“Come and Die with Me” (Part 2)
(Luke 9:23-24) “And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his soul (life) will lose it, but whoever loses his soul (life) for My sake, he is the one who will save it.”
We live in a world today that provides immediate gratification of anything our fallen fleshly human nature with its passions and desires crave. Self-indulgence and self-satisfaction and having an abundance of material possessions fortune and fame and prominence drive multitudes to seek out these things the world offers. There is no reverence for or fear of God, or for His law and commandments.
Three Sources of Spiritual Power
There are three sources of spiritual power. The first source of spiritual power is the power of God and the second source of spiritual power is the power of Satan but there is a third source of spiritual power and that is the latent power of the soul which is a power in itself that when released can move situations and people and even nations as we have seen with many political leaders over the centuries. In reality this power of the soul or soul-power, is not the power of God but a power generated out of fallen man which was originally a part of Adam who became a living soul after God had breathed His life into Adam. Watchman Nee a well-known 20TH Century Chinese evangelist wrote a book titled “The Latent Power of the Soul” in which he describes this power and how it works.
The Power of the Soul
When Adam was created he had an inner spirit, a soul and a physical body in which his spirit and soul resided and although these three are separate components within every son and daughter of Adam they are all interconnected because man is triune in nature as God is triune in nature because man was created in the image and likeness of God. (1 Thessalonians 5:23) (Genesis 1:26). Before the fall Adam knew God in his inner spirit man and Adam’s soul and body was subject to the Spirit of God living within his human spirit. Adam’s soul was very powerful and contained his intellect, his emotions and his will which were all centred in God and not in himself.
God had given to Adam a huge piece of real estate to cultivate and to care for and gave Adam authority wisdom and power to rule over all living creatures God had created (Genesis 1:25-26). God also brought the animals to Adam to give them all names. This power of the soul, even though part of Adam’s humanity, was under the direct control of the Spirit of God that dwelt in Adam’s human spirit. It was by this soul power that Adam had the intellect and wisdom to name all of the animals and to direct him is caring and developing the Garden of Eden in which God had placed him. His sense of feeling, intellect and especially his will were all highly developed and honed to perfection because he was without any sin and had been created in the image and likeness of God b because God had infused into Adam’s human DNA a superior and very powerful intellect, emotions and a will, all part of his soul.
When Adam fell into sin his inner spirit became null and void of God’s Spirit who had left him. Consequently his spirit became a dark place void of God’s presence and power. Adam’s soul power now turned inwardly and became centred in himself instead of centred in God. Satan now controlled Adam’s soul and its responses. Consequently the innate human power of his soul remained but became distorted and defiled. His intellect, his emotions and his will were all still intact but now self-centred instead of God-centred and now under the direct power of Satan. The same soul power was there in Adam but had been defiled and subjected to pride.
Soul Power and the Supernatural
With this in view we need to understand that a demonstration of so called spiritual power can be generated from the power of the soul life that God has nothing to do with. We see this soul power released in many religions where supernatural manifestations occur and although their source is Satanic they are deeds of soul power. Some manifestations are directly a result of demons while other manifestations are the results of this soul power bring released. Hypnosis taps into this soul power and many other psychological and psychiatric treatments also tap into this soul power.
When we see an actor that moves us to tears or a secular speaker that inspires our emotions and captivates our intellect and will, it is this power of the soul that is in play. When we see loud amplified music being played and sung by rock stars it is generated by the power of the soul and can sometimes be under the influence of demons, especially the Heavy Metal style of rock music. In the entertainment industry across the board we see this soul power moving people intellectually, emotionally and all designed to capture the will and hijack the emotions. The whole world is a master of soul power and of course it is all self-directed and self-motivated and self-generated and inspired by Satan and his cohorts from hell. The whole world with its passions, desires, ambitions and lifestyles are all under the power of the wicked one (1 John 5:19).
Soul Power Slavery
Hundreds of churches today are slaves to this soul power. They have mesmerising music and repetitious choruses for the most part that are shallow doctrinally being sung and played through amplifiers as if somehow the loud worship will bring God down to them to display His miracles signs and wonders. In virtually all of the mega-churches, especially in America, the preachers are strong on blessings, abundance, wealth and health and having everything good in this world but very few preach on the cross and Christ crucified and His followers crucified with Him.
