Resolving to Give Myself to God
Tonight, we’re continuing our discussion on goal-setting from this morning. Earlier we took a look at the different “domains” of life we interaction with others in. We looked at different roles that each of us plays in the family, at work, in the church, and in society. All of the things we talked about this morning were outward-facing; they all dealt with how we interact and deal with other people.
This evening, I want to turn our attention inward and talk about how to set personal goals. What can I do to improve myself as a person?
First, I want to briefly look at what it means to be a person. Just like there are different aspects of my relationships with others, there are different parts of me as a human being.
You are made up of body, soul, and spirit.
In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul speaks of human beings as being three parts:
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thess 5:23)
Normally we think of the soul and the spirit as being basically the same, but the Bible speaks of them as different in the same way as joints and marrow are different parts of the skeleton.
“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb 4:12)
I would suggest that the spirit is responsible for the more conscious side of our mind. The spirit thinks and reasons. The spirit controls our speech. The spirit accounts for the parts of being human that are unique and different from being an animal.
An animal is still alive, but it doesn’t talk or reason or read books. You can train a dolphin in the most basic communication, but most toddlers are more capable of expressing intelligent thought. Yet your dog still loves you, at least in some sense, and it still gets angry.
If an animal doesn’t have a real spirit, then what’s responsible for its instincts and emotions and desires?
“Then God said, ‘Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.'” (Gen 1:20)
“Then God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind’; and it was so.” (Gen 1:24)
See that word “creatures”? That’s the word “soul”. It refers to creatures that are alive, like animals and people, but not to plants. The only thing we hold in common with a plant is a body.
Now, there is something that we have in common with a dog, and that is a soul. There is something that we have in common with God, and that is a spirit. We can come back and talk about this more later, but I wanted to start off with this as we move along.
Your body, soul, and spirit all have functions.
This is very helpful, actually, because of something we talked about a few weeks ago in Genesis 3. God gave us certain natural desires and ways to fulfill them. So how does that work?
Well, obviously the body itself has biological functions that are signaled to us using hormones and other biological processes. I believe that the urge we feel is felt in our soul.
Now remember this: the soul doesn’t really think, that’s the job of your spirit, or your intellect. The spirit has to make a decision on whether to sin or not sin.
Ideally, our spirit has been trained by the Spirit of God to be holy and good and righteous! But then those pesky, animalistic desires come along, and just like a dog, they don’t know any better. You have to train your soul—your emotions and your feelings and desires—on what to desire and what not to desire.
Meanwhile, your body is what physically carries out your will: to do good or to evil.
This tension is exactly what Paul describes in Romans 7.
“For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.” (Rom 7:15-20)
Jesus said it more succinctly like this:
“The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matt 26:41)
Do we want the body to be controlled by the fleshly, base desires, or by the spirit that seeks God? When the spirit is in control, we say that a person has “self-control.” A lack of self-control means that we are letting our body run itself.
Why am I going into all this?
Because sometimes we act like we can grow spiritually and ignore the roles of our body and soul.
Give your body to God.
I know these bodies will be transformed into new, glorious bodies, but they were still given to us for our use. Our bodies fall under the category of blessings that God has given us for His glory, and not for our own. There is a biblical case for taking care of your body.
Paul told the Corinthians who were struggling with sexual sins,
“Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body.” (1 Cor 6:13)
God did not make the body for the purpose of sinning, but for His honor and glory. When we defile our bodies with sin, we dishonor the Lord. When we take care of ourselves—including our bodies—we show honor and respect for God who made us.
Train your body by putting it into submission. Paul described it like so:
“I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” (1 Cor 9:27)
This is the basis of practices such as fasting. You work out your body, soul, and spirit by exercising self-control over and over. You practice on something irrelevant so that you will be able to withstand real temptations when they come.
So, as you set your personal goals, consider what you can do to take care of and train your body. What can you do to build more self-control?
Give your soul to God.
Here I mean primarily your emotions. As we said, the physical urges come from the body, but we feel them emotionally. Much of this training and growth comes in the same way as the previous point, but we also can work on not giving into other emotions.
A key emotion to control is anger.
“He who is slow to anger has great understanding,
but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.” (Prov 14:29)
It’s hard to simply prevent emotions, but like we talked about this morning, we can focus on what we can control: our response to them.
“A fool gives full vent to his spirit,
but a wise man quietly holds it back.” (Prov 29:11)
Develop habits like counting to ten quietly or refusing to speak until you feel settled.
Give your spirit to God.
Here lie most of the resolutions you might assume I’d talk about. I think you get the concept, so I’ll just suggest some specifics.
“I’ll read at least three chapters of my Bible every day.”
“I’ll spend at least 30 minutes a day studying the Scriptures.”
“I’ll make sure to pray for the elders, the sick, the preacher, and the lost, by name, every day.”
“I’ll pray every morning first thing out of bed.”
“I’ll study through each fruit of the Spirit every week in January.”