The scriptures teach that the nature of man comprises spirit, soul, and body.
- Our soul is the faculty that is self-conscious, or, self-aware.
- The central and mediatory part of man, connecting the spirit and body together in tri-unity.
- Can influence both the spirit and the body because of its centrality.
God formed Adam’s body from the earth and then breathed into him “the breath of lives” [literal], thus he became a living soul:
“And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”Genesis 2:7 KJV
The breath of lives included both soul life and spirit life.
Adam and Eve, the first souls, came into being as a result of God’s creative power. All souls have since come into existence by the co-operation of Creator and parents. God is the “Father of spirits” (Hebrews 12:9), and the soul and body come from the parents according to the laws of human reproduction. God does not create sinless souls each time a child is born, nor is the soul pre-existent, but God gives the spirit, and the child receives soul and body from the laws of reproduction through the parents. This accounts for the sinful nature in mankind from birth, and the inheritance of character traits and likenesses witnessed in children and their parents.
“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.”Psalm 51:5 KJV
Faculties of the soul
- Mind: Conscious mind and Sub-conscious mind
The Outer Man – The Soul
When we are born-again our spirit is saved; we become a brand new creation in Christ Jesus. In respect to our soul however, the work of salvation is progressive. The mind must be renewed and the will conformed to the will of God (Romans 12:2). The emotions must be restored (Psalm 23:3).
For many people, the soul has been dominant for many years of their life. When their spirit is born-again, a conflict of interest can begin within the person’s own being. We do not have two natures at war within us, but rather there is a conflict of interest. The newly regenerated spirit wants to forsake all and follow Christ, but the well-developed soul, in self-preservation, seeks to maintain control and influence our decisions, not according to faith but according to its feelings, thoughts and attitudes.
Watchman Nee addresses this issue in a masterly fashion in his book, “Release of the spirit – the breaking of the outward man”. Jesus spoke clearly regarding the necessity of losing our (lower) life in order to gain the (higher) life.
“For whoever wants to save his [higher, spiritual, eternal] life, will lose it [the lower, natural, temporal life which is lived only on earth]; and whoever gives up his life [which is lived only on earth] for My sake and the Gospel’s will save it [his higher, spiritual life in the eternal kingdom of God].”Mark 8:35 AMPLIFIED
“For whoever would preserve his life and save it will lose and destroy it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he will preserve and save it [from the penalty of eternal death].”Luke 9:24 AMPLIFIED
God is at work both to restore us, making us whole, and to break us in respect to our soulish dependence. Our soul must forsake its self-reliance for a new life of utter dependence upon God. This process at times is painful, and challenges the very core attitudes of our personality.
Our salvation in Christ is three-fold, and touches upon our entire being:
Our Spirit: We are saved.
Our Soul: We are being saved – progressive work or restoration and renewal
Our Body: We will be saved – We enjoy first-fruits of God at work in our body through healing and strength, but our present body remains subject to the ravages of age and will eventually die. Ultimately, we will be given a new body, made in the image of Christ’s glorious body.
The mind of man consists in the main of the conscious and sub-conscious mind. With the conscious mind we process incoming information from our five senses and act accordingly. The mind (which is non-physical, a faculty of the soul), operates through the physical brain.
The sub-conscious mind is the area of learned behaviour. Our reactions and responses to situations are largely determined by our sub-conscious mind. It is in the sub-conscious part of our mind that our attitudes are held. These have often been inherited from our parents and others who have had influence over us. Many of these attitudes can be ungodly and need to be renewed by the Word of God.
To do God’s will instead of our own, will require a radical change in our thinking patterns and paradigms.
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”Romans 12:2
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My Ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”Isaiah 55:8-9
Our mind is like a computer. We need to reprogram it with new software! That software is the Word of God. It needs to be programmed according to the new reality of being in Christ. As we allow this to happen, we will change from who we were, to being more and more like Jesus.