Many believers love the spiritual benefits that come from the cross, and it is right to give thanks for them and we should do so every day and appreciate them and be thankful for what the Lord Jesus has done to save us. However, to face the fact that we have been crucified with Christ is something more, something deeper, because it makes a claim on our service and ministry for the Lord and on our day to day living and the way we relate to others. To live the crucified life is a supernatural life empowered and directed by the Spirit of God and not dependent on the power of the soul at all which has been corrupted by sin and self-will and pride. Even the apostle Paul with all of his intellect and tremendous persuasive powers recognised that it was part of his soul life. The word soul can be translated flesh. Paul said “In my flesh (soul) dwells nothing good!”(Romans 7:18).
This is where we need to have the spiritual gift of discernment of spirits when engaged in worship with other believers especially when things are being controlled from the platform up the front or when we attend a special meeting not connected to the fellowship we attend. If we are not walking in the Holy Spirit then we will be walking in the power of the soul or the flesh and this will achieve noting spiritually in us or in others with whom we are seeking to minister even though our motives may be right and our emotions sincere.
The Lord Jesus put it this way when he said; “The Spirit gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63). You can have a very gifted speaker who can move people’s souls but what is done in the power of the soul or by the work of the flesh will only produce a soulish response and nothing of deep spiritual value will be imparted. It is only the blessed Holy Spirit Himself that infuses into the human spirit that spiritual life and deep supernatural enlightenment that will affect the human soul by bringing its power into subjection to the control of the Holy Spirit. We can even be using the Word of God but if it is not anointed by the power of the Spirit then there will be no spiritual life imparted to the soul exposed to it.
Who is really in control?
Many earnest and sincere and fervent worship leaders and pastors do not have the ability to distinguish between the two and whether they are ministering by the Spirit or by the power of the soul. They are very similar in their manifestation and not always easy to tell them apart especially when ones emotions, intellect and will are concerned and where there is adulation from the audience. Effective ministry under the control of the Holy Spirit does not have to be noisy or loud or overtly emotional. In fact the ministry of the Holy Spirit in and through a believer may or may not affect them emotionally. So often we think because a preacher is popular and who is an accomplished speaker and able to emotionally sway the people that he must be an anointed man but this is not necessarily the case.
I remember some years ago in a meeting I was attending that the speaker was very quiet and unemotional without any undue excitement in his voice, but his words were undoubtedly being generated by the Holy Spirit within him as what he was saying touched my inner spirit where the Spirit of God resides as He does in all who have been spiritually reborn from above by Him. I experienced the ministry of the Holy Spirit which was void of any humanly generated overt emotionalism but it was clearly evident that the power of God was resting upon what this man was saying. Our emotions can be deceptive a great deal of the time and we must not base our spiritual standing before God on the basis of how we feel or do not feel. We are to be regularly led by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:14). Discerning the quit and consistent voice of the Spirit takes time as we learn to distinguish between what is generated from Him dwelling in our regenerated spirit from what is generated from our soul.
If people’s emotional responses can be evoked by amplified music and persuasive speech and personal prophecies and by emotionally stirring repetitious choruses then they can be manipulated by those deliberately or unwittingly seeking to control what is happening thinking they are being led by the Spirit when in reality it is the power of the soul that is being released. This soulish power may be very powerful and effective in its use, but will do nothing in regards to crucifying the flesh with its passions and desires. Many false conversions and counterfeit spiritual manifestations have been generated by this power which to the undiscerning will seem like the real deal! We know that in the last days that the coming of the man of lawlessness will be preceded by all kinds of satanic counterfeit miracles signs and wonders that will deceive all those who do not have a love of the truth as revealed in the Word of God (2 Thessalonians 2: 9).
Christ Centred, Not Soul Centred
This soul power will always and inevitably draw the attention of the congregation or audience to those leading the meeting and not to the power of the cross to crucify self-will and self-aggrandisement. We know from the Word of God that the blessed Holy Spirit will always uplift the Lord Jesus and Him crucified and us crucified with Him and not the gifts or those manifesting them in the local assembly when gathered for worship. The real Biblical manifestations or gifts of the Spirit cannot be manipulated as they are distributed according to the will of the Spirit and not according to the human will although one may be able to exercise a gift but this does not automatically mean they are living the crucified life (1 Corinthians 12:11).
