Discernment (Part 6) -Facing Self

        Last month I talked about the necessity of examining the spirit behind us. As stated, there are three spirits in operation in this world: the Holy Spirit, the natural spirit, and the spirit of the world. It is vital we understand how these three spirits operate so that we can honestly discern them to effectively address them to live an overcoming life.

       The problem is that Christians do not know how to discern between the natural spirit and Satan and sometimes they ignorantly accredit Satan’s work to the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit’s work to Satan which is operating close to blasphemy (Matthew 12:25-32). They repent of the terrible darts of Satan that hit them with unclean, perverted thoughts while trying to take authority over toying with sin instead of repenting of it (Ephesians 6:16; 2 Peter 3:9). Such actions are often done out of ignorance, but the Bible is clear that we are not to be ignorant of the devices of Satan and we are to stand against the wiles of the devil, knowing that God will not always wink at such ignorance, especially in regard to who He is (2 Corinthians 2:11; Ephesians 6:11). Acts 17:20-31 states, “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained: whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.”

       We need to cease to be ignorant about the spirit that is in operation in relationship to ourselves, to others, the churches we attend, and the people whom we allow to influence us, and be prepared to repent when a wrong spirit is motivating us because we are toying with some sin, as well as resist any wrong spirit we encounter with submission to God and using His Word to put Satan on the run (James 4:6-10).

       It is crucial that we understand how the natural spirit works and how the spirit of the world influences us. When we think of the natural spirit we must note the word “natural.” It is the spirit that we naturally operate in when it comes to our appetites, the self-life, and the “old man.” Since the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden, man has had a wrong bent in his disposition. Romans 5:12 describes what man is naturally bent towards, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” The natural spirit is bent towards the world, which is designed to entice personal preferences towards the ways of death, entrap immature notions with vain philosophies towards darkness, and ensnare lustful attractions towards sin.

       The truth is until the bent is changed in the natural man, he will be running headlong into defeat and destruction. Proverbs 25:28 puts it this way, “He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.” Proverbs 14:12 gives us this warning, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end are the ways of death.

       The Apostle Paul addressed the thought process, the ways, and the attitude of the “old man” in this manner in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible crown. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preach to others, I myself should be a castaway.”

       This is the reason why Jesus came to address sin, by taking away its sting of death and shame, and changing the inward bent of the fallen man to line him up with the will and plan of God, so that man will clearly have the freedom to reach his potential as stated in Romans 8:28, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”.

       Sadly, man perceives that Jesus died to save him in sin, rather than died to save him from sin. The reason for this logic is because man in his fallen state does not want to give up his sinful ways that feed his carnal appetites, serve his prideful demands, and fit into his logical estimation of matters. It is for this reason that man must be born again where he is given the Spirit of God along with a new heart that is spiritually inclined towards the Lord (John 3:3, 5; Ezekiel 36:26-27; Hebrews10:15-16).

       Once a person is born again of the Spirit of God, then he or she can be assured of being translated according to Colossians 1:13, “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.” To be translated into the spiritual kingdom of Jesus means that one can now walk by the light of the life of Jesus that is present in every born again believer. As believers, we are commanded to walk in the light of His truth and according to His life in us (Ephesians 5:8-11).

       The Apostle Paul confirmed the fact that the life of Christ is in us in Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” As Christians, we are living the life of Christ by faith and not our own life. As believers we must be constantly converted to the righteousness of Christ. Granted, we positionally have been placed in the righteousness of the Lord, but we must follow and pursue after His righteousness to change our bent from the natural ways of the flesh to become the spiritual man who clearly bears the likeness of Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Timothy 2:22; 1 Corinthians 15:47-49).

       The Apostle Paul tells us we are baptized into Jesus’ death so we can be raised in the likeness of His resurrection (Romans 6:3-5). Since we are identified to the cross of Christ in death, we are crucified to the world and the world crucified to us (Galatians 6:14). The world stands doomed and rests on sinking sand. It produces nothing but vanity and leaves man empty, frustrated, angry, and disillusioned. The real test as to our attitude towards the world is if we are truly dead to the present world we will no longer be attracted to it nor will we look to it for our life and purpose.

