Monday, May 13, 2024

How to Align Your Soul with the Spirit: Discerning God's Voice from your Inner Voice

I remember early on as a Christian I had a dream. I had listening to different ministries and churches and I was just learning the faith. I remember having a dream one night that I was at this church, big, with many people.

But it all felt dead, empty, and I left the building. Outside the building I saw this beautiful river down in this valley. And I felt drawn to the river. I saw in the river people swimming in the river. And I did the same and began swimming in the river. And it was joyous. And I found purpose in that river. A path to guide me.

I never knew what that dream meant until recently I was thinking about it as a I prepared this message. Most of the modern church is not really led by the Spirit. They are led by the soul. They do what they want to do, and call it Christian. But to be truly Christian is to be led by the Spirit, not by the soul of man. The church today must learn to swim the river of the leading of the Holy Spirit. Otherwise we will never know the power of God and the path of His will. 

Have you ever had an experience where you knew that God was telling you to do something? Go pray with that person. Send that person an encouraging message. Pray for this person right now. Go and visit that friend and help them.

But part of you resists the leading of God. And you ask yourself, “Did God really say that? Or am I just making that up in my own mind?”

So you begin to wrestle back and forth, should I do it, should I not do it? What do I do? You feel the conviction of the Spirit more and more. And eventually hopefully you decide, alright, I’m going to do that. And you go do it.

What was happening there? You were wrestling within between your soul and your spirit. Your spirit received instructions from God and told you what you needed to do. But your soul got in the way and started questioning and resisting the leading of the Spirit of God.

This has happened to me many, many times! I’m sure it has for you. Now how about this one, have you ever been super excited and felt that you needed to go minister to this person, but then it went really bad and it was clear after, that it wasn’t God at all, but your own self? Again, the soul got in the way, and attempted to speak for the spirit.

But before we go further let’s talk about the structure of you as a human being.

Did you know that God reveals himself to us in three ways, as God the Father, as Jesus Christ the son of God, and as the Holy Spirit, the indwelling presence of God.

That’s interesting isn’t it?

You also are made up of different parts, you have a soul, your spirit, and your physical body.

That’s our first point today, you are soul, spirit, and body, as one.

Your physical body is just that, your body, your flesh and blood, and cells and organs and your five senses.

Your soul is you, the word for soul in the Greek actually means “breath.” Because it says in Genesis 2:7 that God breathed the breath of life into the man, he gave man a soul.

When a woman gets pregnant, the child is born as flesh, as a baby, but God puts a soul into that body.

So your soul is you. A puff of air you might say. Breathed out by God.

You also have your spirit. Your spirit is your higher self, your intuition, your inner light, your desire for something greater, your connection to God.

Before becoming a Christian, all three were very broken, soul, body, spirit. The soul was darkened and sinful. The spirit was focused on earthly things, broken, unable to connect with God, and the body was cursed and subject to physical death.

But once becoming a Christian, the soul begins a process of change, the body hopes for the promised resurrection after death, and the spirit is filled with the Holy Spirit and learns to be in connection to God.

Second point, even as a Christian we still battle between the Spirit and the self. The Spirit within calls us to live for God, but the flesh within wants us to focus on ourselves and our own needs.

The soul wants to go it’s own way. I battle that myself from time to time. I want to do what I want to do. But the Lord guides us to die to self, and live by the Spirit’s leading.

That happens every time I’m in conflict within between what my soul wants and what my spirit wants. And when I let the spirit lead the way, the soul comes into alignment with the spirit and they act as one.

That’s really the topic and goal for today: How do we bring our Soul into alignment with our spirit?

Secondarily, we are also looking at how this brings peace to our souls.

Jeanne Guyon gets into this topic of soul vs. Spirit in chapter 21 of her book. She says, “You see, when your soul is active on its own-that is, active apart from the activity of the Spirit-then by it’s very nature its activity is forced and strained! The soul’s effort in prayer is always that of anxiety and striving. This is actually to your advantage! You can easily distinguish when the soul is functioning.” -Jeanne Guyon, chapter 21, p. 94-95.

Third point, In prayer align the soul with the Spirit’s lead.

I can tell when I’m praying from the soul because it’s forced and awkward. But sometimes it’s necessary to start there. Then, at some point in the prayer as I begin to focus on the Spirit, the Spirit takes over, and the prayer suddenly becomes very natural.

“When the soul is responding to the Spirit, the action is free, easy and natural. It will seem that you are putting forth almost no effort at all.” -Jeanne Guyon, p. 95

So you’re probably wondering, when I pray, how do I let the Spirit lead? Honestly I think the best way is simply inviting Him, say, “Holy Spirit please guide these prayers.” And He will. God wants to be invited in. Other times though, you may not need to ask, it will happen naturally as you think about the Spirit, or as you simply draw near to God in your heart. It will come together beautifully.

Fourth point, hold your soul at peace. The soul will want to engage in strenuous effort and activity. Instead, hold the soul at peace.

Be still in the presence of the Lord, as the song says. Quiet the soul, and let the Spirit lead.

(2 slides – illustrations of soul led vs spirit led)

The soul will tend toward stress, anxiety, activity. Quiet that down, and draw near to God. And God will draw you. And you’ll find yourself drifting toward Him in your heart.

Quiet the soul, bring the soul to peace, which is stillness before God. Passiveness, simply wanting what God wants without any reservations.

