This article summarizes key points from Chapter 4 – Hinderances to Abiding from the Indwelling Life book. You can purchase this book at IndwellingLife.com.
There are at least five hinderances to abiding. If you don’t overcome these hinderances, Christ’s life can’t flow freely like sap from your spirit to organically produce Christlike fruit.
Five hinderances to abiding are: (1) natural strength; (2) self-reliance; (3) the rational mind; (4) emotions and experiences; and (5) the body.
The Division of Soul and Spirit
Hebrews 4:12 states, “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.”
God’s goal in dividing soul from spirit is to reveal the life source you draw from and live by, aiming to shift you from living selfishly to living by Christ’s indwelling life in your spirit.
1. Natural Strength
When you live by natural strength, you will exert all your energy trying to live for God rather than depending entirely on the Spirit to serve, obey, and follow Christ.
You will attempt to keep God’s commandments and do God’s will by self-willed determination rather than by Spirit reliance.
You will apply natural strength, gifting, and creativity to accomplish great things for God rather than waiting on the Lord in prayer for revelation, direction, and instruction from His Word and voice.
You might even outwork others with great zeal, not by relying on God’s inward grace for enablement, but by exerting the power of your soul.
From a human perspective, soulish works are typically deemed good and praiseworthy, vastly different from the defiling sins of the flesh. Yet beneath the hood, self is the engine moving the car forward, driven by human reasoning rather than the Spirit’s revelation.
Whatever originates from the soul and is executed by the power of the soul can never please the Lord. Only what is communicated by the indwelling Spirit to your spirit, and then carried out by relying on the Spirit’s power to energize your soul and body, can please the Lord and produce the fruit of Christ.
Self-reliance suppresses the Spirit, for it enthrones self and depends upon soul-life for power to carry out God’s requirements. Therefore, the soul opposes the Spirit, not only in disobeying the Lord, but even in trying to serve and please Him.
When you are self-reliant rather than Spirit-reliant, you depend upon your natural creativity, gifting, and talent to carry out the Lord’s work. Your effort is empowered by your soul’s natural energy and strength rather than the Spirit’s enabling grace.
Instead of waiting on the Lord in prayer to hear His voice, sense His mind and heart, and discern His direction, you rely upon your own knowledge, wisdom, and will power.
The Lord uses your gifts and talents to express His life and execute what He initiates and reveals. But your natural gifts and talents must be submitted to the indwelling Spirit’s leadership and used only when the Spirit leads, inspires, and empowers. It must be by the Spirit from beginning to end for Jesus Christ to receive the glory and honor.
3. The Rational Mind
The mind is essential to fully experiencing Christ’s indwelling life. But the mind makes a terrible leader. The Lord designed your mind to serve your spirit. The spirit was never meant to be governed by the rational mind.
If you live by self-life in your soul, you will be led by what your mind calculates, logic dictates, and your thoughts speculate.
The soulish Christian, still living by the tree of knowledge, believes cultivating the mind is the goal of Christianity.
Rather than relying on God’s revelation in their spirit’s intuition, the soulish Christian prizes intelligence above obedience to the internal promptings of the Spirit. They depend on reasoning rather than revelation.
Though born of the Spirit, the soulish Christian, who is governed by their rational mind, is hindered from knowing God in a deep way. Why? Since God is Spirit, it’s only through your spirit you can know, experience, and encounter the Spirit of God, who communicates with you spirit to Spirit (see 1 Cor. 2:10-13).
4. Emotions and Experiences
The Lord designed your emotions to serve your spirit. The spirit was never meant to be governed by your emotions. The issue is whether your emotions are leading or your spirit is leading. The emotions are essential to fully experience Christ’s indwelling life. But the emotions make a terrible leader.
If you are more emotional than rational, your feelings dictate what you believe. One minute you’re excited and happy. The next minute you’re despondent and sad. You are like a rollercoaster, fluctuating between emotional highs and emotional lows.
If I am describing you, remember . . . you walk by faith not by feelings (see 2 Cor. 5:7).
Don’t allow your feelings to dictate what you believe. This will make you unstable and double minded.
5. The Body
The Lord designed your body to serve your spirit. The spirit was never meant to be governed by your body. The issue is whether your body is leading or your spirit is leading. The body is essential to fully experiencing Christ’s indwelling life. But the body makes a terrible leader.
If your soul influences, leads, and governs you, the corrupt and crooked lusts of the body can easily dominate you, imprisoning your spirit.
If this happens, the soul and body, coupled together, naturally produce the works of the flesh, which are “immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these” (Gal. 5:19-21).
When speaking about the flesh, Scripture is clear: God looks at the flesh as utterly corrupt and unable to please Him. No amount of education, morality, religion, legislation, or cultural-accepted ideologies can transform the flesh. Nothing can refine or reform the flesh.
The flesh is hostile to God, unable to please Him, incapable of obeying God’s commandments, and is permeated with death (see Rom. 8:6-8).
Knowing the utter corruption of the flesh, God’s only solution is to impart His dead-raising, universe-creating life into our spirits and to put our flesh to death by the Spirit applying the cross to self-life in our souls.
If you choose to live by the soul, realize the soul’s nature is to live for self and is drawn like a magnet to the fallen body’s innate desire to sin.
If you allow sin in your body to reign, your soul will be enticed by sin and use its will to obey sin’s desires.
Always remember: If the body of sin rules, then the soul will obey sin; if the soul rules, then the soul will obey self; and if the spirit rules, the soul will obey the Holy Spirit.
To learn more about these five hinderances, go to IndwellingLife.com.