9.1. Cleansing and Purifying the Soul
Dividing our soul from our spirit is the working out of Heb. 4:12 . The word of God, the Spirit of God, gradually penetrates through the levels of our soul: the mind, the imagination, the memory, the emotions, the will, down to the innermost hidden depths. Here in the depths, we don’t see those things that are in conflict with the Lord:
Our reason, our hopes, our affections, our views, our zeal, our culture, our creeds, our churchism, our senses, our religious experiences, and our spiritual comforts.
These are some of our belief systems that often feed our pride and our ego and our self-life and, thus, must be exposed and uprooted ( Jer. 17:9 ).
Such habits and self-centered ways form our attitudes and perspectives and responses to life. This is the conditioning of our human nature which comes from our upbringing, from the influences of others in our life, from our preconceived value systems, from our habits, and from our self-oriented thought processes ( Luke 9:23-24 ).
Our ‘humanness’ will never go away, it will always be there. This is called the ‘flesh’. This must be dealt with, exposed and crucified at the cross, before we can enter the Holy Place of our hearts where God is to dwell. Thus, the self and the sin must be continually dealt with on a daily basis in order to be filled with the ‘fullness of God’ and to bear much fruit for the Kingdom ( Eph. 3:14-19 ).
We are hindered from a life of freedom in the Spirit because of what we think and perceive down deep. What we ‘believe’ is what we will normally ‘do’. If we want to change our behavior, we must discover what untruths we are believing ( John 8:32-36 ).
What we believe is based on our ‘root systems’, i.e., all of our preconceived belief systems, our secret habits, our hidden motives and all of our self-centered ways. In other words, this can be identified as our ‘human nature’ itself: our natural self-orientation, self-reliance and self-love and all our natural habits that do not reflect the Presence of God within. God wants to expose and eliminate these distortions because they often become the ‘roots’ of our sin ( Matt. 12:34-37 ; John 12:24-26 ).
Pure In Heart
( Matt. 5:8 ) “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”. Purity is the result of continued spiritual harmony with God, i.e., we have to grow in purity. This is reflected by our inner life as conditioned by life’s experiences and nurturing, and our ‘outer life’, contact with other people and responses and reactions to the world, the flesh and the devil. These are to be dealt with by the constant renewing of the ‘spirit of the mind’ to remove the spots and stains of life. If the outer level of our spiritual life with God is impaired to the slightest degree, we must put everything aside until we make it right. Spiritual vision depends on our character. It is ‘the pure in heart’ who ‘see God’ and sees life as God perceives it.
The principles of Luke 9:23-24 ; Eph. 4:22-24 ; Matt. 22:37-40 guide our lives to purify our hearts and direct our behavior. We die to our self-orientation by judging and evaluating a feeling-oriented life. And we respond to life on the basis of our will, and our will based on God’s word. Our mind is the focal point as we change a self-focus to a God focus. The evidence of a godly focus is proved by our biblical responses to others and to the circumstances of life.
Accordingly, we place ourselves under the influence and domain of the Holy Spirit Who on the basis of our biblical responses to life changes our root and belief systems to conform to the image of Christ. Our soul is to be the same as the soul of Christ: His soul is to be our soul.
Matt. 7:5 states that the process of change begins with developing an acute sensitivity to sin. We judge ourselves first, not others, to see if we are living as new creatures before God. As we do, we will place ourselves in the position to help restore others. Therefore, we examine ourselves according to God’ s truth as revealed in Matt. 5:43-46 ; Rom. 2:1-10 ; Rom. 5:1-5 ; Rom. 12:1-21 ; Eph. 4:17-32 ; Col. 3:1-17 ; 1 Pet. 3:9-18 ; 2 Pet. 1:3:11 .
As we examine ourselves daily, putting-off the old man and putting-on the new man, a process of simple obedience to the word of God, the doing of the word of God, the Holy Spirit will change our root and belief systems to be in accord with the image of Christ.
This is a lifetime process. Our job is to be faithful on a daily basis putting-off and putting-on, the Holy Spirit will do the rest: enlighten, enable and empower us to love God with all our heart , mind, and soul, and our neighbor as our self ( Matt. 22:37-39 ).
( Rom. 6:3-11 ; Gal. 2:20 ; 1 Pet. 4:1-2 ; 2 Pet. 1:4 ) We are made “partakers of the divine nature” receiving and sharing God’s own nature through His promises. Then we have to work that divine nature into our human nature by developing godly habits. Gradually we begin to view life, no longer from the fleshly or carnal perspective , but from the spiritual: being and doing God’s will on earth .
Work Out Your Salvation (Phil. 2:12-13)
1 Cor. 2:12-13
Review Matt. 5:14-7:29 , make a list of your sins, and attitude distortions. Make plans to change attitudes and behavior via Section A.4, “Victory Over Sin Worksheet” . To help remove those sin barriers that keep you from developing the mind of Christ, here are some major areas to be considered:
1. ( Matt. 5:21-26 ) Anger, Bitterness, Contempt . Unless this is dealt with, our Christian walk is crippled at the start. Jesus came to save not to condemn. We are to do the same.
