I have a challenge for you! Read the following verses and tell me what they all have in common.
“To the choirmaster: according to Jeduthun. A Psalm of David. For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.”Psalm 61:2
My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed.Psalm 71:23
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.Psalm 42:11
Did you notice anything?
Whether in waiting, joy, or sorrow, the Psalmists consistently address their souls.
In Deuteronomy and later in Matthew, we are told that we must not just love God with our hearts and minds, but also our souls.
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 22:37
In John 3, The Apostle John blesses Gaius, blessing his soul with the expectation that from his soul, his body would prosper.
Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.3 John 1:2
In each of these verses, the writers direct their focus to the most important organ required in salvation: the soul.
In praying for salvation, one of the biggest ways that the Western Church wastes time is by praying for people to intellectually receive God. You can pray for that, but initial comprehension of the salvation experience isn’t actually necessary to encounter God.
Most of us are experiential learners, and tend to comprehend the fullness of God as we go and read the bible.
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.John 14:26
There are seldom few who, through (often trauma-related) self-protection, require God to shatter their arguments in order to reach their hearts.
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.2 Corinthians 10:5
When it is necessary to reach people’s hearts, the Lord is more than comfortable shattering human reasoning. We can certainly pray for those bound in empty rationalism to “have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:18).
However, for most human beings, the majority of salvation-related prayers that the Church prays need to be directed directly at the soul.
When a person starts long for God at the soul level, it comes from a place deeper than our reason and temporary emotions. It is like being pulled by an internal cord into a direction you may not consciously understand. Often, people experience this sensation over time, and describe it with sensing language (discerning, noticing, thirsting, hungering, itching, burning, aching, yearning, pining). When it comes to the soul (and the spirit), it isn’t a factual knowing or a rational reasoning, but an intuitive perceiving. Often, this means waking up a level of desire for righteousness and longing for the beauty of God that people didn’t know they had. These experiences can be confusing because they are not frequently discussed in every day life and most people who are not overly spiritual to begin with will lack language to communicate the depth of what they feel happening. People generally sense something is different but don’t realize they are being pulled by the longing of their souls until they can see a pattern develop. This is part of what makes salvation a process: it’s so beyond us that we sometimes struggle to process it.
Here are some common sensations that might happen to a person when their soul starts to yearn after God:
- Often, people experience a stirring on their insides, a deep, gnawing inner hunger.
- Sometimes, longing feels like a deep sense of weary, restless drivenness and longing for purpose.
- Sometimes longing can relate to a form of beneficial disbelief, “Is this really all there is to life?”
- Sometimes longing is a desire to recapture or encounter something we sensed in someone else that felt holy, right, and safe.
Misconceptions about the Body and Mind
People don’t use the wording of “soul winning” as much in the modern era. However, the reasons reclaim the connection of soul to salvation are so great that we may need to get over ourselves. For a lot of the 18th-20th centuries, the Church in the West focused on the salvation of people’s souls at the exclusion of their physical needs (something we inherited from Gnosticism). In the 1960s onwards, Liberation Theologians first in Latin America and then throughout the world reclaimed Jesus’ sentiment in the Beatitudes: that he doesn’t just care about eventual spiritual prosperity but he wants people to live holistically healthy lives here and now.
If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?James 2:16
Over time, discussion over the importance of the soul to salvation started to be stereotyped to people who were overly harsh (ascetic) towards the body and other people’s basic human needs. Verses like Romans 8:13 got twisted to deny even the body’s right, godly pleasure and desires.
For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.Romans 8:13
A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God.Ecclesiastes 2:24
Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun—all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun.Ecclesiastes 9:9
When people overcomplicate holiness and heap on rules that are past God’s requirements (ex: requiring abstinence of all ordained clergy, requiring specific clothing to curb sexual desire without addressing purity of heart), it often happens because they have not yet realized who they are in Christ (identity) and do not yet know the freedom that he gives us.
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive.1 Corinthians 10:23
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.Galatians 5:13
Our bodies do matter. We know that they matter because in the Incarnation, Jesus deemed the experience of having a body to be a worthy and essential part of the human experience.
