I was born again when I was eight years old. The very next day when I went to school, my friends could see a difference in me. It was a genuine conversion, and it changed me. But over time, like many Christians, I became stuck in religion. I fell into the trap of thinking I had to do something to earn God’s favor. This put me on the treadmill of trying to be good enough to please God but always falling short. Ten years after I was born again, I finally came to the end of myself and experienced a dramatic encounter with the Lord.
On March 23, 1968, I was at a prayer meeting on a Saturday night with some friends, when all of a sudden God pulled back a curtain and I saw what a hypocrite I was. I saw that all of the religious things I had been doing, I had been doing for myself— trying to earn the approval of others and of God. I turned myself inside out in front of my best friends that night, and I confessed every sin that I could think of. At the time, I thought God was seeing the true condition of my heart for the first time—just like I was. The things I was seeing were so ugly that I thought God was going to strike me dead, but instead of wrath and rejection, I experienced an outpouring of His love.
It was an experience that radically changed me. For four and half months after that night, I was caught up in the presence of God. It was like I was gone someplace. I had found God’s love, and for the first time in my life, I knew it had absolutely nothing to do with me. I understood that it was purely by the grace of God. You would think after such a powerful realization that I could just live happily ever after, but it actually began a conflict in my life.
I had experienced God’s love and joy when I was at my very worst, but after four and a half months, the emotional high wore off. I was left trying to reconcile what I felt in my heart with everything I had always believed in my head. I had always been taught that God's love for me was based on how holy I was, yet I had now experienced something totally different. It was a collision between my experience and my mind.
The mind is an influential force in your life. The Word says that as a man thinks in his heart, that’s the way he is going to be (Proverbs 23:7). It doesn’t matter what encounters you have with the Lord, the way that you think will ultimately be the way your life goes. This is one of the greatest truths in the Bible, and it is important to understand.
I had experienced the love of God, but my thinking wasn’t instantly renewed. You can’t have someone wave their hand over you and transform your mind. Even though experiences can have an impact on you, they don’t necessarily change what you believe. Thought is a systematic process so to change the course of your thoughts, you have to systematically renew your mind. You have to change the way you think. The Bible says,
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
The word “transformed” here comes from the same Greek word from which we get the word "metamorphosis," which is the process whereby a worm spins a cocoon and later emerges as a butterfly. If you want to transform from something that is earthbound to something that is beautiful and able to fly, it comes through the renewing - the transforming - of your mind.
I experienced God’s unconditional love and mercy in a powerful way, but my thinking was in conflict with my experience. I needed to renew my mind. I am absolutely convinced that if God had not shown me the truths I am about to share with you, I would have lost the tremendous impact this experience has had in my life. In my estimation, this is one of the most foundational truths that you can learn as a Christian.
And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 5:23
I could teach a lot from this verse, but I’m just using it here as a scriptural example to show that you have a spirit, a soul, and a body—three parts. Functionally, most people only acknowledge the body and the soul. The body is obvious. You can see your body, and all of us are aware of what our bodies look like. We know whether we are male or female, tall or short. We also know there is an inner part of us that isn’t physical. We know that words don’t touch us physically, but they touch our hearts and can cause joy, pain, and other emotions; that’s the soul. Every person instinctively understands that they have a body and a soul because they are aware of those two characteristics.
If I ask you whether you are feeling any pain in your body, you don’t have to pray about it and get back to me. You know when you are feeling pain. In the same way, if I ask you how you are feeling emotionally you can tell me: happy or sad, depressed or encouraged. You are constantly monitoring your body and your soul, so you intuitively understand those two aspects of your identity. According to Scripture however, you are three parts—not two. You have a body, a soul, and a spirit. But unlike the body and the soul, we can’t sense the spirit part of us.
Learning that I had a spirit in addition to my body and soul really impacted me because I now understood that I didn’t have to feel something for it to be real in my spirit. The spirit can’t be discerned by emotions. Whether I felt it or not, God loved me. The Lord said,
It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh prof iteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
Jesus put greater emphasis on the spirit than the flesh, which is a term that refers to the combination of soul and body. The flesh is what you feel, but the spirit is the real life-giving part of you. If you want to see what your body looks like, you can take a glance in the mirror, but you can’t stare into a mirror to see your spirit. To see what your spirit is like, you have to look in the Word of God and believe what it says. You can’t go by how you feel.
The spirit is the part of you that has been completely changed, and understanding this is the key to a fruitful relationship with God.
Jesus said, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” ( John 4:24). God isn’t looking at you based on your body and your soul. The real you isn’t how you look, feel, or perform in this world. God is seeing us in the spirit, but most of us are focused on our body and soul. The Bible says, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). We have to come into agreement with God and begin to see ourselves in the spirit.
