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The Dividing of Soul From Spirit
By David A. DePra
Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged 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. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. (Heb 4:11-13)
But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. (Rom 8:9-10)
The Bible reveals that there is a NEW MAN in Christ, and an OLD MAN in Adam. But not just as objective facts. Paul shows that each of these are part of OUR makeup. There is YOUR, "old man of sin." And there is YOUR, "new man in Christ." And much of the Christian life is a matter of God revealing the corruption of that old man, and revealing to us the freedom of the new.
If you are a Christian, you are as saved right now, as you are ever going to be. But once I say that, you will recognize that I am not talking about your body, or in fact, anything that belongs to the old creation. No. I am saying that your spirit is at one with Christ, and that because of that, you are saved FROM THE INSIDE OUT. Your body will be saved only once IT dies and is raised in the age to come.
What we see here are TWO dynamics: The flesh and the Spirit. The old man and the new man. The carnal mind and the spiritual mind. The old creation and the new creation. The kingdom of darkness and the Kingdom of God. The law of sin and the law of life. The soul and the Spirit. Our old identity and our new identity. These are all the SAME thing. Now, if you arenít saved, you donít have two dynamics, you have one: The flesh. But if you are saved, for this age, and only for this age, you do have two.
Physical pictures of Truth have their limitation. But letís take a stab at this one. Consider your body and what the Bible calls, "the flesh," to be an OUTER SHELL. Consider your spirit in union with Christ to be the INNER reality. The two are NOT the same Ė indeed, they are at war with one another. The flesh seeks control and self-gratification. It seeks security in itself. The new man in Christ seeks to break through all of that and to center everything in Christ Himself.
God wants to separate the two dynamics and show us that, in Christ, we are set free from the old, and are free in the new. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. God wants to divide soul from Spirit. He wants to get us walking, not in obedience to the flesh, but what the Bible calls, "in the Spirit."
The Finality of the Cross
Now, before moving ahead, we must realize that the POWER is broken by the Cross of Jesus Christ of everything having to do with the OLD. It is totally broken Ė as broken as it will ever be. The flesh has been crucified and old things ARE passed away. It IS finished. But the presence and possibility of the old isnít done away. We continue to live in a flesh body Ė in other words, that outer shell, if you will, continues to be present with us. And we can yield and obey it any time. The Bible teaches that if we see that we donít have to obey it, and believe that we donít have to obey it, and then DONíT obey it, that we will discover that the power of it really IS broken. This is the entire point of Romans 6 through 8. But much of the Christian life is spent discovering and coming into exactly that freedom.
It is precisely because Christians do not believe and rest in the finality of the Cross that we come up with substitutes. "Deliverance ministry," is one such substitute. People ask God to DELIVER them from the power of the flesh Ė although they may not use exactly that term. People are taught they are under things like, "generational curses," or that they have bondages and the like, from which they need deliverance. Well, itís not like we donít have bondages. And itís not like we donít have sin, unbelief, and patterns of the flesh. We DO Ė as Christians. But the moment we ask God to DELIVER us from these things, we are unwittingly denying that He already HAS delivered us by the Cross of Jesus Christ.
So what am I saying? That because Christ HAS already delivered us that we ought to pretend that we donít sin? Or that our bondages are unreal? Not at all. In fact, that would be practicing, "mind science religion." What I am saying is this: If you want to pray for deliverance, pray for deliverance from UNBELIEF. Since Christ has already broken the power of sin and the flesh by the shed Blood of His Cross, our problem is not going to be solved by asking Him to do it all over again, or to ask Him to somehow give us a, "booster shot," of His Blood. No. What we need is not deliverance from that which we are already delivered. We need to SEE and BELIEVE.
This IS the job of the Holy Spirit. Not to put Christ back up on the Cross to die all over again so that we can get free of some sin or bondage. But to reveal to us the Truth that in Christ our deliverance is ALREADY provided, and to set us free from the UNBELIEF that makes it impossible for us to BELIEVE!
