If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. (Romans 10:9-10 English Standard Version)
In the tenth chapter of his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul talks about faith in Jesus as a truth we confess outwardly, with our lips, after having reached the conclusion that there is no other way to be saved – and it is also something we trust in inwardly, even unconsciously, so that our thoughts and actions, shaped by the truth we say we believe, give evidence of it. In short, faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior is to be something about which the mind and the heart are in complete agreement.
However, there are plenty of Christians today who profess faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior, who faithfully attend worship services and Bible studies, who may even serve in leadership roles in their church, but what they profess with their lips does not always square with how they conduct their lives. Some may be stuck in patterns of destructive behavior, such as substance abuse, infidelity or financial impropriety – and they are at a loss to explain why their faith doesn’t have greater influence over their actions. Others may be riddled with fear or guilt or anger – and they don’t understand why what they believe seems not to make any difference in how they feel. In the lives of a surprising number of Christians today there exists a disconnect between what the lips profess and what the heart believes to be true.
To be sure, Christians are not immune to temptation or depression. Yet, it would seem that if a person was intentional about allowing Jesus to be Lord of every aspect of their life, a transformation of their character and outlook would be noticeable over time. Sin or hopelessness would be less and less evident in their lives. But for some people this transformation doesn’t get very far; sin still reins mightily in their life and the fruit of the Spirit, such as joy and hope, is not readily apparent. Something has gotten in the way of their becoming more and more like Jesus. A crisis has occurred in their soul.
The human soul is one of the most misunderstood aspects of human nature among Christians today. According to the writers of the New Testament, the human soul (in Greek the term is psyche, ψυχη) is composed of a rational, conscious, willing and thinking “mind” as well as an intuitive, emotional, imaginative and feeling “heart” – where one’s unconscious memory also resides. It is the entire soul, not just the mind, which needs conversion. Just because the mind agrees with something doesn’t mean, necessarily, the heart follows.
In the case of a Christian man or woman whose behavior or outlook is not consistent with the truth they profess, it could be that their heart is in need of conversion. Their mind may agree with the truth of the gospel and they may confess faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, yet their heart, shaped by events and experiences, including traumas, rejections and deprivations may still adhere to a different sort of “truth,” which does not allow for grace. Most likely fear, anger, bitterness or shame forms the basis of this truth. So the heart is unable to fathom what unconditional love and forgiveness are and therefore does not know how to repent or forgive. It acts out of what it knows to be “true” regardless of what the mind thinks.
The soul – both mind and heart — needs to be fully formed in the likeness of Jesus Christ, so the solution to the crisis ultimately is one of discipleship. Yet, it is not simply of matter of attending more bible studies or listening to sermons delivered by experts in the field of Christian doctrine. Exposure to consistently high-quality “rational” information does not alone solve the soul’s dilemma because words and concepts don’t always register in the heart. The heart needs to experience truth, not have it explained.
Spiritual practices, which tend to be more experiential, such as meditation upon Scripture, prayer, fasting, confession, service and worship, are quite helpful in connecting both the head and heart to the truth of the gospel. However, they may not be able to plumb the depths of a heart molded and gripped by fear, anger, bitterness or shame.
A third option, traditional psychotherapy, can help bring to light something buried in the unconscious or identify and make sense of experiences which have wounded the soul, but it does not address how the soul, in light of it’s experiences, can and ought to be re-formed and shaped by the truth of the gospel. What is needed is something that combines both rational and experiential truth in such a way that it becomes a vehicle for delivering the good news of the gospel from the head to the heart.
Inner-healing prayer is such a vehicle; one that I’ve benefitted from personally and that I use in ministry. It helps the heart experience the affirming love of the Father and the atoning work of the Son through the power of the Holy Spirit – and it’s based upon Scripture and the historic doctrines and practices of the Church. In the weeks to come I will be writing about how inner-healing prayer works, the Scriptural and doctrinal basis for such an approach to healing the crisis of the soul, and about Leanne Payne, a pioneer in the ministry of inner-healing prayer.
Next week: The devastating effects of sin on the human soul.