By Joseph Diop
Copyright © 2015 by Joseph Diop
Sometimes, the Bible can seem a very challenging and complex book. And, it is a ready admission of that fact, when one apostle, Peter, describes the works of another apostle, Paul, by saying, “…in [his writings] are some things hard to be understood” (2Pet 3:16). But, one concept is so fundamentally important, that I am going to attempt to break it down to such simple and familiar terms, that even a child can understand it. That concept is something that each and every one of us deals with on a daily basis. And that is, our own human nature.
For if any one is a hearer of the word… he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a mirror. James 1:23 ASV
The word of God is like a looking glass. It will allow us to see two things very clearly. It will give us a view of the glory of God, and it will also show us ourselves. In this way, it is like a crystal clear lens for seeing straight through to the Lord. And, it is also like a mirror which shows us exactly what we are like. In other words, it allows us to discover our own human nature.
The God we find in the word is ever increasing in glory. The discoveries we make about ourselves are also ever increasing in clarity. The God that we see through the word can only be described as ‘Awesome’ — glorious in holiness. But, what we are focusing on here today is the reflection of mankind that shows us ourselves.
What we uncover there about ourselves will not be flattering. As we see God’s unspeakable and wondrous perfections, we also see our human wretchedness. We begin to see ourselves in all of the faults, failures, foibles, foolishness, and faithlessness of the disciples of Jesus. We find ourselves being reproved with them at Capernaum for our petty ambitions (Mark 9:33-37; Luke 22:24-27). We get checked in the Garden of Gethsemene with Peter for our presumptuousness (Matt 26:51-54). We get rebuked with them in Galilee for our unbelief (Matt 17:14-20). And again, we get blasted with them on the sea at the calming of the storm, for our fearfulness and faithlessness (Mark 4:40).
In fact, if we have an honest and good heart, we will discover that we are just like them in every way. We are all human beings, and we all share the common denominator of human nature. And, it is only human nature to be weak and to trend towards sin. We spiral downward, until we get caught in and sucked under by a whirlpool of iniquity (i.e., corrupt motives). But, thank God, “where sin abounds, grace does much more abound” (Rom 5:20).
But, it is needful and good to be informed by this truth about ourselves. This makes so much more of the gospel to make sense and become clear; such as, why our “old man” (our human nature) cannot be reformed or simply enrolled in a self-improvement program. It makes us understand why no mere, earthly “religion” alone can resolve our ills. No !! Human nature itself must be totally annihilated, eradicated, and utterly destroyed. It is totally depraved — completely unsalvageable in and of itself. If we read God’s word with due meekness and honesty, then we must acknowledge that mankind is characterized only by vanity, lies, contrariness, nothingness, futility, weakness, foolishness, misery, delusion, and self destructiveness.
That is why, in the protocol of the gospel, God wisely and mercifully had our human nature crucified in the first place. And, we must learn to let that old man rest in peace (RIP) in the grave of our salvation, so that the new man (divine nature) can live in peace. We are often tempted to try to raise him again, and try to rehabilitate our self-image, but it is absolutely spiritually counterproductive to do so. Trying to resurrect that old man and dress him up is a quicksand proposition. That’s proverbially, like trying to make “a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” It’s just is not possible. Instead, through the cross, God promises to expunge our old human nature, and make us “partakers of the divine nature” (2Pet 1.4). Although, in the beginning, our new “divine nature” may seem as small and tender as “newborn babes” (1Pet 2.2).
Paul said, “For I know that in me that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:18). What Paul calls “the flesh,” and “our old man,” we simply call today our “human nature.” “The flesh” equals our “old man” equals “human nature” equals, in effect, “self-image.”
