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Sunday, June 22, 2003

7 - A Prosperous Soul

3 John 1:2 by Robert Dean
Series:3rd John (2003)
Duration:1 hr 0 mins 47 secs

A Prosperous Soul


3 John 1:2 NASB "Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers."

John  recognises that the ultimate issue in life, the real priority in life, is how well our soul is going, not how well we are doing physically, not how well our material blessings or prosperity. What really matters and what enables us to weather the storms of life is how well our soul is doing. So we need to ask the question: What does it take for the soul to do well?

We have to answer three basic questions. First of all, what is the soul? Second, what is it that destroys the soul? What is the enemy of the soul? What creates a soul that is not doing well? Third, what are the resources that God has provided for the soul to do well, to progress, to have genuine health?

We can learn what the soul is by comparing a couple of passages, 1 Corinthians 2:14 and Jude 19. NASB "But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised." That word translated "natural man" is the Greek word psuchikos [yuxikoj] which means soulish. It is from the Greek word psuche [yuxh] meaning soul, and it clearly contrasts in vv. 14, 15 the natural man and the spiritual man. "Soulish" is used in one other key place in the New Testament, Jude 19 where it is poorly translated "worldly minded." It says, "These are the ones who cause divisions," referring to divisive unbelievers who are persecuting believers, and then "worldly-minded [yuxikoj], devoid of the Spirit." In the Greek the words "devoid of the Spirit" is "not having spirit." The translator has to decide whether pneuma [pneuma] there is an upper case "Spirit," meaning the Holy Spirit, or is a lower case "spirit" for a human spirit. The latter is how we understand it. It is a technical term for that immaterial part of man which was lost at the fall and is regained at spiritual birth or salvation. It is that immaterial part of man that enables the soul to have a relationship with God. The unbeliever does not have a spirit.

The soul, the real you, is made up of four elements. The first is self-consciousness, your identity, your unique personality. You are individually the way you are because of God's design, the Scripture says. You know who you are, you have self-awareness. Then we have a mentality, the ability to think, to reason, to utilise logic, to understand the things of God. We have a volition, the decider in the soul. This is the seat of responsibility. When we make good decisions we reap positive benefits, when we make bad decisions we reap negative consequences. We have a conscience. This is where the norms and standards are located in the soul, where our concepts of right and wrong are located. Everyone has a concept of right and wrong, even if those concepts are perverted. That is one of Paul's arguments in Romans chapter two, that the presence of the conscience indicates a recognition of personal responsibility and accountability even though the standards in the conscience may be completely distorted and perverted. These four areas really interact. We talk about each separate component for purpose of understanding but in reality these are all interrelated and interconnected and they all work together as a harmonious whole.

In the original creation Adam and Isha were composed of three elements: the human body, the soul, and the human spirit. The human spirit binds, interconnects and interacts with the four elements of the soul. These four elements of the soul, then, were able to interrelate to God. In self-consciousness they were able to realise that they were in the image and likeness of God, they reflected God to His creation and they were to represent God to His creation. So Adam's self-consciousness wasn't just looking in the mirror and seeing himself as an independent creature but he saw himself as a reflection of God. That was his role. In his mentality he thought what God taught him to think. He thought God's thoughts along with Him, so that his mentality was completely dominated by divine viewpoint. In his conscience he has a divine set of norms and standards. He knew that he could do anything and there was only one thing that was prohibited to him, to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. So he had norms and standards that were completely oriented to God's absolutes. Then in volition, up until the fall, he had positive volition that was oriented to God.

But once he sinned he became spiritually dead. What happened? He lost that human spirit, that immaterial part of his makeup that enabled his soul to understand God and to properly understand God's creation. So what we see here is that spiritual death is the first enemy of the soul and it begins to destroy and erode the soul so that every human being since Adam is born spiritually dead with a soul in crisis. That soul is in crisis because lacking a relationship to God, lacking a human spirit that is able to understand God and able therefore to properly orient to reality and to his mission in life as one who is created in the image and likeness of God, he is trying to figure out reality all on its own, trying to make sense of everything all on its own, while being dominated by a sin nature that has enslaved it to this rebellious orientation to God. That is why every person is born with a soul in crisis and the only orientation of the soul is that of the sin nature—pure autonomy from God and rebelliousness to God—so that everyone is born disoriented to reality, disoriented from truth, divorced from God, and are incapable of orienting their thinking to absolute truth, to reality, and are incapable of understanding God or His revelation due to the sin nature control of the soul. So every one of us is born in a soul crisis; we are not healthy. We can't have soul health if we are missing a human spirit. It is the sin nature that is the source of the attack and fragmentation on the soul.

The sin nature is motivated at its very core by a lust pattern. We have all kinds of lusts—power lust, the desire to control; approbation lust, we want approval and people to tell us how good we are; sex lust; money lust, lust to have things where we think that just by having things that somehow we'll be happy, chemical lust—and it is these lust patterns that drive people. For example, if you have a lust pattern oriented to approval then you want to do what is right because you want somebody to pat you on the back. So you may have an approbation lust that is very strong in the area of human good, strong on morality. That kind of person becomes very religious, He wants to gain the approbation of God, so he is going to be very strong in the area of doing everything right and will have a tendency towards legalism and will not have life that is characterised by what we normally think of as sin. Remember, the Pharisees were the most moral, upright people in their generation, extremely particular about following every detail of the law and every detail of their religious tradition. But all of that was done in arrogance, thinking that they could gain the approbation of God. So just because you are operating on morality doesn't mean that it is not coming from the sin nature.