“that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”Ephesians 4:22-24
In our warfare with the enemy, the battleground is often in our mind. Throughout all the years we lived apart from God, our mind was the target of the lies of the devil. Directly or indirectly, he built in our minds strongholds such as failure, inferiority, worthlessness, rejection, pride, rebellion etc. As we replace these thinking patterns with the Word of God we gain victory over the devil. We become more than conquerors.
“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”2 Corinthians 10:4-5
It has been said that we are the sum total of all our attitudes. Many of our thinking patterns are in the form of our attitudes. Our attitudes can be grouped into four areas:
- Attitude toward God
- Attitude toward ourselves
- Attitude toward others
- Attitude toward circumstances
Our attitude toward God
…must be that revealed in the Great Commandment.
Matthew 22:37 “Jesus said to him, You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.”
Our attitude toward ourselves
…must be one of self-acceptance, self-respect and love. If God accepts us as we are then we must also accept ourselves. If we cannot love ourselves, we will find it impossible to develop right attitudes of love and consideration toward others.
John the Apostle defined himself thus:
“Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?”
This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true.” (John 21:20,24 NKJV)
John’s identity was firmly rooted in the absolute love of Jesus, his friend and Saviour. We are also defined not by our job or function, our social standing or financial situation, or any transitory thing, but by our eternal relation to the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us:
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Gal 2:20 NKJV)
You are the disciple whom Jesus loves!
The right attitude toward others
…can be seen in the following verses;
Matthew 22:39-40 “And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
Our attitude towards our circumstances must be governed by faith, hope and patience. There is no place in the believer’s life for self-pity, resignation and fatalism concerning our circumstance. Our attitude must be that all things are possible for him who believes.
Pride and Prejudice are just two examples of sinful attitudes. Derek Prince once said pride has three aspects to it.
- Pride of face, which is vanity.
- Pride of place, seeing itself in a class above and better than others.
- Pride of grace, which is self-righteousness.
Prejudice is the mind of the devil. It is hate in disguise. To harbour prejudice against a race or class of people is sin. God loves all people of all races.
Rebellion against legitimate authorities such as the police or other governing bodies is also sinful and ungodly. We can have rebellious attitudes toward our pastor, employer, our parents and teachers and many others. We need to develop an attitude of respect and submission toward all those in authority over us.
Stubbornness is rooted in pride and rebellion and is also a sinful attitude. Stubbornness resists the work of the Holy Spirit as He convicts us of our need to change.
“Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.”1 Samuel15: 22a-23
Note the Godly attitude of obedience in the passage above as well as the ungodly ones.
Unbelief is another attitude that grieves the heart of God and keeps us out of His blessings.
“Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.”Hebrews 3:12
The Will of Man
In the beginning, God created man as a free moral being with a will of his own. God did not want a race of robots so He had to give man the power to exercise choice. Man could choose to obey God’s will, or disobey. Tragically, man chose to disobey with catastrophic results for the human race. The only safe place for the will of man is in submission to the will of God. Self-will is sin and will always produce death in some form or another in our lives.
The five “I wills” of Lucifer.
“How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart; I will ascent into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascent above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High. Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the pit.”Isaiah 14:12-15
Unlike man, the angels, including Lucifer, did not have the right to choose to exercise self-will. Lucifer’s rebellion resulted in his fall from heaven. Knowing the effects of exercising self will he then successfully deceived Eve into doing the same thing in the Garden of Eden with the same outcome.
In contrast to Lucifer, Jesus only did the will of the Father even under extreme pressure, as in the temptation and in the Garden of Gethsemane.
“And He said, Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”Mark 14:36
We must follow the example of Jesus in the midst of trial and temptation. God will always give us the grace to obey Him.
In many respects, the will is the ‘strongman’ of the soul. It has the power to direct the mind and the emotions. To strengthen the will under God’s direction, is a key to living a life of victory.
