“The first man is from the dust; the second man is from heaven. As is the one from dust, so also are those who are from dust; and as is the one from heaven, so also are those who are heavenly. And just as we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (1 Corinthians 15:47-50).
Man is made in the image and likeness of God; he has the same triune structure as the Godhead, but in man’s case he is body, soul and spirit. The body, deriving from the seed of man, is born in corruption and must die; the spirit, deriving from Jesus Christ, the seed of the woman, is the vehicle of eternal life that God gives to those to whom He gives it; the soul is the measure between the two; it reflects the condition of man in relation to God. Our bodies must die in this world, but our souls are accountable in the next.
We live in two worlds – the spiritual and the earthly.
Just as we bear the image of Adam in our bodies, we are to bear the image of Christ in our souls; that is, in our manner of life. As children of Adam we are subject to the inherent limitations of the fleshly nature with all its sicknesses and predispositions to sin. As living spirits we are able to commune with God and participate in a higher life than surrounds us here on earth. The condition of the soul reflects the influence of one or the other; the soul is the barometer of our spiritual condition.
Being of both Adam and Christ tends to divide the life of a man into two compartments, the spiritual and the secular, and our soul is influenced by the balance between the two. But this is not meant to be; Christ lived a totally undivided life in this world and always acted out of the one impulse; “I always do the things that are pleasing to Him” (John 8:29); He made no distinction between secular acts and spiritual acts; all was spiritual. He is our example and it is His path that we should follow.
This is the spiritual struggle that faces all of those who are seeking to gain possession of salvation. This is why we must strive to enter by the narrow way. The Greek word used in this gospel phrase is agonizomai and is the word from which the English “agonize” derives, giving a sense of the fight that faces each one of those who are called by Him. Many will seek to enter, Jesus said, but they will not be strong enough, even though they might claim to have prophesied in His name and cast out demons in His name.
It is in our souls that the struggle takes place; the senses are the gateway to our souls; what we think about, look at and listen to all have an impact upon our souls; that is the battleground where the battle is being fought between the spiritual and the unspiritual.
Jesus said; “in your endurance, possess your souls” (Luke 21:19). The verb here is in the imperative! If we don’t possess our souls and bring them under the Lordship of Christ, Satan will inevitably occupy them and establish a stronghold that is opposed to the knowledge of God.
What are the things that are raised up against or oppose the knowledge of God? Well, the things that we take into our souls; the things that we look at, listen to, entertainments, leisure activities, the things of the world and the flesh. The more we take in of the world the more our soul is darkened; we still think that we have the knowledge of God because we have our quiet times and Bible reading, but these are not meant to be limited to those times that we set aside for such activities, but are meant to occupy our entire waking hours.
Our souls are becoming a stronghold of either God or Satan, depending on what we take into them, depending on what we speak, think, hear and look at. Our souls are there for the taking; unless we possess them we will lose them and with it eternal life.
Soul awareness is being conscious at every moment of the impact on our souls of whatever we are engaged in; are we living in the spirit or are we living in the flesh? The mind of the flesh is death, as we know, and the mind of the spirit is life and peace. Where our minds and hearts are directed influences the condition of our soul.
Self awareness, on the other hand, is destructive to soul awareness. In man there is no good thing; he is utterly without hope in himself. Until self is put down, slaughtered on the cross, man, however gifted and scholarly, will have no role to play in God’s kingdom on earth. His time is wasted and his efforts fruitless, in any real sense.