A problem that is common to every believer in Christ is dealing with one’s own inner self. And our confidence in that self.
Yet, despite the reality of our evil inner man, the idea that self-confidence is a bad thing is rejected within Evangelicalism today.
Because self-esteem teaching has permeated the church. Thanks to a number of “Christian psychologists” who have pushed this thinking. Even going so far as to say that having a lack of self-esteem is the real definition of sin. Which is an idea popularized by the late Robert Schuller, the “positive thinking” preacher.
How to Kill Off the Old Man?
However, having a lack of self-esteem is not the problem.
In fact, the Lord Jesus, Himself, said, “For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church.” (Ephesians 5:27). “Flesh”, in the scriptures, is equated with that basic inner nature we all possess.
Yes. We might hate the things we do. We might hate the way we look or a million other things about our circumstances, station in life, lack of popularity, clumsiness, lack of intelligence, etc., etc.
But we do not hate ourselves at the core. That is what Jesus was saying. No one does.
As Christians, we have two things going on.
One is the indwelling of the Spirit of God. The other is the presence of that inner “old man” or “flesh”.
It is this “old man” which the Christian believer spends his life trying to overcome. While failing to understand that he cannot overcome this flesh in his own strength. In fact, he is powerless to overcome it.
Nevertheless, there are countless methods that various Bible Christians teach us to practice in order to overcome the flesh. Some of these methods are well-defined. Some are even taught in a very organized way by various Bible denominations and sects.
Each of them believing that the “flesh” is something that can be tamed, rehabilitated, or even destroyed. Based up a misplaced faith in one’s own devotion. And based upon some specific combination of will power plus faith, combined with various forms of “spiritual discipline” – all focused on killing off “the old man”.
But the Bible does not teach this. Even though virtually all Bible churches continue to teach this in some form.
Variations on a Theme
The problem of “crucifying” the old man or of putting him to death, has been a continual mystery in the church. And, depending on what denomination or specific church you attend, you’ll experience teaching that insists there is something the believer can do. Or something which the believer can do by combining his own will power with God’s power to accomplish.
A combination deal, as it were.
But this is folly.
This form of bondage is so common in the church of God today that finding any teaching to the contrary is extremely rare.
I know this because I was in this bondage for many years. And I still struggle to live according to the word of God as opposed to the traditional teachings of Bible churches. Which includes both the Evangelical AND Fundamental churches.
The problem is that the flesh dies hard. Just as Romans 5, 6, and 7 testify.
Paul understood the terrible struggle we have with our own sins, bad habits, bad thoughts, and bad actions. In fact, that terrible battle we wage against our “old man”.
The answer to this struggle, in very simple terms, is in learning that the battle has already been fought for us.
And the benefits of that victory, achieved by the Lord Himself, are now offered to us based on our believing and resting in His victory. Not our own but His.
Which we experience by entering into His rest. As the scriptures say, “For we which have believed do enter into rest . . .” (Hebrews 4:3a; Read both chapters 3 and 4 for the full picture).
Nevertheless, Christians do not enter into rest easily.
No more than the Israelites who wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” (Hebrews 3:19). Because the religious flesh, that dwells within us, longs to prove itself worthy of the grace of God.
We long to show the Lord that we love Him. And we long to prove it to Him by our works.
Actually, that is the prime motivation behind the current Progressive Christian movement sweeping through Evangelicalism. The teaching that we can prove our faith by our works.
By misinterpreting the Book of James and his comments on faith and works. By thinking that we can be worthy of Christ’s love for us by our obedient actions.
Which we cannot do.
“For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” (Galatians 5:17-26)
We can only show our love to Him by our faith in His words. By believing His words about the total bankruptcy of our own selves and of our own goodness and of our own Christian dedication.
We can preside over the funeral of our own self confidence.
Consider this following passage from the book, The Green Letters: Principles of Spiritual Growth, by Miles J. Stanford, (Pgs. 56-57, Zondervan, 1975):
“Evan Hopkins shares home important light on our subject: “How infinite are the forms in which self appears. Some are so occupied with good self. They pride themselves on their excellencies. Others are just as much occupied with bad self. They are forever groaning over their imperfections, and stuggling with the flesh as if they hoped in time to improve it. When shall we be convinced it is so utterly bad that it is beyond all recovery? Our experience, upward, in the power of God, is just in proportion to our experience, downward, in ceasing from self.
“Is it, Reckon yourselves to be weak in reference to sin? No, it is lower than that. Is it, Reckon yourself to be dying? No, lower still. ‘Reckon yourself to be dead — (Rom. 6:11) — indeed unto sin.’ Some believe they are very weak. But what does that imply? That they have some strength. But when a man is dead he has no strength. We must act on the fact that we are dead in reference to sin. We shall not then speak of difficulty as to resisting temptation in reference to ourselves. We shall take the lowest place, and say it is impossible. But we shall know that what is impossible with self is possible with God. We shall take our place on the resurrection side of the cross, and in so doing we leave behind the old self-life for the new Christ-life. To live in Him who is our Life, is to be in the power of God.” Someone has rightly said that ‘there are many ‘separated from the world’ Christians who are not ‘separated from themselves’ Christians.’
To be “risen with Christ” is something based entirely on faith.
This requires our deep dive into the Lord’s words. Whose written words are the only source for us to grow in trust in His continual working within us.
Instead of continuing to trust in our own working on His behalf.
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