Step 2: Live by your spirit instead of by your soul.
There is a difference between your soul and your spirit. You are a spirit. You have a soul. You live in a body. The Bible speaks about dividing between soul and spirit. (Heb. 4:12)
Your soul is the part of you that interacts with this world. Your spirit is the part of you that interacts with God and the spiritual realm. God is a spirit and we are made in His image. And we are told that if we want to worship God, we must worship Him in spirit and in truth.
Your spirit can communicate with the Holy Spirit. He speaks to you through your spirit. Your spirit conveys to your soul what the Father is saying to you. That’s how you hear from Him. Your spirit is who you really are. Some people call it your conscience.
Your soul is made up of your mind, will and emotions. They can be controlled by your spirit, or not. If you don’t actively put them in subjection to your spirit, they are likely not being controlled by your spirit. Hence, they are not under the Holy Spirit’s control, either. You have the ability to lift up your spirit above your soul each day. You can choose to live by your soul or your spirit. If you live by your soul, you will make decisions and do things according to your physical senses and what your mind tells you is correct. If you live by your spirit, you will listen to the Holy Spirit and find out His will for each decision and every action. Your soul will do what your spirit says to do if you have put it in subjection to your spirit.
Most of us live by our souls. We were taught to live that way, because our families and churches didn’t know any better. We have lived by our own understanding, our minds and our emotions. When we get saved, our spirit comes awake. And at that point, we can start to live by our spirits. But, unfortunately, few of us are ever taught how to do that. We continue to live by our souls. Our souls are very strong and loud. Our spirits are young and not very strong yet. If we don’t exercise them, they stay that way.
You can exercise your spirit by putting your spirit above your soul each day. You tell the soul to get under the dominion of your spirit. You tune into what God is saying to you through your spirit. It takes getting alone with God and waiting to hear Him speak. (1 Pet. 1:22)
When Paul mentions the fruits of the Spirit, that’s just what they are. If we don’t have a strong connection with the Spirit of God through our spirits, we can’t have the fruits of the Spirit.
Isaiah spoke of the soul and the spirit separately in 26:9 and 57:16, and Job also separated them in Job 7:11.
In 1 Thess. 5:23 Paul gives us the correct order of importance of each part of our being. He says “your whole spirit, soul and body“, in that order. The spirit is to be above the soul and the soul over the body.
The Kingdom of God does not consist of speech, but of power. It is spiritual power – healing, miracles, signs and wonders; touching the glory and the presence of God; and casting out demons. Not just theology, philosophy or words that we speak. It’s the dunamis power of the Holy Spirit that we can tap into with our spirits, not our souls. (1 Cor. 2:4,5) The Kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom. And we live in it by our spirits.
So when we need to know God’s will for our lives about a specific issue, we need to make sure we’re listening to God with our spirits. We need to put our spirit in dominion, so that we know we’re really hearing from the Holy Spirit, not our own mind. We can pray a prayer like this:
“Father, I put my soul and my flesh in submission to my spirit. And I put my spirit in submission to You, Holy Spirit. I bind anything demonic that would keep me from hearing from You, in Jesus’ name. I will only hear the voice of my Good Shepherd. Lord, bypass my soul and speak to my spirit. Speak loud and clear, Holy Spirit.”
And then present your question to the Lord. Ask Him to give you the guidance you need. If you need to know whether you’re supposed to do a certain thing, ask Him if you’re supposed to do it. And then listen to what He says to you. You may have to wait quite a while. If you don’t hear anything, ask a different question. Ask the Lord to guide you through it. He’ll help you to find out the answer He wants you to have. He may speak a scripture reference to you. Look it up and find out what it says and seek Him about how it applies to your situation. If you have put the question in “yes or no” form, you may hear a “yes, yes, yes” or “no, no, no” inside yourself.
God’s purpose for everything is to draw us closer to Himself. The thing that is most important is not really the guidance itself, but the time you spent with the Lord, talking to Him and listening for His voice. Any time you spend concentrated time with Him, He is pleased, and you have drawn closer to Him.
Heb. 4:12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
1 Pet. 1:22 Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit…
1 Thess. 5:23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body…
1 Cor. 2:4,5 And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
Isa. 26:9 With my soul I have desired You in the night, Yes, by my spirit within me I will seek You early…
Isa. 57:16 For the spirit would fail before Me, And the souls which I have made.
Job 7:11 I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.