Two Births in Man
[A response to an email]
You asked me to share a little about how to live in a low, humble, submitted place where the Lord's power becomes increasingly real and effective. It might be good to start by saying a few words about how people naturally live and walk in their fallen condition.
The soul of man is like a hungry fire, which, left to itself, feels nothing but a painful vacuum, a bitter emptiness, a raging hunger, thirst, longing, distress, and every other sensation that is associated with LACK. You may have heard people say that your soul has a God-sized hole in it, which only God can fill. Well, that is more true than most people realize. The soul was never meant to exist or to know a life apart from experiencing Christ (the living Word of God) as its true life, light, food, water, righteousness, joy, etc., but that is precisely what we have fallen into. I mean, man has fallen (with his raging, hungry, thirsty, aching, empty, longing soul) into a world and into a condition where those incessant felt-needs are not naturally met by anything within him or around him. He is, in fact, very much like the world in the beginning when it was “void, empty, and dark”, before the Lord began to add outward light, life, increase, and glory.
And it is because of this, that man spends his entire life, from the cradle to the coffin, seeking, reaching, building, pulling, eating and drinking (I don't mean physically). He never stops. He can't stop. The only thing that changes is the WAY that he does it, the FOOD that he eats, the THING that he builds and seeks and reaches for. Every day of a man's life is an endeavor to build an inward and outward world of self-relevance and self-love for his aching soul, that (to some extent) takes away the sense of raging hunger and lack that he cannot help but feel. He is always reaching and grabbing, eating and drinking, taking and controlling the things and people around him, trying to do something (anything!) that calms or at least distracts from FEELING his lack of Christ, or his lack of the kingdom of God within.
I start with all of this, because the reason why people have a hard time knowing how, or what it means, to stay in a low, humble, and obedient place before the light of Christ, is because they have lived their entire lives doing just the opposite, all the time, every day. Their eyes are continually turned towards the deceptive desires of their flesh, the desires of their eyes, and the pride of life. Behind every choice is a manifestation of self-will, self-love, self-protection, self-exaltation. Behind the thoughts they entertain and the actions they do, there is the mighty engine of an unfulfilled selfish soul that is seeking to be something and to have something apart from Christ. If we don't start here, with this view of ourselves, we won't go very far towards experiencing the solution. You can't win a war without identifying the enemy. And the enemy here is SELF... or, in other words, it is the fallen, aching, starving soul of man, constantly seeking comfort, pleasure, and power apart from the kingdom of God. This is the condition of the natural man in the fall.
This is the bad news. The good (incredible!) news is that into this fallen, selfish soul God sows the seed of His kingdom. He doesn't sow a teaching, or an idea, or a method, or a philosophy. He sows an actual seed of His own life, a measure of His own grace, Word, or Spirit. This is called the gospel. The gospel is not just the good news or words that describe this powerful gift (as many Christians wrongly believe). No, the gospel is the powerful gift itself, that is planted in man with the power to save him. Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.” And James says, “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” And Paul says elsewhere, “For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance.” What I'm trying to tell you is that the gospel is the fact and the experience that God has planted a powerful seed in man, an implanted word, a precious pearl, a living talent, a pinch of heavenly leaven, a grain of mustard seed, etc. that is powerful enough (if loved, clung to, and obeyed) to pull man out of spiritual Egypt and Sodom, and bring his soul into the full possession of the kingdom of God. This is man's only hope, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
Now, here is your condition. This is what you currently feel, and what everyone can feel if they are willing to turn to the Voice that reproves them. You feel something stirring and moving in you that is good, and pure, and living, and is excited to know and really find and follow Christ. And yet you feel something else in you that is very different, very contrary, big, and well-fed. What are these two things? And why are they wrestling within you? A woman named Rebekah had that same question a few thousand years ago, and the Lord gave her the same answer that He will give everyone who humbly brings the question to Him. Gen 25:23 “But the children struggled together within her; and she said, 'If all is well, why am I like this?' So she went to inquire of the LORD. And the LORD said to her: 'Two nations are in your womb, two peoples shall be separated from your body; one people shall be stronger than the other, And the older shall serve the younger.'”
The two “peoples” here, as you know, are Esau and Jacob, the first birth and the second; the birth of flesh and the birth of Spirit. The one comes out first, all hairy and wild, a hunter of flesh in the open field. The second birth is quiet and peaceful, and abides in the tent. I'll let you put together the pieces here, and perhaps you will also better understand why God says, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” My point now is just to suggest to you that these two things are real, in you, right now.... both striving for a kingdom and an inheritance. “Flesh gives birth to flesh, Spirit gives birth to Spirit.” “The flesh profits nothing, the Spirit gives life.” “The flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.” You know all of these verses. But perhaps what you haven't known or seen clearly, is that the only way to GROW in the Spirit, and to DIE to the flesh, is to continually deny the lying appetites and fleshy pursuits of the proud first birth, to take up the cross in relation to all that it would suggest to you, and to follow the motions, convictions, teachings, and various manifestations of the Holy Spirit of God. In other words, to “deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow Me.”
Practically, this means living in a very different way than most people (most Christians, sadly) live on earth. It means living in such a way that the heart is always “watching and praying, lest it fall into temptation.” It means we have to “walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” It means letting the Lord teach and correct us for all of the ways that we regularly feed, protect, and cultivate the first, fleshly birth, and also for all of the ways that we grieve and quench His good Spirit or Seed in us. It means staying AWAKE, alert, watchful, sober, etc. understanding that everything in the fallen soul of man is accustomed to feeding on the wrong food (Isa. 55), seeking the wrong thing, and living in the wrong nature. This is where we find the “narrow and difficult” path. It's not difficult because it's complicated. It's difficult because there is a real birth in us that simply does not WANT to.... and this birth needs to be denied.
This is getting too long, and there is always more to say. But my hope and my prayer is that these things will become increasingly clear, real, and weighty in your heart, not principally because of my emails, but because of the Lord's appearing, teaching, and confirming in your own heart. And I truly hope that you will not settle for anything less than the full experience of what you have already glimpsed, nor ever look back like Lot's wife to what you are leaving behind. There is a reason why Jesus said, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.”