Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Soul Vs. the Spirit

By David Hobbs

Heb. 4:12--For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit . . .

One thing my recent gospel trip to India made plain is the necessity of discerning between ministering in the soulish realm and the spirit realm. I find there are many misconceptions about the two. Most ministers assume they are ministering in the spirit realm but most ministry is really done in the soulish realm. A charismatic misconception is that whatever is energetic and loud must be spirit realm. The high church misconception on the other hand, is that the spirit realm must be quiet and reverent—anything loud and exuberant must be soulish (hence “out of the spirit”).
My purpose here is not to clear up all the misconceptions and provide the definitive answer to this question—discerning between the soul and the spirit is exceedingly difficult at times, something only the Spirit of God and the Word of God (see above Scripture) can do. But we need to at least recognize the problem and try to discern in our own lives between the two.
The ideal is for all ministry—all worship, praise, preaching, testifying, singing, etc. to be done in the spirit. After all, the Father seeks those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23). So how do we know when we’re doing that? When we’re singing really loudly? When our flesh breaks out in goose bumps?
Here’s a common scenario repeated in charismatic churches across Christendom every Sunday. The minister comes out to stir up the crowd: “Who do you love tonight?”
“Jesus.”
“Who?”
“Jesus.”
“Who?”
“Jesus!”
“Then let’s give a big hand to Jesus!” (Everyone claps).
I’m not saying this is necessarily wrong. I’m just asking if it’s soulish or spirit? Most people would answer that it’s spirit because it’s concerning Jesus and it's done in a church. But how is it different from the following?
The world knows how to stir up a crowd (remember that the realm of the soul is the mind, the will, and the emotions). Every good band has a warm-up band preceding it; every TV game show with live audience has its warm-up announcer who comes out 10 minutes before show time to prep the audience; every sports team has its cheerleaders to whip up the crowd’s enthusiasm. Therefore since the Holy Spirit is not given to the world but only to the church, how can this be the realm of the spirit? It’s not. It’s the realm of the soul. It’s necessary to awaken emotions, to focus attention, to get people “in the mood” for the upcoming event, but it’s not at all ministering in the spirit, even when done in the church using the name of Jesus! Many churches rarely get beyond this soulish realm in their song services or preaching—it’s all done with human emotion and soul-stirring techniques.
The Bible has a lot to say about the soulish realm. David often had to command his soul to awake, or worship God, get out of the dumps, etc., so dealing in the soulish realm is often necessary. But the soulish realm is basically man-focused and it runs on human soul power. While we are told to love God with all our “soul,” we’re also told to worship God in “spirit.” The spirit realm is God-focused and Holy Spirit empowered. It’s the Holy Spirit moving through us to send worship up to God. Then how do we get beyond the soulish, human realm to that of the spirit?
The Holy Spirit is pictured in Scripture as a dove, while the soul of man is like a bulldozer. Head to head the bulldozer predominates every time while the Holy Spirit flies away. So we must learn to be very sensitive to the person of the Holy Spirit. We achieve that from studying the Word and by spending time in His presence, learning His personality and His ways.
I’ve seen preachers spend congregational worship time in talking with ushers and elders, carrying on church business, etc. but not in touch at all with what was happening in the spirit in worship, and then when suddenly thrust in front of the crowd say automatically,

“Who do you love tonight?”
“Jesus.”
“Who?” (see above) . . .

when the people, under the power of the Holy Spirit had already moved well beyond that point into the spirit realm of love and sweet devotion. Now they were being called back into “pep rally” mode by a minister who was moving by rote with no idea of where the spirit was in his church.

Here’s an idea: where there’s sweat involved, it’s soul. We see a picture of that in Ezekiel 44:17-18. When the priests entered the inner court of the temple (where they ministered exclusively to God) they were to wear no woolen garments or anything that would make them sweat. Because soul realm ministry has a basis in human activity; it requires effort, it produces sweat, fatigue and even burn-out, and is inherently not pleasing to God because of its tainted human origin: man in the flesh cannot please God [Rom. 8:7-8].
Ministry in the spirit doesn’t produce any sweat because in a sense it doesn’t require any effort. It requires opening up and yielding to the Holy Spirit and letting Him flow through (it can be just as loud and exuberant, or even more so, but the source of the power is not man but God).
I tell people that the more in the spirit I get when I worship, the more relaxed I become. When I begin and I’m trying to “prime the pump,” I’m somewhat tense, forcing myself to concentrate, sing loudly, and get my whole body involved (this is the “sacrifice” realm where the Bible talks about “sacrific[ing] thank offerings” [Paslm 50:23] and “the sacrifice of praise--the fruit of lips that confess his name.”[Heb. 13:15]. A sacrifice requires an act of the will—so it’s still the soulish realm). But when the Holy Spirit responds and begins to overtake me, I relax completely and let Him surge through me full strength. Now “it’s no longer I that liveth, but Christ that liveth in me.” [old song lyrics taken from Gal. 2:20]. Those are the deeply satisfying times in worship, where it’s all Him and no me. Then I can truly soar on the heights; then I’ve reached my highest calling in God!
Soulish praying in a corporate setting goes on and on. It’s loud, monopolizing, and it’s usually alone; nobody else listening joins in. But prayer in the spirit draws prayer out of those listening as the anointing of the Holy Spirit in the pray-er touches and quickens the Holy Spirit in them. You can tell when the pray-er hits something close to the heart of God because responses rise spontaneously from the others and rise as a corporate ball of prayer to God.
Likewise in free-singing corporate worship. The soul worshipper wants to be louder than the others and call attention to him/her self. The spirit worshipper listens to everybody else in the room and lets the Holy Spirit flowing from them touch things in his/her own spirit and bring them out in his worship. The worship is organic with no person singled out, but each person briefly rising above the rest and then drawing responses from Holy Spirit in others who then rise above the others, creating a beautiful fabric of worship with each contributing and none predominating. The whole focus is on Jesus anyway.

