Your Soul is in the Way

In a day when psychoanalysis is trendy and just about anyone who is anyone has their own psychologist we can lose sight of the Biblical realities about our inner life. The truth is that your soul gets in the way of your freedom and happiness.

What is the Soul?

Freud dissected the inner workings of the human mind with his Id, Ego and Super-ego. Many others have thrown their own two-pence worth into the ring, hoping to make much more than two-pence out of it. So the water is pretty muddy for anyone trying to understand the mind and man’s inner self.

When I studied first year Psych at Sydney University in the early 1970’s much of the course consisted of learning about competing schools of psychological thought. Each one seemed to make sense in its own right, but none could co-exist in harmony with the other. Psychology was a free-for-all game of eclectic self-determined theories and therapies. Things are even worse with the passage of a generation.

The Bible presents a very workable dissection of the human condition, given by the Apostle Paul in a letter he wrote to one of the churches he established, in Thessaloniki. In his first letter to the Thessalonians he prays that God will preserve their spirit, soul and body.

“… I pray to God that your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” Paul, 1Thessalonians 5:23b

Spirit, Soul and Body

The Spirit of a man is that internal part which enables the man to relate to God. This part is somewhat unfamiliar to us, since westerners do not give particular attention to their spirit. It may be best understood by saying that it is the internal part of us that is not our soul. Man’s conscience is part of his spirit.

The Soul of a man is that internal part which enables the man to relate to the world around him. This includes the mind, emotions and will, or thoughts, feelings and choices.

The Body is the physical and visible person.

Spirit in Control

Man was originally designed to be in intimate fellowship with God, so man was created to live out of his Spirit. The Spirit is meant to be in control of each person’s life. Note that Paul listed man’s components by itemising the spirit first. Mankind is ‘spirit, soul and body’, not ‘body, soul and spirit’. The spirit is supposed to be pre-eminent.

However, when Adam and Eve ate of forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, they chose to make their spirit secondary to the soul. They exalted their mind, emotions and will over their conscience.

Soul in Control

What we have now is mankind living out of the soul. Our mind, emotions and will demand to be gratified. We demand to understand things. We react to anything that upsets our feelings. We refuse to yield our will.

The soul is in control in humanity. That’s why the soul is in the way. The soul blocks our ability to live out of our spirit, because it won’t give up its place of executive control over our lives.

For example, consider a person who feels touched by God and who wants to drop their career and dedicate their life to Christian ministry. What are the things that their friends say to them? People will tell them it doesn’t make sense (that’s the Mind issue). People will say they don’t feel right about them throwing away their studies and career (that’ the Emotions). Others will challenge the decision and pressure the person to re-think their decision (that’s related to the Will).

The person will have their own battles with their mind, emotions and will when they sense God leading them to a radical decision.

God Separates Soul and Spirit

The Bible speaks much about our soul and spirit. Just one verse will be sufficient to show that God wants us to separate our mind, emotions and will away from our spirit.

“For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

We are not going to fulfil the perfect will of God by having our soul in command. We will live by faith and please God more, by being led by the Spirit of God.

The book of Hebrews exalts the Bible as being God’s tool for piercing into people’s lives and separating the soul and spirit.

Your highly trained mind will not make you a better Christian. Your strength of emotion or will is not an asset when it comes to living for God. You are much better off learning how to put your soul (mind, emotions and will) in their place, under the Lordship of Christ and out of the way, so they don’t interfere with your life in the Spirit.

Charles Finney Waking America

This is the day that … Charles Grandison Finney was ordained to Christian ministry, in 1824.

Thus began – or “continued” might be a more accurate word – a mighty moving of the Spirit of God through this converted lawyer. Immediately the winning of the lost had become his one purpose in life … as he expressed it – he had been given a “retainer from the Lord Jesus Christ to plead His cause”.

Elmer Towns sums up one of Finney’s revival campaigns: “During his meetings in Rochester, New York … 1,200 people united with the churches of the Rochester Presbytery; all the leading lawyers, physicians and businessmen were saved; 40 of the converts entered the ministry, and the whole character of the town was changed. As a result of that meeting revivals broke out in 1,500 other towns and villages” (Hall of Fame, page 102).

It is estimated that “over 500,000 responded to his public invitations to receive Christ” (ibid).

In 1835 Finney became president of Oberlin College, introducing a curious blend of Calvinism and Arminianism into his theological teaching. The Second Great Awakening in America moved away from the Calvinistic focus of men like Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield, to a focus on man’s responsibility for his sin and man’s need to take moral action in the face of his sin. This could be called practical Arminiansm.

Finney’s autobiography has been republished in paperback (Bethany Fellowship, 1977, 230 pages), and his Revival Lectures are still a classic in their particular field.

“The pastor who ordained Finney later said he regretted this ordination,” writes Jack Hyles in his book Today. “Finney became known as somewhat of a fanatic, embarrassing his old pastor. God give us more fanatics!!”

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.