Unveiling the Soul

A devotion on Proverbs 23.

I’ve been a Christian for over 3 decades and I’m just now coming to a deeper understanding of the nuances of the soul. I’ve known God saved my soul but it has been a blurry subject. As I contemplate the concept of ‘Participating in the Divine Nature,’ Holy Spirit is leading me on a wonderful adventure to look behind the curtain at this mysterious entity called the soul.

Image result for god breathed into man the breath of life

The soul comprises your Will, Appetites, Mind, Passions, Emotions, and Desires. I remember it by the acronym SWAMPED. It is closely intertwined with the heart whose definition I remember by the acronym PAPDATE:  Purposes, affections, Passions, Desires, Attitude, Thoughts, and Endeavors.

Originally, “God moved upon man’s spirit; man’s spirit moved upon his soul; and his soul directed his body. Through the devastating effects of man’s rebellion, however, his spirit was compromised, and his soul took over control. As a result, unregenerate man is now controlled by the three functions of his soul: the will, the intellect, and the emotions.”

Left to its own devices, the soul wants what it wants, and it wants it now. It directs the body accordingly. Such a person is described as soulish. At salvation, Holy Spirit takes residence in person’s heart. This starts a lifelong process of transforming the soul and bringing it into conformity and submission to God’s will, God’s affections, God’s mind, God’s passions, God’s emotions, and God’s desires. You start to discover what he thinks as outlined in scripture. You learn to desire what he desires. You learn to feel what he feels.

Note that you don’t just become a robot but that all this is cloaked in the beauty of your unique, God-given personality (an aspect of your soul) which is enhanced more and more as you become more like Christ. You and the next Christian could be as unalike as a book and platypus, yet of one spirit.

The concept of the mind consists of brain functions of which we’ll focus on two for this purpose of this topic. The first is executive function (such as self-awareness, alertness, attention, redirection, focus, planning, learning, memory, problem solving, contemplating/processing, motivation, judgement {hindsight, insight, foresight,} emotional regulation, mindfulness, self-control, choosing, eliminating, intention, engaging/follow through {initiating, maintaining, pausing, restarting, and terminating activity,} discernment/discrimination, deducing, inferring, time management, mathematical concepts, imagination, categorizing, etc.) and the second is the sensory system (touch, smell, taste, hearing, sight, and movement.) You make sense of and impact your environment through your senses. This is extremely fascinating to me as an occupational therapist and as an addiction counselor. Let’s explore how these systems interact in Proverbs 23.

EXAMPLE 1: FOOD

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1 When you sit down to dine with a ruler, consider carefully what is before you,

The sensory system is on high alert here, informing your desire and appetite (soul.) You sit down (movement) and perceive (see, hear, smell, touch, taste) the sumptuous feast before you. You are to pause and contemplate the information your senses are delivering.

2 and put a knife to your throat if you have a big appetite;

3 don’t desire his choice food, for that food is deceptive.

Engage your memory, judgement, and self-awareness (“I am prone to overeating. I have trouble stopping when I start. I want all of it and eat till I’m sick.”) Train your soul by making a drastic decision to not engage in the activity at all or to modulate as needed. Again, engage your memory and remember, “The grace of God teaches us to say “no,” Titus 2:11. Speak to your desire and say, “no.”

Note the call to put a knife to your throat. That’s rather dramatic, don’t your think? It is a call to how drastic a measure you will need to take in order to impact your soul as you train it. That action may even feel like it will cause you to die! Note also that there is a lie behind the steaming mound of appetizing fare. Learn to look beyond the senses at the beautiful spread and perceive its hidden deception.

EXAMPLE 2: RICHES

Image result for Rich Luxury Lifestyle

4 Don’t wear yourself out to get rich; stop giving your attention to it. 5 As soon as your eyes fly to it, it disappears, for it makes wings for itself and flies like an eagle to the sky.

Wearing yourself out entails the various long-range motions of investing in an education, getting up, getting ready, heading into work, toiling, repeat. It is undergirded by mental images you indulge yourself of having fancy things, stability, a beautiful family, lots of money, opportunities e.g. vacations, pampering your body, social connections and influence.

Note that it doesn’t say not to work. The book of Proverbs has many a caustic word to those who are lazy. This passage is addressing the desire to become rich. The wisdom of the word tells you to cease focusing on it. Learn that this endeavor is flighty and will therefore disappoint you. In this case your train your soul by disengaging your senses and attentions from the object of desire, dampening your motivation, and focusing on alternative activity.