Every Christian problem can be traced back, not to a shortcoming on the part of Christ. But to our refusal, neglect, or inability to BELIEVE. We are absolutely geared to the flesh, our carnal mind, and natural thinking Ė even as Christians. We are geared to it because, as stated, we are first saved from the inside out. It takes time and experience for the inner life to penetrate through the outer shell of the flesh and emerge. This is the work of the Holy Spirit, and is, in large part, what the above passages from Hebrews and Romans are talking about.
The Traits of the Flesh
The Biblical term, "the flesh," is not merely immoral actions, or what we would normally consider ugly things. Neither is, "the flesh," simply the body. No. The flesh, when it is all said and done, is THE SELF Ė in independence from God. Thus, "my flesh," can be quite religious and respectable. Indeed, the flesh always carries with it, especially in Christians, a whole lot of self-righteousness. In short, the flesh expresses itself by doing for ourselves what only God can do, or more subtlety, doing for God what only God can do.
We are at home, "in the flesh." It is what we are used to, indeed, ALL that we have ever known. Natural man has NO frame of reference for anything outside of the flesh life. We may coin a modern phrase here to illustrate: Natural man Ė the natural mind EVEN of Christians Ė has no ability, "to think outside the box." That which is born of flesh IS flesh. Flesh does what it does, and that is ALL that it can do. Thus, flesh is going to think and operate IN THE BOX into which it was born, without any consciousness of something more. Indeed, you and I donít even know we are IN a box. We think, as long as we are blind, that darkness IS light.
The human race fell into this condition when Adam sinned and died. The depths to which we have fallen are so incalculable that we cannot imagine. The only way in which to get so much as a suggestion as to how far down we have fallen is to get a glimpse of the God with whom we once walked. It is precisely because we donít see the Truth about this that we settle for a Christianity that is not much more than a religion with teachings to follow. We donít know that we are DEAD and need LIFE. We think that all we really need is some religion.
Freedom From the Flesh
Christians spend much time and energy trying to argue with their flesh, and trying to make it behave and operate according to the standard they think God wants. Iím not talking here about outward obedience Ė but rather to inward functionality. We FIGHT fear, condemnation, and all these things of the flesh. But rather than battle the flesh, God says to set it aside. Mortify it Ė destroy it by neglect. Why? Because the power of the flesh is already broken. So what are we trying to break it? If it is broken, and we believe it, then we need to start acting towards it like it is broken. Imagine the futility of trying to fight a dead body. God doesnít tell us to beat a DEAD body of flesh. He tells us to refuse to allow it to drag us INTO a futile battle.
Why is the flesh able to do what it does Ė in hindering our freedom in Christ Ė after we are truly dead to it through the Cross of Christ? Because we donít believe we are free Ė and consequently cannot obey. Because the flesh will channel along the lines of our self life, our self-will, our personal fears, hang-ups, and ignorance. At that point, we may not even understand what is happening to us. As I mentioned, this will seem normal to us Ė it is all part of the, "box," in which we were born. So we just go with the flow, or suffer under it, not knowing any way out.
What is the solution? There is only one: The Cross. We must believe that through the Cross the power of the flesh is broken. But also we must surrender ourselves Ė namely our flesh Ė TO the Cross, that what Jesus has already finished might begin in us.
But here is where many folks have a question: If it is finished in Christ, and we are in Christ, then why isnít freedom from the flesh an automatic thing? Why donít we, right after we receive Christ, discover that there is no longer any possibility of the flesh in our lives? I said earlier that the POWER of the flesh is broken by the Cross, but not the presence and the possibility. Well, if all of this is real, then why NOT the presence and possibility?
The answer is that if God immediately delivered us from the presence and possibility, He would have to immediately take us out of this body, and He would actually have to tear out of us our free will. There would need to be an immediate emptying of our minds, soul, and human spirit, and He would have to immediately program these dimensions with Christ. That might sound wonderful Ė and God IS seeking to do much of that slowly Ė THROUGH our free will and faith Ė but if He did it all at once, we would no longer exist as a human being. We would not have a free will, and there could be no such thing as relationship or righteous character. In short, we would be ROBOTS.
In short, God says, "I will done everything possible for your freedom from the power of the flesh. But in order for you to come back into a real relationship with Me, YOU must make the choice to surrender your flesh to the Cross. YOU must want Me."
