I have six months to reshape my life. I can do this.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Soul vs. Spirit

Ulysses Everett McGill: What'd the devil give you for your soul, Tommy?
Tommy Johnson: Well, he taught me to play this here guitar real good.
Delmar O'Donnell: Oh son, for that you sold your everlasting soul?
Tommy Johnson: Well, I wasn't usin' it.

"What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from the desires that battle within you?" - James 4:1

"Therefore if any is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old is gone, behold the new!" Paul, 2 Corinthians 5:17

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin." Paul, Romans 7:15-25

Do you remember the old Tom and Jerry cartoon where Tom the cat was about to do something awful to Jerry the mouse and then out of nowhere, a mini angel Tom appeared on his shoulder imploring him to do right and be nice to Jerry? And then immediately following the angel's appearance, a devil Tom appeared on his other shoulder trying to convince him to do harm to Jerry? Tom would typically give into the demon.

I understand that is not truly the most accurate spiritual portrayal of what James and even Paul are talking about in their verses. But that is not too far from what is actually happening with us. We have these lesser demons we carry around with us all the time. They are in constant battle with the better angels in us. Not that we have literal angels and demons inside, I am using that more as an analogy to describe the struggle that goes on between the eternal aspects of who we are; the war of soul versus the Spirit.

Now, we understand that when we ask Christ in to be master, savior and Lord we are then inheriting the Spirit of God to live inside of us. We now have an eternal spirit that will allow us to experience abundant and eternal life. Eternal life with God in heaven.

So, are we therefore not eternal beings without the Spirit in us? Are we just temporal earth-bound flesh zombies wandering around until we expire? No. Of course not. We have an eternal destination awaiting us without the Spirit. Eternal separation from God in heaven. So, it stands to reason that we have an eternal aspect without God that sort of captures who we are, our personalities, how we relate to people - who we are deep down inside. Our soul. That immortal soul is bound for separation until we accept Christ as savior. And then the REAL battle begins.

That soul, that eternal essence that makes you who you are is at war against that spirit - James 4 talks about the problems we have and that they all stem from the war going on within our hearts. It is the war between who we were (soul) and who we are now (Spirit). We are almost constantly at battle with ourselves. Paul touched on this with his somewhat schizophrenic passage in Romans that doesn't really make sense until you realize that the new creation we have become is still at war with the old creation that will always exist somewhere inside us - it is eternal.

I was never really taught this. I was taught become a Christian and life will be sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. Nobody ever really shared with me how hard it would be to walk in Christ. Who I was, that awful and wicked and dead creature with such a huge appetite for sin would always be with me. Nobody ever told me. It was almost like Jesus was this tonic called "Sin B Gone!" and once I had taken it, everything would be better, easier and wonderful.

And it wasn't. I was still struggling with the same pet sins I used to before. Sometimes I still do. It never goes away. Ever. Why not? Because that will always be a part of who I am, whether I like it or not. That is there, deeply ingrained in my soul. And in a bittersweet way it makes me who I am. I can swing that pendulum from wretched to righteous, horrific to justified in a day or two. It happens so quickly for me. It truly is a constant battle. There is never a time when I feel confident that I have beaten that enemy down enough to rest. But there is good news.

You choose who wins. Simply by spending time with God, my better angels are strengthened, encouraged - reinforced, if you will.

There is a reason they are called better angels and lesser demons. You give God just a little time and He will help set a foundation that can stand up to that appetite. You give God a lot of time and He will really strip away what doesn't belong and you will begin to experience powerful growth. You will see things in a way you never saw them before. You will think things that you never thought before. You will have the eyes and ears and mind of Christ. That is more than enough to win that war.

Spend that focused time with God and it feeds the Spirit in you. Absorb the wrong things, allow the wrong thoughts and you feed the soul. The trick, the real hidden blessing, is finding the things that feed both - the Godly things that help the spirit thrive but that also connect with who you are- for some it is music, for some it is service for others it is simply relationships. You can find things that will feed the Spirit but will also satisfy the soul. Only God can provide those.

You know what those are now. You know what things truly feed your soul. They resonate deep within you, striking a chord with the very core of who you are. Why on earth are you NOT doing that all the time? Why are you struggling with all these other areas when you know what it is that will truly satisfy you? You have experienced it before. Go experience it again. And again. And again.

I never truly lived in Christ until I was spending consistent and focused time in God's presence and His Word. When I started doing that, things really started changing. When I do that now, things really explode wide open for me. And then I went on some mission trips and God began to fan some new flames that I didn't know existed. But they were always there. And then I began to visit two or three places that truly lit a fire in my Spirit and in my soul. And when in those dark nights of the soul when I feel that I am losing the battle, losing the grip of the Spirit, I reflect back on those things that feed both and I lean back into those habits and experiences and wonder why the heck I am so stupid and selfish.

Find the things that feed the Spirit and your soul. There are two or three or four that you know of. Help those better angels kick around those lesser demons. You have at your constant disposal a terrible and awesome force, a power you and I cannot even begin to understand. Depend on it today. You need to. If Paul struggled with the soul and Spirit war, what in the world makes you think you have it all down?


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