7 comments:

St.Knight said...

I agree with some of what you say, however pentecostal and other charismatic types of churches seem to have an understanding of God's power, so when they stir the crowd, they are trying to stir up their faith.
A Baptist church (for instance) operates differently, the focus is more upon grace than upon faith in that sense.

Seeing as how many Christians are not spiritual, they are and have always been mentally focused upon religion and doctrine, a quiet worship service may not benefit them.
Whose fault is it that Christians aren't spiritual? I don't know.

All I can tell you is that I was made to go to Southern Baptist churches every Sunday morning and night, Wednesday nights and occasionally for other stuff and I never ONCE felt anything remotely spiritual.

Sure, I got saved when I was 5, I was well indoctrinated with Christianity and would argue my beliefs but I had zero clue what the spirit realm was.
I always felt God was there but none of it made sense to me mentally. Why the personality change from old testament to new/why does God let people suffer and die/why doesn't God hear me, etc.
I was thrilled to leave home and not have to go to church. Sometime in the 1990s, I started visiting some pentecostal churches and various other denominations. I've even been to a Unitarian church and I felt like I was at the tower of Babel.
To make a long story short, I eventually was being prayed for by a prayer group that was linked to KOKF radio station (a friend of our family founded it, I didn't find out until later; it was recently sold to a corporation though) and then-Ron Dryden's Cathedral of Praise in Oklahoma City.
I don't know what happened, if it was the prayer that was being prayed or the amount of people or if I was just in the right place in my life or what other factors led up to it but I started to recognize and experience the spirit realm. It changed me forever. I found out later that a DJ had been praying for me because he knew how "religious" I was from being raised Southern Baptist, lol!

Aside from being freaked out at the reality of the spirit realm, it was at that point, I realized that God indeed cared.
The whole thing changed my heart, mind and soul more than 20 years of church-going ever did.

Here is my problem. I have many atheist friends. Some very aggressive and vocal about why I should start not believing in God.
My argument is "I can't unmeet Someone I've already met".

It's impossible to impart the kind of experience I had, even though I think I'm pretty fair at putting it into words.

So now my question is this, is there anything I can do for my friends that would allow them to experience what I did? I suppose it depends where they are at on their path, spiritually and mentally? I do agree that timing is everything when certain prayers manifest.

Thank you.

St.Knight said...

I have a little more to ask.
When someone, saved or not, is practically cocooned in so much spiritual bondage that they cannot recognize they're under spiritual attack, how do you pray that their eyes are opened?

I know spirits/things such as the bible mentions like powers and principalities, whether sentient or not, bind a person up so much that they do not realize these things are all over them, dragging them down.
People believe these things are helping them because they feel strong and in control when, in reality, it takes its toll and obscures their spiritual sight.

What kind of prayer do you pray for the spirit of truth to bind these things (Hebrews 4:12), long enough for the person to see Who God really is and the full reality of the spirit realm?
(interesting how various occult entrances into that realm give the person a very limited view of it, a very skewed view)

I haven't been immune to this either, myself. I suppose as many others do, everyday reality puts the blinders back on and eventually become blinded and bound to our own concerns and vices.

If you are a prayer warrior, I ask you to intercede on behalf of my friends and myself.
This spiritual warrior has not remained vigilant the past few years. :(

Meg said...

This was helpful to me. Thanks.

Michelle said...

I found this article very helpful and so glad that I found it. It was great to find someone articulate what I have experienced. Great job!

Robey Thomas said...

There is much soulish fanaticism in loud pentecostal/charismatic circles. The Genuine is very rare these days!!

Robey Thomas said...

There is much soulish fanaticism in loud pentecostal/charismatic circles. The Genuine is very rare these days!!

Robey Thomas said...

There is a falling away-the apostacy has already started! Many Christians accept the soulish as the Spiritual. They don't know the difference. It's heartbreaking! The Holy Spirit is likened unto a DOVE, the GENTILEST of birds. The Fruit of the Spirit is GENTILNESS!!! The Holy Spirit uses the yielded vessel. The vast majority of Christians are in the soulish realm. Christians must die to self/soul life.------