We can actually take charge of the sinful nature. By ourselves, we’re too fragmented to do anything comprehensive. But by partnering with Jesus, we can take control away from erratic thoughts, behavior, and ill will. The sinful nature doesn’t dictate once we shift to kingdom thinking.
When I first saw the soul diagram (see Part 1), I noticed that human construction resembles not only tree rings, but also a target. The center of the soul—heart/will/spirit—is the bulls-eye where Jesus aims. Make the center of the tree good, and the rest follows as surely as apples, pears, and figs.
This is why Jesus doesn’t aim at behavior and doesn’t teach how to follow rules. Most of us try to live right by aiming for behavior while we either ignore the heart/will/spirit or just leave it to divine override. But you don’t fix the auto-pilot by overriding it. You fix it by changing the input.
How do we do that? By gaining wisdom, the “mind of Christ.” Faith/belief begins in the mind by hearing the Word of Christ (Rom. 10:17) and forming a kingdom vision. Then it settles into the heart and expresses itself as acts of will because faith acts as if something were true. The output straightens up and the airplane flies straight and level, right on course.
And that’s what “repent” means. “What good is it if a man gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mrk. 8:36-37, Luk. 9:25)
Putting it Together
So the first step in troubleshooting the soul is simple: Take charge of the self before anything else. That calls for trust in Jesus and his kingdom to keep us secure while we learn new ways. And what does this preliminary step look like? “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
Of course! Somehow, I missed this connection before. I know others have, too.
“The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk…but they don’t know what they’re talking about or what they so confidently affirm.” (1Tim. 1:5-7)
When all five rings gradually integrate like a tree trunk and are also in sync with God’s goodness, the human soul becomes whole, complete, or perfect (teleios). “Be ye perfect, therefore, as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Mat. 5:48)
This doesn’t mean flawless; it means restored to a healthy condition of human goodness inside and out. The idea that we can do nothing about our sinful nature keeps us out of whack. Constant forgiveness thus becomes the best we can hope for or expect from God.
But Jesus offers more than that. He teaches how to become the person inside whose character actually lines up with God’s character. This is soul repair and spiritual re-formation in Christ—true transformation and conformation to God!