24 November 2010 (Revee/Shavu'ot)|
Day #253, 5934 AM
Crucifying The Flesh I
Is It Actually Possible?
And now a sobering question: is it actually possible to crucify the carnal man? I ask that in all sincerity. Let me ask it another way: can you name me one person whom you know for sure has put the carnal man to death? Or is my own scepticism heavily influenced by my own disappointment in my own performance? I do not know...yet. I am sure, moreover, that one part of me (the carnal man) is looking for an excuse to be overlooked or even accepted as a permanent player on the stage of life.
Continued in Part 2
The theology, I think, hangs on this passage:
*Now what does this passage actually mean? Does it mean we are no longer:
"So you, also shall reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin (i.e. a mindframe), but alive to Elohim in Messiah Yah'shua (Christ Jesus) our Master. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, to obey it in its desires, neither present your members (body parts) as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to Elohim (God) as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to Elohim. For sin shall not rule over you, for you are not under the law (torah)* but under favour (grace). What then? Shall we sin because we are not under Torah but under favour (grace)? Let it not be!" (Rom.6:12-15, ISRV).
I think Paul answers this in the next verse:
- 1. Under the condemnation of Torah (Yahweh's commandments and teachings);
- 2. Under the torah of sin; or
- 3. Under Torah (Yahweh's commandments and teachings) itself?
We are still under Torah (with a capital 'T'), but it no longer has power to condemn us to death if we rely on the blood of Messiah, which sets us free from sin (v.18) - that is, its death. And what is the evidence?
"What then? Shall we sin because we are not under Torah but under grace? Let it not be! Do you now know that to whom you present yourselves servants for obedience, you are servants of the one you obey, whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness?" (vv.15-16, ISRV).
To sin is to love the world (1 Jn.2:15). What is the world? Simple:
"But now, having been set free from sin, and having become servants of Elohim, you have your fruit resulting in holiness (set-apartness), and the end, everlasting life" (v.22, ISRV).
What is "lust"? It means 'to eagerly desire'. John says:
- (a) The lust of the flesh;
- (b) The lust of the eyes; and
- (c) The pride of life (v.16, ISRV).
I honestly don't know if the carnal man can [literally] die. I understand the words written by Paul but can't 'see' it in myself. With one little exception: on this trip to England I can look at the chocolate in the shops, the money in my wallet, and be totally disinterested for myself. The lust (eager desiring) just isn't there. Why? What has happened? To be honest I don't know, but I do at least have some biological ideas.
"The world passes away, and the lust (eager desiring) of it, but the one doing the desire of Elohim remains forever" (1 Jn.2:17, ISRV).
We all know we are complex. They say that there are about 5,000 characteristics or facets to personality, or what we 'are'. Much of what we are is what we are born with, the genetic inheritance from our parents. These character traits coupled with the experiences of life lead to what we call 'personality'.
Our minds are not static but are shaped, and most of that shaping - as is well known scientifically - takes place during childhood. In many, if not most, respects childhood is the shaping time, and therefore critical for our development. The one hundred billion or so neurones that make up our brain make important connections when we are children, which form pathways caused by repetitive behaviour, which leads to established patterns of behaviour. Children imitate their parents - we know how vital parenting is. In our brains, the frontal lobes are the conductors of our personal symphony orchestras of character traits. The job is not well done in children because they are not fully developped yet, and so sometimes the 'conductor' breaks down with such things as temper tantrums. Children just can't cope. A tantrum is the sign that the neuronal connections have not been made and the pathways of mature behaviour have not yet been established. This breakdown is not, therefore, abnormal...in children.
But at puberty, things suddenly change. This is the age of seeming insensitivity and feelings of social awkwardness. The reason this happens is that there is a sudden new growth of neuronal connections so that there are then numerous unalligned connections. This causes confusion in the mind, rather like a motorist being suddenly confronted with new turnings off the main road that as yet don't go anywhere. Thus at about the age of 11, children suddenly have problems, and particularly with their emotions. Confused signals going up these neuronal blind alleyways cause frustration and moodiness. So at about this age, and on into the teens, children start getting the urge to behave irrationally and take big risks. This experience leads to various 'highs' caused by the secretion of dopamine in the brain which has a drug-like effect on the brain. It's not until they are in their 20's that connections start being made and pathways established based on the choices that they make in their habitual life. By about 23 their personality is formed. Before then they are vulnerable and a danger to themselves and to each other. Whether they are extroverts or introverts (for example) is usually well established by the time they are in their teens.
There is now solid evidence that new neuronal connections can be made later on in life too by mental training - establishing new habits. It's not instant but it certainly can and does happen. The Gospel certainly teaches that. But to change in personality after the formative years does require effort and will-power. The guide-rail of our thinking must be Torah.
We choose whether we mature or not. Paul says as much to the Hebrews. He says:
"Having left the word of the beginning (elementary principles) of the Messiah, let us [choose] to go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance, etc." (Heb.6:1-2, ISRV).
So there you have it - we can change...if we want to - just as we can find the truth...if we want to - if we cultivate a lust (eager desiring) for truth in our hearts. Habits, habits, habits...changing them...that's what it's all about. But it must start with a decision to change and have a vow or covenant [appended to it] to see the change through to the end. I made such a covenant with Yahweh, when I was a student at Oxford, in St.Mary's Church, and as far as I know I have kept it. It was born of a desire acquired before I knew about Torah. It was just seemingly always there, and cultivated by a love of knowledge. I wished always to understand the world around me.
"And this we shall do, if Elohim indeed permits" (v.3, ISRV).
And yet...and yet...old habits linger, old pathways have not been fully disconnected, leaving unfortunate and irritating bypasses leading off the desirable pathways. Our thinking becomes double because of them, and that makes us unstable (Jas.1:8). Therefore when we lack the wisdom necessary to successfully pursue our Journey in Yah'shua, we should ask in faith, not doubt (Jas.1:6). We have to trust that new pathways will be built in our minds by the activity of the Ruach. Yahweh is generous and unreproachful (Jas.1:5).
So, yes, these double, contrary pathways do still exist, and it is only by adherence to Torah that we can successfully choose the right one so the wrong one becomes disused, overgrown and at length crumbles [away]. I see no other intelligent and scripturally harmonious way [to explain this]. I must remind myself of this when I am tempted to go along old, forbidden paths of thought that might kindle ungodly feelings that may in their turn propel me into sinful behaviour.
I have long said that forgetting self and serving others is a pretty good remedy. I still hold to that because such creates new and better neuronal pathways which are sanctified by the Ruach. Partaking of ungodly environments clears away overgrown and disused [bad] pathways that have not been fully disconnected and is therefore folly. That is why we are told to keep away from them. That is what is meant by being "holy" or "set apart" - keeping apart or separate. It's not just Yahweh's commandment [to be obeyed uncritically] but it's for our own mental and spiritual health [too]. It's common sense especially if we have old weaknesses likely to be reactivated by such [bad] environments. This is especially true for youth which was why Paul was so anxious for them. And that is why youth have Elders as mentors and parents they are supposed to obey (Eph.6:1; Col.3:20).
"Lead us not into temptation" (Mt.6:13) means equally that we should not deliberately walk up to it and risk, in a moment of weakness, embracing it. We are told to get out of Babylon, not casually stroll back into it! Goodness me. And what excuses do we use for going back? The ones we are told to cut off: lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.
(From the Diary of Lev-Tsiyon, 8 October 2003, England)