Imagine three individuals walking together, Left, Middle, and Right. Middle walks strongly and directly towards a goal from which his eyes never move. Left, however, turns backwards regularly, only to be dragged back in line by Middle. The interaction between Middle and Left is characterized by physical struggle, where Middle must work hard to keep Left with him. Right constantly looks around and moves in many directions, wherever his eyes turn his body follows. Sometimes he goes forward with Middle, sometimes he goes backwards with Left. But he regularly changes and goes other directions. Middle must continually slap him back to reality and get him back in line. They have a mental struggle.
Middle is the strongest and succeeds in making progress towards his goal. But he wastes much time and energy bringing the other two. He can’t get rid of them, they are bound together. If he could get them into agreement he would go much faster and farther. Now, imagine the three of them all walking in unison, all with eyes fixed, focused and marching towards their goal.
1 Thessalonians 5:23 tells us that we are tri-part beings, having a spirit, soul and body. Your spirit is your inner being, your true self, your real self. When you get born again your spirit is the part which experiences that. Your spirit receives the life of God and the love of God. Your spirit is commonly referred to as your “heart.” Your body is your flesh. It does not get born again and it retains a sin nature. Your soul consists of your mind, will and emotions. It governs the interaction between your spirit and your flesh and your spirit and the natural world. You make all decisions in your soul. Your soul, like your flesh, does not get born again. It also retains a sin nature and all the memories of sin.
The first picture shows the common Christian. Their Middle, or spirit, has strength and purpose. Your spirit wants to go forward in God’s plan for your life. Your spirit does not get distracted. Your spirit, which has direct communication with God’s Spirit, constantly wants progress.
But the spirit must have a body to do anything in this world. Your body remembers and still desires sinful things. Your body wants laziness, your body wants unhealthy food and doesn’t care for exercise. Your body remembers the pleasures of sexual sin and intoxication. Your body even remembers certain pleasures from the mind, like the feeling of anger and lust. Your born again spirit must constantly battle the flesh for supremacy. Who will lead this group? Are we going towards God and holiness or towards the devil and sin? Most Christians still move forward in God somewhat, but they constantly battle the flesh.
Your soul spent its entire life before Christ learning the ways and pleasures of the world. Your soul relies on physical evidence, so it has difficulty digesting much spiritual truth. Your soul is constantly inundated with stimuli, words and pictures from the world which exalt themselves against the knowledge of God. Your spirit wants to go forward, but must have a soul to operate on earth. Your spirit must constantly influence the soul to keep it focused.
Although we all begin our Christian lives this way, without inner unity, we can surely change. God tells us how. First, let’s remember the spirit. Remember that your spirit has direct communication with God’s Spirit. God’s Spirit will reveal to your spirit what God planned for your life (1 Corinthians 2). So your spirit can first see the goal, make the plan, and set the course. Your spirit has the life of God. Your spirit hates sin and loves holiness. God gives your spirit His nature and perfect condition. Your spirit is already ready to move forward. But the spirit must deal with your flesh and soul. How can we get all three working in unison towards God’s purposes?
As for the flesh, I believe there are two key verses. The first is 1 Corinthians 9:27 - “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” The Amplified translation writes “keep under” as “buffet” or “handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships,” and “subdue it.” By putting pressure on the flesh you exert your dominion over it. For this reason I believe in appropriate eating, exercise, fasting, and limited sleeping (not in any weird sense). I believe when you begin focusing your body on God’s plans for it, and treating it as the tool it really is, then you will begin to see God’s plans manifested in your body. Don’t give into your body’s desires, doing so causes them to grow. Discipline and dominate the body, then it will get in line.
The other verse is Romans 8:11 - “But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you.” We must pay attention to God’s Spirit which lives in us. We must realize that His Spirit, and its Life, will invade and infect our natural bodies so that they are quickened (made alive) with His New Life. While we work from the outside God will work from the inside, helping us bring our bodies in line with His will.
So if a person will discipline His body, pushing it towards God and away from its desires, and work to enhance its relationship with God’s Spirit, that person will have a well tuned body ready to do the spirit’s bidding and walk God’s paths strongly.
Now training your soul to come into agreement with your spirit will also take some physical actions, but they concern developing your mind. Remember the soul consists of the mind, will, and emotions, but I would argue that your will (desires) and emotions (feelings in response to something) are determined by your mind. For example, if your mind believes that loving and helping others should be done, then when you see another person you might feel love and kindness towards them. And if you see them hurting your will should be to help them. On the other hand if your mind believes you must protect and look out for yourself at all costs, when you see others you won’t feel much or want to do much for them.
“[B]e not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (Romans 12:2).” Just like we have to buffet our bodies, we have to renew our minds. Another translation of renew is “renovate.” We all know what property renovations look like. We have to demolish parts of a space and then build it back. In the same we must strip away much of what we learned in the world and then replace it with what we learn from God.
“[P]ut off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24).”
In this verse we again see the Apostle Paul exhorting us to renew our minds. We were the old men, we were corrupted according to ungodly desires (lusts). But now we can put on the new man, which is like God in righteousness and holiness. We must renovate our minds. We do so by studying and meditating God’s Word.
Consider again what our minds think about other people. We typically, in our natural (old) mentality, only look at people for what they can do for us. If we see some businessman or attractive woman approach us we are thinking opportunity. But if a homeless or elderly person approaches we usually think obligation and irritation. We have to change the way we think about others. What about finances? The world tells you to save as much as you can and hope you have enough. At the same time the world tells you to buy lots of new things you shouldn’t. But the Bible says it’s more blessed to give than to receive, and that if you water (bless others) you yourself will be watered.
You see, when you really begin studying God’s Word on a subject you will feel it changing your thoughts and overall mentality. Once you know what God says about something you can act in line with God’s desires. And when your spirit, directed by God’s Spirit, tells you to do what God wants, your mind won’t resist because it’s been renewed by God’s Word.
So consider these words and remember Left, Middle, and Right. Do you want to be divided within yourself? Remember that a house divided cannot stand. Your spirit is ready, willing and able to lead you into God’s perfect plans for you. Dominate your body and better your soul by renewing your mind. Let God’s Spirit assist and enhance every part of your existence. Work for this unity within yourself so that you can go forth boldly and powerfully in this life for God. May God bless you and sanctify you wholly.