What is the soul of man? Is it the same as the spirit? Does knowing the difference really matter? The answer to these questions will help you gain a greater understanding of yourself - spirit, soul and body. Understanding the relationship between these three elements will help you toward a victorious Christian life.
Christianity is not just another religion. It is the life of God abiding within and flowing out of the believer. Other religions leave you the same as you were before. But the wonderful thing about the Christian life is that it will completely transform you. But what part of you is actually changed?
Spirit, Soul and Body
When you are born again, your spirit is instantly transformed into the image of God. The spirit is that part of you which takes on the nature of God. According to the Word, once that happens you should immediately start the process of changing your soul. The Bible calls it "renewing the mind."
Your soul is your mind, your will and your emotions. Spiritual growth is determined by how much your soul has been changed by the Word of God. Nothing is wrong with your spirit if you are born again; the life of God is in there. You are indwelt by the Holy Ghost. But you are hindered from living a spiritual life by a soul (mind) that thinks like the world instead of like God. This is true because your soul (will) also determines your actions.
Your Body Is Just Your "Earthsuit"
Once you have been born again, the Bible instructs you to "put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness" (Ephesians 4:24). This means your soul and body are to take on the same image as your spirit. This happens through the process of changing your mind, your will and your emotions to understand and walk in the ways of God.
To live in God's perfect will you must renew your mind. You must learn to live from the inside out. There is no other way to live victoriously.
When we are born of the Spirit, we are to conform to the image of God's Son (Romans 8:29). You and I ought to act just like Jesus. The only thing that stands in the way is our soul. Without a renewed mind we would not dare to walk and act like Jesus.
"Be ye transformed," Romans 12:2 says, "by the renewing of your mind." "Transformed" is the Greek word from which we get the term "metamorphosis." This Greek word is used in the Scripture in two other places.
One such account is when Jesus was transfigured on the Mount. The other is found in II Corinthians 3:18. "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." "Changed" is the same in the Greek as "transformed" and "transfigured." Our souls are changed when we spend time beholding the Lord in the Word and in prayer.
Renewing our minds causes our outer being to be transformed in much the same way as a caterpillar is changed into a butterfly. As we behold Him, our outer man changes to match the inner man which is created in righteousness and true holiness. The Spirit of the Lord is in us so that we can walk with God and please Him.
The Battle Is in the Soul
The more you know of the Word, the more you conform to the image of Jesus. The world would have you think that God is a liar. Yet God tells you that Satan is the liar. In between stands your soul, where the spiritual battle is fought. Therefore, your soul must be anchored. Anchored to what? To hope. To eternal things. If it is moored to this world, you will never walk in victory or in the power of God. If your soul is not fixed on eternal things, it will not hold steady in the time of crisis.
When you become a Christian, you are sustained from the inside. Your spirit is steady in adversity. You are upheld and maintained by your spirit man and not by your intellect or reasoning. "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder 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).
God's Word divides (distinguishes between) the soul and the spirit. Nothing else can cause you to recognize whether you are being led by your soul and natural thinking or whether you are following your spirit which is led by the Holy Spirit.
Every problem, weakness or difficulty you have could be solved immediately if you knew the mind of God. But it takes effort, dedication and faithfulness to renew your mind. Mind renewal is not like the new birth. It is a process and doesn't come overnight. Though your spirit is reborn and transformed, your soul must be constantly renewed by the washing of the Word in order to function in harmony with your reborn spirit and God's Spirit (Ephesians 5:26-27).
The Soul Is the Seat of Will and Purpose
"For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he..." (Proverbs 23:7). The Word says we are what we think we are. Again, this is a process. You never do something that you haven't already thought about. Thinking about something eventually leads to making a decision, which determines your actions. If you're not happy with your life or the things you find yourself doing, examine what you are spending the majority of your time thinking about - what's influencing your thought life. As you meditate the Word of God, your thoughts and emotions will align themselves with the Word, changing worldly decisions into Word-based actions.
The Scripture says that God energizes and creates in us the power and the desire to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13, The Amplified Bible). He works from the inside out, not from the outside in. He takes the image of the Word that is in our spirit and grafts it into our soul as we behold Him. Only then can we outwardly express the image of Jesus that we inwardly possess.
But this takes conscious effort. If you are just going to give God a couple of hours a week, your mind will not be renewed. The Word won't be implanted in you. You might know some of it with your head, but it's the Word in your soul, coming out your mouth that changes you. It's the Word of God that controls your thinking and transforms your life.
So, take the time to get away from the world and study God's Word. Meditate on it and let it change you from the inside out. Draw nigh unto God and He will draw nigh unto you. Make a conscious effort to graft the Word of God into yourself. Only then will you begin to understand His Word and His will. Only then will you be on your way to Understanding the Soul.