In separating the body and soul and pitting them against one another, the Church allowed itself to adopt Greek dualism, which asserts that the body and mind are separate. This division has quite literally split the Church (the Body of Christ) into doctrinal pieces arguing over separate elements of health that Jesus saw as part of the same holistic package. This is why not adding anything to the gospel is so important, because any extras can be twisted to create division.
It was the Church’s partnership with Greek dualism has led people in the West to believe that they could logically acknowledge the supremacy of Christ while still having no deep emotional (ie, soul level) encounter.
Quite frankly, many of us have been quite happy to assume that we can make an intellectual concession to the goodness of God and call it salvation. Rationalizing will always require less sacrifice than genuine salvation.
You may wonder: If salvation is holistic, why does it matter that we start with the soul?
The order of salvation matters, and it does indeed start with the soul!
If salvation starts with temporary or surface level emotions, it doesn’t go deep enough.
“The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.”Matthew 13:20-21
If salvation starts with the mind, it can become a mere ritual.
“These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.Matthew 15:8
Faith has got to start with a soul that hungers, thirsts, and is moved from out of our insides.
“Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”John 7:38
If the soul catches God first, your mind will be renewed:
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.Romans 12:2
Your emotions will receive Christ’s inner wellness.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.Psalm 147:3
Your body will usually come into greater health and wholeness:
Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.John 3:1-2
Charismatic Christians believe that the connections between the body and the soul mean that as you put your faith in Jesus, you can even be set free from demonic oppression. But in order to reach all this, we have to start with the soul.
You Must Choose
Jesus invites our souls to find our rest in him.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”Matthew 11:28-30
In our immediate lifetimes, each of us must make a deep internal (soul-level) decision follow Jesus or reject him.
Sadly, many of us make this decision by not engaging at the soul level in the first place.
“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”Matthew 12:30
To make things more complicated, among our cultures, there are various beliefs that may hinder our souls in sensing the immediacy of Christ’s call to salvation.
Traditional religions often sidestep the entire soul issue by eliminating the need for a personal decision. Here are several beliefs that may make it difficult for a person to make a deep, immediate choice to follow Christ.
|Belief||Effect on Decision-Making||Relevant Verse(s)|
|Reincarnation||Change or decision-making can be postponed to the future|| (Luke 16:19-31)|
The Rich Man and Lazarus
|Fatalism||Change or decision-making has already|
been decided omnisciently by God
in the past.
Viewing time as a human being (without omniscient mind of God)
|Extreme dependence on Community|
|Extreme focus on the community so that the individual cannot reach consensus with all as to direction he/she should go, Fear of man. Denies the Fear of the Lord.||Mark 10:29-31|
Reward for choosing Jesus above even family
|Extreme Individualism||Extreme focus on the individual’s pleasure so that it is difficult to imagine a decision that would require some degree of cost, Pride. Denies God’s design for community.||Matthew 16:24-28|
Jesus’ invitation to take up your Cross
|Equating Culture |
|Assuming that religious, ethnic, and national identities are always linked. Especially true of regions that have syncretized religious values|
with politics (state religion). Denies the complexity of culture and ethnicity (homogenizing identity to a desirable norm). When used for political purposes, this has the effect of silencing diversity.
Peter’s Vision, the Gentiles Grafted in
|Suffering Management||Believing that evil is inevitable to the point where one stops looking for solutions. Denies the souls desire for change, justice, joy, and beauty.||Matthew 5-7|
The active redemption of the Kingdom of God in
the Sermon on the Mount
Prayers that Call our Souls to Order
When individuals or groups pray for God to stir people’s souls, they often end up praying in hunger over regions. When a region is overcome by hunger for the Lord, people are saved more organically because they can sense their souls longing for Jesus.
Do you know what it is to yearn for God with all of your soul?
Do you want to experience him holistically, and love God with all of your heart, soul, and strength? Consider praying this prayer for yourself, a loved one, or a region that still needs to encounter God at the soul level.
Lord, I want to hunger and thirst after you only,
I want to perceive and be overwhelmed by your beauty,
Give me a greater love for truth.
Help me to experience you as you are, Jesus.
Lord, would you release your hunger for righteousness in me, and bring my soul into greater reverential awe of your majesty.
Wake up any aspect of deep longing that my soul needs to connect with you fully.
I give you my entire substance, my soul, heart, mind, will, and emotions; reform them through your Holy Spirit,