Man was created in God’s image and has a spirit, which the Bible often speaks of as the heart (see Romans 10:10). He has a soul, which is essentially his sense of self, the center of which would be the mind. And he has a body, which holds it all together. Human beings are made up of body, soul, and spirit. God intended that the spirit of man be continuously in touch with the Spirit of God. The spirit, in turn, is supposed to radiate through the mind and the body to the outside world.
The problem we are facing today is that most people are directed instead by external stimuli that come to us through the bodily senses. So the body begins to be the controlling factor through gluttony, sex, pride, or whatever. Because the body controls the soul, the soul is able to conceive of schemes to make the body happy. And the end result is that the spirit of man is submerged by selfishness.
The spirit of the first man was like a mirror, reflecting the glory of God. He had the imago dei, “the image of God,” clearly within him. Because God was personally revealed to him, God’s way was uppermost. But when man sinned, his inner mirror was clouded or darkened. He could no longer see God clearly. As a result, instead of being directed by God’s Spirit, people are manipulated by their bodies or their minds toward evil. In Genesis we read, “The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21).
When man was created, he had the capacity to serve God, and doing that came naturally because he was in the presence of God.
As long as man’s spirit functions as it should, serving God is natural, so man tends toward good. But once he is removed from God, self-preservation becomes more important; and man will kill, lie, cheat, and hurt others in order to preserve his self-esteem, his self-image, and his life. Humans have a tremendous capacity for good or evil because they are made in the image of God. Man can do more good, but also more damage, than any animal because man has a godlike capacity.
Theologians have a saying that Adam in the Garden of Eden was posse non peccare (able not to sin), and if he had continued in that, he would have come to the point where he was non posse peccare (not able to sin). He would have become so established in righteousness that he would not have been able to sin. From then on he would have been transformed to ever higher righteousness. But instead, he fell, and as a result became evil.
That is why Jesus said that every man or woman had to be born from above, or “born again,” in order to see God’s kingdom (see John 3:3).
Man’s spirit has to be restored by being cleansed from sin by Jesus Christ, then created anew by operation of God’s Spirit. With his own spirit under the control of God’s Spirit, the remainder of man’s being–soul and body–would be controlled from within instead of from without.