Your Sacred Soul

By Rev. Brent Russett – Asbury Free Methodist

July 17th, 2022

Psalm 42:1-6, Matthew 16:26

            Last week we started a series titled “Life Hacks for the Christian life.” In that sermon, I talked about your sacred body. Your body is important in your spiritual formation. This week I want to talk about your soul. Just as a disclaimer – I am going to cover a lot of material this morning. If you want to reflect on what I have said, the manuscript will be up on the church website tomorrow.

            It is really important that as I talk about your soul that you understand that your soul is not a separate part of you. You can’t separate your soul and your body well. You are an embodied soul. You can’t have one without the other.

            The word “soul” is used a lot in our culture. But it is seldom understood. It is used a lot in church – but it is not always understood here either. As a definition of the soul, I will often talk about the mind, the will and the emotions. But that is only a very rough definition. The soul is eternal. When your body dies, your soul does not. Sometimes the bible lumps the soul and the spirit together, and other times it does not. But they are intimately connected.

            We just read Psalm 42. Look what can happen to the soul. (Don’t re-read – but point out what the soul does.)

Psalm 42:1–6 (NIV)

As the deer pants for streams of water,

so my soul pants for you, my God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.

When can I go and meet with God?

My tears have been my food

day and night,

while people say to me all day long,

“Where is your God?”

These things I remember

as I pour out my soul:

how I used to go to the house of God

under the protection of the Mighty One

with shouts of joy and praise

among the festive throng.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?

Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God,

for I will yet praise him,

my Savior and my God.

My soul is downcast within me;

therefore I will remember you

from the land of the Jordan,

the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.

            Those are just some of the things that the soul can do. You may remember Psalm 23, where the soul can be restored. Our soul can be lifted up or cast down. Our souls can wait, rejoice, sleep, be satisfied, love, hate, tremble, be humbled, be embittered and be full of trouble.

            Ruth Haley Barton says, “Your soul is the ‘you’ that exists beyond any role that you play, any job that you perform, any relationship that seems to define you, or any notoriety or success you may have achieved. It is the part of you that longs for more of God than you have right now.”

            James Bryan Smith says, “Our souls seek harmony, want to share deeply with one another, and yearn to be free from practices that harm; and our souls long for integrity – to show on the outside who they are on the inside.

            Your soul is the essential you. Your soul is the unique you that God has made. Is it any wonder that Jesus says,

Matthew 16:24–26 (NIV)

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

            Jesus is saying that there is nothing more valuable to you than your soul. It would be a bad deal to forfeit it for 100 billion dollars. But if you want to gain your soul, what you need to do is to follow me.

            But the reality is that many people don’t take care of their souls. There is nothing more valuable than your soul – and yet we don’t take care of it. More than that, sometimes, we as Christians get confused with the things the world teaches. There are many in our world who are into self-improvement. Go to a Chapters bookstore, and you will find a large self-help section. But self-improvement is different from soul improvement. There is some overlap – but they are not the same. This morning I want to implant in you a vision for Soul improvement. To do that, I am going to use some material from a guy named James Bryan Smith who wrote four wonderful books on discipleship. The first one was called the Good and Beautiful God. The last one is called the good and beautiful you, where this material came from.

            Smith says that there are at least 10 things that our souls cannot endure.


1. Harm to our bodies

2. Feeling unwanted

3. Guilt

4. Shame

5. Disconnection from God

6. Boredom

7. Sin

8. Being victimized

9. Meaninglessness

10. Nonexistence     [1]

            Let me quickly unpack these things. When our bodies our harmed or mistreated, our souls hurt as well. When someone hurts or abuses your body, it is felt in your soul.

            Our souls cannot endure feeling unwanted and unwelcome. When you are unwelcome or rejected, there is a pain that is felt in your soul because your soul was created to feel love and acceptance by God and others.

            Our souls cannot endure guilt and shame. We feel shame for who we are. We feel guilt for what we have done. That is a burden our souls were not built to bear.

            Disconnection from God deadens our souls.