What are the products of the sin nature that destroy the soul? The basic orientation of everyone's sin nature is arrogance. Every single human being has arrogance. Arrogance is the idea that somehow I can determine the course of my life and live my life without being accountable to God or anyone else. That is the essence of arrogance. Arrogance is seen most clearly in the five "I wills" uttered by Satan in Isaiah 14, concluding with the statement, "I will be like the most high God." It is the desire of the creature to be in control of his life and determine the course of his life and the values of his life without any accountability to the creator. So everybody is arrogant and that arrogance is going to display itself in different ways, depending on one's lust pattern, on whether the area of strength is human good or licentiousness. The fact is that arrogance always leads to destruction; it is always self-destructive. Proverbs 16:25 NASB "There is a way {which seems} right to a man, But its end is the way of death." The way that seems right to man is independence from God and that is grounded in arrogance. Arrogance is the attitude or orientation of the soul which promotes the self over everything else; it is the orientation of independence from God, the idea that we can make life work on our own.

Principles of arrogance: a) Arrogance is subtle. Most people who are operating on arrogance don't know they are operating on arrogance. Because it is the basic orientation of our soul and the sin nature it seems very normal and natural for us to be arrogant. Arrogance is skilled in the art of self-justification so that we automatically, without even thinking about it, cloak our arrogance in all sorts of moral rationales that seem obvious to us in their rectitude: "We are right. Isn't that obvious to everybody else?" Arrogance destroys objectivity. It is only when we get right with the Lord under humility and with doctrine in the soul that we can have the objectivity to recognise our arrogance; b) Arrogance is tenacious, it doesn't want to give up. As soon as we have identified arrogance in our life in one way and we think we have control of it, it is going to pop up in another disguise operating in some other area of our life; it doesn't give up; c) Arrogance changes its form from one arena to another. For some period of our life we may be licentious and then we end up feeling very guilty about something that we have done, so all of a sudden our sin nature shifts its orientation to asceticism, an emphasis on moral good, trying to impress God and ourselves, and now we try to control everything through our religious/moral activity, and our arrogance is now manifesting itself in another way.  

Five arrogance skills: a) Self-absorption, focus on self, your needs need to be met. The more you focus on self, the more you want to indulge all your own desires and cravings and lust patterns, so that leads to b) Self-indulgence. You just give in to every little whim, every desire and lust in your soul. The opposite of this is self-discipline. Then you have to develop a rationale to justify all this, so c) is Self-justification. The more you give in to self-justification the more you become divorced from reality. You are operating on pure subjectivism. The only thing that matters is the way it makes you feel and that you can get away with it. You look at life through your own experience and through your own grid, and you don't look at life from any external, objective pattern. You can't really love other people because love isn't selfish, love isn't arrogant. So if all you have is a sin nature and you are not a born-again believer whatever love you have is going to be a qualified love. Now you are operating on d) full-blown self-deception. You think that the world revolves around you and everything is based on the way you think it should be. Once you get past this point then you come to the crowning skill of arrogance, e) Self-deification. This is exactly what Satan wanted, he wanted to be worshipped as God. That is where arrogance goes and it is an endless cycle. The more you are self-deified the more you are going to be self-absorbed. You become your own god, the source of your own absolutes, the source of your own happiness. Sooner or later there is something that is going to happen in your life and the little house of cards you have developed in arrogance is going to come crashing down and you will come face to face with your own creatureliness. It is at that point that you have a "teachable moment" where God has an opportunity to teach you something about grace.

Proverbs 11:2 NASB "When pride comes, then comes dishonor, But with the humble is wisdom." It is only through humility that comes from grace orientation that we can have genuine wisdom.

Proverbs 8:13 NASB "The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverted mouth, I hate."

Proverbs 14:16 NASB "A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil, But a fool is arrogant and careless."

Proverbs 16:18 NASB "Pride {goes} before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling."

Proverbs 28:25 NASB "An arrogant man stirs up strife, But he who trusts in the LORD will prosper."

1 John 2:16 NASB "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world." Arrogance is the modus operandi of the cosmic system.

What else attacks the soul? Bitterness and jealousy. The worsts enemies of the soul are mental attitude sins. Bitterness and jealousy reflect the whole array of mental attitude sins which eat away at the soul. Each of these is a product of self-absorption in the soul and is a response to some wrong or perceived wrong. Bitterness is a part of an array of sins mentioned in Ephesians 4:31 NASB "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice." These destroy the soul.