Here are a few common names — Biblical and otherwise — by which we refer to our fallen humanity:
our “SELVES” (2Cor 1:9);
our “old man” (Rom 6:6);
the “body of sin” (Rom 6:6);
our “flesh” (Rom 7:18);
our “carnal mind” (Rom 8:5-7);
the “bondage of corruption” (Rom 8:21);
the “fleshly mind,” or, “mind of the flesh” (Col 2:18);
our “SELF conscience”;
our “id/ ego/ superego”;
our “SELF IMAGE”;
and my favorite, our “human nature” (Rom 7:25 AMP, GNT, ISV);
That fallen human nature was born at the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. As a matter of fact, it was conceived just before, when Eve decided to use her “free will” to try life on her own terms. The flesh — our very human nature — then, was conceived in rebellion, and is by nature strictly and essentially a creature of rebellion. As such, it is constitutionally incapable of acting in a manner other than that which is diametrically opposed to the express will of God (Romans 7: 14-20). Scripture says,
“For the mind-set of the flesh [i.e., human nature] is hostile to God, because it does not submit itself to God’s law, for it is unable to do so” (Rom 8:7 HCSB, brackets mine).
Like the anecdotal story about grade school kids and the teacher who draws a line on the ground and tells them, “Now class, don’t come across this line.” They just can’t help themselves. They’ll inch up to that line, and put their toes right on it. And then, they’ll scoot forward till their feet triumphantly breaks the plane of that forbidden zone. They just can’t be happy until they’ve defied her commandment. This is human nature at its finest.
At the fall, Eve had wrongly imagined that she had some wisdom and goodness within herself, and needed not to submit to nor rely on God. This is what was intimated by her choice to opt for the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Whether she realized it then or not, that was a choice to try to live without God.
When the serpent had promised “your eyes shall be opened” (Gen 3:5), those were the eyes of our “SELF-consciousness” (that’s why they immediately discovered their own nakedness). Self-consciousness is NOT a good thing. That self-consciousness, or “the flesh” is that person in the mirror staring back at you, when you get dressed every day. That is the perfect external manifestation of the internal problem — our mind’s eyes are fixed on our selves. And that self-image, which we cherish and obsess over so intently, is the very crux of all that is wrong with us.
We are like people trying to drive a car in reverse, steering by looking in the rear-view mirror. You would not expect to make it very far that way. We don’t look too good to ourselves. That’s why Adam and Eve clothed themselves with fig leaves. So, we try to compensate by telling ourselves how great we are. We put on a delusional attitude – a very egotistical, conceited, and narcissistic state of mind. We imagine that all our success should be credited to us. We call ourselves, “a self-made man.” I heard a great man of God say one day, “Whenever you hear that, you can say to yourself, ‘Ahh! So, that explains the poor workmanship!’ ” Or, we become downright discouraged with ourselves and think less of ourselves than everybody else. This is a clinically depressed, self-denigrating, and low-self-esteem frame of mind. So, we look out among others to try to pattern ourselves after them. And, that’s also futile. As the Word says, “But they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2Cor 10:12).
You see, before Eve ate that fruit, we had perfect God consciousness. Now we are blind to God, and instead are left to make our way through life with only our self conciousness. Our minds are now literally screwed on backwards. And, man’s first awareness in that regard is that we are completely naked, which is another way of saying that we are in big trouble, because we don’t have any natural glory, virtue, power, or wisdom of our own.
That “naked” man that they discovered is the self-centered, self-serving, self-absorbed, self-conscious, and occasionally self-righteousness person we normally refer to as ‘I.’ I like the way the character, Morpheus, explained it to the central character, Neo, in the movie, “The Matrix.” He called it “residual self-image.” I like that. That’s how we see ourselves in this matrix of a world. But, it’s not real. The world is indeed a matrix. It is a web, a network, a stage, a set-up, and an illusory environment that molds and shapes our perceptions with its falsehoods. Morpheus also described the matrix as, “…a prison for your mind.” These lines were not just entertainment. I believe they were divinely inspired, bespeaking truth about the human condition and this fallen world we live in. This world is indeed that matrix that holds us captive to the sinful fleshly nature, binds our way to wrongdoing, funnels our lifestyle towards ever-increasing corruption, and blinds our minds to real truth. And, it paints a false picture of self — a bloated, air-brushed, pride-worthy, and praiseworthy person — leaving us with an imaginary self that is grandiose and far from reality. It is that residual self-image, forged in sin, that we describe as ‘me,’ ‘I’, or ‘self.’
That self is an incurable sinner. It is he who haunts us and complicates our lives, even after we’ve repented and been born again. It literally causes a world of trouble, and must be washed away by the “washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5) — that is, by the processes of spiritual growth and development.
