OF THE FALL
Understanding Human Nature
One of the biggest complaints I hear from Christians, and also non-Christians who seek to live good lives, is the enormous problem they have discerning the spirits around them. Everywhere there is deception and trickery. We are confronted by it every day. We have God's Word and we have the Holy Spirit to guide us, so why are we tricked so often?
The answer lies in the effects of the Fall which impregnated our fleshy natures with five big weaknesses. These weaknesses dull our ability to discern right. Only a rigorous discipleship over a long period of time gives us the experience and wisdom to discern.
1. Our Understanding
The first area of our spiritual lives to be affected by the Fall is our understanding. Like light distorted as it passes through badly made glass prism, so the Spirit is distorted as it passes through fallen human flesh giving us an imperfect understanding of things.
Paul writes to the Ephesians: "Now I affirm and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds; they are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart..." (Eph.4:18, RSV).
The apostle further writes: "The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor.2:14, RSV).
Without the Holy Spirit there is no understanding of spiritual matters and the heart grows cold and hard, which is our natural condition. Understanding is not given to us automatically -- it must be cultivated through faith in Christ and righteous living.
2. Our Heart
The second area of our spiritual lives to be affected by the Fall is our hearts which have become deceitful. The Lord said to Jeremiah: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it? I, the Lord, search the mind and try the heart, to give to every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings" (Jer.17:9-10, RSV).
The fallen heart is the main guiding beacon of our late 20th century. "Listen to your heart," is the great call of the world, "and do as it tells you." The modern world teaches obedience to feelings, but God teaches obedience to His Word. Only then will the heart become refined and pure feelings issue forth.
3. Our Mind
The third area is our minds. "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Gen.6:5, RSV). The key word here is "imagination". We are creative beings and have been given the capacity to imagine and fantasise, for good or evil. What we plan in our minds we usually put into practice, together with the assent of the heart whence comes our desires. Together -- mind and heart -- they form our conscience..
4. Our Conscience
This fourth area, conscience, is even more tricky than the mind and heart because it is a compound of many different things. We understand from the Word of God that our consciences don't come to us perfectly formed and that they are never static -- they are constantly changing depending on the input of our mind and heart.
Paul wrote to Titus: "To the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure; their very minds and consciences are corrupted" (Tit.1:15, RSV).
One of the commandments of the scriptures are that we are to live by pure consciences. But what is a pure conscience? One person is led by his conscience to do one thing, and another to do the opposite. So which is right?
It is clear from God's Word that our consciences are corrupted by the fall. Our feelings about matters are not always reliable. Our consciences must be trained to be of any use to us otherwise they will mislead us.
In the West we are trained from school days to believe that man is the pinnacle of evolution, that we have reached the summit of the animal world by our sheer cleverness. This gives us a conceited view of the world. God, on the other hand, declares that we are the very opposite! We are rebellious and corrupt.
Our upbringing shapes our conscience to a large degree. So, also, does God's Spirit as it testifies to our spirit what right and wrong are. It is the duty of everyone claiming to be a Christian to allow his or her conscience to be shaped by God's Word. We ignore it at our own peril.
5. Our Will
The last disastrous consequence of the fall on human nature is the weakening of will power. We often see the truth but lack the will-power to do anything about it. Paul comments:
I have seen so many people enlightened by the truth to then turn away from it, not because they did not believe it, but because they could not put their will into action. Paul struggled with this dilemma of human nature continually -- he was aware of an inner warfare of his higher, spiritual nature pulling him upwards towards God and a lower, fleshy nature pulling him downwards to spiritual death and destruction. When we live in sin, our two natures live in a kind of perverse harmony, with the higher nature under the dominion of the lower. When Christ comes in us, the higher asserts its rightful authority and the lower resists its loss of authority. The result is an inner struggle.
"For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it" (Rom.7:18, RSV).
Anyone embarking on Christian discipleship must be under no illusion as to the consequences of such a decision. It is an up-hill struggle, punctuated now and then by plateaux whereon we are permitted to rest while we gain our strength back. But we cannot rest indefinitely without risking a reversing of the dominance of higher over lower nature.
To overcome our fallen tendencies we require two things: (1) The power of the resurrected Christ who overcame sin and the world and is willing to impart His power freely to those who are willing to receive it on the conditions it is given, namely, obedience to His commandments; and (2) Spiritual education. And it is here that the Church is vitally important.
Salvation is both personal and communal. It begins as a personal decision for Christ and continues, and comes to completion, as communal salvation. The experience of mature Christians who have walked in Christ for a long time is vitally important for young and immature Christians. Their lives should be emulated. This experience comes in many forms, not least of which is understanding the true pattern of living, knowing the covenants and promises of God, and their willingness to sacrifice on behalf of others.
The New Covenant Church of God has been raised up by the Lord to give Christian disciples intensive training in the Word and to provide a spiritual, communal environment in which to grow in Christ safely. The way is hard but with considerable rewards. It is organised like the first Christian Church with apostolic, prophetic, pastoral and educational ministry. It has been blessed richly by over 1,000 modern revelations to help disciples draw nearer to Christ and to strengthen their relationship with Him and with each other. It has published 470 of these in a book called The Olive Branch which can be ordered from this site.
We would like to invite you to come and find our what God is doing among the New Covenant Christians and discover for yourself your place in the Body. May the Lord bless you as you seek to do His will. Amen.
This page was created on 28 December 1997
Last updated on 20 February 1998
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