Dear beloved, we have been medtiating on the inward resurrection that is now taking place in His sons. In this age of the kingdom, we are continually being raised up as the mind of Christ becomes fully inworked in us. This is not a mere mystical experience, it is a tangible one. And the great enemy that hinders this progression is the consciousness of our old unregenerate soul. This is the realm occupied by the cunning deceitfulness of the flesh and it is the dominion of Satan. For beneath the well-behaved Christian is an untamed beast that rejects the will of God.
It was only after God brought us into this kingdom truth that we began to understand who our true enemy was. Now we are learning to yield to a higher order – an order of being, speaking and living out of the inner man, the Spiritual man, the new Christ-man. This is what it means to be caught up or, if you would like, to be raptured. It is not a someday physical experience, it is a now and ongoing spiritual experience. To be caught up is to leave behind our lower life (corrupted soul) in order to put on our higher life (regenerated spirit). Jesus said: “Whoever finds his [lower] life will lose it [the higher life], and whoever loses his [lower] life on My account will find it [the higher life]” (Mat. 10:39 Amp).
We live in a world today administered by the lower life of man. Our lower life is the life energized by the first Adam – the man of dust. It is a life guided by the mind and understanding of the natural man. This life operates out of the soul of man. The soul is a realm of self-consciousness which is fixed on the pursuit of self-will. This realm is a deep pit that few saints recognize as the chief enemy to their development in Christ. Thus, it is impossible for those who rely on their unregenerate soul as their moral and spiritual compass to mind the heavenly things of the Spirit. That is why so many reject the precious truth that we now share. The preeminence of the soul has been the single greatest source of corruption in society and the cause for the mass exodus of the church from its divine purpose in Christ.
The prophetic words of Isaiah capture this condition of which I now speak:
“And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach” (Isa. 4:1)
It is the day of the Lord. Seven women, who typify the seven churches, take hold of one man (Christ). On first reading, it seems they seek a marriage union with Him since they seek to be called by His name. However, they don’t want to eat the bread He provides nor wear His apparel. Instead, they wish to preserve their self-life; depend on their own sustenance and be clothed with their own nature. They only want to be called by His name so that their sins may be taken away.
One of the lowest conditions of any believer is to lose the love for the truth. This condition will cause the saints to turn away to only feed on nourishment that satisfies their own soul. Jesus Christ offered Himself to the world as the Truth and the Living Bread. But, when the call came to drink the Lord’s blood and to eat His flesh, many turned away and walked with Him no more. They refused union with the Truth. They rejected the Word of truth and the Spirit of truth in favor of their “own bread”. These are a people who have chosen their own way and their soul delights in pursuing their will, desire and understanding. But true union with the Lord demands that we lay down the garment of our soul and forsake the stale bread of our own denominational cliques and inherited dogmas in order to eat of the heavenly manna that He alone supplies. Only then will we be raised up to not only be called by His name but to become His name.
These seven women (churches) also characterize a people who refuse to wear the Lord’s garment in order to preserve the glory of their own nature. All of us are naturally predisposed to seeking the garment of our own self-life. That’s why they call self-preservation the first law of nature. To varying degrees, every man pursues their own honor, trusts in their own understanding and follows the path of their self-will. This is the greatest disease for which the world has not found a vaccine.
There has been a great deal of talk lately about the rising rate of narcissism in our society today. The popularity of social media has also amplified this phenomenon. The aptly named ‘selfie’ is a cultural fad that is a plain indicator of this preoccupation with self. Some have gone as far as calling this phenomenon of self-obsession an “epidemic of narcissism”. Narcissism is an excessive interest in or admiration of oneself. It is characterized by self-centeredness and an incessant need for acknowledgment and recognition.
But, this phenomenon is not exclusive to social media. In every sector of society, self is an underlying driver of many people’s intents and actions. It’s evident in politics, business, media, arts, academia, and religion. From the regular user of social media who thrives on ‘likes’ and follows, to the politician who jostles for position and power, to the professor who seeks more citations to affirm his/her legitimacy within their elite specialized niche, to the professional who views his network and career track as a metric of his/her worth, to the social justice activist who is more intent on gaining status within their political tribes than actually helping vulnerable human beings, in one and all, there is an inherent craving for recognition and affirmation of their self-importance. Paul affirms that: “in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud” (2 Tim. 3:1-2).
Jesus said of the Pharisees: “all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’” (Mat. 23:5-7).
At times, the cause we stand for can become less important than our desire to be acknowledged for it. In fact, the cause can simply become a vehicle for our self-aggrandizement. A tell tell sign of this predicament is when the title, pomp and hype supersedes the substance, depth and life we offer. No place is this more visible than the church which over the centuries has suplanted something of the pureness and freshness and glory of the Spirit of Christ. I know of saints today who are more interested in building their own kingdom than advancing the kingdom of God. Some even think that the two are synonymous. Like the Pharisees, such people value designations and being seen occupying the chief seats more than being agents of actual change for Christ’s cause.
We would of course be mistaken to think that those of us called to sonship are exempt from this deception. The revelation of this new day that God has brought can also be hijacked by self to elevate its own status. We are grateful that the renown, recognition and “best seats” have not come in measure with the richness of the revelation. Praise God! He has ordained it so. Was not a thorn in the flesh given to Paul lest he be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelation? Only God knows how popularity and man’s praise will seduce the soul. On the same token, we need not glory in obscurity. For this too can become a garment of pride that the soul places on itself.
How fitting that God should strip His sons of the desire for the grandeurs of self. For countless are the traps of self. The more aware we become of the enmity of our self-life to the preeminence of Christ and the more we press-on towards our calling to mature sonship in Christ, the subtler and complex the trappings of self become. Thus, the commission to each of the seven churches in the Revelation is “overcome”. Seven times overcome! Overcome, that you may be raised up to live in the realm of being identified with Christ. This is the mark of our sonship to God – to be clothed with the glory of Christ. For He alone is our confidence and our soul shall make her boast in Him.
I will close by turning you back to Isaiah 4, where in verse 2 Isaiah declares: “In that day the Branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious; And the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and appealing for those of Israel who have escaped”. The branch of the Lord that is beautiful and glorious is witnessed among those who have escaped self to find their sustenance in the Vine. What great victory it is to escape the realm of the unregenerate soul. This realm, of which we have been talking, is where the “prince and power of the air” (Eph. 2:2) exercises dominion in the lives of those who refuse to allow Christ to fully occupy this realm. The ‘air’ signifies the sphere of the soul where either the lusts of the flesh and the desires of the carnal mind dictate the conducts of unregenerate men or the mind of Christ exercises its influence and authority in those who lay down their self life, take up their cross and follow Him.
It is in this spirit that Paul writes: “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 The. 4:17).
To be continued…