            Our souls cannot stand deadness or boredom. The boredom I am talking about is more than just standing in line at the grocery store – it comes from not being a part of something exciting, meaningful, purposeful and adventurous. Our soul longs for this. A Netflix marathon is not going to meet this need.

            Our souls cannot endure sin. Even if the sin is pleasurable for a time, our souls know it hurts us. God is not against sin because he is a killjoy. He is against sin because it hurts us.

            Our souls hate being victimized or seeing ourselves as a victim. Our soul wants to own our own story, not have our story controlled by others.

            Our souls hate meaninglessness and nonexistence. We need to know that our life matters and we don’t do well with thinking that we will die and cease to exist.

            From that list, you might be able to see what our souls need

Ten God-created longings of the soul.

1. To see my body as sacred

2. To be wanted, desired

3. To be loved without condition

4. To be intimately connected to God

5. To be forgiven forever

6. To be alive and empowered to adventure

7. To be holy, virtuous

8. To own my story

9. To be called to a life of purpose

10. To be glorified and live forever (James Bryan Smith)

            Let me quickly walk through these. Our souls and our bodies are connected. Our souls will not allow us to discount our bodies. If you missed last week’s sermon, you might want to check it out. You have a sacred body.

            Second, our souls long to be wanted. We want people to want us. We want people to want us as we are. When you feel like you are accepted and loved for who you are, there is a gladness of soul that takes place.

            Along with that, we want to be loved without condition. We like it when people show appreciation for what we have done. But our soul’s longing is to be loved for who we are. We want to be loved without having to perform or accomplish something. We want to be loved just for being us.

            Our souls also long to be intimately connected to God. As the Psalmist put it, “As the deer pants after water, so my soul longs after you.” We long for that connection to be deep and personal and be evident in all areas of our lives. This is where nature, or a piece of art, or even a good story can connect you to God as he is.

            Our souls also long for forgiveness. Sin is a burden our hearts were not meant to carry. Yet all of us have carried that burden. When we find release from that burden, when we find true forgiveness, our heart sings.

            Sixth, our souls long to be truly alive. We want adventure and meaning. Our souls long for more than existence; we long for a life that is interesting.

            Our souls also reject sin and long for holiness. Not only do we want to be forgiven, we want to live a life of purity – because we intuitively know that that is the place where our soul finds health. There is something good about walking in holiness – where we do the next right thing.

            Eighth, our souls long for meaning. We want our lives to matter. We want to write the stories of our lives in such a way that we make decisions that matter. We want to own our own stories. We want our lives to matter in our families, in our work, and in our church. We long for meaning. We want to have the choice to live a meaningful life.

            Our souls are also wired to make the world a better place. We long to have lives of purpose. All of us have a calling. We long to use our gifts and our talents to make the world better. It may be something as small as keeping your lawn and garden beautiful or as large as getting policy changed to help people. But it is a longing in us all.

            Lastly, we long for eternal life. We know this life is short, and we long for a life that is beyond this one. The biblical term for this is glorification. We will be made whole and better than we were in this life.


            We have looked at what our souls are not built to endure, and we have looked at the longings of our souls. I don’t know about you, but there were not too many surprises there. We intuitively know these things. Even people who don’t follow Jesus get these things at some level.

            The thing is that even these longings can become malformed in us.

            Our souls long to see our bodies as sacred, but there are people who some would call health nuts or gym rats whose whole lives revolve around their bodies. They will spend hours and hours in the gym every day, and all they talk about is the next cleanse or the benefits of antioxidants. They see the longing in their soul for the body to be sacred, but that longing becomes warped.

            Some see the longing to be desired and wanted, but it gets warped. This is where some will dress really provocatively. They want to be desired – and they will use their sexuality to achieve that end. I am convinced that this longing to be desired is the drive behind a lot of social media influencers.

            Many people long to be connected to God. This longing sometimes leads them in strange directions. That is where you get responses like “I’m a spiritual person.” But it is often a strange spirituality.

            We know we need to be forgiven – but the way many people deal with this is to try and convince themselves that they have done nothing wrong. You will see people trying to justify all kinds of behaviour.

