What is this Human Self of Ours?
We have been finding Bible answers to the who, what and why of the human self. We have looked at the patient process by which God conditioned His human family through symbols, law, and the prophets for the coming promised Savior, who would give Himself for and as them. For God was after His own Spirit people, for whom there must be a spirit deliverance from an inner spirit enemy who had stolen them as his property. That meant that what had been portrayed by blood sacrifices of animals necessitated another kind of blood sacrifice and a rising again on a new level of Spirit to form a "heavenly" nation, whose Spirit Indweller would replace that one who had gotten in by the Fall.
The result would be a new kind of people, whose whole being would express the God of other-love: their true living would be in inner union with Him, their drive and occupation the same as His, and their new nature, in fact, He as they. And so that unquenchable inner knowing began in believers at Pentecost and continues and spreads today. And with that knowing a radical process of inner revelation is at work, stripping off layers of human ignorance. But there still remains those necessary last stages by which we lost and blinded humans can come to know we were deceived. Only then can we come into our present full privileges of being nothing less than Christ walking about in our human forms, just as surely as it is Satan who walks about in the forms of the unredeemed.
The First Stripping–The Law
So we go back to the beginnings of that stripping by the law given to Moses, when at least there were commandments. And the Apostle Paul, as the true revelator of what we can now call our full salvation, demonstrates in Romans and Galatians that the purpose of that law was not that people should obey it. That was impossible for a human race enslaved and operated by the Satanic spirit of self-effort. So with the law was given grace through the Tabernacle and blood sacrifices. But the great point is that only "by the law is the knowledge of sin," and "sin is not imputed when there is no law" (Rom. 3:20; 5:13).
The purpose of the law was to strip us fallen humans of that great deceit that we are somehow okay people if we do our best. Our first discovery about that deceit is when we are confronted by those commandments, and at last we come to honestly recognize and admit that we have constantly broken them. Only then are we ready to come to the light instead of hating it (John 3:19, 20). At last we admit our sins and desire to reform, coming with that publicans word, "God have mercy on me a sinner." The first wool blanket is stripped off us.
Before the Messiah came in the flesh and was Himself the Lamb slain for the sins of the world, those under conviction of breaking the law could only receive temporary forgiveness and release (Heb. 9:9; 10:2). It was laying the foundation of sin as sin. But after God in Christ reconciled the world unto Himself by that one sacrifice, the Spirit could confirm to us convicted sinners not only a permanent forgiveness but a permanent justification through His resurrection (Rom. 4:25).
By this completed reconciliation, God could begin and, when fully understood by believers, complete His regaining of His stolen property–our human selves. For now, God by His Spirit could re-enter our human selves and replace that false spirit. Now He could produce the fruit of His own divine nature by our human flesh, faculties, and God-created appetites (2 Pet. 1:4). We become, as Paul said, "new creations"–totally new kinds of persons.
The very drive which spontaneously motivates us is reversed. Where before we lived unto ourselves-self-for-self-now we can’t help living unto Him who died for us and rose again (2 Cor. 5:15-17). And as we are transformed by our new inner drive, so we see all men as potential people of the new Spirit dimension though still in outer flesh forms. That includes, Paul says, how we now see Christ Himself in Spirit, not flesh. We see what He had said to Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world, else would my servants fight" And on from that we see all things in a new light: the light of serving love in place of self-seeking gratification.
Paul said in Romans 5:5 that we find ourselves possessed by love of Jesus, who has redeemed us at such a price, and with His love of all men: a strange new quality of other-love in place of our former obsessive self-love. Now His love is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit given to us: and this in place of that self-loving love shed abroad in all our human hearts since the Fall by that false intruding indweller, Satan, in his sin nature.
The Cloak of Deceit
But wait a minute! Though this is the immediate fact conveyed by the Spirit’s inner witness at our new birth when, as Jesus said, we can "see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3), yet in practical fact we do not live our lives in such a totally transformed condition. And there is a reason, as explained by Paul. It lies in the vast cloak of deceit brought by that self-deceived one, Satan; he claims to be an independent self, but is really only an expression of that negative "consuming fire self," which in perfect God, The Three, has become the eternal light-self. Satan never was an independent self, though he thinks he is. And so, upon his entry into us in the Garden, he imparted to us this same false consciousness of being independent and self-operating selves.
This false consciousness of independence is the total lie by which we operate our fallen, confused, desperate, conflicting and destructive way of life. "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked," who are "like the raging troubled sea," as the prophet said. Deceived, we think we are self-operating, ignoring all the Scripture illustrations of ourselves merely as containing vessels, fruit-bearing branches, deity-manifesting temples, slaves of our owner, wives of our husband, and body members of our operating head. And in all these ways we have been just like that to our false owner.
