But in the last few days, temperatures have risen—a lot. Last weekend, as I sat on my back porch and walked through the woods behind my house, I could feel the warmth of the sun on my face and shoulders. I felt the heat soak into my skin and clothes. And it was glorious.
I couldn’t help but think of how this reflects the difference between soul and spirit, feeling and reality. When we decide to follow Jesus, when we believe he is who he says and can and will do what he says, when we trust his action in us, then we find that God’s Spirit—“the living and breathing God”—is in the deepest part of us. And we are changed. We are reborn. In The Rest of the Gospel: When the partial gospel wears you out, Dan Stone reminds us that our identity is changed and our spirit is joined with his: “In the core of your being you are not both righteous and sinful; you are only righteous.” While this doesn’t “erase good and evil” in our experience in the here-and-now (what Stone calls "below the line"), “it erased it for you in your inmost being or spirit. At that moment, you became alive to and received another nature, God’s nature. Using Genesis language, you finally partook of the Tree of Life.” In our spirit, we are who we were created to be in the beginning.
But we don’t always feel that way. Often, it is like walking in the freezing cold when we can’t feel the sun, when it seems only a picture. But just as that doesn’t mean the sun isn't real, neither do our feelings negate the truth of who we are. Says Stone:
God says you are a brand new creature. The old one died. You don’t look dead, you don’t feel dead, you don’t always act dead, but you’ve got to make up your mind: are you going to agree with God or are you going to debate Him? You may debate him, but you’re going to lose the debate. It’s not worth it. So in faith you agree with God: “Gosh, I read that, and it sounds too good to be true, but I’m going to believe that. I’m going to set my face to that.”Eventually, just as we once again experience the reality of the sun’s warmth, God’s truth becomes our experience as we trust Christ is in us.
The truth is that when we first trusted Christ, we were made perfect (Hebrew 10:14). We were complete in Him (Colossians 2:10). But who knew it at that point? So we thrashed about below the line in all of our soul activity, trusting in appearances instead of God’s truth. All we ever do is catch up with the truth. Through our trust in God’s revelation, His truth becomes our experience.
If we never get to the point where we appropriate truth, we are caught in a flesh trap forever. God has designed life so that our will, which He is at work in, has a role to play. We have to choose to trust Christ in us.
The older I get, the more I (albeit it at times, grudgingly) realize the value in patience and waiting out the cold and darkness. It doesn’t mean I won’t feel chilled to the bone, lonely or abandoned. But that doesn’t change reality. So even when it’s cold and dark, I’m beginning to learn to distinguish between soul noise and spirit truth. I’m beginning to learn to live out of God's Spirit rather than my feelings and soul. It’s beginning to sink in that Jesus is my life, that who I am rests there.
And the mercury rising in the thermometer outside reminds me that my experience of real and abundant life is rising from God’s Spirit in mine. Amen.