Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Old Man Cannot Be Disciplined to Love

Recently when I asked what it means to love God, Jesse commented, “I think loving God is simply loving without fear of rejection, like is illustrated to us by a small child loving their parents.”

In so writing, I think Jesse speaks to the core of why people experience doubts in their walk with the Lord. I will start my thoughts with a statement of belief about the gospel, but hope all readers recognize this post is not intended as a discussion on what the theologically correct doctrine of the gospel message should contain. Disclaimer thus stated...modern American Christian experience, the church as I know it (limited as that is), preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ somewhat as follows:

Man is separated from God by the fall and the resulting sin in all hearts.

The Father’s plan of redemption since Creation is to become incarnate in a human born of the Father’s perfect seed, and therefore, the incarnate Jesus is free through this parentage from all effects of the fall.

Jesus lived perfectly, taught the Truth, and modeled among humans a picture of the Father.

He was sacrificed for sin paying the debt owed God’s perfect judgment.

He resurrected from death and is the first born into a spiritual, complete and eternal state intended for all humanity.

The fulfillment of the plan is the Holy Spirit sent to reside on the earth to renew, then guide and comfort all that trust in this redemption.

Interestingly, I started to say something here about the exercise of free will in making the choice of trust in redemption through Christ’s atonement and realized one of the great divides among us. Ahhh, well, so it is. The point here is to express a bare-bone minimum of the gospel message from which this post can speak. I recognize many would want to tweak different points or even add some, but I do not assert this is "the" doctrine of the gospel. This is a framework ...oh yeah, I’ve already done the disclaimer thing.

From where I sit observing human behavior, the real problem is in the living out of the last point. There are two conditions in which people labeled "Christian" abide regarding living a life in the Holy Spirit.

1. People who wear the label “Christian” for all wrong reasons. These folks are goats. God knows who they are. They know nothing of living a life of spiritual renewal through the guidance and comfort of the Holy Spirit.

2. People who are renewed as per the reality of the last point of the gospel message above.

In group number two, there is a variety of states or levels of experience. These are based largely on maturity in the spirit. Considering Jesse’s comment above, maturity is about learning to fully experience in faith God’s unconditional love. The ramifications of this are many and will manifest in diverse ways, but all have to do with the development of the conscience. I submit maturity is not achieved by study of the Bible, though study of the Bible is a component of what happens in the life of the believer. The conscience develops according to our experience with God--literally. The conscience is a function of a relationship with God: more of God, more acute conscience; less of God, less acute conscience. Reading the Bible does not guarantee growth of the conscience. (See condition number one above and the last point in the gospel above that.) There must be an experience with the Holy Spirit for one to be in God.

Sometimes believers make the mistake of living according to the dictates of a conscience built on fear of man. Such practice is immature and brings no growth in God. In this scenario, a person does all the right things as expected by the group, but this doing is just layering over the old nature in an attempt to achieve the holiness of God. The inward experience of this person will be something of a manic-depressive dichotomy or to use the Christian vernacular, “roller coaster ride” Christianity.

Better it is to simply trust God and accept one's circumstances as divinely intended to teach one to love. God is love, and the walk with Him is about maturing in love. Our Christian experience needs to mature beyond layering over our natural man. The old man cannot be fixed or disciplined into love, which is life in the Father. We must learn to be a new creature, born of the Spirit, with the life of God ever springing up in our heart. This is not a Christian platitude; it is the day to day of the gospel message.


Kim's Hotrod said...

I've been thinking a lot about this post and the message of "the old man can't be reformed or disciplined". At first, this seems to be a simple message, but the more I consider it, the more profound it becomes (at least for me). I'm beginning to realize that I've layered over my old self in many ways. When the manifestations of the sinful nature arise in my life, I'm a bit surprised and frustrated. But I'm wondering now if maybe I never really completely put to death the old self. I've treated it as if there were some good "core" that could be built on. Fortunately, I'm now painfully aware of my sinful nature.

I appreciate some of the strong language of this post. I don't mind being called immature when I know it's done in love. You wrote this to spur us (me) on to love and good works.

Thanks for being the iron, David.

ded said...

Hey kim's hotrod,

Good to have you visiting here in the Wild Wood!

There is a good core in you; he is the one birthed in the spirit, by the Spirit. Don't be surprised when you realize something about your old man is still alive. I think that is why Paul tells us in Rom. 6:11, "Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus." The emphasis is mine. We decide how to feel about the old nature, when it manifests. I feel my sinful nature still. It is active at times in very real ways. (For me, it often manifests as irritation toward others for no good reason.) I may be wrong, but I don't think anyone ever puts the old nature to death for once and for all. If that were so, why would we need to work out our salvation with fear and trembling?

Kim's Hotrod said...

I think what I mean is that I have to realize that my old self was thoroughly corrupted by the sin nature. Therefore, everything that was my nature before Christ should be put to death. What I want is for that to have been a one-time occurrence. However, God has made it to be a daily part of our existence. The Spirit has birthed something new in us - a new core as you have put it, but the old self is still there and we should be killing it daily. What I don't want to do (and have done) is passively ignore the old self, and thus allow it to be layered on. When we are concentrated on a right relationship with God, we actively put the old self to death.

ded said...

I have come to this same conclusion. I live every day with my greatest need as the willingness to die to anything in my heart which I recognize as being just me rather than me in Christ.

God is ever faithful to complete the work He has begun. He moves us at a pace which is developed exactly for our individual need. There is no striving here, and that is the beauty of it. The lessons are the exact number of people I interact with in a day. The only obstacle I have found, is the depth of my trust in His love. I either love me over Him or Him over me. In the crucible of my set of lessons, I find myself either freed and motivated by His love or I become entangled in the failure of my selfishness. Thus the issue of growth is always on the front burner. My maturation into being more Christ-like is always at stake. I am thankful for the principle of 7 x 70!!