SELF-IMPROVEMENT VS. SELF-REPLACEMENT

GOOD NEWS! We’ve been killed! Yay!

Who died? Adam.
Who now lives? Christ – in us.
How? By grace, through faith.

Sound simple? Yeah, it does sound simple. But how many Christians are actually experiencing, enjoying and expressing the nature of Christ within them? 

How often do you feel like the following is true?
I am no longer walking in the lusts of the flesh
I am dead to sin
I am seated with Christ in heavenly places
It is no longer I who live, but Christ

BECOME AS LITTLE CHILDREN

Now, in case you’re worried that your lack of experience of these realities is going to topple your theology, good. 🙂 Seriously, let’s not be afraid that our lack of true experience is going to unravel the Word of God. God’s Word will always be true, whether it is justified in our experience or not. If all we have to lose is some preconceived notion of what it means to be a Christian, then let’s lose it, if it means gaining the experience of truth. Let’s humble ourselves as children and come to the Lord, not presuming to know that which we do not know.

Let’s talk about this. First, we all recognize that there is a humongous difference between believing Scriptural truth and experiencing Scriptural truth. You believe it, that’s good.  Let’s talk about experiencing it.

HIS TREE, OUR TREE, GOOD TREE, BAD TREE

When Adam chose to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he was in essence choosing to live with himself as his own source, instead of choosing God as his source. Big mistake. From that point on, man’s nature became fallen, seperated from God by his own choice, left with himself as his source of power. Adam then reproduced a fallen race.

God wants a harvest of good fruit. Man’s fallen nature would not work with God’s plan to produce a harvest of life in Man – He wants the life of Christ expressed through the body. God wants the fruit of the seed of Christ, but this good fruit cannot come from the tree of man – the bad tree that Jesus talks about in the gospels. 

A bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad. It’s just a law of nature. If we want to express the fruit of the seed of Christ, we have to be given the nature of a completely different tree. This is why John the Baptist said ‘even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees.’

THE CROSS 101

We all know that Jesus died on the cross so that we would have forgiveness for our sins. Duh. But there is another aspect of the cross that is sometimes misunderstood: not only did we receive forgivness, but we received the only thing that can enable us to experience true, everlasting life – the nature of Christ.

The cross severs us from our own life, from our own nature – the fallen nature of Adam. Adam’s nature was crucified with Jesus, who fully God and fully Man, was put to death. When Jesus rose on the third day, we were raised up with Him, given the nature of Christ. It is no longer we who live, but Christ.

The gospel is not a self-improvement plan, but a self-replacement plan.  It is the ending of one life and the beginning of another. It’s not a second chance with the same old, fallen nature.  It’s not wiping the slate clean and then trying to give it another go, using gratitude for the cross as impetus to succeed. The nature of Adam cannot reproduce the nature of Christ. We have been given the nature of something that is totally other than Man.

SO WHY ISN’T IT WORKING?

We don’t automatically experience and express the nature of Christ when we become born again, though at that point EVERYTHING that we need for life and godliness has been given to us.  The seed has been given to us. A seed, though it contains all of what is needed to produce a tree and bear fruit, is not that full-grown tree.  It is possible for a seed to be planted in the ground yet never grow because it is not watered, given sun, or cultivated. Christ’s nature has been given to us in seed form.  We must cultivate this new life – as we cultivate it, His nature is revealed more and more in us. 

Some Christians truly believe they have been given the new seed, the nature of Christ, but they never go on to maturity because they ignore that seed and instead let it just sit there, meanwhile continuing to try to discipline their old nature to look like the new nature.  This is like planting a seed in the dirt and then ignoring the seed and trying to build the dirt up into something that looks like a plant. God is not after good-looking dirt, he wants the life of the implanted seed – the free gift – to be expressed through us.

HOW DO WE CULTIVATE THE NEW SEED?

What’s the dirt like? Stony, thorny, or good?  The fallow ground of our heart must be broken up and conducive for the life of the seed.  This is what the parable of the sower is all about. How do we ensure that the ground is good? First, through the renewing of our mind. When we are born again, we still have a natural mind that must be transformed by renewing it according to the Word. The natural man, though saved, is not able to receive the things of the Spirit of God because he is still carnal.