We must make distinction between the simple “human condition” (the state of Adam & Eve at creation) and the fallen human nature (their messed-up state after the fall). And, there is an eternal difference between the imperfect, immature, and innocent members of “the new man” of the divine nature, and between the corruption-filled, dead-in-trespasses-and-sin individual of “the old man” of the common, rotten human nature. The former (new man), God through the cross was made “holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight…” (Col 1:22 NKJV). Even after being born again, the latter (old man) still lives in and permeates the members of our inner being (soul) like black smoke from a raging forest fire. And oftentimes, the latter short-circuits and hamstrings the performance of the former, to our utter frustration. That’s why Paul said, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Galatians 5:17 NKJV). “O wretched man that I am,” he laments. “Who shall deliver me?” he asks. Thank God he immediately comes back with the one and only answer, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” But concerning our old pesky human nature, he is immediately reminded once again, “So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh [i.e., my human nature], the law of sin” (Rom 7:24,25; brackets mine).
Our self-image is the carry-over from the first transgression (“original sin”). It is the product and the very essence of sin. God gave us self-awareness. Simple self-awareness is pure and innocent. However, original sin gave us self-image, self-centeredness, and self-consciousness. At the new birth, the Holy Spirit gives us the mind of Christ, and begins restoring our Christ-image, our God-consciousness, and our God-centeredness. Faithful, diligent, and constant adherence to the processes of spiritual growth and development is what brings the restored mind to maturity and completeness.
After the universal fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden, the self is still futilely and hopelessly seeking its own glory and goodness. You see, Eve was convinced that she could cheat death by finding within herself some measure of goodness equal to that described by the ‘law’ (that code of goodness availed by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil).
For the first time, Eve was looking to her SELF and depending upon her SELF for that life-sustaining goodness. What she did not know was that the life she had experienced was never based on any customizable code of goodness, but simply on her connectedness to God. For God’s proper name, I AM (Exod 3:13,14), literally means (among other things) “VERY LIFE ITSELF.” So, the very moment Eve opted to use her free will to make herself separate, independent, and apart from God, she disconnected herself from LIFE ITSELF. God cannot lie. He had already told them, “…in the day you eat thereof, you shall surely die” (Gen 2:17).
And, quite literally, the rest is history. Since then, the story of man has been one abysmal tragedy of sin and divine judgment after another, with the one great light being the gospel story of Jesus Christ. In fact, the story of man became so completely bleak at one point, that the Bible says,
When the Lord saw that man’s wickedness was widespread on the earth and that every scheme his mind thought of was nothing but evil all the time, the Lord regretted that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. Then the Lord said, “I will wipe off from the face of the earth mankind, whom I created, together with the animals, creatures that crawl, and birds of the sky—for I REGRET that I made them.” Gen 6:5-7
Is it just me, or have we not ALL universally proved that we just don’t get it? The truth about mankind is indeed unsavory and nauseating — without question. But, we must embrace this as truth preferred.
The scriptures tell us repeatedly that we (that is, our human nature), were crucified to death, and buried with Christ when we became born-again. Thus, God declared our human nature garbage. Having been trashed, we are not to look to it nor lean to it any more.
“Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” Romans 6:6
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me…” Galatians 2:20
Take the time to read the entire passages of Romans 6:1-7, Gal 2:20, Col 3:3, and Romans 3:10-19. There, you will see that God has judged human nature, declared it a lost cause, and has instead supplanted it, completely subsuming it with his son, Jesus Christ, the new man.
But the modern media worships the old man. It continually boosts the old man and promotes it. It will never let you forget about you — no, not for one second. Everything in the media glorifies and glamorizes the self-image. It will never let you forget that you should be working on YOU — serving you, securing you, blessing you, beautifying you, enriching you, promoting you, and enhancing you in every conceivable way. Thereby, they keep your mind enmeshed in sin.
