Every time that Chambers talks about the human will I’ve thought of this diagram. It explains how God changes lives.
The drawing on the left depicts the person who does not know God. This person’s spirit is dead to (or separated from) God because of sin. Such a person has a soul which consists of intellect, emotions, and will. However, those faculties are governed by the desires of their flesh, the pressures of the world, and the lies of Satan, which they may or may not be aware of. Those who observe this person will see a life governed by the soul. It can range from tightly self-controlled (emphasis on ‘self’) morality to deeply evil behavior.
The circles on the right depict a Spirit-filled Christian. This person is alive to God because his spirit has been reborn through the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Yielded to the Lord, he no longer listens to the dictates of the world, the flesh, or the devil, even though they still bombard him with temptation. Instead, his soul and body function according to the leading and desires of the Spirit who lives within. If this person is transparent, people will see Jesus in him.
Note: if a Christian is not yielded to the Holy Spirit, he will live much like an unsaved person except that there is a battle between the inner spirit and the flesh. The New Testament describes this battle:
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (Galatians 5:16–17)
When Chambers talks about the need to exercise our will in the battle against sin, the ‘will’ he is talking about is depicted on the right. It is the power of volition that is yielded to Christ through redemption.
Even though this is the ideal, I know from sad experience that those arrows can switch direction. If I have some strong “I wants” then my will can become reversed, more like an “I won’t.” Without the Holy Spirit, my will power is useless in battling sin. In order for the arrows to flow outward again, I need to confess my sin and rely on God to get me back on track.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me! (Psalm 31:2)
Again, should I try to overcome temptation by the power of my human will alone, it will not work. Nor will intellectual reasoning help me; I can realize something is sin, but cannot mentally gain victory over it. Emotions like anger at my sinfulness will not work either. The flesh is useless and apart from Christ, I can do nothing. I need to be filled with His Spirit so His life is flowing outward from the core, from the One who lives in my heart.
Today, Chambers uses part of this passage to talk about the need of settling issues with God in the “secret places of my soul.”
“If you return, O Israel, declares the Lord, to me you should return. If you remove your detestable things from my presence, and do not waver, and if you swear, ‘As the Lord lives,’ in truth, in justice, and in righteousness, then nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory.” (Jeremiah 4:1–2)
Prompted by Jeremiah’s words, I’d say most Christians know what it means to have the Lord God rule their lives and be blessed. In Him we will glory. We also know that we cannot “remove the detestable things” from His presence in the power of the flesh. We might want to, but we find ourselves unable. All must be yielded to the Lord, not just Sunday morning, not just when trials come, not just when I feel like it or feel needy.
In light of these diagrams, Chamber’s words make sense only if “external world” is the diagram on the left and “secret places” is the one on the right . . .
“The battle is lost or won in the secret places of the will before God, never first in the external world. The Spirit of God apprehends me and I am obliged to get alone with God and fight the battle out before Him . . . . If I say—‘I will wait till I get into the circumstances and then put God to the test,’ I shall find I cannot. I must get the thing settled between myself and God in the secret places of my soul . . . . Lose it there, and calamity and disaster and upset are as sure as God’s decree. The reason the battle is not won is because I try to win it in the external world first. Get alone with God, fight it out before Him, settle the matter there once and for all.”
That secret place is right at the core where God lives and from where I must draw my life and all that I think, feel, decide, and do. Unless I run to Him, my soul will rule and play havoc in my walk with God.
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)