EXAMPLE 3: DISCERNMENT

Image result for casting pearls before swine images

6 Don’t eat a stingy person’s bread, and don’t desire his choice food, 7 for it’s like someone calculating inwardly. “Eat and drink,” he says to you, but his heart is not with you.

8 You will vomit the little you’ve eaten and waste your pleasant words. 9 Don’t speak to a fool, for he will despise the insight of your words.

This section addresses compatibility. The object is desirable, but the source is questionable. Is it worth it? Your memory tells you you’ll regret engaging in this activity as does your judgement, based on interacting with this person in the past or with one like them. This information might also come from an impactful story you heard from a trusted loved one or a bible story you read. Your senses are tempting you, so your resolve is being tested. The second scenario entails offering words of wisdom to a fool. You have purveyed their situation and are certain that your words would help the person if they would receive and apply them. You observe their folly and the resulting suffering and are willing to speak into the situation. You make an assessment and judgement call that the information is worthy, but the recipient can’t appreciate it. You align your thinking with Jesus’s call to not cast our pearls before swine.

Apply these concepts to the ensuing verses which are shining examples of an unregenerate soul driving a life, versus a soul that is being submitted to the Spirit of God.

10 Don’t move an ancient boundary marker,

and don’t encroach on the fields of the fatherless,

11 for their Redeemer is strong,

and He will take up their case against you.

12 Apply yourself to discipline

and listen to words of knowledge.

13 Don’t withhold discipline from a youth;

if you beat him with a rod, he will not die.

14 Strike him with a rod,

and you will rescue his life from Sheol.

15 My son, if your heart is wise,

my heart will indeed rejoice.

16 My innermost being will cheer

when your lips say what is right.

17 Don’t let your heart envy sinners;

instead, always fear the Lord.

18 For then you will have a future,

and your hope will never fade.

19 Listen, my son, and be wise;

keep your mind on the right course.

20 Don’t associate with those who drink too much wine

or with those who gorge themselves on meat.

21 For the drunkard and the glutton will become poor,

and grogginess will clothe them in rags.

22 Listen to your father who gave you life,

and don’t despise your mother when she is old.

23 Buy—and do not sell—truth,

wisdom, instruction, and understanding.

24 The father of a righteous son will rejoice greatly,

and one who fathers a wise son will delight in him.

25 Let your father and mother have joy,

and let her who gave birth to you rejoice.

26 My son, give me your heart,

and let your eyes observe my ways.

27 For a prostitute is a deep pit,

and a stranger is a narrow well;

28 indeed, she sets an ambush like a robber

and increases those among men who are unfaithful.

29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow?

Who has conflicts? Who has complaints?

Who has wounds for no reason?

Who has red eyes?

30 Those who linger over wine,

those who go looking for mixed wine.

31 Don’t gaze at wine because it is red,

when it gleams in the cup

and goes down smoothly.

32 In the end it bites like a snake

and stings like a viper.

33 Your eyes will see strange things,

and you will say absurd things.[g]

34 You’ll be like someone sleeping out at sea

or lying down on the top of a ship’s mast.

35 “They struck me, but[h] I feel no pain!

They beat me, but I didn’t know it!

When will I wake up?

I’ll look for another drink.”

Published by hannahtk

Hannah is a footloose Jesus-girl who enjoys family and friends, writing, painting, calligraphy, speaking and teaching, reading, cooking, gardening...

One thought on “Unveiling the Soul

  1. Proverbs 23 seems to highlight how true it is that our bodies are amazing physical cells created to respond to our environment and change. The neuroscientists are really learning a lot about how we are designed to change with input.
    We tend to want to revel in our own concept of self and soul which leads us to a narrow response to worldly input.
    I like to use the reference to Gen2:7 and Gen 1:27 to develop my thought of the soul as God’s breathe of life, Nephesh and God’s image, Tzelem. This gives the soul an identity of being closely dependent on God and able to be closely aligned with Him.
    When we separate the soul, body, and spirit into categories, we risk losing the truth and mystery of God’s creation and how fully we can connect with Him in faith and reliance. This model explains to me how humans can change so drastically or resist change so stubbornly. We have elevated the soul concept to a separate “sense of self”.
    Verse 12 begins to introduce the truth of body parts responding to “words of knowledge” or responding to God’s breathe of life, the Holy Spirit. We can conquer the negative inputs on the flesh cells. Nephesh refers to God’s breathe and we can choose a faith that is outside of time and sin. He is guiding each of us into eternity if we accept Jesus’ sacrifice to cover the sin our earthly cells are responding to.

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