Where a local assembly is open to the gifts of the Spirit they must be very careful in that they potentially can open themselves up to this power of the soul through which Satan works his spiritual deception even on the very elect especially in an emotionally charged meeting. Added to this, the blessed Holy Spirit, being the Spirit of truth and not the spirit of error, will never lead God’s people into unbiblical practices or doctrines or unidentifiable manifestations. Today there are plenty of ‘manifestations’, signs and wonders and so called miracles and healings of one sort or another but they are very dubious and tend to point to those controlling them from the front.
Usually they are accompanied by emotionally stirring prophecies and stories, by amplified music and by smooth rhetoric designed to sway the emotions. Undoubtedly we see them on the internet which has become infested with this sort of thing. When Adam fell into sin the soul power he had also became susceptible to satanic control. This soul power, being part of our fallen human nature, can be released very powerfully in an emotionally charged meeting especially when there are supposed miracles, signs, wonders and prophecies being manifested. Paul writes that as New Covenant believers we have not been given the spirit of fear but a spirit of love, of power and of self-control or a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).
The Holy Spirit bypasses the soul when He ministers through a believer and this He does independently from the soul power by imparting to that believer the power and gift they need to effectively minister to their fellow believers. The Spirit will work through the personality of the man using his emotions, his intellect and his will but what that man says and does will be kept in check by the Holy Spirit. When the blessed Holy Spirit really ministers He will not allow the soul power to be released. When Christ and Him crucified is at the centre of all ministry in the local assembly when gathered together for worship the Holy Spirit will be very powerful and effective and yes, there will be emotions and tears of sorrow because of unconfessed and un-renounced sin and shouts of joy and praise at the powerful presence and inner sense of forgiveness and cleansing from sin through the Messiah’s blood, but it will all be under the direct control of the Holy Spirit and not controlled by man.
Taking Up our Cross Everyday
Now our Lord Jesus and the apostles all taught about taking up our cross every day and being crucified with Christ experientially in all of our activities, worship, ministry and lifestyles and relationships. This is Apostolic Biblical Judeo-Christianity. Let’s now look at what the scriptures say about taking up the cross and what it means for us as New Covenant believers.
The Lord Jesus Himself spoke about taking up His cross.
(Matthew 10:38) “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.”
(Matthew 16:24) “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”
(Mark 8:34-38) “And calling the crowd to Him with his disciples, He said to them, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life (soul-life) will lose it, but whoever loses his life (soul-life) for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
(Luke 14:27) “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”
Many Christians have a wrong idea of what it means to take up their cross. It is not about putting up with a mother in law that is hard to get along with, or a disabled child that needs to be taken care of, or one who is a rebellious teenager or young adult or when putting up with a difficult situation in the work place, or coping with a church member that manifests a disagreeable disposition. These sorts of situations do require the perseverance that can only be given by living the crucified life where self-denial is needed but taking up our cross goes deeper. It is a matter of life or death in reality.
Identifying with Christ
Taking up our cross primarily means being willing to suffer persecution, rejection by the world and the religious establishment, being maligned, miss-represented, criticised for standing up for the truth, suffering the loss of daily amenities or the loss of a job or rejection by family members and for some even being imprisoned, tortured and martyred, all because of loyalty to the Lord Jesus and because they have chosen willingly to take up their cross daily as the Lord Jesus did. Everyone likes the idea of a Jesus who is rather indulgent, mild, and not offensive, loving and kind, who makes no real demands on one to change their lifestyles and certainly not one who would send anyone to hell. No one wants a Jesus who loves but who is also righteous, holy, just and one who judges sin and rebellion and sends people to hell and ultimately into the lake of fire for all of eternity where there is no reprieve.
