THE NATURAL MAN
Sermon preached in Rye Lane Chapel, Sunday morning, March 21st, 1954.
"But the natural man receiveth not the things of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know know them, because they are spiritually discerned." I Corinthians 2:14
THERE is no subject about which man is more confused than himself. Of all the insoluble problems that challenge his mind none, not even God, is greater. The explanation is that man being individually in inward confusion has lost the power to determine things that are of God and therefore to determine things concerning himself. We may not believe the Bible and since it appears to be foolish to the natural man, it is not likely that he will consult it, and yet to it eventually, each must turn for any true understanding of himself. Of this we may be sure that if God has in any way disclosed its view upon the man He redeemed and created, that view will be found within the Bible. A patient will feel ill, very ill, and he is the most important person concerned in his illness yet he is probably quite incompetent to diagnose his complaint, to judge his condition and certainly unable to indulge in any kind of prognosis. So it is with man in general and with each one of us in particular.
Who of us has not endeavoured to plumb the mystery of one's own being and who is not painfully aware that of their mysteries of existence none is deeper than the impenetrable ego? In such circumstances every one of us should be eager to know what is the diagnosis of man in the Scriptures. We may not like the diagnosis we may repudiate the remedy and, yet we may know ourselves in the light of Divine revelation as we never knew ourselves before. The Bible, we shall find, has a good deal to reveal which will help us to a knowledge of ourselves and place us in a right relationship with God and to its pages we turn, and first we shall look at:
1) THE MAN GOD CREATED
Man comes on the scene in the first book of the Bible. There we read - "And
God said, Let us make man in our image after our likeness." That is
to say: man is the fruit of the faith of God for the word of God in Genesis
is the faith of God. Man was made in the image and likeness of God. The nature
and likeness of the image we must leave on this occasion but it was essentially
in his spiritual nature and it may be that the incarnation of our Lord indicates
that even in the physical frame
there is a correspondence, the extent of identity at present hidden from our understanding.
Then we read in the second chapter (v.7) "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (or 'lives') and man became a living soul." The Scriptures speak of man as being spirit, soul and body. The order, we believe, is significant. By his body man maintains his contact with things sensible, visible and audible. It is through the medium of the members of the body that we have our contacts one with another, and can communicate our thoughts and ideas and receive and consider those of others. Man possesses a soul, which is the centre of his consciousness, his emotions and his intellect, but he also possesses a spirit, which is the function by which alone he can have fellowship with God the Father of spirits.
So Adam walked in the Garden of Eden. He was endued with a spirit, which was the door into fellowship with God. As he walked with God his spirit was controlled by God, and in the strength of that fellowship with God, his spirit controlled his emotions, desires, aspirations and thoughts and so kept his body in the discipline of the will of God, to his daily joy and delight. Thus the congenial nature about him and the soul of the man controlled by the spirit, itself controlled by God, he was able to know a peace and delight that no other man since his time has ever experienced in this mortal realm. God was supreme, the body subservient and that meant unspeakable joy and delight. But then with sadness of heart we must look at
2) THE MAN IN HIS SIN
The man had been plainly warned: "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." That solemn injunction was ignored, as we know. We may wonder how it was possible for Adam and his wife to set it aside, but they did. When the serpent inveigled the woman he declared: "Thou shalt not surely die." Whatever else therefore may emerge, the failure of Adam and his wife to obey the counsel of God brought the issue of death to an acid test. Did either or both die in the day they ate of the tree? If they did not then the serpent was right in sweeping aside the warning of God, but few would like to reach such a conclusion. Some of the results of this disastrous lapse are recorded.
First they knew they were naked. It may be, of course that with sin within they looked at each other differently, but it may also be that with sin within, their bodies were changed. The glory of the original image was possibly reflected in their bodies but when sin came the glory departed.
Secondly, they had no desire for fellowship with God and that certainly meant that the human spirit had been affected by their disobedience. In some way it was put out of commission. That is why Paul describes the unredeemed man as being "Dead in trespasses and sins." He may be very much alive in his body and indeed given to sin, and he may be very much alive in his soul as he lives in arrogance and pride and self-righteousness, but he is dead towards God. Not all the people who go by our Chapels do so because they have proved conclusively that the Bible is untrue, religion is false and God does not exist. They go by because their faculty for fellowship with God has perished, they receive not the things of God and cannot know them because the spirit alone can discern those things, and are therefore indiscernible when the spirit is dead in sin. Since the time of Adam it is not in the nature of man to desire fellowship with God. Thus our Lord declared: "God is a Spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." So few have the renewed spirit with which to worship Him that the Father is continually seeking such to worship Him.
Many worship Him, especially in heathen and pagan lands, with their bodies, yet worship Him not at all. Many worship Him in soul, in intellectual exercises, in ceremonies, in music and even in the enjoyment of a preacher, yet worship Him not, for only as men worship Him in their spirits is the Father pleased.