Romans chapter 7 and 8 outlines perfectly the glorious truth that our will has now been restored to a place of strength and decision. The last lines of Romans 7 reveal the conflict of desiring to proceed according to the will of God, yet being unable to do so because of the principle of sin at work in the soul. It concludes with the desperate cry, “Who shall deliver me?” Scripture then answers, “Jesus Christ!”
Prior to salvation, our will was condemned to a certain fate. Our destination was determined and we had no way of choosing an alternate route. On death row, we were indeed condemned men.
In Christ, our will has been restored. We are now free to choose, like Adam in the first instance, whether to follow the law of the Spirit of Life, or the law of sin and death, each with their consequences. We are no longer bound to do the will of the flesh, but to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit who is within us.
The Emotions of Man
In the beginning God created man with emotions, an ability to feel. In the Garden of Eden before the fall, man’s emotions only knew joy that came from his intimacy with God. However, after the fall man felt for the first time feelings of guilt, fear, anguish, jealousy, depression and hate.
Jesus wants to make us free to emote and enable us to manage our feelings and emotions, and to change them where they are negative and destructive. He also wants us as believers to minister the anointing to bring healing to the emotional lives of others.
“a bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench,”Matthew 12:20
“The Spirit of the Lord [is] upon Me, because He has anointed Me [the Anointed One, the Messiah] to preach the good news (the Gospel) to the poor; He has sent Me to announce release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to send forth as delivered those who are oppressed [downtrodden, bruised, crushed, and broken down by calamity]”Luke 4:18 AMPLIFIED
In the same way that our outer man can exhibit bruising after an accident; our inner man can also be bruised, not only by physical abuse, but also by people’s words. Words of rejection can cause deep emotional hurt, which profoundly affect an individual’s life. Many times, long after the physical bruises have disappeared, the bruises on the soul remain, influencing our lives daily.
Many times we do not understand why we feel the way we do at times. For example someone is selected for a task instead of us and we feel intense feelings of rejection. At other times, we can feel insecure and inadequate. All of these feelings flow out of damaged emotions.
Man has an intense need for love and acceptance. For those who have been bruised by life, the road to recovery begins by accepting the unconditional love and acceptance of God and His people.
A key for managing emotions
As we change our thought life our emotional life will follow i.e. you cannot feel ‘down’ if you are thinking ‘up’. Our emotions are inextricably linked to our thought patterns.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that the believer has an absolute standard for sound mental and emotional health, and that is the Lord Jesus Himself. He laughed and wept. He felt grief and anger. He knew happiness and joy as well as sadness and sorrow. He displayed the full range of human emotion, and exemplified emotional wholeness and stability.
Philip Yancey in his book, “The Jesus I Never Knew” brings home this point :
“The personality (of Jesus) that emerges from the Gospels differs radically from the image of Jesus that I grew up with, an image I now recognise in some of the older Hollywood films about Jesus. In those films, Jesus recites His lines evenly and without emotion. He strides through life as the one calm character among a cast of flustered extras. Nothing rattles Him. He dispenses wisdom in flat, measured tones. He is, in short, the Prozac Jesus.
In contrast, the Gospels present a man who has such charisma that people will sit three days straight, without food, just to hear His riveting words. He seems excitable, impulsively “moved with compassion” or “filled with pity”. The Gospels reveal a range of Jesus’ emotional responses: sudden sympathy for a person with leprosy, exuberance over His disciples successes, a blast of anger at coldhearted legalists, grief over an unreceptive city, and then those awful cries of anguish in Gethsemane and on the cross. He had nearly inexhaustible patience with individuals but no patience at all with institutions and injustice.
I once attended a men’s movement retreat designed to help men “get in touch with their emotions” and break out of the restrictive stereotypes of masculinity. As I sat in a small group, listening to other men tell of their struggles to express themselves and to experience true intimacy, I realised that Jesus lived out an ideal for masculine fulfilment that nineteen centuries later still eludes most men.”