Living by the Spirit versus living by the soul

Most of my unsaved and during part of my saved life I lived, unaware, through my soul, instead of through the power of the Spirit.

I attended regular fellowship as a believer, read the Bible and earnestly desired to live the life of a Christian, as taught in the Scriptures. Yet, I still felt controlled by lust, greed, emotional pain and its reactiveness, distrust of others, anger and rage at times and frequent bouts of depression. To be honest, for a long time I felt a failure as a Christian. What was wrong?

God is merciful and patient with us and gradually leads us more and more into His glorious light. Prov. 4:18 says: “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day”. This is the result of His grace but also of us seeking Him “with our whole hearts”, in earnest. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” we read in Jeremiah 29:13.

Around 2010, through one of God’s anointed teachers (those who know me probably guessed it; Watchman Nee), I finally came to understand what was going on in my life and why I experienced so little breakthrough; I had not understood what was meant by “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit”. Gal. 5:25. Our Bible study group was studying Nee’s writings and the light finally came on for me. I read such passages as follows (italics mine, within Nee’s text, which is quoted in inverted commas):

“…what God has set himself to do is to reverse something. There is something in man today which is not just the fact of having and exercising a soul, but which constitutes a living by the soul. It was this that Satan brought about in the Fall. He trapped man into taking a course by which he could develop his soul so as to derive from it his very spring of life. “

Yet…”we still possess a soul, and whenever we receive something from God the soul will still be used in relation to it, as an instrument, a faculty, in true subjection to Him.”

“On the one hand God is seeking to bring us to the place where we live by the life of His Son. (Gal. 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.”) On the other hand He is doing a direct work in our hearts to undo that other natural resource that is the result of the fruit of knowledge. Every day we are learning these two lessons: a rising up of the life of this One, and a checking and a handing over to death of that other soul life.”

For me it meant that I no longer was trapped by my soul life, which had been the case all my life, that it wasn’t God’s will for me to live in fear, lust, greed, resentment, emotional pain etc. but that His will for me was to live in the freedom of His Spirit. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” 2 Cor. 3:17. Where compulsion and negative spiritual strongholds were present, I had the right to become free of such! What a blessed relief for me! I became proactive in my search for healing and desired to receive His blessed promise of peace. “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” John 14:27. As a believer and follower of Christ, I have access to all His promises and I became very serious to appropriate them, especially peace, as all I had ever known was the rollercoaster of life and its devastating effects on the soul, being then separated from Christ but also while in Christ, because I was living through the soul! 2 Corinthians 1:20 tells us “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him.
That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” Him, being Christ.

As a young child, due to my caretakers’ abandonment and neglect, I decided to become independent of others, to only trust myself; it became a way of life. Eventually, I found out that I too was untrustworthy and that frequently I led myself into trouble and that I made bad decisions, detrimental to myself and to those in my care. Thankfully, I was a Christian when this became clear to me. Nevertheless, I had acquired enormous baggage in the process of living that way; set up to live a traumatised and defeated (soul) life – but not so in Christ! Thanks be to God!

Nee goes on to say: “I will find no sufficiency in myself. I will not take any step just because I have the power to do so. …I will put no reliance on myself. By taking the fruit, Adam became possessed of an inherent power to act, but a power which, by its independence of God, played right into Satan’s hands.“

Jesus exhorts us “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing”. John 15:4-5.

Of course, in ourselves we can still do much and I find that, every now and then, I still do. But less and less so, because Jesus is looking for fruit that will last (John 15:16). The one that springs from my soulish, independent self does not qualify!

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