Last week, we looked at troubleshooting the soul (Part 1 and Part 2). This week, we’ll explore restoration. To make the soul whole again is to realign four areas of personhood within themselves and with God.
3. Physical Body
5. Soul/Total Person/Self
The first two areas are what Scripture variously refers to as the inner self, character, or nature. The next two are what Scripture calls the outer self. The last area, the soul, works like an auto-pilot to integrate the parts into a cohesive whole. Without conscious effort, it causes the outer self to carry out whatever goes on in the inner self.
This is automatic, invisible, and beyond conscious control. We do, however, have control over the first four areas.
Make the Inside Good
So, to restore the soul, we first need to correct the inner self—what we think, feel, and intend (will). The study of God’s Word, for example, helps correct our mind/thoughts. A vision and intention to be like Christ helps correct the heart/spirit.
Once those come more into line with God’s thoughts and will, the practice of various disciplines involving the body—fasting or rest, for example—helps to strengthen the inner self. The result is increasingly Christ-like behavior that doesn’t need to be forced or faked—going the extra mile, blessing those who curse you, loving neighbors as self, etc., etc.
When we correct the inner man, the outer man follows because the soul will see to it. Biblically, this is often phrased in simple terms of a structure—a house or temple. All the critical stuff occurs in the inner room, “closet,” or sanctuary.
The writer of Hebrews used this analogy: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf.” (Heb. 6:19-20)
Jesus phrased it in terms of a tree. “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.” (Mat. 12:33) He also used ordinary tableware as an analogy. “First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” (Mat. 23:26)
The inner workings of a human being are key to the overall person—good or bad. It’s where restoration begins, then permeates the entire being like ripples in a pond. But if we try to start with behavior, we’ll stumble and fail.
That’s the mistake the Pharisees made, and the same one we often make by trying to follow rules or recite creeds without understanding. We try to act or behave like Christ without first gaining a Christ-like inner character and wisdom. The result is hypocrisy, conflict, and confusion.
And the Outside Will Follow
This is why we need a relationship, a partnership, a “walk” with Jesus. Because we’re completely lost and clueless on our own, his divine power and presence guides, instructs, and assists us. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Mat. 11:29)
Relationship with the divine is fluid—sometimes as a child to a Father, other times as a student to a Teacher, a man/woman to the Son of Man, a human spirit to the Holy Spirit, second fruits to First fruit, branches to a Vine, and so forth.
Because God is also a Soul, a relationship with Him means we have some sort of common ground with Him. If we see God as entirely alien, we’ll inevitably remain alienated from Him rather than related to Him. This happens by misperceiving “far above” or “set apart”—holiness—as something we can never attain or relate to. To claim that God can’t relate to sinners is a common, but terrible, mistake.
Fortunately, Scripture encourages mankind to put on Christ, inviting us to take on the Spirit nature, to be holy as God is holy, to partake of the divine nature. That doesn’t mean we become omniscient, omnipotent, and omni-present. It means that the inner and outer self can be corrected. It means we have hope.
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph. 4:22-24)
The idea is to restore the residual image of God in mankind to wholeness and completeness. Soul redemption involves the entire person—heart, mind, body, and behavior.
Which brings up a great question: What makes a person “right” with God? We’ll explore this in Part 2.