Back to the Goodnews

Hereby We Know

By David A. DePra

"And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight." (I John 3:19-22)

     This passage is awkwardly translated in the KJV. It makes it sound as if whether our heart approves or condemns us is indicative of God’s will.  Is that the way in which believers are to discern the will of God – to turn inward and figure out whether our heart is approving or condemning us -- and then are we to assume that this is God’s direction for us?

       Most teaching today on divine guidance would say that this is the way to discern the will of God.  Perhaps other words and descriptions might be used, but many of these teachings suggest that how we feel or how we sense is the result of God doing something in us by His spirit – and that this means that how we feel or sense is the leading of God.  Such teaching is so common today, and so many try to walk with God under such teaching, that it is almost impossible to get folks to consider that the entire thing is complete error at the core.

      The problem here is the same problem that is behind so much error in the Christian church.  Believers know that we are supposed to discern – we are supposed to discern the Truth, discern God’s will, and at times, discern God’s leading.  But if all we presently have to work with is our natural man – our soul life – then it is to that soul life that we are going to turn for indicators of God’s will.  Thus, we will tend to assume that however we feel is of God.  We will tend to assume that this is how God leads us – His Spirit in us will make us feel and react from out of our soul realm according to the will of God.  Most of us do this without thinking.  But again – it is error.

      You will note that I said, “If all we presently have to work with is our natural man – our soul life – then it is to our soul life that we are going to turn for indicators of God’s will.”  Now, some of us might respond, “Well, what else would we have to work with – if not our natural man?” 

     Nothing – if left to ourselves.  But if I am a believer, then I am not left to myself.  I have Christ in me.  But you see, herein is the problem I said was behind so much error in the Christian church.  The problem is that we are blind to Christ.  We have no inner realization of the Person of Christ – He has not been formed in us or revealed in us.  And because we are blind to Christ, who is in us, we unwittingly look to our natural man, rather than Christ, for indicators of God’s will.

     The fact is, we are supposed to walk according – indeed, LIVE according – to Christ.  We are to KNOW Him, and to be governed by knowing Him.  Rather than look to how we feel to tell us the will of God, we are supposed to look to, and be in fellowship with, Jesus Christ, who is in us.

An Inner Separation

     To understand the Truth about this matter, it is essential to see the separation in each believer between soul and spirit, or, to use better terms, the difference between our spiritual union with Christ, and everything that remains outside of that union – i.e. our natural man.  Each believer has two natures – the new and the old.  They are as distinct from each other as is Christ distinct from us.

     This separation begins at salvation – when we are born from above.  We are born from above when Jesus Christ joins us to Himself and we become one with Him in spirit. "He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him." (I Cor. 6:17)  This is CHRIST IN US.  If you have wanted to know HOW Christ dwells in believers, there it is:  Our human spirit is united with Christ by the means of the Holy Spirit -- we are PLANTED INTO Him spiritually -- as it says in Romans 6.  We become ONE with Him in spirit.

     You will note that this is an entirely SPIRITUAL union.  This spiritual oneness is the new man; the new creation in Christ Jesus.  It is how and where in our makeup that we are SAVED, or born from above.  But as important as it is to see what this spiritual union IS – it is just as vital to see what our spiritual union with Jesus Christ IS NOT.  It is not a soulish union.  We are NOT united with Christ in our emotions, feelings, or in any other dimension of our soul.  And obviously we are not united with Him physically.

     Now it is here that we are ready to see this separation between the spiritual and the natural in each believer.  As noted, our union with Christ is entirely spiritual.  And within that spiritual union is all that is IN CHRIST – life, truth, light, power, and everything that God has freely given to us in Christ Jesus.  If we could take a pencil and draw an imaginary circle around our union with Christ, within that circle would be Jesus Christ by the Spirit of God – and all that He is -- and our human spirit.

