SPIRIT, SOUL, BODY
1 Thessalonians 5:23 NIV (23) 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.
God created humans to be spiritual like Him. That spiritual life died because of Adam’s disobedience.
Genesis 1:26 NIV Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
Previously, I explained that human spiritual activity has more to do with the soul than the spirit. The human spirit is ‘dead’ as far as God is concerned. It needs ‘quickening’, to be made alive. Christians receive this new birth through repenting their sins and having faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.
John 1:12-13 NIV Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— (13) children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
Spiritual people, children of God, live in the world but are no longer bound to it. Human life is tied to a physical world, to physical experience. The mind and emotions are tied to the physical ‘realities’ of daily life. These realities include fear, superstition, and the desire to survive. The soul focuses on these things through religious activity. The result can be manipulation of fear and superstition through rituals, costumes, idols, and experiences. The soul can be drawn to human wisdom and ways. In the secular world great importance is given to our physical existence and satisfaction. Everything is reduced to temporary, fleeting feelings of happiness or achievement. Somehow your soul will be satisfied when you eat a bar of chocolate! You will find fulfilment at the wheel of a particular car. It is an insidious and serious pressure based on knowledge of your fear of missing out or being left out. You may have felt pressure to match the ‘perfect’ body, skin, fashion, holiday, marriage – and even funeral! The laws and rules of society can ‘control’ us by appealing to our soul’s desire to be one of the ‘in crowd’. The emphasis is on what we look like, how we appear, rather than on who we really are, or what our souls really need. I read somewhere that a computer (artificial intelligence) has created faces that look real, as though they are living people. This is impressive but misses the point that we are more than skin over bones. Our souls are more than bodies with desires. We have emotion and personality that makes each of us unique. Even twins are individuals. God looks at the real you.
1 Samuel 16:7 NIV But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
This is a comforting thought if you are weighed down by pressure to be like others and match superficial ideals. Not, though, if you a living a secret and ungodly life. God looks at the heart. Not the blood pumping muscle but the real you.
We have a body; we have a soul. The soul needs its spiritual counterpart in order to be complete and truly alive. Our soul needs to belong to God. Instead, it is bound to its physical home and to Satan through fear of death.
Hebrews 2:14-15 NIV Since the children have flesh and blood, he [Jesus] too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— (15) and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
What it means to be a spiritual person, rather than merely a ’soul’, needs understanding of God’s Word. A surgeon can discern between healthy and cancerous cells. The Bible can help us discern between spiritual and soulish behaviour.
Hebrews 4:12 NIV For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
The Bible describes soulish behaviour in terms like, ‘worldly’, ‘carnal’ and ‘fleshly’. These words indicate actions that come from our spoiled, human motives and desires. Spiritual behaviour is motivated by God and comes from the new life we receive through faith in God. So, much of what religions call ‘spiritual’ is really just from the soul. Things that drive human appetite and desire are not spiritual but soulish. They come from the soul that has little or no time for God. Instead it is wrapped up in its physical home and its needs and is easily distracted by ‘stuff’ that appeals on a level of appetite and ambition.
The soul can be good and kind without God’s help. Human behaviour can be generous and loving. It can also be very religious. The soul can aspire to being spiritual without God’s help. This desire to become spiritual has led to many extreme choices. People have separated themselves from the world to become a monk or nun or hermit. War and murder have been justified in the pursuit of being spiritual. Religion uses powerful influences and over people because of this desire for the soul to be partnered by the spirit. Religion uses things that can appear to be mysterious and magical and persuasive. However, they have no power over sin, or bring peace with God, and cannot offer an escape route out of this corrupt world.
Colossians 2:23 NIV Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
The efforts of the human heart or soul are not going to change God’s decision that sin must be judged and punished. Nor will they change God’s mind that forgiveness and freedom from condemnation can be found only through faith in Jesus Christ. Religions tend to obscure this fact and offer painful and harmful ways of dealing with sin and guilt.
The spiritual mind helps the soul to see that our actions cannot buy His love and forgiveness. Nor can we build His Kingdom using broken tools and contaminated materials. God gives us new, spiritual life so that we can serve Him effectively.
Romans 7:6 NIV But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
Being spiritual is not something I can conjure up through laws and rules, ceremonies or rituals. Even the Law of Moses was only temporary, keeping Israel available for the coming of the Messiah, Jesus. However, this does not mean that the Law’s standard was not holy and good. It was simply not able to rescue sinners, only condemn and contain behaviour and point towards God’s solution. Jesus turned away God’s wrath and opened the way of spiritual life through grace and faith.
Being spiritual is not automatic, it requires daily effort to live that way, with the help of God’s Holy Spirit. There is a conflict between what our old way of life still hankers after and the way in which our new-born spirits want to live.
Galatians 5:16-18 NIV So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. (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. (18) But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
The preacher might claim to have the remedy for your weakness and the influence of the old nature. You might be offered an experience, a formula that will change your life. The Bible is there for you. A remarkable book that has been preserved through centuries. What a privilege to be able to check in the true authority for life. The authority of God’s Word. Being spiritual and thinking spiritually will bring you wisdom from God. Knowledge of the truth, of Jesus Christ, will bring you the power you need to live for God. Trusting and believing God’s promises will bring you through moments of weakness or doubt.
The wonderful, amazing thing is that you WANT to live for God.