December 18, 2017
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Keep in step with the Spirit

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. - Galatians 5:16

The human being is made up of three parts: body, soul, and spirit. We are created for relationship with God, and our three parts reflect His triune nature.

God created the world and every physical thing as a place for our existence, and we are connected to that creation through our body. God is a spirit, and we are connected to the Holy Spirit through our spirit.

God created each person with a unique identity. Our personality is comprised of our mind, will and emotions which are the components of our soul. It is through the exercise of our soul that we are interrelated with God.

We are able to respond to God with love or hate through the thoughts of our mind, the choices of our will, and the reactions of our emotions.

The purpose is authentic relationship. We are able to choose to love others more than we love ourselves. We are also able to choose to love ourselves more than anything else. If we consume all of our love for ourselves then we have only hate left for anything else; including our Creator.

If this sounds complex, well no wonder. God is an amazing creator and He wants to love and be loved by amazing creatures. For this reason there is no end to the depth of relationship we can have as we love Him, or there are unlimited ways in which we could choose to hate Him.

Who’s in Control?

For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. - Galatians 5:17

Ever since sin entered into the equation there is opposition between the Holy Spirit and man’s spirit. It is a battle of wills, and it is a fight for control. As the Apostle Paul says, the flesh (man’s spirit) is opposed to everything the Holy Spirit represents. That is why you do the things you do not think you want to do.

Almost everyone views himself or herself as a loving person, and in some situations we are able to pull it off.

For instance, I may reach into my pocket to give some money to a homeless person as a demonstration of my social conscience and willingness to do a good turn for someone else. However, in my flesh that only happens when the money I give is inconsequential to me. It is not a sacrificial act of love, but a small payment toward a desired self-esteem.

On the other hand, if I am down to my last few dollars and the decision to give some money to a homeless person means that I have to skip dinner then my flesh will rebel against the idea of love.

We use the term “strength of soul” to describe the moments when a person is put under pressure to protect his or her identity. That is when the temptation is greatest to rely on your soul for making decisions rather than listening to the Holy Spirit. It is almost as if my soul suddenly worries that my Creator no longer has my best interest in mind, and I must take care of myself.

As stated earlier, there are three components to the soul: mind, will and emotions. When we are pressed into strength of soul we tend to operate in our dominant area. These can be stated simply as what I think (mind), what I want (will), and how I feel (emotions).

If I am not led by the Spirit, I most likely will be led by my …

Mind

The mind-dominant soul is primarily concerned about choosing and acting according to what makes sense. He relies on reason, logic, research and rationalization. He is preoccupied with data and processes. He argues with himself and others on the basis of reason or information. He tries to protect himself from error by thinking things through thoroughly. He becomes convinced of his opinion by winning the argument.

God gave us our minds and the ability to use them, but when they are working in opposition to the Spirit we end up doing the things we do not want to do. We can become so intent on figuring out the right thing to do that we forget to ask the Holy Spirit. At other times we may ask the Holy Spirit but then force what He said through our mental grid until it conforms with what we already believe.

The problem with the mind-dominant soul is that we are easily led astray by the enemy of God. The temptation in the Garden of Eden was to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Ever since sin entered into the world we have been susceptible to figuring things out on our own.

When we are listening to our mind we are unable to hear from the Holy Spirit. That does not mean we are unwilling to hear, but rather that we are distracted by our thoughts and unable to do so.

When push comes to shove the mind dominant person must surrender his reason and accept the Spirit’s guidance with a step of faith.

Will

The will-dominant soul is primarily concerned about choosing and acting according to what the person wants. He understands his right to choose and takes it seriously. He knows what he wants, or believes he knows what he should want. He will make a decision and take responsibility for it. He believes it is better to make a poor decision than none.

God gave us the freedom to choose so that we can freely love, but when we are working in opposition to the Spirit we end up choosing to do things we do not want to do. We can become so intent on the need to decide that we forget to ask the Holy Spirit. At other times we may decide and then ask the Holy Spirit to bless it after the fact.

The problem with the will-dominant soul is that the enemy of God is able to use our past as momentum to keep us in bondage. The accuser of the brethren uses guilt and shame to keep this person looping through past decisions. He is also susceptible to hyper-responsibility as he tries to atone for past errors.

When we are preoccupied by what we want we are unable to hear anything else from the Holy Spirit. If our predisposition is self-referential then we are unable to make loving choices.

When push comes to shove the will dominant person must surrender his conviction and humbly accept the Spirit’s guidance with an act of obedience.

Emotions

The emotion-dominant soul is primarily concerned about choosing and acting according to how the person feels. He has an emotional response to situations and establishes meaning based on those feelings. He may act or react based on a “gut instinct” or inner sense. He may also act in response or anticipation of an emotional response. Sometimes a choice is made in an attempt to achieve a positive feeling, such as pleasure, joy, or confidence. At other times choices are made to avoid or limit negative emotions, such as fear, anger, sadness, or boredom.

God gave us emotions to provide a frame of reference for interactions we have with the things around us. We can respond to Him in worship through pleasure or awe. But when we are not in step with the Spirit our emotions can control us.

The problem with emotions is that they are a response to what we believe to be true, and if we misinterpret something our emotional response may not be accurate. The devil plays on our emotions and manipulates our personality. We end up doing the things we do not want to do.

When we are preoccupied by how we feel we are unable to hear truth from the Holy Spirit. Our actions and responses are made defensively rather than in loyalty to God.

When push comes to shove the emotion dominant person must surrender his feelings and accept the Spirit’s guidance with conviction.

Give Way

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. - Galatians 5:25

God created us with a unique identity. We are capable of being completely self-contained and independent. Our personality and purpose is under our control. We are designed with the capacity to be entirely self-referential. However, if we isolate ourselves our pride makes us unable to love God and love others. We cannot relate.

God created us with the desire to be in relationship. We are capable of being completely loving, able to sacrifice all our rights and privileges for the sake of others. However, if we disregard our unique identity we become dependent and unable to operate in our divine design. We cannot relate.

God created us with a body, soul and spirit. If we live by the spirit we can be in step with the Holy Spirit. We must replace pride with love and dependence with interdependence. Our flesh, or fallen nature, is unable to navigate this complex dynamic. We can only operate in this balance when we rely on the Spirit to give us guidance.

If this sounds complex, well no wonder! God is an amazing creator and He wants to be loved by amazing creatures. We are able to respond to God with love or hate through the thoughts of our mind, the choices of our will, and the reactions of our emotions.

Watch for your default setting. It will be one of these three: mind, will or emotions. It is easy to be in step with the Holy Spirit when you are walking with Him. But beware when life’s pressures mount and you are tempted to go it alone. You can check the symptoms of soulish behavior, and use that as a warning to yield to the Spirit.

Give way! The Spirit wants to guide you into deeper and deeper relationship with God. Only He can do it.

 
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