So HOW do we surrender ourselves? Well, we canít decide what is to be the scene of our own martyrdom. We cannot crucify our flesh. What we do is surrender to God. He is quite good at making crosses and requiring that we carry them. He will create the trials and circumstances through which our flesh is crucified.
In the end, however, it comes down to this: As we lose our lives into the hands of God, we find them in Christ. Surrender your right to your life, surrender your understanding, surrender whatever it is that God is requiring Ė and eventually it will be ALL of you Ė and you will find a greater freedom from the flesh, and a greater emergence of resurrection life. Every time.
Thus, again we see that instead of making the flesh Ė that which the Bible says cannot please God Ė TRY TO PLEASE GOD, we are told to submit ourselves to God. The result will not be that God will make the flesh behave. No. God will crucify the flesh.
To WALK IN THE SPIRIT means to function in, and be directed by, the reality of our union with Jesus Christ. To walk in the Spirit, of course, means that we must be able to put aside, ignore, and refuse to be directed by the pulls of the flesh. Iím not here merely talking about lustful things, and the like, although they are included. Iím also talking about refusing fear, condemnation, and the temptation to launch out on our own independent of God.
Because the flesh is governed by the sense life, this temptation will be powerful. We interpret things naturally from the perspective of that, "box," into which were born. Our sense life, our self life, and our pride interprets, reacts, and governs the FLESH life. We are absolutely bound to it. But once the Spirit of God comes into us, we then have the capacity to grow to, "think outside of the box." Our frame of reference ought to be changing. This is the result of the Holy Spirit, "dividing asunder soul and Spirit."
There comes a time in the experience of a growing Christian when he is able, "to step outside of himself," and know that his old man, while present and making much noise, has no power over the real him Ė the new, inner man who is united with Christ. I am not suggesting that he will never fail, give in, or stumble. This will always be possible. But I am saying, with Paul, in Romans 7, that there will come a separation between, "the wretched man that I am," and, "the new man in Jesus Christ."
If you read Romans 7, and other passages, you will get the point. There will come a time when, despite the fact that you take responsibility for all that you are before God, you do have a greater freedom to do TWO things you could never do before. First, you will be able to refuse all condemnation. This refusal will not be because you refuse responsibility, but because you know Jesus has taken your sin and flesh upon Himself. Secondly, you will be able to renounce your old man of sin, and continually hand him over to the Cross. Those two things really add up to CONFESSION of sin. We call sin what it is Ė wrong and to be forsaken Ė but we fall back upon what Jesus has done for us.
For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find notÖÖ For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. (Rom 7:14-25)
Paul is describing each one of us in this process of dividing asunder by the Holy Spirit. He recognizes that through the death and resurrection of Christ he has become ONE with Christ, and is being drawn out of the person he used to be. He is in the process of being set free of this, "body of this death." But as long as he has a body, and lives in this age, it will be as a dead body which is hanging around his neck, and hindering him. Yet he knows that it is a DEAD body, and not a live one. And so he treats it that way. He refuses to be condemned for that which is dead in Christ. He refuses to allow it to fake him out into believing it is alive. Instead, he carries it along, by faith in Jesus Christ. He says, "The real me desires to serve God. The dead me, however, is still present with me."
Turning to our passage from Hebrews, we see a parallel that explains Godís solution:
The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged 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. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. (Heb 4:11-13)
God will expose us for all that we are, for the purpose, NOT OF CONDEMNATION, but for the purpose of ILLUMINATION and freedom. Once we see the Truth about ourselves in the light of Jesus Christ, we are able, as Paul in Romans 7, to side with God against the flesh, and side with Him in the Spirit. This will be an ongoing process, which will eventually transform us all the way out into works. It is simply another way of pointing to the work of the Cross.
The word of encouragement is this: It is NORMAL to have to struggle with the flesh in the Christian life. But the solution is NOT that we need deliverance from the flesh. The solution is that we must believe that we are delivered by the Cross. And then, based on that faith, we hand ourselves over to God so that that victory can be made practical. As we do, we move ahead and obey, live, walk, and glorify God.
Thank God that by His Holy Spirit He is able to divide soul from Spirit. We have no tools by which we could do this. This work of the Holy Spirit is fundamental to Christian freedom.
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