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
2 Corinthians 5:17
After you are born again, you become a completely new creation. Clearly, it isn’t your body that changes. If you were a woman before you got saved, you’re still going to be a woman afterward. Tall, short, fat, or skinny, the body doesn’t change when you are born again. Neither does the soul become completely new. Personality traits can change over time, but they aren’t instantly transformed when you are saved. In order for emotional and personality traits to change, you have to renew your mind.
The Scripture doesn’t say you will be a new creation someday or that you are in the process of becoming one, it says you are a new creation. It also says that all things are new, not some things. The total change spoken of here cannot be observed in your body or soul (the mental, emotional part of you). In fact, it can’t be outwardly observed at all because the transformation takes place in your spirit, where you can’t feel a thing. It is your spirit that becomes a completely brand new work of God when you are born again. Our bodies and our souls are being influenced by our born-again spirit, but they are only in the process of changing. In the spirit, you are a completely brand new creation. You are a new species of being that never existed before.
If you are born again, your spirit is as pure, as righteous, and as holy as it will ever be in eternity. Your spirit is perfect: it contains no sin, no inadequacy, no fear, no depression, and no discouragement. There is nothing negative in your spirit. Your born-again spirit is identical to Jesus! I know some people balk at that, but it’s what the Word says:
Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.
1 John 4:17
This isn’t a promise that we are going to be like Jesus in heaven; it says we are as He is in this world. There is no way to understand that verse if you are thinking only of the body and the soul, because neither of them is identical to Jesus. We have a promise that one day we will have incorruptible bodies and we will know all things, but that isn’t true here and now. Your body and soul are in the process of change, but the completion of that process won’t take place until we are caught up with the Lord. The only way to understand that you are, right now, just as Jesus is, is to realize that it is your spirit that has become a new creation. Your spirit has already changed, and one-third of your salvation is complete.
When you die and go to be with the Lord, or if the Lord comes back first and we receive glorified bodies, your body is going to be changed. Your mind will be changed. But your spirit is right now identical to the way it will be in eternity. It’s identical to Jesus. As Jesus is, that’s the way that we are.
Understanding this truth changed my life. Until I understood that my spirit was made new, I looked at faults in my thinking or behavior and couldn’t understand how God could love me. I experienced a touch from God and I knew that He loved me, but I was looking at all of my shortcomings. I didn’t always act right or say the right thing, and I couldn’t comprehend how God Almighty could love me or use me. The problem was that I was looking at the flesh, but God was looking at my spirit (John 4:24). God accepts us based on what He did in our born-again spirits, not based on what we do.
When I began to base my life upon who I am in Christ, instead of on my own works, it radically changed my relationship with God. For the first time, I was able to embrace the fact that God loved me. Prior to that time, I had experienced God’s love, but I didn’t understand it. And if you don’t understand something, Satan will come and steal that truth away from you (Matthew 13:19). Getting this revelation of spirit, soul, and body showed me how God could love me: He gave me a spirit identical to Jesus.
The Apostle Paul wrote,
But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.
1 Corinthians 6:17
The Greek word for “one” in that verse means a singular one, to the exclusion of another. We aren’t merely similar. We don’t simply have a little bit of God’s power and anointing in us. The Word of God says that he who is joined unto the Lord is one. We are identical. In the spirit realm, we are ounce for ounce identical to Jesus.
God isn’t dealing with us based upon our sin and failure in the flesh. He is relating to us through our spirits, which are new creations. In the spirit, we are created in righteousness and true holiness (Ephesians 4:24). We don’t have to go out and try to earn holiness or beg God to send it down from heaven. Understanding this will change your whole approach to releasing the power God into your life.
The Christian life boils down to this simple truth: in your spirit, you are as saved as you’ll ever be. You’re as holy and righteous as Jesus is. You have His faith, His power, and His anointing. All you have to do is renew your mind, and the way you do that is by reading the Word of God and believing what it says about you. It’s only the truth you know that sets you free (John 8:32), so you have to meditate on the Word until you know your spiritual identity.
The mind is like a valve to the spirit and the life of God that it contains; it has the power to release or to obstruct the power of God in your life. A mind that is focused on what is going on in the body and soul will shut off the power of God. It forms a two against- one majority with the flesh, so that even though you have the life of God in your spirit, you won’t experience it. Getting your mind into agreement with your spirit, on the other hand, opens up the flow of God’s power.
We can’t afford to shut off God’s power in our lives. We have to renew our minds to the truth contained in God’s Word and come into agreement with God’s view of who we are. Your spirit is already perfect. When your mind aligns with your spirit, you’ll begin to see the ability of God that is in your spirit spill over into your body and soul. Your body will get healed, your emotions will be healed, and you’ll see the anointing of God pour out into your life.