But because Satan thinks he is self-operating, he has deceived us into thinking the same of ourselves (Rev. 12:9). This is ultimately the fundamental problem which our God of grace has had to solve, if we are to settle unchangeable into our true selves: operated not by ourselves, but by our True Owner. And we then operate our operator, just as we operate our profession. First we have to give place to its occupation of us: and then we operate our "indwelling" medical knowledge, teach our "indwelling" know-how, and so forth.
Captive To Do Satan’s Will
Even when born again and in fact new creations in Christ, we still have the confused false consciousness of just being self-sinners saved by grace. The fact is that we were only sinners because we responded to the drives of our lusting false father (John 8:44). We have been tricked out of the vital basic knowing that we humans have tremendous capacities of response in our flesh humanity both in our physical hungers and emotional and rational soul-selves.
What we actually responded to never has been ourselves, but the captive drives, ephemeral attractions, and presumed satisfactions of him who utilizes our desiring faculties to express his own false deity-selfhood, his total self-for-self appetites. "The lusts of your father ye do," said Jesus. We fulfilled in our flesh and mind those desires stimulated into operation not by ourselves but by that "spirit that works in the children of disobedience."
Thus we were expressers, not of a supposed nature of our own (of which there never has been such a thing by creation), but of Satan’s "nature of wrath" (Eph. 2:1-3). What a deceit, what a delusion, and therefore what necessity for a complete reversal of our deceived consciousness!
The reversal of our consciousness only began by that first outer work of the law in pinpointing its "Thou shalt not." Because we are spirits, not just flesh, we could be inwardly disturbed by our breakings of these commandments and respond to right guilt (Rom. 3:19). But even in that response, who of us recognizes that it is really Satan’s false law-breaking which we merely activate? We are sinners because we put flesh into the sin-spirit indwelling us.
So on our new birth level we have some basic real light on our formerly darkened condition, but we still continue with the false consciousness of it being just ourselves at fault. The lie of independent self! And the right consequence is that we–all of us the redeemed, as much as those great Old Testament men of the Spirit–have to go through another period of self- discovery before we are conditioned to finally be our true selves. And this is where Paul again expounds the final negative usefulness of the law.
There must be an outer law in operation on us while we still think we have independent selves who must respond to it. So on we go, just as Paul in Romans 7, in our period of self-strivings, self-guilt, self-condemnation, and self-suspicion of our untrustworthy selves. And though all we humans in our unredeemed state live completely as independent, it is a lie to blithely think our life is okay. Even Paul thought, "I was alive without the law once." (Rom. 7:9).
The Lie of ‘Self’ Improvement
We have to realize that all the "normal" living of humans world-wide is actually the expression of Satan’s self-for-self nature in its apparently normal expression. A tremendous statement! But until the law at last catches us out, we do not know that our living is the product of that self-for-self nature indwelling us. And the law will only expose this ultimate reality to us as we become conditioned to receive it. So that first work of the law was just on our sins-committing.
But now in our new birth we are to become conditioned to see the whole lie. And we become so conditioned when at last we are weary of our attempts to live the new right way of life, which has grabbed-"hooked"–us with its reality. With Paul, we now "delight in the law of God after the inward man" (Rom. 7:22). And this at last conditions us to recognize our exhaustion and continual failure in our "good" attempts to live as we ought (as the law says).
Our greatest obstruction to true straight seeing is our own church teaching, based on our misinterpretation of the New Testament’s commands to right living. Practically all churches, the Bible-believing churches almost being the worst in their mistaken zeal, keep pouring it on us, the born again, that it is "up to us." We are told to set ourselves at self improvement by faithful reading of the Scriptures, prayer times, and attendance at set church meetings. And the ever-available atoning blood of 1 John 1:7 to 2:2 is referred to as only additional encouragement. So our very church teaching builds up this ultimate falsehood that we are independent selves who must be responsible for our consistent walk in the Spirit. And there still is that law pointing its "ought to" finger at us.
That was Paul’s great pioneer revelation. It was he who in desperation went alone to Arabia for three years, long after his great illumination on the Damascus road. His witness to Jesus as the Christ had been ruthlessly bold in Damascus: and because of it they had sought his life. He had escaped from a window in the wall, let down like a sack of potatoes. But Paul was a desperate man. Nothing could stop him from finding the total solution to the inner as well as to outer pressures which hit him. Why had he not found a better way out than over the wall in a sack? And he did find it; it was just in that "he" emphasis! For he still had believed he was a separate "he," who could function by himself. That Satan lie! But at last in Arabia he was conditioned to see the truth.
The Completion of the Conditioning
It is just here that the process is often so long. That conditioning is necessary because we are so accustomed to preserving our "right" self-operating selves, though glad to be rid of their previous sin-taint. There is the rub. So many unsaved are not ready to admit their self-wrongness as sinners and thus never come to the light of the new birth. Equally, so many of us, the redeemed, cling to our selves (which now appear to us as right selves) as responsible to keep walking in our new way of the Spirit. Certainly we want His "help" and to be feeding on the Word and prayer, but still seeing ourselves as being the right walkers! Vast illusion!
