Letters on Spiritual Formation #7
The Function of the Soul and the Spirit
This is article is part of a series of letters on spiritual growth and maturity. To read the previous letter in the series, click here.
Jesus uses three characteristics to describe himself in John 14:
“Jesus said unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by me.” John 14:6
Both the terms “way” and “life” imply an experience. “I am the way” could also be said as “I am your road and journey”. “I am the life” could also be said “I am the living breath of your life”. For some reason, when we think of “truth” we approach it as theological and doctrinal statements about Jesus. However, Jesus said “I am the truth”. Not “I am A truth”, but “I am THE truth”. In what way is truth an experience like way and life?
The way that you see the world is developed by your experiences and interactions with the world. Truth is comprised of the core beliefs you hold based upon a lifetime of experiences. Jesus as the truth absolutely must be experienced. It is through the experience of God that the truth God desires in the inward part (Psalm 51:6) is formed. Our experiences form what we hold within, thus our experience with Jesus forms the truth within us.
When you begin to experience Jesus as way, truth, and life an interesting change begins to take shape. The very way that you perceive yourself begins to change.
“For with you is the fountain of life: in your light shall we see light.” Psalm 36:9
At spiritual conception, light is birthed within a person. Jesus tells us in John 3 that we must be born of Spirit in order to enter the Kingdom of God. God is Spirit, and God is light, therefore the Spirit of God is light. This light begins as a seed (the kingdom within) and starts to grow as we foster relationship with this light. As the light contained within us grows we change more and more according to that light.
This growth in light is what the bible refers to as sanctification. Sanctification is growth towards greater holiness. Growth in holiness flows from relationship with He who is holy. You can only acquire holiness from the One who is holy, God. As Proverbs 4:18 says,
"But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shines more and more unto the perfect day."
We are to grow in light, and that light is to have an increasing effect on our lives.
As the light within us shines more and more, the areas of our life that have been shrouded in darkness are revealed for what God originally intended those areas to become. In this way, we experience the redemptive process of God in our lives. It is a returning to original design. This is the ongoing work of redemption in a believer's life. The Hebraic concept for redemption is to buy back what has been stolen. What was it that was stolen? You and everything you are destined to become! God’s interaction with you is always redemptive. It is His purpose to “buy back” what has been submitted to another, namely darkness.
Proverbs provides us with the clue to understand the function of our spirit.
"The spirit of man is the lamp of the LORD, searching all the inner depths of the heart." Proverbs 20:27
The light of God is contained in the portion of a man we call the spirit. The Spirit of God who is light transfers this light to our spirit. This is the essence of spirit-to-spirit communication. Paul alluded to this in 1 Corinthians 2:11.
“For what man knows the things of a man, except the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God.”
The spirit of man is called the “light of the Lord” in Proverbs 20:27. The spirit of man is designed by God to contain His light, and God who is light communicates this light to our spirit.
It is precisely at this point that most Christians get off track. It actually takes fostering a relationship with God who is light in order to grow in light. Take a look at what Jesus said:
“The light (lamp) of the body is the eye: if therefore your eye be sound (clear, singular), your whole body shall be full of light. But if your eye be evil, your whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you be darkness, how great is that darkness!” Matthew 6: 22-23
Jesus identifies that we can be full of two different types of light. We are called to be born of the seed of God, the Word. However, Jesus also accused the Pharisees of being born of their father the devil. This light within can either be of God, or of darkness. The word in Matthew 6:23 that is translated as “evil” actually means “to be hurtful.” Why did Jesus say that the world would know we were his disciples because of our love for one another? Because, when we love one another we are reflecting true light, the God who is light. When we hurt one another, we reflect darkness.
What does a lamp do? It shines with light! Your spirit is designed to contain the light of God. Your soul, as the expression of yourself, your life, will reflect the type of light that is within you. Why does Paul continually admonish us to walk as children of the light? Because we ought to walk in a way that fits with the light within us, God’s light. He gives specific examples of the kinds of thing that an individual housing the light of God would do.
Paul claimed the new man of Ephesians 4 and 5 would:
Be angry, yet would not sin
Would not steal, but would give to those in need
Would not lie, but speak truth to his neighbor
Would not speak corrupt words, but edify and minister grace to people
Walk in love, giving of yourself
Would not be drunk but filled with the Spirit
Would redeem time, for the days are evil
Speak in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs making melody to the Lord
Submit one to another
Give thanks continually
He also claimed that those in relationship with God who is Spirit would grow in a specific type of fruit:
These are the kinds of things that the person serious about the journey towards greater light (growing in communion with God) will be passionate about. It is in this way that others would know we are disciples of Jesus, because our love is a demonstration of his light. Simply performing and doing all the right stuff is not what causes growth, intimacy with His light causes growth. Those growing in a love relationship with the source of light (God) will find the kinds of things that Paul describes to be a sweet salve to the soul.
Jesus says something interesting about our spiritual growth in Matthew 6.
“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” Matthew 6:28-29
Jesus goes on to connect this concept of growth with seeking first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness in verse 33. It is in this seeking that the spiritual man becomes increasingly spiritual. It is not in toiling away and it is not in your effort. Your effort is communion with the one who makes growth possible. Growth is determined and orchestrated by God who is Spirit, Light, and Life. The spiritual individual, as they grow in communion with God will begin doing the types of things that Paul admonished. Divorced from communing with the Spirit of God, works are dead. It is not in doing these kind of things that you find growth, it is in becoming the kind of person that desires to do these things that you will find life.