Hebrews 12:15 NASB "See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled." Why does the writer of Hebrews juxtapose the grace of God with the root of bitterness. Because when you are oriented to the grace of God you are going to be oriented in gratitude. You are going to be thankful for what you have, you are going to recognise who you are as a fallen creature, and you recognise that you don't have the right to anything. The only thing we have a right to from God is eternal condemnation, so everything that we have is from the grace of God and that should reveal itself in gratitude. If we focus on what we don't have then what springs up is bitterness which causes trouble and it defiles many. This is the Greek word miaino [miainw] which is related to the uncleanliness and the unsanitary conditions as a result of poor sanitation in the ancient world, and it has to do with someone being completely unclean spiritually.

James 3:11 NASB "Does a fountain send out from the same opening {both} fresh and bitter {water?} … [14] But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and {so} lie against the truth." You can't have bitterness on the one hand and a positive spiritual life and healthy soul on the other. [16] "For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing."

Another area which eats away at the soul is worry, anxiety and fear. They are closely related concepts. We think that somehow through all of our worries that we can control the situation.

Proverbs 12:25 NASB "Anxiety in a man's heart weighs it down, But a good word makes it glad." Here we have an analysis that worry leads to depression. People get depressed because it is preceded by a mental attitude sin of worry and anxiety.

Matthew 6:25 NASB "For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, {as to} what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, {as to} what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? … [28] And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin … [31] Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?'"

1 Peter 5:7 NASB "casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you."

So health in the soul is destroyed by the activities of the sin nature. This produces trauma to the soul. There are three basic attacks on the soul: a) the outside pressure of adversity. Everyone goes through adversity, different categories of adversity, but adversity is one assault and the issue is how we handle the outside pressure of adversity when it depends on our volition and whether or not we will use the Word of God and the promises of God and the spiritual skills; b) there is the inside pressure that is cased as a result of trying to handle outside pressure of adversity through the sin nature; c) temptation from the sin nature. Temptation always comes from the sin nature. There may be some external occasion for temptation but temptation always comes from the sin nature.

Adversity is the outside pressure of adversity on the soul and stress is inside pressure on the soul.

Adversity is what circumstances do to you; stress is what you do to yourself. You can't control adversity but you can control your response to adversity.

Adversity is inevitable but stress is optional. How you respond to adversity is up to your volition.

Stress is what happens when you attempt to handle the outside pressure through human viewpoint techniques.

Stress is the result of the sin nature-based attempts to handle crises through self-reliance instead of God dependence.

Psalm 7:1 NASB "O LORD my God, in You I have taken refuge; Save me from all those who pursue me, and deliver me, [2] Or he will tear my soul like a lion, Dragging me away, while there is none to deliver." David feels overwhelmed by his circumstances and by his enemies at this point, almost to the point of despair; so much so that in verse 3 he is bargaining with God. "O LORD my God, if I have done this, If there is injustice in my hands, [4] If I have rewarded evil to my friend, Or have plundered him who without cause was my adversary, [5] Let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake {it;} And let him trample my life down to the ground And lay my glory in the dust. Selah." In other words, if there is some just cause to this then go ahead and let that happen. He calls upon God in verses 6ff to rise up in His anger but by the time we get down to the end of the Psalm David has oriented to the justice of God. [11] "God is a righteous judge, And a God who has indignation every day." He finally gets to the point of putting it before the Supreme Court of heaven and ending up with praise to God in v.17.

Psalm 6 is another example of this kind of lament. Psalm 6:1 "O LORD, do not rebuke me in Your anger, Nor chasten me in Your wrath." In other words, he recognises that there has been some faults in his life. He has probably confessed his sin at this point, and then he cries to God for mercy. [2] "Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I {am} pining away; Heal me, O LORD, for my bones are dismayed." He is physically miserable from the mental attitude sins in his life. [3] "And my soul is greatly dismayed; But You, O LORD—how long?" The word here for "trouble" is the niphal (passive) of bahal—dismayed, terrified, alarmed, completely bewildered. It is a state of being unable to think clearly because of being overwhelmed by circumstances. [4] "Return, O LORD, rescue my soul; Save me because of Your lovingkindness. [5] For there is no mention of You in death; In Sheol who will give You thanks?" He is arguing with God, not in the bad sense of the term, in the sense of a lawyer presenting a case. He is building a case for why God should take care of the problem so he can continue to be a witness for God in the angelic conflict. Notice how he ends in v. 8. "Depart from me, all you who do iniquity, For the LORD has heard the voice of my weeping." David is honest with God about the crisis in his life and in his soul. Then he has confidence, v. 9. "The LORD has heard my supplication, The LORD receives my prayer. [10] All my enemies will be ashamed and greatly dismayed; They shall turn back, they will suddenly be ashamed." We see the transfer from his focus on his circumstances to his focus on God, and this is what promotes health to the soul.

Se also Psalm 23:3 "He restores my soul." God is the one who is able to give us soul health, the only one. Psalm 31 where the psalmist talks about the fact that it is God who knows our soul in adversity and goes on to praise Him for His deliverance. Psalm 42:5 NASB "Why are you in despair, O my soul? And {why} have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him {For} the help of His presence." The word there for "disturbed" is the qal perfect of the Hebrew word hamah which means to roar. This is man in internal conflict, he is upset, he is pressured by everything around him.