The Scriptural record of man’s state without Christ is clear. Absent saving grace, man is dead, lost, and hopeless. He cannot save himself. He must receive through faith the atoning sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth and proclaim Him Lord. Once that occurs, sinner becomes saint, dead becomes alive, lost becomes found, orphan becomes child of God.
The new birth is transformative. The spirit of man once separated from God becomes the home of the Holy Spirit. Where darkness lived, dawn rises with glorious light. Things that could not be understood begin to make sense. A new array of perception comes on line. Prayer languages burst forth, visions are seen, words are heard, prophecies are spoken. And bad habits remain.
21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus:
22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,
23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind,
24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. NKJV
The new birth is a re-creation of the spirit of man into the image of Christ, righteous and holy. This is what we are at our innermost core. But our minds have old patterns of behavior learned from years of listening to the demands of our flesh and dark desires of our souls. The new birth did not change these patterns. It gave us to power to subjugate them and replace them with right thoughts and actions. This process is often referred to as sanctification.
Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you]. AMP
Having received the salvation of our spirit by grace, we must now work to have our souls conform to the new creation within us. The salvation of the soul is the ultimate goal of the salvation of the spirit which we received by faith.
1 Peter 1:6-9
6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
7 These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,
9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. NIV [Emphasis added.]
Trials and temptations test our faith. As we choose holiness over wantonness, faithfulness over flakiness, and righteousness over selfishness, the dross of our religious pretend gets burned away to reveal the glory of our genuine believe. This process isn’t a mind game like trying to convince ourselves the sky is green or disease doesn’t exist. It involves action, behaving in accordance to the new light inside us.
1 Peter 1:22
Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: KJV
Love is the hallmark of the true believer. The Bible is the Love Book. When we obediently follow its directives to return blessing for curse, love for hate, generosity for selfishness, humbleness for pride, forgiveness for injury, kindness for indifference, and peace for conflict our souls are purged of fearful self-interest and the abuse of others for personal gain. In short, our souls are saved through obedience to the truth. It is in the doing of it that the Word washes us.
21 Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror;
24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.
25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. NKJV
The Word was implanted in our spirits at the new birth, but our minds still need to receive it. Action is the proof that we have received it meekly. To hear and not do is true denial of self, a rejection of identity. The new birth remade us into a new man, one we can only see in the light of the truth. If we read “bless them that curse you” and then go out and return curse for curse, we are having an identity crisis. We are not behaving according to our true nature. We have forgotten who we are. But when we obediently carry forward into the world the reality of our re-created spirit, our souls are redeemed.
Our soul is our most precious possession because it is the only thing of eternal value that we can give the Lord. Jesus redeemed our spirits and will resurrect our bodies. But He left our souls on deposit with us to see what we would do with them. If we expend them in His service, denying our own fleshly desires and following His commands, He will reward us greatly. If we waste our souls in pursuit of the world, we stand to lose the one thing we have.
34 And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.
36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
37 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
38 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. KJV
The word translated “life” in verse 35 above is psuche, the Greek word for soul. To not obey the truth is to deny our true identity. This is denial of spirit. God does not expect or demand of us to deny our identity. He expects us to live up to the identity He stamped into our spirits through the Holy Spirit. Our souls, however, contain beliefs, fears, and habits that are contrary to God’s holiness. We are predisposed to self-preservation at the expense of others. Jesus showed us on the cross that self-sacrifice is the true road to victory. The only way for our soul to be redeemed is to give it to Him in obedience.
2 Timothy 2:10-13
10 Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
11 It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him:
12 If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:
13 If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself. KJV
Peter’s denial of Jesus in Caiaphas’s courtyard is a gut-wrenching example of what a disciple of Jesus is not to do. Jesus promised his disciples that if they acknowledged his messiahship before men, he would claim them before the Father —an “I know him” versus a “depart from me, all you workers of iniquity”. Denying Him results in denouncement before the Father’s throne. Thankfully, along with Peter’s denial we also have the record of his restoration. But note what Jesus requires of Peter after having him affirm his love for Jesus.
18 Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.”
19 This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.” NKJV
This prophecy from Jesus is nothing less than “take up your cross and follow me.” Walking where we wish is keeping our souls to ourselves for ourselves. Being led to where we would otherwise not go is following Him in the death of self-sacrifice to receive the fullness of life. Our obedience to Him will be rewarded.
When we accepted Jesus as Lord, the Father granted us an inheritance as our birth right. When we obey Jesus as Lord, He rewards us with an inheritance that is earned. I am reminded of the practice in wills where the deceased acknowledges all progeny with a token sum, be it a dollar or a small fortune, but the child who has worked selflessly and faithfully for the family business is given the lion’s share. The token sum is the birthright. The lion’s share is the reward of inheritance for a job well done.
23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,
24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.
25 But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality. NKJV
Gifts are given, rewards are earned. Jesus is a righteous master. He will pay us all our just deserts, for better or worse.
2 Corinthians 5:10
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. KJV
Jesus gave us several glimpses of what facing His judgement seat will be like. It promises great reward for the faithful and warns of horrible consequence for the fearful and ungrateful.
44 Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.
45 Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?
46 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
47 Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.
48 But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming;
49 And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken;
50 The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of,
51 And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. KJV
It is in this category of the salvation of the soul where we stand at risk of loss. Our spirits are sealed with the Holy Spirit of God and eternal life is ours as a gift of grace through faith. But ruling with Jesus in His kingdom is an earned reward, being exiled from it the just punishment for faithless servants.
36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:
37 “For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry.
38 Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.”
39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. NKJV
We need to faithfully persevere in the faith to receive the fullness of our reward. We need to believe to the saving of our souls.