Now then, our hearts and minds need to be renewed, because they often leave us thinking wrongful and delusional thoughts. We are, so to speak, stuck on stupid concerning this. We are always looking for some positive, redeeming qualities within OURSELVES; that is, within our individual human nature. We look for things to commend, to honor, and to prop up the flesh. We seek out reasons to keep the old man around. We stare, so to speak, in the mirror.
And, we are insulted to the hilt when others don’t commend us for what we see as our good and positive qualities, not realizing that God has judged and sentenced to death the whole package of rotten humanity. Here, we show that we yet fail to comprehend and appreciate the doctrine of the gospel — the crucifixion, death, and burial of the old man. If we did understand it, we would shout a thousand Hallelujahs. If we only understood, then we would realize that we don’t need to find any good within ourselves. We only need to find God, and stay humbly connected to Him. As the scripture says,
“And this IS life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” John 17:3
The scripture tells us that our whole capacity to rightly assess our ‘selves’ is ruined. You see, that person in the mirror, with the eyes that are looking back at self, seeking for some glory, goodness, or strength within self, has spiritually blind eyes. Self seeking eyes, by nature, are always blind to spiritual reality. That’s because they are looking in the wrong direction — away from the light. They are looking back at self, when they should only be looking up and away to God and Christ, “The Light of the World” (John 8:12).
We need only get our eyes fixed on Jesus. We need to seek after the only good person in the universe, our Heavenly Father God. But failing to comprehend this, our hearts become subject to a myriad of delusions about ourselves. The word says,
“The heart [of man] is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9
And, our unregenerate hearts always misinterpret the grace of God within us for the goodness and greatness of self. When commenting on some compliment of character offered to us by others, we say things like, “That’s just me,” or, “I’m just like that.” Thereby, we lie, and usurp the credit for God’s gracious moves within us. But, when confronted with flattery (praise to our flesh), we ought to respond like Jesus.
“And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God.” (Mark 10:18, Matt 19:17, Luke 18:19)
But the flesh masquerades for that which is actually only attributable to Christ Jesus himself in us. The scripture tells us, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13
Not realizing this, unwittingly our fogged-up hearts become puffed up with spiritual pride and lead us to intercept and arrogate to ourselves praises which belong to God alone.
If you can’t say ‘Amen,’ then say ‘Ouch !!’ But, if you are saying, “What in the world are you talking about?” Then, you’re amongst those of us who still just don’t get it; because, we are talking about me here and about you — Y-O-U. Make no mistake, we are talking about EVERYONE in flesh and blood, without exception. It’s just the predicament of mankind. It’s just human nature. The whole kit and kabootle of the human race is messed up like this — male and female, rich and poor, black and white, educated and illiterate, and infidel as well as Christian. As Paul declared at least two times, “…for there is no difference.” (Rom 3:22; 10:17)
Coming to acknowledge, accept, and admit this truth is very liberating and healing. This is chicken soup that the soul can really feast on, benefit from, and grow by. Thus, Paul said, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Romans 12:2). We Christians too suffer with human nature, but at least we do have an out — an alternative and divine nature that we can and must learn to live by.
Realizing the truth about human nature is very enlightening. This makes all of Biblical history totally understandable. The story of Israel in the Old Testament is really just a chronicle of God’s dealings with human nature universal. Israel simply represents and stands proxy for the whole, messed-up human race. Their regular and cyclical forays into sin and idolatry just shows the natural course and inevitable end of all humanity. The history of the Jews is really nothing other than a reflection of the history of the entire human race attempting to have a relationship with holy Jehovah God.
And, we all just trend toward sin. Left to ourselves, we head straight for the bottomless pit of sin and depravity every time. We must thoroughly become familiar with our nature and our evil ways, and subscribe to our sore dependence upon God’s mercy and grace every second of every day.
When we look into the lens and mirror of the Word of God, ultimately we will all say as Isaiah said, “Woe is me. For I am undone… for I am… unclean” (Isaiah 6:5). Or, we will react just like Daniel, fall to our knees, and report, “So I …saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me; for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength” (Daniel 10:8). Or, perhaps like John, our experience will be: “His countenance was as the sun shining in his strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead” (Revelation 1:16-17). Or perhaps, we will cry out like Job, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6).
