Paul said he had “no confidence in the flesh” and yet we’re always hearing someone telling us to try harder or do better. Maybe we should look a little closer at what the Apostle Paul told us in Philippians 3. He said, “What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.” Everything he counted on suddenly was of little importance after receiving the revelation of Christ in him.
As far as the world evaluates things Paul was the man. He was of the right heritage, the right education, the right religion etc. He too thought he was something until he met the risen Jesus Christ. His world was turned upside down that day. I’m sure all of what he thought he understood about the Law and Prophets was shaken. He went into the desert for a few years and had a little one on one time with God, and it seems he came away from that experience with a completely new perspective.
Before the incident on the road to Damascus Paul thought he was doing God’s will by persecuting the followers of Jesus. After his extended meeting with God in the desert he came to the conclusion that Jesus Christ, by way of the Holy Spirit, had actually taken up residence within him. He told the Galatians “But when it pleased God…to reveal his Son in me…” God had shown Paul that the will of God was actually to have his Son living inside his believers. Once Paul was enlightened to this his life’s mission became to help others to see it. Later in chapter four of Galatians Paul said, “I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you.” He wanted so badly for them to come to the understanding God had given him which is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
Once Christ is revealed in you you will long for others to catch on too. The peace, love, joy and rest we are promised are really attributes of Christ himself, and it is only after we come to know he truly lives in us that we will begin to tap into these things. The gifts of God are not so many things that he is dishing out to us one at a time rather they all come with Jesus Christ. If we have him we have all the fruit of the Spirit because he can’t separate himself from his character, but he can live his character out through our lives. How about you? Where does your confidence lie?
Is there really any such thing as human nature? Or does our nature derive from the one we are in union with, either the spirit of error or the Spirit of Truth? Could it be that we humans have no nature of our own?
It seems most of the time when someone messes up one of the excuses is “Well, I’m only human” or “It’s human nature.” These responses come across almost as a way out, as if to say, we’re “only” human what more can you expect? After all nobody’s perfect so don’t blame me; or what did you expect anyway?
I suppose what I’m really getting at is the fact that being human isn’t a bad thing. God created man and said “It is good.” Jesus Christ walked the earth as a human and even now sits at God’s right hand as a human, although he is now in a glorified body. So, please stop talking about humanity as if it is a bad thing, because it isn’t. In fact God thinks mankind is pretty keen.
Back to my first thought about our nature and how it seems to me to be derived from somewhere, or better yet someone else. God created man to be a branch attached to a tree never to be a branch on our own. So if we are indeed a branch that is attached we simply express the nature of the one to whom we are attached.
Because of Adam’s disobedience in the Garden we all are born with a sinful nature. This sinful nature isn’t our nature because we are humans but rather because we are joined to what the Bible calls “the prince of the power of the air…the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.” When the fall of Adam took place mankind became indwelt by the “spirit of error” which has been passed down from generation to generation. This is why Jesus says, “You must be born again.” Or maybe you have heard it put this way; we must be regenerated. In other words, we need to be placed into another family which is the way we receive a new nature.
In Christ we become brand new creatures with a brand new nature. In 2 Peter 1:1-4 we discover through God’s “precious promises we may become partakers of the divine nature.” So when Jesus tells us in John 15 “I am the true vine and you are the branches” He is subtly telling us we, as human being’s, are a branch no matter what, but the question is are we attached to the true or false vine? In other words our humanity isn’t the problem but rather an expressor of the one who is the problem.
God looks to the source behind everything. He isn’t looking at us thinking there’s a pretty good one but that one over there is another story. No, he simply sees either humans that have received his Spirit or not. He sees branches attached to two different vines and wants all of them to be cut off from the false one and joined to the true one which is his Son. He knows unless we are joined to Jesus Christ we can do nothing that is of value to him so he patiently waits wanting all to come to repentance.
When the Apostle Paul walks us through his struggle in Romans 7 we discover something invaluable. After he suffers trying and failing to perform up to God’s perfect and holy standard he shares quite an insight with us. He says, “So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.” He goes on just a few verses later to say again, “I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.” This is some of the most remarkable things anyone has ever written.
Paul tried and failed and tried and failed in his own strength until he finally saw the truth. In his humanity alone he could never be pleasing to God and the longer he tried the more he sinned. He then realized that sin was in fact the problem not his humanity. He said, “Nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.” He didn’t say his flesh was no good rather the sin that dwells in it. He began to see where the source of sin in his life really came from and it wasn’t that his humanity, in itself, was the problem but rather the spirit of error or sin dwelling in it. He saw that he had been attached to the false vine.
If you look at Galatians 2:20 you will see the very same thing on the other side. Paul said, “It is no longer I but Christ…” So you see it isn’t about Paul, or you and me, it’s really about who is dwelling in Paul and you and me. If we see ourselves as just human we will have no choice but to blame our humanity. On the other hand if we could just get the revelation that our humanity is joined to another, either sin or Christ, we will have come a long way in discovering being human isn’t the problem.
Throughout the Old Testament there is law upon law that man seems to be required to keep. When it comes to the New Testament we discover the real purpose for these laws are to lead us to Christ. I guess the question is once we come to Christ then what is required of us?
For me the answer to this lies in the real meaning of grace. When the Apostle Paul taught grace people seemed to hear it as a “license to sin.” He said, “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” Paul recognized that the majority of people would respond with this question; “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?” I think his response to this is marvelous he said, “May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” He then goes on to question whether they really knew that they had been crucified with Christ. Obviously this leads me to think that the reason we think grace is a license to sin comes from our ignorance of being crucified with Christ.
Paul goes on to tell us in Galatians 2:20 “it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me.” When Paul tells us we have been crucified with Christ he is also saying when Christ arose we arose, and now it is really Christ, by way of the Holy Spirit, living our lives. I know that may sound heavy or confusing but let me use one of Jesus’ examples and see if it clarifies anything.
Jesus said in John 15 “I am the vine and you are branches…apart from me you can do nothing.” Humor me if you will. If a tree produced fruit because it was commanded to how would that happen? You might say, to the branches, I command you to bear fruit! Now if you thought about this at all you would understand that in commanding the branch you were really giving the command to the vine, or tree, right? I mean the branch can’t possibly obey that commandment can it?
This is the same type of thing for us in the New Testament. When God says to us “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” He doesn’t for one minute think we can, does he? As a branch joined to him, by way of Christ, now that’s another story. So when there is a command given in the New Testament I think it is safe to say it is really a command given to Christ within us. He is the only real fruit producer and the only one even capable of loving others, after all God is love.
Let me end with a couple quotes from The Apostle Paul he said, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” You see when the Spirit of God takes up residence within you it isn’t a matter of sitting around doing nothing. On the contrary you will be busy doing things it just isn’t you that is the prime doer. It is the grace of God, by way of his Spirit within, that inspires, motivates, moves and accomplishes what he wants in my life. When I sense God commanding me to do something I know I, of myself, am unable, but I also know he has placed Christ within me and he can and will accomplish all God asks of me. “For I am confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you (me) will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” I thank God that HE who began the work will be the one to complete it!