     But note:  Everything that remains OUTSIDE of that circle is what is not united with Christ -- our natural man – our body and soul life – these remain outside of that spiritual union. Thus, within each believer there are two natures, and a separation between natural man and a spiritual man.  The presence of the Living Christ within creates this separation.  Without Christ in us, there is no separation, but only that which is of the natural man, or flesh.

      As an aside, the spiritual union between Christ and His people does NOT destroy the identity or individuality of either Christ or the one in whom He dwells. “We have this Treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power might be of God, and not of us.”  (II Cor. 4:7)  In short, Christ remains fully Christ – even as He dwells in us in spiritual union.  And we remain us, even though Christ is in us.

      Now, you and I can read about this separation of soul vs. spirit until we are blue in the face but we will never actually realize it until we realize Christ – in an inward way. Then we can see, not only what is OF Christ, but also what is not of Him.  If God begins to reveal Christ IN US, then we will realize that we are not left with natural man or the soul life – those are not what we have to work with in discerning the will of God.  In fact, we will discover that natural man is not the indicator of God’s will at all.  Paul said that the flesh and Spirit of God are contrary one to the other – and so it is utter folly to look to that which is contrary to God in order to discern the will of God.

      So what we see here is that rather than assume that how we feel is an indicator of God’s will, we need to LEARN CHRIST.  We need to stop looking at ourselves, and stop taking our spiritual temperature, and start looking unto Jesus.  If we will allow God to do so, He will bring us into a growing knowledge of Jesus Christ – a knowledge of the Truth in Christ that will come to GOVERN US.

A Masquerade and Counterfeit

      If Satan can pass of our natural soul man to us as Christ in us, or as the Holy Spirit, he will have us deceived.  In that case, we will walk according to feelings and emotions, thinking that God is leading us.  We will react in our natural man and assume it is the prompting of God.  As shocking as it may seem, this is exactly what it means to walk according to the flesh – and to do it religiously.  It means to walk according to ME – according to the reactions, desires, and inclinations of my natural makeup.  There are millions of professing people who are right now walking in this way.  They have been taught to do so – it has become so practiced and accepted that few question it.

     As I noted before, the key here is to see Christ.  If I am blind to Christ – the Christ who dwells in me – I am going to be more easily deceived by Satan into accepting my natural man as a substitute for Christ – for my natural man will be all that I know.  But if God begins to reveal Christ in me, then I will begin to see the distinction between ME and Christ.  I will be able to learn how to put aside my natural reactions, and walk in the light according to Christ.

     It is the purpose of God in this age to form Christ in us, and to bring us into a growing inward revelation of Him.  Can we now see why?  Christ is to be ALL TO US.  He is the Light.  He is our LIFE.  If we come into an inward realization of Christ, He will change everything.  This is also why it is the number one goal of Satan to blind us to Christ.  Be blind to Christ and nothing much can be right. 

      It is on this purpose of God forming Christ in us by the Spirit that everything else hinges.  For example, take Christian growth.  Millions have been sold a bill of goods.  They have been told that it is God's goal is to make us LOOK LIKE JESUS.  That sounds right, doesn’t it?  But it is error.  It is not the purpose of God to make us, “look like Jesus.”  Rather, it is the goal of God to form Christ in us so that He might be manifested THROUGH US.

     “What’s the difference,” somewhat might answer.  “You are splitting hairs.”  No.  There is a HUGE difference between a supposed Christianity wherein God acts upon us to make us, “look like Jesus,” and the Truth wherein the Christ who dwells in us come to be made manifest through us. 

     If I think that I must come to, “look like Jesus,” I am almost certainly going to be thinking in terms of my natural man – I will likely think that my natural man needs to be changed to, “look like Jesus.”  I will think in terms of my temperament, emotional life, personality, and reactions.  I will think in terms of my developing a better inner attitude – which to me, might be nothing more than more emotional stability.  I will fear less, and feel like I believe more.  To me, a positive change in any of these components of my natural man will be, “Christian growth.”  To, “look like Jesus,” I will need to accomplish things like, “character building.”