2. ( Matt. 5:27-32 ) Obsessive Lust . Keep your eyes single and pure. Women are the guardians of our culture. They are endowed with a natural reverence for that which is sacred. Make plans to break from the spirit of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
3. ( Matt. 5:32-37 ) Verbal Manipulation . Don’t force others to accept your opinions or position.
4. ( Matt. 5:38-48 ) Payback/Revenge . Our job is to be reconciled to God, to self, and to others. Mercy is the postponement of judgment. As God does with us, do likewise. Restore and be reconciled to all of life, and be free.
5. ( Matt. 6:1-18 ) Seeking Approval and Acceptance of Man . Develop the interior life, view life from God’s perspective. You are already accepted and approved in Christ. Use self to seek to glorify God by exercising your talents and gifts for the benefit of others.
6. ( Matt. 6:19-34 ) Wealth and Greed . Depending on and trusting in the externals of the world system (mind of the flesh) rather than trusting in God leads to frustration and despair. As a co-heir with Christ, a citizen of heaven, you already own the cattle on a thousand hills. Act accordingly, for we are to live by God’s economy ( 2 Cor. 8:9 ).
7. ( Matt. 7:1-12 ) Criticism/Condemnation . Our natural inclination is to judge and a penchant for condemnation engineering. Judge yourself first for condemning, then you will be in the position to help restore others. As God’s ambassadors, we are here, not to compete, but to help complete one another.
8. ( Matt. 7:13-26 ) Doing and Not Just Hearing . Active listening and doing of the word is the key. Severe warnings are issued to the passive, lazy and self-indulgent. Unless we develop the interior life, the heart level, daily practicing the Presence of the Lord, our house will crumble. Judge self daily to assure that you are living by the Kingdom rules of the beatitudes. Therefore, exercise dominion of self in, as, and through Christ: be on top in all of life’s endeavors.
9.2. Sin, Self, Suffering
( Isa. 6:5 ; Luke 5:8 ) Until we see ourselves through God’s eyes, we really don’t know ourselves. The more God enables us to see ourselves, the more we’ll realize we cannot live without Him. We cannot be intimate with God except as we come to know ourselves as we really are ( Jer. 17:9 ).
Thus, there are impurities inside of us that rule us without our knowledge. These ambitions, hopes, dreams, desires, expectations and presumptions are preconceived belief systems upon which we build our lives separate from God. It is vital that we allow God to reveal them to us, so that we can recognize and surrender them to Him ( Ps. 139:23-24 ).
( Prov. 21:2 ) Only God can see and know our hearts: He alone knows our true motives and intents. His views are all that matters!
Death to Sin/Deeper Death to Self
( Rom. 6:3-11 ) Buried with Christ, we are dead with Him to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus and thus empowered to live the virtuous life. Jesus took care of the sin issue, but now it is up to us to deal with our own immorality.
( Eph. 4:22-24 ) The residuals of sin remain in our soul – the mind, the emotions, the will: the organs of the self. The thinking, the speaking and the acting are our responsibility to insure that we are being conformed to the image of Christ.
( Luke 9:23-24 ; 1 John 5:21 ) To take up the cross and follow Jesus involves the interior crucifixion of self-love, self-confidence, self-reliance, self-trust, self-will, self-pity, self-grasping, self-seeking, self-preservation, and self-esteem.
( Phil. 2:12-13 ) God wants all our self-interest, pettiness, spite, revenge, cruelty, foolishness, egotism, possessiveness, addictions and selfishness removed. These self-centered ways not only affect our communications with God, they also affect our communications with others. We must become detached from all our self-centered thoughts, hopes, plans, preferences, sorrows, successes, failures and comforts: dead to all desires but those of God.
Until these things are purged from our soul, we cannot have the union with Him as intended from the beginning ( Prov. 3:5-6 ).
Obedience Through Suffering
( Rom. 8:12-29 ) We are naturally conditioned by the world’s influences to pursue a course of self-preservation, self-protection and self-interest: a course of avoidance of suffering (taking the easy way out) leading to self-destruction. God ‘foresaw’ the sin of man, but instead of destroying all of mankind, God used the suffering caused by sin to conform us to the image of Christ. If we refuse to suffer, we will not be conformed. The ‘true self’ is wholly identified with Christ. No longer self-conscious but God conscious, ready to give self to God and to others. This is a dying process, and dying involves pain and suffering. By dying we gain eternal life.
( Rom. 8:29 ; Rom. 12:1-2 ; Eph. 1:4-5 ) Here we see the primary function of predestination is to conform us to Christ’s image, to be holy and blameless, to be adopted as His sons.
( Heb. 5:1-10 ) Jesus learned obedience through what He suffered which was predestined. Like wise, our goal is to follow the same predestined path and be ‘conformed to his likeness’.
