Blessed Christmas. May grace abound in your life as you follow Jesus as Lord.
Although we had an early service this morning, the church was the fullest I have seen, with extra chairs being put out. Now the question that I have been thinking through is … “How important is the Soul?”
Very often as pastors we want to see souls saved so that they may go to heaven … yet all too often we tend to neglect the soul thereafter. Generally there is very little discipleship taking place after people make commitments to follow Jesus … and when these people do not become actively part of the Church, we become disappointed and even frustrated. “How important is the Soul?” Perhaps another question ought to be … “Why is the Soul important?” … And still another … “What is the Soul?”
As you are aware, God’s crowning glory in creation is man (Gen 1:26-28). Yet, being made in God’s image and likeness is difficult to understand until God explains the difference between the animal kingdom and that of the human race. One of the most profound statements about man is found in Genesis 2:
Gen 2:7 the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
Part of the “likeness and image” of chapter 1 is qualified in chapter 2:7. Once God created man, he breathed the breath of life into his nostrils … and then man became a living being.
(1) A living being is distinct from the animal kingdom.
(2) A living being implies something in man is radically different to the animal kingdom.
(3) A living being further implies a union or relationship with God. This means that unlike the animal kingdom, man may interact with God … man may have communion with God … man may talk to God and know God and enjoy God. Animals are oblivious to God. They are born, eat, produce and then die. That is their existence … whereas man has dimensions of the image and likeness of God enabling him to know God and have a personal relationship with God.
(4) A living being suggests a spiritual dimension because God is Spirit. This spiritual dimension, I suggest to you, is the “soul”. So, like the animal kingdom, man was created a being, alive in every sense of the physical being … but when God breath “life” into his nostrils … God gave man a soul!
Now there is something about this soul that differs from man’s physical body and that of the body of animals. The animal body dies and is no more. The human body dies and is no more (I’ll return to this later). Man’s soul, however, never dies. It lives eternally … the problem is where?
When sin entered in Genesis 3 and God said man may not eat from the Tree of Life and live forever, God was qualifying His statement in Genesis 3:19 … that man would die physically … “to dust you will return.” True, man’s soul by this time is spiritually dead … but the soul lives on.
This is the reason for God’s messianic promise in 3:15. God promises to deal with man’s corruption into sin in a spiritual way. The Messiah He says will crush the devil’s head … thus releasing man from the bondage of the soul to the devil. The devil is a spirit being. He attacked the spiritual dimension of man … and God needs to set man free by redeeming his soul. This was fulfilled through the Godman, Jesus Christ … the only one qualified to offer a sinless sacrifice to appease the wrath of God against man’s sin.
1) The spiritual operation of making man’s dead soul alive. Through hearing the Gospel, the Spirit convicts and convinces man to respond. When he does, the Holy Spirit comes upon the soul miraculously making that soul alive.
Jn 3:5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
To enter heaven you need two births!
The first is when your mother’s womb releases you through the breaking of the umbilical sac … a thin-walled sac that surrounds the baby during pregnancy. The sac is filled with liquid called amniotic fluid. Once the baby is ready to enter the world, the sac breaks and the water (amniotic fluid) escapes … “born of water”.
The second is when the Spirit applies the Gospel to the soul, making it alive spiritually … “born of the Spirit.” This is a divine act of God, unseen, yet only experienced by the recipient of grace. Naturally, faith and repentance precede the spiritual operation of the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ calls this “being born again”. In essence the soul is made alive to God and the process of restoring the soul to the image and likeness of God, lost in the Garden, has begun. The journey will be a long and difficult one because man struggles to let go of the past … old nature … but if the soul is truly born again, the journey will be completed.
We started off asking three questions … “How important is the Soul?” “Why is the Soul important?” “What is the Soul?”
2) The soul is the spiritual dimension of man. Some believe man is body, soul and spirit … I don’t. Man is body, the physical part and soul, the spiritual part. The soul cannot be seen, for like God is Spirit, the soul is spiritual. It can engage God and God can engage the soul. When we speak of having a relationship with God, we are referring to the soul being in union and communion with God. Take loving God. You cannot love God until your soul have been made alive. This is why Jesus says:
Mk 12:30 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’”
Although the order is heart, soul, mind and strength, you cannot love God with the heart, mind and strength until the soul is spiritually alive. If the soul lives forever, the real you is your soul! Today we have established that the real man is “the soul”. This soul was given by God, which makes the human being decidedly different to the animal kingdom. The soul is the real you … it is spiritual and it lives eternally. The question is … “Where will this soul live forever?” So … “How important is the Soul”? “How important is your Soul?’ We will find the answer, but for now, if the soul lives forever … what are you doing with your soul?
Our Father, in Your wisdom You made man in Your image and likeness. You gave man a soul that is eternal. Help us to find the answer to our question, because already we see the soul’s importance … an eternal importance. We pray in Jesus Christ’s name. Amen.