Cultivating the ground takes work. We labor to avail ourselves to the work of the Spirit. We are not laboring to change the old man, we are laboring to lay him aside completely and walk in reality by the renewing of our mind.  We put on what we already are – the new man – by the renewing of the mind. As the Spirit reveals to us what we already are, the old man is put off and the new man is put on.

Jesus Christ must be revealed in us by the Spirit. Only then can we truly experience His nature in us. We make ourselves available to this work of the Spirit through prayer and fasting. We need to understand that prayer and fasting do not transform our nature in and of themselves. They are works based on faith, which produce life. Empty works are the labor of the futile Adamic nature and lead to nothing but pride or condemnation. The New Covenant is a ministry of the Spirit, not the letter. It must be revealed to us by the Spirit, not through our intellect.  This is how Christ is revealed in us – Paul labored in prayer that the nature of Jesus would be revealed in him by the power of the Holy Spirit.

WE DO NOT STRIVE TO CHANGE OUR OLD MAN, BUT TO CRUCIFY HIM

“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life (still trying to live out of the nature of Adam) will lose it, but whoever loses his life (ceases from Adam’s works and enters into the rest of the new nature) for My sake will find it. For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels and then He will reward each according to their works.”

TO WORK OR NOT TO WORK?

Works are not bad, but are they the works of Adam or the works of faith? Doing works is just expressing outwardly what you believe. Cain believed that he could offer the fruit of his labors to God. Abel believed he could offer the sacrifice of what was freely given to him.  Both were works, but Cain’s was of Adam’s and Abel’s was of faith.

Let our works be those of faith, not of the old Adam. Why do we pray? Why do we fast? We want to be sure that we can answer these questions with understanding and confindence so that our joy may be full and our ministry frutiful. Let us go on to perfection by working out our salvation with fear and trembling, growing in the knowledge of God by the power of the Spirit, putting to death the deeds of the flesh by the renewing of our mind, the work of the Spirit in our hearts. Let’s silence Adam and surrender to the Spirit’s revelation of the nature of Christ in us, the hope of glory.

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  1. I like this:” God is not after good-looking dirt, he wants the life of the implanted seed – the free gift – to be expressed through us.” And before you said this I like your talk of experiencing and not experiencing the truth of the word and yet the word is true-

    I like the dirt line because YES most of us don’t believe that God wants us to grow in maturity and actually fulfill the mandate of following Christ which is expressing Him everywhere we go.

    I like the distinction between experience and not because the emphasis at IHOP can be all experience, which is mostly true because without experience whatever is true won’t last- the fruit- BUT most people(myself included) have a hard time believing these true things from gecko and if you don’t believe- new nature, dead to sin, crucified with Christ, justified by faith- then you will have a hard time moving forward and experieriencing them-

    Well said MOLLY MO- I enjoyed- you said a lot without saying a lot- like Hemingway, except he really had super short sentences- much love JMD

  2. kylegebhart

    well. you asked for comments. I liked it but would have done it in two or three parts.

    i think you really are onto a theme, however, that most people are profoundly out of touch with. Jesus presence within them is what so much of the NT is about and is really touched on very little. Some would say it is the essence of Pauline theology.

  3. Thanks Kyle. Yeah, you’re right, it’s very long. I like your picture.

  4. We do not seek to change our old man, but to crucify him.

    A-mazing. I love it. This is exactly the stuff I have been studying in romans just this week. Good job at unpacking justification on a blog post. Not an easy task. And you did it with cheese.

  1. 1 Quotes of the Week, 3/03-3/09 « While it is day

    […] “Some Christians truly believe they have been given the new seed, the nature of Christ, but they never go on to maturity because they ignore that seed and instead let it just sit there, meanwhile continuing to try to discipline their old nature to look like the new nature. This is like planting a seed in the dirt and then ignoring the seed and trying to build the dirt up into something that looks like a plant. God is not after good-looking dirt, he wants the life of the implanted seed – the free gift – to be expressed through us.” (Molly Mosack, Self-improvement vs. Self-replacement) […]




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