So Paul found it, just as Moses did at the burning bush after forty years; Abraham when finally confronted in begetting a son in the impossible; Jacob at Peniel after twenty-one tempestuous years in the Laban house-hold, when confronted with an imminent Iynching by his raging brother Esau and his 400 men. Joshua also found it in the crisis of the twelve spies. Close shave for him, but equally essential to get him to the final point. The great David found it at Ziklag. And the Savior God–man Himself had to have it confirmed to him by the incoming Dove at His baptism that He was, as Son of man for our sakes, only a human Jesus operated by His Father. And so now Paul.
A Twofold Salvation
There at Sinai Paul "saw" two great liberating realities about his Savior Lord–that there was a deeper and finally total deliverance in His Calvary, which Jesus had already conveyed to His disciples, though without them knowing the implications. He had shared with them not only the wine betokening His precious blood, but the broken bread betokening His broken body. Why broken body? That was what Paul "saw" and brought back to his still deceived Galatians in such a phrase as Galatians 2:20.
Paul saw first that the shed blood signified Christ’s outer death as us and His going to hell as us for our sins. His glorious resurrection showed the Father’s acceptance of that intercessory sacrifice for such as us. So all sinners are "justified by faith" when they make their move into believing and receive Him by the "foolishness" of faith. Faith believes not only in a historical cross, but in a physical resurrection, unprovable to the darkened world. And as we do believe and receive, we gloriously experience John 1:12. That is the precious blood, which we commemorate by the symbol of drinking the wine.
But what of the broken bread and broken body? That was Paul’s special revelation. Paul saw that the act of faith is the act of identification. Our faith in food is demonstrated by our eating the food. Our faith in a chair is evidenced and experienced by our sitting on the chair. So faith in our Lord Jesus Christ means identification with Him as representing all of us on that cross. When He died as our representative, we also died.
A Spirit Exchange
So Paul says that first step of identification with Him in His shed blood, death and resurrection meant our justification. Probably in that first baby step we do not think of it in terms of identification. But just as He was raised from the dead by His father, so we by that blood sacrifice and resurrection are now "dead to sins" (1 Pet. 2:24). We are "justified" by faith and thus conditioned by grace to experience the new birth by His Spirit.
Then Paul goes further. What then did such an identification of us with Christ mean physically to Him on that cross? It meant that in His Father’s sight He was us. But we are not just sin-commmitters, as we admitted ourselves to be. No! We were sin-committers because the sin-committer had taken up his abode in us–false branches to false vine (Rom. 6:20, 21). We were sin-indwelt; and our outer sinning was just the expression of that inner sin–the nature of Satan.
So then Paul "saw" it. The Holy Jesus Christ on the cross as us was in His Father’s sight "made sin," expressing that same sin-nature as we express, for He was us. That was when He had to cry out to His Father, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" The unimaginable width of the Father’s love could and had to turn His back on His own beloved Son as us (1 John 4:9, 10; Rom. 8:32).
The whole glory shone into Paul as he then saw that as that One died-made sin as us-out went that sin-spirit from Him, and thus out of us. And in the resurrection of that dead empty body in the tomb–representing our bodies–in came His own Holy Spirit, and so into us. Paul saw it! And Rom. 6, 2 Cor. 5:15, 21, Col. 3:10-15, and many other Scriptures attest to it.
Though we are not told the exact moment of his great enlightenment, at last he saw that our human selves were never anything but containers. We are responsive containers in our dynamic human faculties and appetites but only containers, branches, etc. who express the nature and self qualities of him who indwells us. So Paul speaks of "sin dwelling in us" in Romans 7 and Christ replacing sin and "dwelling in us" in Romans 8:8, 10 and dozens of other passages. He saw the falsity of blaming evil on our human selves, just as certainly as we born again do not claim the good to be ours (Gal. 5:22).
Here is our secret of freedom and equally our zest for full expression, which Paul saw and passed on to us in his Romans 7 explanation. Human self, made beautiful in His image-with all its rightful appetites of body and faculties of soul, every one necessary and beautiful–was never the culprit. For we are only containers of the deity self-operator occupying us.
But we were created for and can only rightfully express the self-nature of Him who created us for the glory of expressing Himself. So we have had to go through this present period of delusion and involvement in the opposite false self, that we might know once for all the reality of those opposites. And the One is only able to express Himself in action by confronting the other and "swallowing it up."
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 14 No 1
- What is this Human Self of Ours?
- Editor’s Note
- Moments with Meryl
- A Look at a Book
- Tony’s Testimony
- Zerubbabel Focus: Z Youth!
- British Conference Report
- Musings on the British Conference
- Bible Study: Undiscovered Self
- Body, Soul, and Spirit
- Questions & Answers
- Area Fellowship News: Boone
- The Mailbox
- Tape Talk
- New York Conference Report
- Youth Report: Fall Harvest in New York
- Anatomy of Unbelief
- Need–Evidence of Supply
- Words to Live By…