Spirit and Soul

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Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!  (2 Cor.5:17)

I became ‘new’ many years ago. Shiny, brand new.

I recall at that time feeling worried about what I would have to “give up” in order to follow Jesus with my whole heart. In the back of my mind was the group of friends I was hanging with, and the enticing bottle of peach schnapps on a Friday night, that facilitated some tipsy fun. I am no longer lured by alcohol-induced tipsiness on a Friday night. Nor am I tempted by name-brand shoes that, at that time, I desperately squeezed my feet into, in order to impress a handsome piano duet partner, who lived in the ‘richer’ suburbs of town.

But…. I still struggle with things… like my temper, for instance. Doesn’t the Scriptures say that one of the fruits of the Spirit is ‘self-control’? So why do I still yell when things heat up in our household? Where is my patience?

Yesterday morning as I was reading My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers, I paused for thought. He writes, “What understanding do you have of the salvation of your soul? The work of salvation means that in your real life things are dramatically changed…”

If I was made brand new, then why do I still struggle with certain things? Why are some things not ‘dramatically changed’?

I believe the reason has to do with something that I am learning about: the difference between the spirit and the soul.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thess. 5:23)

Do you see here that the spirit and the soul are two different things? I think that often we confuse the two. Or we think that they are the same thing. Not so! Why else would Scripture talk about each of them separately?

Andrew Wommack in his study entitled “Spirit, Soul and Body” explains that we are three-part beings: body, soul and spirit. Our physical body is obvious to us. Our soul is the mental, emotional part of us. It is made up of our mind, will, emotions and conscience. And thirdly, we have a spirit, that is our innermost part. Our spirit is where the Spirit of God sets up residence when we say ‘yes’ to Jesus. This is the part of us that becomes shiny brand new when we say “yes”. Our brand new spirit is one with the spirit of Christ Jesus. And being that Jesus is part of a trinity, that means that our spirit is also at one with the other members of the trinity as well.

Because you are his children, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out ‘Abba, Father’… (Gal.4:6)

But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.  (Rom.8:10)

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.    (2Cor.3:17)

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love and of sound mind.        (2Tim.1:7)

So at times, I have looked at these verses, and been like, “Well, I don’t feel freedom right now… so how can that be so?” Or I have been overcome by fear and wonder how it is true that I have a spirit of love, and of power inside when I don’t feel it.

Yes, our spirits are made new. But the problem remains that our body and our soul are not.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if when we said ‘yes’ to Jesus, our soul and our bodies were also transformed? That he would give me that shiny, lustrous hair I’ve always dreamed of, or that dazzingly white and brilliant smile? And the soul part too; instead of fear or anxiety, I would be full of faith. I would be able to love others easily and without conditions. Our new will, in an instant would find it easy to say ‘yes’ to the things that Jesus loves:

Love my enemy? No problem!

Pray for those who persecute me? Sure, Lord! Absolutely!

Forgive that one who has wounded me? Yup. Done.

But God does not do that for us. He gives us His amazing spirit to live within our spirits. It is the spirit of righteousness, and of holiness. It is how God is able to commune with us; He communes with us spirit to spirit. He sees our spirits, our beautiful hearts and rejoices in us.

But the work of salvation, of aligning our souls and minds and emotions and will to His, is our work. And I am discovering that it is hard work sometimes. It means going against what my mind or my emotions want to do.

Gal.5:17: For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.

In Romans 7:18, Paul says, “For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh…”    (Some versions and translations have taken out the ‘flesh’ bit but I think it is an important distinction.)

“Therefore, my dear friends… continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling…” says Paul. (Phil.2:12,13)

When we say ‘yes’ to Jesus, we receive His spirit into our spirits and we are promised eternal life with Him. That is not the salvation that we have to continue to work out; if you think that what you do for God is helping you get to heaven, you are mistaken, my friend. You don’t get ‘more points’ with God for being really busy serving Him. Eternal life has already been taken care of with Jesus’ death and resurrection.

However, our soul, the inner part that is made up of our mind, emotions and will needs to be renewed. This is what ‘sanctification’ is all about. Sanctification,’to make holy or purify’ is a process. This is the part of our salvation that needs to be worked out. And sometimes, this can be painful. And difficult.

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me”  (Matt.16:24)

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.   (Eph.4:22-24)

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. (Gal.5:24)

If you look at the above verses, do you see whose responsibility it is to crucify the sinful nature, put off the old self, and put on the new self?

 For in my inner being {spirit!} I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, {physical body} waging war against the law of my mind {soul} and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.  (Rom. 7:22-23)

When our souls are not renewed by the Word of God, we experience struggles and desires that pull us away from what God intends. It sometimes feels as though these things have a stronger pull on us than our faith. When we find our identity in something other than Jesus, we seek fulfillment in things that eventually will not fulfill us, and perhaps could even destroy us. When our souls are still in captivity to memories of hurts and wounds from our past, we will not experience the freedom that Jesus promises. When we refuse to acknowledge the wounds or the forgiveness that needs to happen, we are in bondage. Jesus promises freedom. But it means that we have a part to play.

It also means that we cannot free ourselves from certain things through our own striving and hard work. We might try all we want to stand against an addiction in our life, but if we have not addressed the underlying wounds behind the addiction, and have not been healed and released from those woundings, we will not be able to change things ourselves. Only Jesus and the power implicit in Him can do it.

I have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that I may understand what God has freely given me.     (1 Cor.2:12)

God, Holy Spirit, would you please touch each of us in those deep places that need your touch. Would you please help us understand who we truly are in Christ. Help us to know how you see us, and give us the strength that it sometimes take to crucify those passions and desires that seek to distract us from you, the great lover of our souls.

Resources:  2008, Andrew Wommack, Spirit, Soul and Body; 2003, John Eldredge, Waking the Dead

2 responses »

  1. what a well thought out post Kristen! I had never much thought about the soul and the spirit being different things but that totally makes sense!
    This part really spoke to me: “When our souls are not renewed by the Word of God, we experience struggles and desires that pull us away from what God intends. It sometimes feels as though these things have a stronger pull on us than our faith. When we find our identity in something other than Jesus, we seek fulfillment in things that eventually will not fulfill us, and perhaps could even destroy us.”
    Thank you :)

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