Then, with the soul quiet, the goal is to operate from the spirit, and hear God’s Spirit and follow Him. But how do we do that?

As Jeanne Guyon wrote, “The Lord speaks to your spirit; He calls you to follow Him by drawing your center where there is only Himself. So your spirit is attracted first. You, in turn, follow the attraction of the center. You do so by turning your attention and all the powers of your soul on Him…” -Jeanne Guyon, Ch. 21, p. 97

How can I tell the difference between my internal voice and God’s leading? I’ve gotten myself into trouble a few times by thinking my internal voice was actually God’s voice.

So how do I tell the difference?

Fifth point, changes brought by God’s word will separate the voice of soul and spirit, so we can discern God’s voice from our own.

Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

The word of God is alive and active and able to divide between the soul and the spirit, to help you discern which is which.

As the word of God changes you, as you study it, learn it, and apply it your life, you will naturally know the voice of God from your own inner voice.

It’s a journey though. So if you aren’t there yet, don’t worry. Continue to diligently study God’s word, and God’s word will change you. Your own inner voice will grow more and more submissive to God’s leading.

The trouble occurs in the soul. The soul wants things to go a certain way. I want this outcome in this situation. So I will get in there and speak for God with my soul to try to manipulate what’s happening.

But I’ve noticed more and more as my reverence for God increases and my fear of the Lord increases, my own inner voices becomes more quiet. And I simply listen for the leading of God.

I’m not there yet myself. I still want my own way in situations. I’m desperate for a particular outcome. But from where I was two years ago, to today, it’s a world of difference. I misread God a lot less today.

I think in the end, we will at some point come to a mindset where we can really say, “I just want whatever God wants to happen.”

We allow God’s word to slowly separate the voice of the soul from the voice of the spirit, and then we submit the soul to the spirit.

It’s tough right. It’s surrender, total surrender of our will to God. “I just want whatever God wants.” What is the purpose of this molding and surrender?

Sixth point, the purpose in all this is restorative. Prep school for paradise.

Originally in the Garden of Eden, had the fall never taken place, we would naturally live every moment by the Spirit’s leading. Our souls would be entirely united with God in our spirit.

But because of the fall, man lost the ability to contain the life of God (p. 99). We became worldly minded, focused on jobs, bills, family, pride, stuff, ball games, and new tech. The soul, like Adam and Eve did, began to try to play god apart from god. And that doesn’t work.

Jesus Christ within, the Holy Spirit at work through us, all of this is training us, and getting us ready for life in heaven. A entirely new, permanent lifestyle of walking in union with God. That’s pleasure beyond imagining, exciting, creative, and joyous. It’s a state of joy. And the joys of heaven are new every day, each day it just keeps getting better. It’s not boring, it’s more exciting and wonderful than you could imagine.

You’ll live a day in the New Jerusalem and it will feel so balmy and perfect and beautiful, but you’ll know, tomorrow is going to be even better. Because it’s an adventure with God, that just keeps getting better and more amazing and wondrous and exciting each day.

The purpose of learning to align your soul with the Spirit is an instruction manual for living in heaven.

Point number seven, in allowing your soul to follow the Spirit, you will come into union with God.

Jeanne Guyon writes, “Now we have come to the final, deepest experience with God – the ultimate Christian experience. It is union with God.”

“The experience of union begins very simply when there is born in you a desire for God. And when is that? When the soul begins to turn inward to the life of the Spirit; when the soul begins to fall under the powerful, magnetic attraction of the Spirit. At this point, an earnest desire for union with God is born! Once your soul has begun to turn within to the Spirit, it moves nearer and nearer to God. This is the progress toward union.

Finally the soul is one spirit with Him. It is here at last that the soul, which has wandered so far away from God, returns again to the place for which it was created! You must enter this realm. Why? Because this is the purpose of all God’s working in you.” -Jeanne Guyon, Ch.21, p.102-103

Do you get it? It’s a journey. As a Christian you go from not being led by the Spirit really very much at all. To slowly desiring to follow God. To chasing after the Spirit more and more, slowly aligning your soul’s will with the Spirit’s lead. Finally, you’re one in spirit with the Lord. And you find yourself at the place where you were made to dwell, one with God, one with His leading. One with His purposes.

All God’s work in your, forgiveness of sins, the new birth, sanctification, spiritual growth, spiritual warfare, temptations, trials, joys and triumphs, all of it has this one purpose: To bring you into union with God, in a way that you follow His leading without any hesitation. Your soul is submitted to the Spirit, and it’s perfect. You go from stress and struggle in the soul, fighting against God’s leading, until we surrender, and surrender again, day by day, year by year, chasing the magnetic pull of the Spirit, until we find ourselves at one with the Spirit.

And who is this Spirit? It is the Spirit of Jesus Christ. We find ourselves at one with our savior Jesus Christ, and in alignment with the Father in Heaven ultimately.

Review of Main Points:
1. You are soul, spirit, and body, as one.

2. Even as Christians we still battle between the soul & spirit.

3. Align the soul with the Spirit’s lead in Prayer

4. Hold your soul at peace, work from the spirit

5. Changes brought by God’s word will separate the voice of soul and spirit, so we can discern God’s voice from our own.

6. The purpose in all this is restorative, Prep school for paradise

7. In allowing your soul to follow your spirit, you will come into alignment with God, which is called “Union with God”