The Spiritual is Real
The things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
(2 Corinthians 4:18)
Imagination is not faith. The two not only are entirely different from each other, but stand in sharp opposition. Imagination projects unreal images out of the mind and seeks to attach reality to them. Faith creates nothing, it simply reckons upon that which is already there. God and the spiritual world are real. We can reckon upon them with as much assurance as we reckon upon the familiar world around us. Spiritual things are there (or rather we should say here) inviting our attention and challenging our trust.
Our trouble is that we have established bad thought habits. We habitually think of the visible world as real and doubt the reality of any other. We do not deny the existence of the spiritual world but we doubt that it is real in the accepted meaning of the word. The world of sense intrudes upon our attention day and night for The whole of our lifetime. It is clamorous, insistent, self-demonstrating. It does not appeal to our faith; it is here, assaulting our five senses, demanding to be accepted as real and final.
Sin has so clouded the lenses of our hearts that we cannot see that other reality, the City if God, shining around us. The world of sense triumphs. The visible becomes the enemy of the invisible; the temporal, of the eternal. That is the curse inherited by every member of Adam’s tragic race.
Our uncorrected thinking, influenced by blindness of our natural hearts and the intrusive ubiquity of visible things, tends to draw a contrast between the spiritual and the real; but actually no such contrast exists. The antithesis lies elsewhere; between the real and the imaginary, between the spiritual and the material, between the temporal and the eternal; but between the spiritual and the real, never. The spiritual is real.
A. W. Tozer
When we read the Bible, what do we accept as true and real? That might sound like an unusual question but nevertheless it is an important one especially regarding the realm of the spiritual. We read about God in visible form walking with Adam and Eve in the Garden. Was that real or rhetoric? Is it truth or fable? We read about angels appearing, talking with and eating with Abraham and later literally dragging Lot from Sodom. Again the question, real or imaginary. In the story of Job, we read that Satan comes before God with the angels. When asked where he’s been he replies that he has been walking around the earth. We read that God spoke to Moses from a burning bush that didn’t burn up and that He appeared as a pillar of fire and a cloud over the children of Israel in their journey. We read of God sending fire from heaven to consume Elijah’s sacrifice and later speaking to him in a small voice. Over and over in the Old Testament we read of spiritual, we might call them supernatural encounters between humans and spiritual beings. So in what category do we place these stories? Do we accept them as real or imaginary? Do we place them in a special category for a special time and special persons, never to be repeated?
When we come to the New Testament, it opens with angels visiting Zachariah and a Mary. We read of God speaking audibly at the baptism of Jesus and of Satan in conversation with Jesus in the wilderness. Fact or fiction?
I think the greatest authority on the subject of the spiritual is Christ Himself. Let’s listen to what He has to say about the matter.
“And He went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the good news (gospel) of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people [demonstrating and revealing that He was indeed the promised Messiah]. So the news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were sick, those suffering with various diseases and pains, those under the power of demons, and epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. When evening came, they brought to Him many who were under the power of demons; and He cast out the evil spirits with a word, and restored to health all who were sick [exhibiting His authority as Messiah], While they were going away, a mute, demon-possessed man was brought to Jesus. And when the demon was driven out [by Jesus], the mute man spoke; and the crowds wondered in amazement, saying, “Never before has anything like this [miracle] been seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees were saying, “He casts out the demons by [the power of] the ruler of demons.” Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute was brought to Jesus, and He healed him, so that the mute man both spoke and saw. All the people wondered in amazement, and said, “Could this be the Son of David (the Messiah)?” But the Pharisees heard it and said, “This man casts out demons only by [the help of] Beelzebul (Satan) the prince of the demons.” Six days later Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John the brother of James, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. And His appearance changed dramatically in their presence; and His face shone [with heavenly glory, clear and bright] like the sun, and His clothing became as white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Jesus. While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “ This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased and delighted! Listen to Him!” When they approached the crowd, a man came up to Jesus, kneeling before Him and saying, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic (moonstruck) and suffers terribly; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. And I brought him to Your disciples, and they were not able to heal him.” And Jesus answered, “You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me.” Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed at once. Now after the Sabbath, near dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. And a great earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone [from the opening of the tomb], and sat on it. The angel’s appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were as white as snow. The guards shook, paralyzed with fear [at the sight] of him and became like dead men [pale and immobile]. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified.
Do we see that Jesus acknowledged the existence of a spiritual realm of both good and evil and that He treated it as real and not imaginary? I think some of our struggle in the modern church is that we have dulled our senses to the spiritual world. We have watched so many movies and TV shows about the spiritual world that we now pass it off as just imaginary. In a few days there will be those who observe Halloween and there will be ghosts and goblins and witches and other creatures. We will relegate all this to the world of imagination.
When we talk about heaven or hell do we speak of them as imaginary or real? When we think of Jesus is He just a perception or is He actually walking with us? What category do we place the Holy Spirit? To what do we attribute the evil in this world? Is it merely the conduct of humans or is there a dark force behind the scene. In the book of Ephesians Paul provides us insight into the spiritual realm.
Put on the full armor of God [for His precepts are like the splendid armor of a heavily-armed soldier], so that you may be able to [successfully] stand up against all the schemes and the strategies and the deceits of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this [present] darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) places.
Perhaps if we the people of God accepted the spiritual as real and engaged demonic powers in prayer instead of trying to fix a broken world by natural means, we might be more successful in our influence. While we don’t attribute everything to demons, I think we have went to the other extreme and have failed to acknowledge their existence. Jesus taught that they exist and that in some cases sickness is the result of their work. He divided illness into two categories, human health and demonic oppression. When addressing those who were in need of healing, He either addressed the disease or the demon, whichever was applicable. Paul tell us that our struggles aren’t against flesh and blood(other humans) us against spiritual forces of wickedness. Could it be that all the rise of hatred and prejudice and violence can be attributed to demonic powers? And if so, should we as the people of God contend with the powers of darkness rather than other humans? When the disciples failed to bring deliverance to the demon possessed boy, Jesus told them that their failure was the result of the lack of prayer and fasting.
Perhaps the solution to the troubles of our world is a people who enter the secret place of prayer and fasting and make it a war room against the evil forces. God invites us to do so. I conclude with a familiar verse.
If I shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or if I command locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence and plague among My people, and My people, who are called by My Name, humble themselves, and pray and seek (crave, require as a necessity) My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear [them] from heaven, and forgive their sin and heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:13-14
Dr. John Thompson