     But this is not Christianity.  Jesus Christ told us that in order to find HIM as our life, we need to lose our natural selves to Him.  Does it seem likely that it is God’s purpose to fix up our natural man and make him look like Jesus if God has already told us to LOSE him?

     No.  God is not concerned about fixing up natural man and making him look like Jesus.  Rather, in keeping with the command of Jesus that we LOSE our lives, God wants to crucify our natural soul life – so that it no longer governs – so that the Christ, who IS OUR LIFE, might be made manifest.  Paul said, “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, so that the life also of the Lord Jesus might be made manifest.”  (II Cor. 4:9)  If we come under the ongoing work of the personal cross, Christ will be made manifest TO us, IN us, and THROUGH US. 

     Now, note that if Christ is made manifest through us, that all that He is will be seen through us.  And what is He?  “He is made to be unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.”  (I Cor. 1:30)  Note that Paul is NOT describing what WE WILL BE because Christ is in us.  NO.  Rather, he is describing what Christ will be in us and through us.  Christ manifested through a person is Christian character.  Christ manifested is sanctification.  As Paul said, “Yet not I, but Christ….”  (Gal. 2:20)

      Clearly, the Christ who dwells in us becomes made manifest through us through the work of the Cross that crucifies natural man.  Thus, the whole idea of us coming to, “look like Jesus,” is really what emerges if we are blind to the Cross.  To try to, “look like Jesus,” is what you are left with if you are not under the work of the Cross whereby Christ can actually come to be manifested through you.

      Thus, Satan wants to blind people to the possibilities of the Living Christ within.  He wants to blind us to the necessity of the personal Cross.  If he can succeed, he will easily be able to pass off natural man as a counterfeit for the Living Christ, and pass off our natural reactions as a substitute for the Spirit of God.

God is Greater Than Our Hearts

     Earlier we said that the KJV translation of our passage from I John 3:19-22 makes it sound as if we are to examine how we feel inside in order to determine God’s will.  It seems to say that if our heart condemns us then we are on the wrong track, but if our heart affirms us, then we are in the will of God.  Many walk by this rule.  But how many mistakes do we have to make before we learn that there is something wrong with this theory?  Doesn’t the Word of God tell us that the human heart is deceitful above all things?

     Once we see the proper translation, the light begins to dawn.  The correct translation, according to M.R. Vincent ought to be:  "Herein do we perceive that we are of the truth; and shall quiet our heart before Him in whatever our heart may condemn us; because God is greater than our heart and knows all things." John is telling us that regardless of what our heart is telling us -- especially if we feel condemned -- he is telling us that God is greater than our hearts.  In other words, we are not to merely accept what our heart or feelings indicate -- because God is greater our fallible heart and our untrustworthy feelings.  In other words, John is saying that the Truth is found in a Person who is OTHER THAN OURSELVES. Thus, to discover the Truth, we need not look to ourselves, or how we feel, but we need to discover Jesus Christ.

     But again – you and I will be clueless as to what that means unless we at least have some inward realization of Jesus Christ.  If we do not know Him we are going to default to looking to our natural man for indications of God’s will.  But if we do know Him, we will begin to see the distinction between our natural man and the Christ within us.  We will learn how to become governed by Him, to the disregard, if necessary, of how we feel. 

     Christ dwells in us, but He is OTHER THAN OURSELVES.  He said, “I am from above, but you are from below.”  It remains so – yes, we are born from above, but presently, only in our spirit.  Our natural man is nevertheless from below, and in this age, always will be.  We must learn Christ and learn to walk according to Him in His Spirit.

      John said, “Hereby do we know that we are of the truth; and shall quiet our heart before Him in whatever our heart may condemn us; because God is greater than our heart and knows all things.  How do we know we are in the Truth?  By discovering the Truth, not in ourselves, but in Christ.  Jesus Christ is the Truth and is the Light. 

Back to the Goodnews