First of all, it hasn't been that long that I have come to realize that my soul and my spirit are two different parts of me. In fact, there are two different words in the Hebrew Bible that represent soul (nephesh) and spirit (ruwach). And I'm pretty sure that there are a lot of Christians who still don't make that distinction. But now I am fully aware that my soul is comprised of my human mind, my human emotions, and my human will. I also have come to know that my spirit is that part of me that is the breath of God in me (Job 32:8) and the part of me that is made in the image of God. When we die, our physical bodies return to the dust of the ground, and our spirit returns to God, who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7). Simply put, the soul is the human part of us; the life that we exist in -- and the spirit is the God part of us; the life-force, the "spark" of life at our creation. But they both interact with our heart.
Now, what about the heart? Well, we all know that our heart is a part of our physical being; it is the organ that pumps blood throughout the body via the circulatory system, supplying oxygen and nutrients to the tissues and removing carbon dioxide and other wastes. But there is a spiritual component to our heart, too. It is actually where our belief system is seated; and how we relate to Jesus is determined by how our soul and spirit [independently] influence our heart. Let me show you how important this understanding is to the Christian life, and why it is paramount that those ministering in Inner Healing and Deliverance comprehend this "spiritual mechanic" in the lives of Christians.
It is certain, from Scripture, that the state of our hearts is very important to God. We cannot come to faith without the involvement of our heart: For with the heart a person believes [in Christ as Savior] resulting in his justification [that is, being made righteous—being freed of the guilt of sin and made acceptable to God] ... (Romans 10:10).
Furthermore, whatever we allow in our heart will ultimately create the reality of what we experience in our life: So above all, guard the affections of your heart, for they affect all that you are. Pay attention to the welfare of your innermost being, for from there flows the wellspring of life; [the original and bountiful Source of our life] (Proverbs 4:23). And of course, there is the verse that says, For as he thinks in his heart, so is he (Proverbs 23:7)
Again, I want to consider how this works in the Christian life. Let's look at the heart as a gate between our soul and our spirit. If our soul consists of our mind, will and emotions, what do you think happens to our heart when we have issues of self-rejection or anger? Let's say the thoughts in your mind are always centered around "I'm ugly" or "I'm a failure" -- or you're always feeling anger towards your father who abused you physically or psychologically. Then the soul will infiltrate your heart [through that gateway] with a negative identity of who you are in Christ -- actually dump that negative image into your heart.
On the other hand, your spirit also communicates with your heart. And if your spirit has the knowledge that there is a scroll in heaven with your name written on it, and your spirit knows that this scroll details all the wonderful things you are going to do to represent God on the earth, then your heart can be filled [once again, through that gateway that intersects with your spirit] with a sense of your power and authority and your identity as a son or daughter of the King.
But here's our dilemma as humans. Both the soul and the spirit are capable of feeding information into our heart and developing a belief system that is specific to us. The heart will process all that information and then the question becomes this: Which is stronger? Our soul or our spirit? If the soul [of a Christian who has a negative identity] is stronger than their spirit, then a Christian can still take in massive amounts of Scripture, repeat it without analyzing or comprehending it, and still be locked in that broken thought life. They may also be dealing with anxiety that he/she will be unmasked, often resulting in a religiously rigid believer who has mind knowledge of Jesus, but no heart relationship because the spirit part of them has been silenced. They have broken souls that have not been healed by the finished work of Jesus Christ.
But if the spirit of a Christian is stronger than their soul, then they are able to hear more clearly from Jesus that those negative thoughts or messages are wrong; that's not who they are in Christ, and they know that their human mind needs to be renewed and those negative thoughts transformed from the lies of the Enemy to the Truth of God. IF our spirits are stronger, then God can reprogram our heart [through our spirit] without the soul being damaged or even involved.
So, how does that happen? How does our heart get reprogrammed and hear from Jesus? See if this makes sense. A person hears the Word of God and is convicted that they are in need of a Savior and recognize that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and their personal Savior. We are convicted of our need for Jesus, confess our faith in Him, repent of our sins, and the Holy Spirit is sent to seal the God-sized hole in our heart with Himself. He sits in the Holy of Holies, if you will, [of our heart] where Jesus hopes to dwell. When that happens, our own spirit is strengthened with the presence of the Holy Spirit and Jesus in our heart.
But here's the thing ... Jesus comes to dwell in our hearts by faith in order to transform all those lies and negative messages; those messed up belief systems and wrong identities that have filtered into our heart. But we need to realize that this takes a lifetime -- it's a journey involving an ongoing work of sanctification and we have to partner with Jesus to subjugate or surrender our entire heart to Him and His Kingdom.
When we realize that our heart is the gateway to our soul and our spirit, then we can see why it is so important to God. Jesus wants to occupy our whole heart as His territory; claim it for His Kingdom. But guess what? Satan wants to lay claim to it for his kingdom, too!
And here's what we Christians need to come to terms with --- Many of us spend a lifetime believing that Jesus is our Lord and Savior, and we get that hole in our heart sealed with the Holy Spirit. But we never take the journey throughout our lifetime to subjugate the rest of our heart. Some of us camp out in our religious belief system and never allow God to do the deep work in our heart. Our hearts will still contain the poisonous lies from the devil that produce wrong identities and false belief systems about who Christ is and what He can do in our lives.
But the saddest result of the un-surrendered heart? You can never fully comprehend the love of God. If your heart's territory is sharing space with the lies that come from your soul (mind, will, and emotions), then you are unable to receive the full measure of God's love. That's why Jesus says we are "to love the Lord your God with all your heart...". When our soul occupies more territory in our heart than our spirit, then there is less room for Jesus to dwell there and our connection with God is weaker. Your belief system becomes more carnal-based and less Spirit-led. Ultimately, the heart becomes a battleground, and it becomes more difficult to comprehend the very nature of God [and His love]. Even though a Christian has the Holy Spirit living in the Holy of Holies of his/her heart, it's as if the veil in the Old Testament Temple has never been rent, and there is still some form of separation -- that person's heart is not fully occupied by the Shekinah glory of the Father.
None of us have that perfect "heart relationship" that Jesus enjoyed with the Father. But by becoming aware of the interplay of our soul and spirit with our heart, we can endeavor to come into a right relationship; one in which the overlay of our soul and spirit onto our heart results in a belief system that reflects our original design -- where our mind, will and emotions are focused on Christ's mind, will and emotions; and our spirit is engaged with Heaven and moving from glory to glory. This should be our goal of the highest priority: a lifetime of ongoing work towards sanctification of our heart ... a new heart, a clean heart, a pure heart that leads us into God's Holy Presence.
Psalm 84:5 How enriched are they who find their strength in the Lord; within their hearts are the highways of holiness!