by John Paul Jackson
A little over a year before Jesus was crucified, He expressed to those following Him that if they loved their lives, they would lose them, but if they hated their lives, they would gain them — and be able to keep them (Matthew 16:25).
The word life in that passage is psuche, which is the same word for “soul.” So He was saying that if we love our souls in this world, we will lose them, but if we “hate” our souls, we will find them.
In the same passage (verse 24), Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow Me.” He clearly indicated that to “take up your cross” and follow Him is to cast aside all that belongs to the soul. That means we give up what the soul says rightfully belongs to us and put the spiritual interests of others ahead of our own interests. The process of yielding to the cross crucifies our selfish desires and self-focused interests in order to save our lives (our souls).
One year later in the Garden of Gethsemane, moments before they came to take Him, Jesus was tested by His own words. In the most poignant moment in the history of humanity, Jesus uttered, “My soul is exceedingly troubled.” So we find a remarkable paradox: Adam, who gave up his spiritual life in a garden to gain his soul, and Jesus, who freely gave up His soul in a garden to give us spiritual life.
What does all this mean for each of us on a daily basis? As humans, we are comprised of body, soul and spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23). The soul (mind, will and emotions) quickly puts itself in charge of that group. We learn at infancy that if we make a fuss about what we want, it will be given to us, and in various ways, we build on that understanding as we grow into adulthood. Through the natural process of life, our souls strengthen. They become dense and thick, like stone. The more we rely on ourselves — on our own understanding and perspective — the less we resemble God. This is why the spirit must rule over the soul; it is the part of us that comes alive when we meet Jesus. It is the part of us that is like Him: His seed and that which makes us the children of God. When the spirit is in control, we will be much more apt to think, feel and act as our Father thinks, feels and acts.
How does God displace a soul that is hard, fast and determined to stay? How does He cut through our soulish opinions, thought processes, wants and desires that may or may not readily reveal their truly earthly state? In most cases, He does this by treating the soul as the rock it is.
Here in Texas, we have oil and gas wells the way some states have swimming pools. You can’t drive more than a few miles without seeing one. After an oil pocket has been drained, the oil in the surrounding ground is removed through a process called fracking. It is a little more complicated than this, but basically, they take a huge machine, hook it up to the wellhead and pump an incredible amount of pressure into the earth, which fractures the rocks and causes the oil to drain into the empty pocket. This makes the well three to five times more productive.
When we give our lives to Jesus, our tough outer shells are penetrated, and our spirits are made alive. We are reconceived. We become the literal children of God, blood of His blood, made alive through His seed (1 John 3:9).
But just as the physical conception is hardly the end of the growing process, so it is with spiritual conception. After that first puncture in the ground, the fracking begins — not because God despises who we are, but because He wants to bring the real us to the surface. He allows the pressure to come to the soul, and the soul begins to fragment. We experience things in our lives that destroy our confidence in ourselves. We discover we cannot trust the mind, intellect or human desire; our trust in our emotions is totally obliterated. God’s process of spiritual fracking is meant to crush the soul, and it is very successful. He breaks away the stone that keeps us from Him, so that what is of Him and like Him can appear.
As this happens, we begin to function as we were created to function. What does that look like? It looks like what happened in Acts, when Peter’s shadow fell across people and they were healed. As the soul becomes broken, fractured and permeable, the spirit floods through, and the Light we carry becomes more and more visible. We become like our Father. When the world looks at us, it sees Him.
As uncomfortable and painful as it can be, the pressure of God brings us eternal life that will last. What are you facing right now that feels like it is crushing you? If you are willing to take up your soul and follow Him, you will find Him at a level that is deeper and richer than anything you have experienced before.