These are the experiences of men beholding the glory of God. And, this is the experience of all human nature discovering itself in the presence of the glory of the Lord. This is what happens when the sinfulness and wretchedness of man meets the glory and unspeakable holiness of Jehovah God. This is the estate of all mankind — me, and you, and everybody else you know. This is the neediness of every human soul. And, herein lies the truth, the blessing, the provision, and the universal appeal of the gospel.
So, I urge you in the name of Jesus, and for the truth of the gospel’s sake, stop looking for and expecting to find some goodness in that “man in the mirror” — in that self-image. You’ll never find in him any righteousness, strength, faith, wisdom, or any virtue at all. If you think you’ve found some, it’s truly only a mirage, a delusion, and a lie. As the word says,
“For if a man thinks himself to be something, when he is NOTHING, he deceives himself.” Galatians 6:3
“Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a LIE: to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity.” Psalm 62:9
Instead, be instructed by the doctrine of the gospel, and let the old man rest in peace, so that the new man can live in peace. As Paul cried out,
“O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 7:24-25
So, stop gazing at that self-image in the mirror. Stop looking for answers from your SELF in the looking glass in your mind. Leave the old man alone. Forget the “rep” (reputation) you’ve been trying to build all these years. Learn once and for all that when you gaze at that reflection, all you will find is an habitual sinner — one who is already crucified, dead, and buried. So, give up on him. Or, as the Lord told me in a vision many years ago, “I WANT YOU TO SMASH EVERY MIRROR IN THE HOUSE.”
I know that we live in an image obsessed generation. And, that is precisely the problem. The image that we love is spiritually beastly, as in, “the image of the beast” (Rev 13:14-15; 14:11). As the scripture says, “A man who is in honor, yet does not understand, is like the beasts that perish” (Psalm 49:20). Gazing at that image brings doom. Hoping to find some good in one’s own self is a futile endeavor that renders an individual as ludicrous as the proverbial dog chasing it’s own tail. What’s he going to do with it once he catches it? What will that have solved?? And, like the old saying goes, “Repeating the same action over and over again, yet expecting a different result, is the express definition of ‘insanity.'” You need to break out with a breakthrough with the truth of the gospel.
Do however, keep looking through the lens of God’s word unto the glory of the Lord. There, you will behold God in all HIS glory and HIS goodness, and you will be transformed into HIS image by the power and operation of the Holy Spirit. As the word says,
“But we all, with uncovered face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 3:18, KJ21
“Beloved… it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for WE SHALL SEE HIM as he is.” 1 John 3:2
So then, don’t look back at your own image any more. Instead, keep looking up and away to the Lord through the lens of God’s Word and of His Spirit. Seek the face of God, and not your own face. As it says, “When You said, ‘Seek My face,’ my heart said to You, ‘Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.'” (Psalm 27:8 NASB). Through Christ Jesus, “the new man” (Eph 4:24; Col 3:10), we may now know God, live with Him, and walk with Him in love, in peace, in joy, and in all the glory of eternal life. Hallelujah. Amen.
Have you been looking to that man in the mirror for help that you need — for strength, or wisdom, or goodness, or righteousness, or answers? Have you been admiring him, knowing way down deep inside that he and you both are in big trouble? Well, look to him no more. But instead, do like Pilate commanded, “Behold, the man [Jesus Christ]!” (John 19:5). If you are ready to put your trust in Him now, instead of in yourself, then please pray the following prayer.
Lord Jesus, I need you. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open my heart and life now to receive you as Savior and Lord. Come in and take control of my life. Give me your Holy Spirit. Come and make me the kind of person you meant for me to be. Amen.
Did you pray that prayer? Then, on the solid-rock foundation of simple child-like faith, I now pronounce you a born-again believer in Jesus Christ. Mark this date on your calendar. It’s the first day of your eternal life. Congratulation! And welcome to the family.
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If you are already a Christian, but are in need of repentance and rededication, then pray this prayer,
Lord Jesus, please forgive me for not serving you the way that I should. I open up my heart now, and give you full access and control. Have your way, Lord. Cleanse me from all my sin and idolatry. Fill me with your Holy Spirit again. Renew me, Lord. Make me the kind of person and servant I ought to be. Amen.
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