Fork in road
Fork in road (Photo credit: creativelenna)

Have you ever considered that even un-regenerated people are made in God’s image? Everyone is born with the capacity to create and originate things and events, and the freedom to choose.

That’s an extraordinary thing when you consider what power that is. And when you consider man’s fall, it’s an almost unthinkable power because it means we can choose evil or good. We can also reject either one.

Which brings us to the will. To me, this is the most God-like aspect of His image that you and I are endowed with. I often say that even the nastiest person to walk this earth is more like God, in this respect, than anything else on the planet.

Will is the same as heart or spirit. It’s the core of personhood, the center of the soul. The sort of person you are and the way you speak and behave emanate from here. The heart is the wellspring of life (Pro. 4:23). It’s also wicked and beyond its own cure (Jer. 17:9), but not incurable.

As central as it is, will/heart/spirit can’t be separated from the other elements of the self (soul)—mind, body, behavior, and social relationships. You can single it out when you want to discuss it, as Scripture does, but the will doesn’t operate independently. It’s profoundly shaped by thought, feeling, physical bodily systems, environment, routines and habits, and other people. (more…)

Advertisements

A small logo suitable for use as a profile pho...

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) (more…)

A small logo suitable for use as a profile pho...

“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) Jesus is speaking of inner character that produces Godly acts of love and good will.

Before we can look at soul repair, it helps to see how it’s supposed to work. My thanks to Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard (NavPress, 2002) for a basic explanation of how a person is constructed, in the image of God, to relate to his/her surroundings. (I’ve slightly modified his diagram below by naming one aspect of personhood “Behavior/Relationships” instead of “Social Context.”)

A Tree, House, and Auto-Pilot

We can think of personhood as five concentric circles, like tree rings:

5 concentric circles. Starting with the inner circle and expanding outward, they're labeled Heart/Will/Spirit, Mind/Thought/Emotion, Body, Behavior/Relationships, and the 5th outermost circle is the soul, the total person "packaged." 

At the core of our being is heart, will, or spirit—biblically, they’re synonymous. This is why Scripture calls the heart the wellspring of life. When teleios (human virtue) dominates the core, personal character is consistently righteous—like Abraham, Job, Noah, and so many others. Good trees produce good fruit.

The second ring of personhood is mind, thought, and emotion. It’s where our ideas, imagination, wisdom, sensations, and the subconscious live. The mind generates how we feel, what we think about, and how we react. Combined with heart/will/spirit, the Bible calls these first two rings the inner man. Sometimes, we call it “guts.” Our gut feelings and perceptions, as well as choices and decisions, originate here. (more…)