            People want adventure. Our soul is wired for that. But when our souls get warped in this direction, we become adrenaline junkies.

            We want to own our own story. But if this gets warped, life becomes all about me.

            We want a life of purpose. But this can get warped by having life be about the cause of the day.

            You get the idea. Your soul needs all of these things. They were wired into you by God. But you can take good gifts that are given to you by God and warp them. That is, in fact, what most sin is.

            But if you want to live well the key is living your life under the direction of God. He understands what you need. He understands what your soul needs to really thrive.

            Not only that but he has provided for what your soul longs for in Jesus. When you are in Christ, surrounded by Christ, you start to see somewhat God has done for you.

Our souls in Christ

1. In Christ I am a sacred member of Jesus’ body.

2. In Christ I am wanted.

3. In Christ I am loved.

 4. In Christ I am connected to God.

5. In Christ I am forgiven.

6. In Christ I am alive and empowered to adventure.

7. In Christ I am holy.

8. In Christ I am the owner of my story.

9. In Christ I am called.

10. In Christ I am hidden and glorified.



The Good and Beautiful You – James Bryan Smith

            If you try to get the world to satisfy your soul, it is going to come up short. People may or may not want us. They may or may not love us. But in Christ you are wanted and loved. You are forgiven and made alive.

            Most of the advertising we see is that some product or service is going to satisfy our soul. Don’t buy the lie.

            Lanny Wolfe wrote a song that speaks the truth. He said,

Stanza 1
The world will try to satisfy that longing in your soul,
You may search the wide world over but you’ll be just as before.
You’ll never find true satisfaction until you’ve found the Lord,
For only Jesus can satisfy your soul.

Only Jesus can satisfy your soul
And only He can change your heart
And make you whole;
He’ll give you peace you never knew
Sweet love and joy and Heaven too,
For only Jesus can satisfy your soul.

            I know this, but sometimes I forget this. So this morning I want to remind you of it again.

Jesus said,

Matthew 16:26 (NIV)

26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

            There is nothing more valuable to you than your soul, but often, we neglect it. We live our lives without any thought to the toll that the way that we are living our life is taking on our souls. You have a sacred soul – don’t neglect it.

            Learn to live with your soul in mind. Take time for your soul. Take time with Jesus, who can satisfy your soul.

            If your soul has been wounded or hurt, seek healing. If your soul is enduring what it hates, ask yourself if there is any you can do about that.  

            Be the kind of person who works to fulfill the longing of your souls.

Ten God-created longings of the soul.

1. To see my body as sacred

2. To be wanted, desired

3. To be loved without condition

4. To be intimately connected to God

5. To be forgiven forever

6. To be alive and empowered to adventure

7. To be holy, virtuous

8. To own my story

9. To be called to a life of purpose

10. To be glorified and live forever

            Here is what I want you to know. You have a soul. It is the most valuable thing that you own. If you were to trade a trillion dollars for your soul, it would be a bad deal.

            Imagine owning a 10 million dollars home – and then not maintaining it. The roof leaks and you don’t fix it. The heat quits in the winter, and pipes burst, and you don’t do anything about it. Mice get in, and yet you don’t do anything about it, so they overrun the place.

            We wouldn’t consider neglecting a property we value. We wouldn’t consider neglecting a car we value. But the most valuable thing you have is your soul – and it is amazing how we can neglect it.

            I think the most apt metaphor for taking care of the soul is a garden. It takes a lot of work to tend a garden. Getting the watering right, the fertilizing right, the weeding right. There is a lag between when you plant and when you harvest. You can’t say, “I am going to do all the work for the season in the garden this week,” and then not do anything else. You have to tend it over time if you hope to see a harvest.

            Your soul is like that. It needs to be tended regularly. It needs to be nourished regularly. It needs care. You need to care for your soul.

            So I urge you – take care of your soul – for from it comes the life you were made to live in Jesus.

[1] Smith, James Bryan. The Good and Beautiful You (The Good and Beautiful Series) (p. 18). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

[2] Smith, James Bryan. The Good and Beautiful You (The Good and Beautiful Series) (p. 23). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.