       Translation also points to inward transformation of the mind (Romans 12:2). We die to this present world so we can put on the life of Jesus. This means letting the mind of Christ be in us so we can take on His attitude about God, truth, and the godly life in order to prove what is the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God (Philippians 2:5). The Apostle Paul summarized it in this way, “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof” (Romans 13:14).

       This brings us to the crux of human nature, most people think by being good, decent, and moral for the most part that they will be on the “good side” of God and make it to heaven. In other words, man has a hard time accepting the fact that there is nothing good in him and that even his best (good works) is as filthy rags before a holy God and that he is saved by the grace, and unmerited favor of God (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:10, 23; 7:18; Ephesians 2:8-9). In fact, Romans 3:10-18 brings out at least 15 different indictments against man when it comes to his fallen, sinful nature with its evil attitudes and wicked ways.

       What many people do not realize is that all good deeds done in the flesh will be weighed against the holy Law of God in light of spirit (intent) and the goal of the Law. The main goal of the Law of God was not to justify man, but to reveal that man is a transgressor of the Law, in need of a Savior (Romans 3:20; Galatians 3:24). James 2:10 is clear that if you break the Law of God at one point, you stand guilty of breaking the whole Law. The Law does not judge us on the basis of what we have kept, but what we have broken. For this reason we are told in Proverbs 16:2, God weighs the spirits, which means he does not weigh our deeds.

       The spirit we are operating in determines the law we are walking in. Romans 8:2 talks about the law of sin and death and the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. Galatians 6:8 states, “For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” When God weighs our spirit it is to see if the natural man is in operation or whether the spiritual man, Christ Jesus is present and being worked in our lives by the Holy Spirit and worked out of our lives through active faith that results in obedience to His Word. According to Romans 10:2, Jesus in us stands at the end of the holy Law of God as righteousness for us and Romans 8:4 tells us that the righteousness of the Law is fulfilled in us when we walk after the Spirit and not after our flesh.

       The reality is that the natural man identifies us to this earth, but the presence of the Holy Spirit identifies us to the heavenly Man. First Corinthians 15:47-49 gives us this insight, “The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earth, such are they also that are earthy; and as the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have born the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.”

       Since we are in a fallen, sinful condition Hebrews 3:13 tells us that there is a deception to sin. Once again Scripture points out that we are sinners by nature. In other words, committing sin is not what makes us sinners; rather, we sin because we are sinners. Jesus died on the cross to take away sin to ensure forgiveness, but it takes true repentance, faith, and discipleship to address the fallen disposition in us and change the inward bent that causes us to naturally walk according to our flesh and the world.

       Sadly, the great delusion of sin works from two distinct ends, 1) that of being deceived as to how lost we are and 2) what constitutes real repentance. Most of the time we start out thinking there must be something salvageable in us. Every year since my conversion to Christianity, I have become increasingly aware of how lost I really am without Christ. I cannot tell you how many times I had to agree with Romans 8:17, “there is no good thing in my flesh.” I don’t kid myself about my idolatrous motives, I don’t whitewash my selfish actions with excuses, or ignore my rotten attitudes because I am holding on to abominable rights of the old man. I simply know that I have been saved from the sins of the old man on the cross, I am being presently saved from the old man’s claims on me through sanctification of the Holy Spirit and the washing of His Word upon my soul, and I will be saved from the hold of the old man when my body falls to the ground and I am finally glorified with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

       I have made reference to this statement in the past, “It is easy to get a lost person saved, but what is hard is getting decent people lost.” A wicked person knows he or she is lost, and an evil person arrogantly has decided to walk in his or her deluded state, while believing he or she is going to win in the end regardless of the darkness of their souls. Clearly, the people who perceive they have just enough decency, morality, and religion to make themselves at least shine in an already very dark world have a hard time believing they are all that bad, that they are like the rest of the sinners who need to be saved because there is nothing good in them, or their good deeds have no real eternal merit to them and that in the end such deeds will be rendered useless on judgment day.

