John of the Cross was a friar who was an important faith leader in the 1500s, following the Protestant Reformation. He was known for his deep insight into the human psyche and his ability to perceive the condition of the soul.
In this amazing work, the Dark Night of the Soul, John got a glimpse into the depths of the human condition. He explored and explained the innerworkings of the spirit when a person feels far from God and enters a time where God becomes silent, allowing us to feel abandoned– though He is there.
St. John, nearly 500 years after his death, remains an important figure in devotional literature, as his experiences and words have encouraged believers all around the world for 5 centuries to find their way through the soul’s dark night.
This week we’ll begin the main discussion on the psychology of faith, the interaction of our faith with our minds and emotions. In discussing this, it’s important to consider three key truths first.
First, faith doesn’t work how we think it works or how we would like it to work. Faith doesn’t work perfectly, as God originally intended, but it does work. It is to have a significant role in our lives. Secondly, faith only works as God ordained it to work. We cannot manipulate how faith works; we cannot manipulate how God works and make things work how we want them to. We must seek to discoverhow it works. Understanding faith and understanding God are vitally important in our Christian lives. Thirdly, our ignorance of Biblical faith greatly minimizes God’s work in and through our lives. A lack of understanding may limit how God can work in us, to transform us, and through us, to carry out His will in the world.
Forming a psychology of faith first requires that we understand the field of psychology. ‘Psychology’ comes from the Greek word psyche, which means soul. In our Biblical understanding of personhood, the soul is the center of each human being. A person is made up of a body, a spirit, and a soul. The soul itself is then made up of the mind, the will, and emotions. Psychology seeks to study the soul of a person, to understand how the mind, will, and emotions interact and make a person into who they are. Much psychology is fundamentally flawed and ungodly because it miscalculates human nature and, as a result, the human condition. Those who seek the services of such well-intentioned people tend to fall deeper into the morass of hopelessness and addiction because they are being treated in ways inconsistent with how God made us.
What happens in the soul tells us whether or not faith is Biblical. Biblical faith involves the whole soul and is played out through the mind, will and emotions. Faith must be logically understood, connect with your feelings and your heart, and it must be lived out in your actions. ‘Feeling’ spiritual or connected to God matters little if you do not truly and deeply understand God and faith. Logical study and understanding is insignificant if you don’t connect with your emotional, affective side or show through your actions. In the same way, the right behaviors show nothing without the beliefs and convictions to back them up.
In the next four weeks, we’ll look at how faith plays out inour mind, emotions, and will as well as practical ideas to put together this knowledge with our lives.
Last week, we began our discussion of the conscience with a definition of what the conscience is, its role is and presence in all people. The conscience is different than the Holy Spirit in Christians. This week we’ll discuss how the conscience actually works. How Does Your Conscience Work?
Our conscience works in conjunction with our souls, and I’m going to show you how.
“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” –1 Thessalonians 5:23-24–
God’s desire for us as Christians is to be Sanctified or made holy, “through and through” or “in every way.” What does that mean? God wants us to be completely committed to Him in every way… in every part of our humanity: body, soul and spirit. Here’s how that works: don’t miss this!
We win or lose the battle of holiness in our soul. 1 Peter 2:11 tells us: “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against yoursoul.”
The soul is the battlefield of good and evil. Well…. what is your soul? Your soul includes your mind, emotions and will (Deuteronomy 4:29; 6:4; etc.). It consists of what you think, what you feel, and what you do. And if we are going to become holy, we’ve got to win that battle in the soul.
If we THINK like God wants us to, FEEL like God wants us to and DECIDE how God wants us to, then we’ll become holy. If we don’t THINK, FEEL and MAKE DECISIONS like God wants, we’ll stay carnal and live unhappy, defeated Christian lives. The problem: There’s a war going on inside of us!
In our bodies, bodily appetites want us to sin. Our spirit wants us to be holy. And our souls are trapped in the middle, fighting a battle. Here’s how the Apostle Paul explained it in Romans 7:21-23:“When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind (in the soul) and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.
As you know from personal experience, we want to fight the good fight, but sometimes our soul has a hard time doing the right thing without some help. That’s a reason that God gave us a conscience. When we’re faced with a decision and the battle begins: Thoughts go through your mind. Feelings go through your emotions. And options are presented to your will and your will makes a choice, good or bad. That’s why God gave us a conscience: To help encourage us to do the right thing. As your will is making a decision, your conscience kicks in to help you. That’s why every decision you make triggers a response from your conscience: When we consistently make good decisions, our conscience defends us— and we feel joy, self-respect, peace, happiness and dignity. It feels good. It’s what the Bible calls a good/clear conscience (Hebrews 13:18; 1 Peter 3:16-21). When we consistently make bad decisions and violate our internal standard of right and wrong, our conscience accuses us— and we feel a sense of shame, regret, disgrace and fear. Those bad feelings are what God is using to convict us, so we’ll live the way He wants us to. It’s what the Bible calls a guilty conscience (Hebrews 10:22). That’s how your conscience works.