it lets me in on the fact that God is using my sin, shame, sorrow, and struggles for His glory and my good. Jesus’ fingerprints are all over the pages of my story. It’s called “redemption.” “Walking in a manner worthy of the Lord” is synonymous with “walking by faith” and “walking in the Spirit.” “Manner” is not “mode,” it’s all about movement, not just behavior. It’s about living intentionally, teleologically, to worship and love God by faith. As I see more clearly how God has designed and defined me and I see that He is worthy of my obedience (my new direction in life), I will also see how valuable I am to Him, how much worth I also have living as a reflection of Trinitarian glory. When I get the glimpse of this profound and powerful redemption I can then, also by grace, embrace my story because I have been clearly embraced by the Author of my story.

“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.