       To these individuals such judgment would be considered unfair to their way of thinking, but they do not realize that no person will be judged on the basis of personal merits but whether that individual has received the only righteousness that will satisfy the holy Law of God: That righteousness being Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:30). If Jesus Christ is not present in the soul through the presence of the Spirit, the balances of heavenly justice will find such individuals wanting and without any means to seek mercy and forgiveness from the great Judge of the Universe. In the end, these individuals will face the ultimate sentencing of spiritual separation from God for an eternity of damnation.

       Sadly such people are like the rich man in Luke 16:19-31. He had his worldly status, his religious activities, and his deeds, but in the end he tripped over one man and fell headlong into hell. When people fail to receive God’s gift of salvation, they too will end up tripping over one man and fall headlong into hell, and that one man is Jesus Christ. People do not end up in hell because their deeds are wicked, they end up in hell because they refuse to believe and receive the record by faith of what God said about the matters of sin, His Son’s redemption, and righteousness counted to us because of faith. The great sin of every age is unbelief and the great point of securing God’s grace has always been that of faith towards God and His Word (Ephesians 2:8-10).

       The next great battle over man’s soul has to do with repentance. Man either preaches it or ignores it. If man does point to repentance it is often in ways that fail to explain what it entails, leaving others in a fog as to what it means to repent. John the Baptist called his hearers to repentance, but added this statement, “Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance (Matthew 3:8).” In Luke 3:10, the people asked about what it meant to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance. John the Baptist answered their question in Luke 3:11-14.

       When you consider John the Baptist’s answer you will realize that real repentance involves a complete change. To repent you must turn from unprofitable and wicked ways to face God with the intent of changing the mind about a matter to change your actions. Once a person agrees with God about a matter, the attitude will adjust. Once the attitude adjusts in light of what is right and acceptable to God, conduct will change. Once conduct changes, it will reinforce correct attitudes, changing the natural bent a person has towards sin and the world, resulting in an inward transformation.

       The Apostle Paul talked about two types of repentance in 2 Corinthians 7:10, “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.”  There will be sorrow towards sin in some form, but where that sorrow is directed towards determines what its caliber is and whether it hits the real mark of obtaining a pardon from God. Is the sorrow directed at God because the sin was a great affront towards Him, breaking His heart on the cross and requiring Him to shed His blood to secure a pardon for us, or is it directed at self because one is now paying the consequences for his or her foolishness? Sadly, the sorrow of the natural man is self-pity, not godly sorrow.

       The problem with the old man is that he has figured out ways to counterfeit true repentance, thereby, deceiving himself that he has come to true repentance when in fact he hasn’t. The greatest fruit of true repentance is a change in attitude and conduct because a true heart conversion has occurred.

       There are four ways in which man counterfeits true repentance: complying, reforming, performing, and conforming. The complying group simply complies outwardly to the required action while maintaining the same mind towards it. Those who perform will change their outward presentation and count it as repentance without any heart change. Those who reform, simply adjust their image to give the impression that there is change but hold to the same attitudes. Finally we have those who conform. They adjust their ways outwardly in order to control the narrative while holding on to their right to do as they see fit.

       Jesus clearly stated, “Repent or perish.” It is God’s will that none perish but all come to repentance (Luke 13:3,5; 2 Peter 3:9). Today every person on earth has either truly repented or he or she is perishing in his or her sins because sins have not been addressed according to the cross of Christ.

       Next month I will deal with the actions of the natural man, but meanwhile have you truly repented of your sins and received God’s forgiveness or are you perishing in them because of rebellion towards God’s authority, resistance of the Holy Spirit’s conviction, and unbelief in His Word?