At the Foot of the Cross
Only when we kneel at the foot of the cross can we be supernaturally delivered from the power and penalty of sin and divested of the works of the world, the flesh and the devil that are energised by the power the soul life that drives us away from a crucified Christ lifestyle and motivates us to embrace a lifestyle that avoids the cross. Many will have Christ and His blessings but who are not willing to take up His cross which means being crucified to the world with its passion and pleasures and ambitions and the world being crucified to us. A crucified and dead and buried person can no longer respond to any outward stimulation because they are dead to this influence from without, and that influence from without has no power to move the corpse because it is dead. Paul tells us that as New Covenant believers that we have died to the elemental spiritual forces of this world so why should we still seek to be persuaded to give into them? (Colossians 2:20). Now let’s look at what the Lord Jesus said about taking up our cross…
Notice the things the Lord Jesus mentions in these verses above. If we do not take up our cross and follow the Lord Jesus on the path of living the crucified life then we will not be worthy to say we are his followers. Also we notice that practicing self-denial is also a mark of the crucified life. We are not speaking about an outward suppression of what is natural and human but denying ourselves and our rights to preserve our lifestyles at the expense of not following after and seeking to mimic our Lord Jesus.
There is nothing wrong with having possessions but when they possess us we are in trouble! As King Solomon wrote; “Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife” (Proverbs 17:1). He also told us how to have the right attitude to the things we possess when he wrote; “Keep falsehood and deceitful words far from me. Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the bread that is my portion. Otherwise, I may have too much and deny You, saying, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, profaning the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:8-9).
Choosing Between the Spirit and the Soul
Now the Lord Jesus also said that if we would be His disciples that we would need to not regard our soul life or seek to live by it or preserve it, and to not allow it to control us but instead stay under the shadow of the cross reckoning on the truth that we have been crucified with Christ to the world and the world crucified to us, and that we are to be faithful followers of the Lord Jesus to life’s end. If we choose to live by the power of the soul-life independent from the Life giving power of the blessed Holy Spirit, then we will not be considered by Him as being His disciples even though we a involved in the work of the local assembly which we attend faithfully every Lord’s day. However, if we do not operate by the power of the soul life but by the power of the Holy Spirit then we will be the Lord Jesus’ true disciples. It is a decision we all must make every day.
As Paul writes; “Those who live (or are living) according to the flesh have their minds set (continuously) on what the flesh desires; but those who live (or are living) in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set (continuously) on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:5-6).
From God’s perspective the soul is what needs to be saved from an eternal hell after a person dies physically and from a self-destructive lifestyle in this present life. To save one’s life is to have the mind set on living by the power of the soul and not by the power of God. To lose one’s life means a mindset that refuses to live by the power of the soul life, even when the temptation to do so is a constant aggravation and temptation, but choosing to live by and under the power of the Spirit. This is only possible for those who have the Holy Spirit living in their human spirit and are joined to the Lord and one spirit with Him (Romans 8:9-14) (1 Corinthians 6:17).
We also notice that the Lord Jesus said that if we would follow Him and be His disciples that we need to lose our own soul life for His sake and for the sake of the gospel. In other words taking up our cross also means taking the gospel of the kingdom to those who need to be saved. Persecution will always be inevitable when the power of the cross and the crucified life is being preached in the world and within the Church. Many inside wider Christendom are very religious, faithfully attend the meetings, and are heavily involved in the churches activities and live chaste and good lives from the humanist perspective, but have never encountered the cross in their lives by which they need to be crucified to the world with its lures, passions, ambitions and desires and crucified with Christ to those things of the soul-power the world honours.
The Lord Jesus also said that we need to take up our cross daily and that it would mean rejection by the religious establishment and in many cases to suffer martyrdom at their hands, a mark of the Spanish inquisition and in virtually every Islamic country today, not to mention what happens to New Covenant believers in China and North Korea where imprisonment and martyrdom are common place every day. The Lord Jesus said to His disciples; “The Son of Man must suffer many things,” He said. “He must be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Then Jesus said to all of them, “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it” (Luke 9:22-24).
Every day we need to be willing to lay aside our soul life and take up the crucified life with Christ. This must be something we voluntarily choose to do whether it is at home, in the work place, on the mission field or in fellowship of the saints. The power of the soul life is very persuasive and it is not easy to choose to lay it aside when it is demanding to be exercised in any given situation we might be facing. So much of the so called work of the kingdom these days is being done by the power of the soul life and even though it has power to emotionally move and to motivate those being persuaded by it, there will be no deep and lasting spiritual work wrought by the Holy Spirit in the life of those exposed to it and working under its influence. If we are to be truly useful in God’s kingdom and a true disciple of the Lord Jesus then we need to take up His invitation. “Come and die with Me.” Selah.