God Creates a New Soul
Published June 20, 2012 @ 6 a.m.
"But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth." - Ephesians 4:20-24
Kairos is a prison ministry that begins with a spiritual retreat (in the prison) for a set of “brothers-in-white” and then returns for a reunion once a month. In the Kairos group I served with we were sent into the same prison for a spiritual retreat twice a year. We had reunions in the prison one night a month for the other 10 months a year when we were permitted to go in. Because of this we got to experience the spiritual growth of many of our friends who went on the weekend retreats.
We had just had the first Kairos in the particular unit I worked at several months before. I noticed that a number of our team members were often in deep conversations with the prison officers. I asked one of my friends why that was. It turns out that the men who attended that first weekend truly become different people than what they had once been, just as Ephesians 4:20-24 talks about. The change was so great and so abrupt that many of the prison officers were going on their own spiritual retreats in the free world just to see what had happened to their wards. Many of these officers had attended church on a regular basis but they had never come to experience the new self in the way in which our brothers-in-white had come to experience the new self in God created in righteousness and holiness.
Over the years we were able to see this happen time and time again. Sometimes the change occurred in the prisons most incorrigible residents. Other times, the residents in whom the change occurred were called “preacher” prior to their Kairos weekend. For some of the residents the change was instantaneous. For others the change began in the weekend but its flower took much longer to actually bloom. For some the weekend had little effect at all but a few of these made a decision for Jesus Christ only after we kept coming back for the reunions each month for years. Sadly, for some the change happened quickly but after a while they reassimilated back into the prison culture.
Within in the prison we saw the extremes. We saw Aryan Nations enforcers become disciples of Jesus Christ and they were filled with Christ’s love for men who had been leaders in the Crips prison gangs. It was easy to see the “new self” God creates come and take hold of the lives of these men. But that same change should be taking place in every Christian.
We all like to quote Romans 3:23, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God …” but we don’t really understand what Paul is talking about. It isn’t just that we all have individual sins. It is that we all live in the
realm ruled by sin and sin has dominion over us. What God does in Jesus Christ is more than simply saying “I have wiped all your sins away.” God literally takes us out of the dominion of sin and places us in a new place, the Kingdom of God. (see Colossians 1:9-15) In order for this to occur God has to create a new soul within us.
We often speak of “soul” but few of us actually think about what that term means. There is an actual technical definition of how the ancients thought of a person’s soul. A soul consists of how we think, how we feel, and what we will. The soul we are born with is a soul like that of Adam. It is the soul that is dominated by sin. That old soul is death and brings death. But God creates a new soul for those who are in Christ Jesus.
When Nicodemus visits Jesus in John 3, Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be born from above in order
to see the Kingdom of God. Nicodemus doesn’t understand. There is a play on a Greek word here. ἄνωθεν means both “from above” and “again.” Nicodemus interprets
the word to be “again.” But Jesus makes His meaning clear when He says to Nicodemus, “You must be born of the Spirit and of the water.” In the New Testament being born of the water always refers to the baptism of repentance – John’s baptism. But what is also required is the baptism of the Holy Spirit who creates within us the new soul or the new self. (Other translations use the term “nature.”)
As Christians we live in two worlds. The culture, traditions, and values of the people with whom we live are descended from Adam, dominated by sin, disinterested in pleasing God and unable to do so even if they took the notion to. The world of the old soul often tries to make itself to look presentable, often tries to make itself look like it had a form of godliness, often strives even to please God in order to get something from God that it wants. But it is unable to fulfill God’s command to love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your mind and all you soul and all your strength. It cannot even fathom such a love.
At the same time we have been born into a new culture, traditions and values in line with those who are born from God’s Holy Spirit. I think that is why Ephesians uses the language “take off the old self” and “put on the
new self.” We have to decide in which world we are going to live. We can choose to be conformed to this world but the result of such conformity will always be death. We can choose to be conformed to the new nature born within us by the power of God but that means we will have to be out of step with the world that is around us. It is not that we don’t have the strength to live out of step. God has given us that strength. But it might mean that we have to consciously live into who God has made us to be and not allow the world to
reassimilate us back into the dominion of sin.