( 2 Tim. 1:9 ; 1 Pet. 1:2 ; 1 Thess. 1:4-6 ) God has laid out a ‘predestined’ path in order for man to enter heaven and there is no other way God will allow us to enter.
That predestined path includes …
.. suffering ( Rom. 8:18-28 ; Acts 14:22 );
maintaining faith in spite of not being able to see God or when life appears too hard ( Rom. 4:18-25 ; Heb. 11:1-40 ; 1 Pet. 1:6-9 );
.. obedience in spite of sin and concupiscence ( Rom. 7:7-25 ; Rom. 8:1-17 );
.. perseverance in spite of harsh treatment and ridicule ( James 5:1-12 ; 1 Pet. 3:8-4:19 );
.. submission to authority ( Rom. 13:1-8 ; 1 Pet. 2:13-25 );
.. loving your enemies and praying for those who persecute you ( Matt. 5:43-48 ; 1 John 3:11-4:21 );
.. repenting of sin ( Acts 2:3, 8-41 );
.. giving riches to the poor ( Matt. 19:16-26 );
.. self-denial and shunning the world ( 1 John 2 :15-17 ) and any other thing related to the spiritual life.
Following this path (instead of allowing sin, pain and suffering to destroy us), God will take the sin, the pain, the suffering, the good as as well the bad, all the things of life, to perfect us, to conform us to His Son Who overcame the world. Thus, we, in Him, cannot lose for winning, being ‘more than a conqueror’ in Him Who loved us.
( Matt. 10:39 ; 1 Thess. 4:3 ; Gal. 2:20 ) Christ must become the center of our thought, our yearnings, and our will. Saints do die to themselves in the sense of being absorbed by their love of Christ, losing themselves in Christ. Only in this way will they find their true selfhood: the self as intended by God.
True self-surrender consists in our giving ourselves to Christ absolutely, in a spirit of loving adoration; in our full renunciation of our sovereignty; in our becoming empty with regard to all things. We set a course of action to be separated from the world, the flesh and the devil. In true self-surrender, we experience ourselves being possessed by God. Thus, the only gift we can offer God is the gift of the ‘right to our self’. As we do God will make a holy experiment out of us ( Rom. 12:1 ).
( John 6:69 ) Supernatural life as a whole requires us to depart from all that was natural and comfortable. Our abandonment of self is an indispensable condition of the full unfolding of supernatural life. To be perfected by and lost in what is greater than ourselves comes to us as a gift of God. But we must receive it should it be granted, and allow grace to elevate us above ourselves.
( John 15:16 ; Eph. 4:24 ; 1 Pet. 2:9 ) Now the new man who is renewed unto knowledge according to the image of Him who created him in order to ‘declare his virtues, who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light’.
Work Out Your Salvation (Phil. 2:12-13)
See Section A.5, “Dying To Self” , and list in priority the old self sin patterns that are to be dealt with. Use Section A.4, “Victory Over Sin Worksheet” to work out the healing of the soul process.
9.3. The Spirituality of Abundance
All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.
• Julian of Norwich
Confidence in God
Julian’s spirituality is filled with hope and confidence in the God “who loves us and delights in us”, the God who “will make all things well”, the God who created us to live fully the life we have been given.
Thus, this is a response to live life based on what we have rather than on what we lack. What we have is that the God of life is at the center of my existence. I will have everything I need to live fully this moment in time. This view also means that because the God of Abundance continues to be active in my life, “all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
Despite the pains of life, the sorrows, the disappointments, the deceit and corruption of the world, the hatred and violence, the hunger and war, God is still in charge, and He “shall make all things all well”.
We are not to be blind or deny the dark realities of life, whether in the worldwide community or in our own personal lives. But we need to name the brokenness and the evil in ourselves and around us, and to own and claim our part in it. Then we can respond in faith and live in hope that the God of abundance will truly resolve and fill our hearts.
Abundance means believing in God’s promises as spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm! Plans to give you a future full of hope. When you call me and when you pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, you will find me, and I will change your lot”. ( Jer. 29:11-14 )
Abide in God (Not in The Circumstances)
These words offer us hope and the promise of blessing, despite and in the midst of suffering. They call us to live with eyes, ears, and hearts attentive to God’s abiding presence in our lives. They call us to choose life or death: to dwell on God’s promises or to dwell on the circumstances of life:
“I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life then that you and your descendants may live. For that will mean life for you, a long life for you to live”. ( Deut. 30:19-20 )
John 10:10 states that Jesus came to give us an abundant life. To choose life is to look at life while focusing on what life offers me, instead of getting stuck on what I lack. It means looking at what I know instead of dwelling on doubts and questions. Live with the questions, and, in time, the answers will come.
Living fully means choosing to live consciously the reality of every moment, every event, and every encounter with the conviction that each is a gift from my loving God. I will lack nothing because I know I will have enough because the God of Abundance will always be there going through it with me ( Isa. 43:1-5 ).
Abstract from [Julian1]. See also Julian of Norwich on CCEL.