Hence as Adam, left the Garden he faced a world altogether different from that which he had enjoyed in Eden. Nature was no longer his servant but against him. All that he would do to nourish the ground for his seed would nourish the weeds as well. The secrets of nature in all their wealth, which would have been unfolded to him, as he matured in righteousness, were now held back for him to fight for, and labour and indeed to suffer. Worse than all this, for instead of walking in the strength of fellowship with God and his human spirit having the mastery of his soul and body, the fellowship was broken, the spirit was "dead in sin" and in consequence his emotions and feelings were controlled by his body. He as a human being in chaos was stepping out into a world made chaotic by his sin. Out of fellowship with God, with some discord between himself and his wife, he stepped out of bliss to bring forth children born not in the image of God, but in the image of his fallen self. And this is the essential depravity of the race, as every parent knows. We are destined to bring into the world children whose spirits are, like ours, by nature "dead" and how soon, to our sorrow and perplexity, do we see in them the very nature we have endeavoured to hide from ourselves! The picture in this connection, however, is not complete for we must see
3) THE MAN IN HIS BONDAGE
The man and the woman were not the only personalities in the disaster of Eden. There was in it, as the mastermind, a sinister being who emerges on the scene in Genesis 3 and persists in occupying a prominent place throughout the sacred record. Of course, the natural man scoffs at the thought of the devil. There are even a few Christians who think that by not believing in his existence, he ceases to be! If we wish to find out what exactly the Bible teaches then whether we like it or not, we must recognise that the Scriptures unhesitatingly describe this sinister being with many aliases. It was his deadly design to cause doubt about the goodwill and the integrity of God. As he seduced the woman and the man, so he struck the mortal blow at his spirit. By that death of the spirit of the man, he wrought an entrance by which the powers of darkness were able to occupy the individual from within, as well as to work havoc in his circumstances. Our Lord declared; "Ye are of your father the devil and the works of your Father will ye do." John writes: "The whole world lieth in the wicked one." This is the plight of man today that in every realm he is in bondage. As an individual, in his domestic relationships, in his social life, in national affairs and in international these principalities and powers,these hosts of demons all under the Satanic command, dominate and control his life. Man is led captive by the devil at his will. Any complete exposition of the teaching of Scripture upon the devil and the hierarchy of evil powers under his command, will at once appall the investigator and explain so much of the mysteries of modern life that appear to be inexplicable All this helps us to understand better the plight of:
4) MAN IN HIS FALLEN NATURE
Instead of a being in communion with God and armed with Divine power against every aggression of wickedness, man is dead to God and in the grip of evil powers that find his fallen nature the most congenial ground for all their activities. The evidence is voluminous. The natural man, this man in his sin, finds that his mind is gripped with things temporal and material. He lives for time without the slightest interest in eternity. Things material epitomised in money govern his soul. The things of God are "foolishness" to him, he cannot receive them for he has no faculty of reception. He is a drowning man sinking to the depths unable to create a rope to draw him to the shore. Hence the workings of the flesh in the natural man are manifest and never more so than today in spite of all that may be done. Contemplate the horrible catalogue as given in Moffatt's translation: "Now the deeds of the flesh are quite obvious, such as sexual vice, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, magic, quarrels, dissension, jealousy, temper, rivalry, factions, party spirit, envy, murder, drinking bouts, revelry and the like." Every natural man in greater or less degree contributes something of this evil to human society. While that is the contribution, the poison is daily and hourly injected into society through myriads of individuals. We have no need to ask whence come wars, for James truly declares they spring out of our evil lusts. God only knows what is in the heart of man but any person seriously reading the Bible will be shocked at the revelation and not least as he sees for the first time how true the catalogue is of himself!
5) MAN IN HIS HELPLESSNESS
There are certain factors, which by the mercy of God may awaken man. There is in every man the principle of reflection or conscience. It is sometimes a very dim light. It is the untimely ruin that remains of his spirit nature. It is capable by the grace of God of a peculiar sensitiveness, but it easily degenerates to the social average in which the individual finds himself. Man is therefore sometimes horrified at the results of sin while not being unduly disturbed by such pleasant sins as appeal to him individually. He endeavours by prisons, Borstal institutions and various social measures to curb the results of sin, but nothing he can do has provided a permanent solution. Where man has the Bible there is greater light but for the most, it is light so unwelcome as it shines into the darkness. And God's Spirit is in the world still striving with man and seeking to bring home to individuals how true is the diagnosis of the Bible concerning them. Consequently the individual here and there, as the results of his sin are seen, attempts desperately to do something about it, and to master the evil passions of which he is aware, but he is little better than a novice entering a den of lions.
In the social realm he seeks to arrest the flood tide of moral disintegration
but his measures are superficial because they do not penetrate the fundamental
need of the individual. Finally in the realm of international affairs he is
appalled by all the prospects of war and the awful sufferings that await the
whole of humanity should another war break in upon the world. He seeks to preserve
peace by devising such terrible weapons as will make men fear to go to war,
ignoring the fact of all history that frightful weapons have never yet preserved
mankind in peace. Such is the plight of the race of Adam that none of us can
deal with the hidden passions within. Yet these, as they are the instruments
in the hands of evil powers, disrupt our inward peace, bring us into social
disorders and national conflicts wherein man plunges in misery and travail.
To this must be added:
6) THE MAN IN HIS HOPELESSNESS
What future has the natural man? In Adam all die. Every descendant of Adam is a disintegrating being. Physical decay is the lot of each one of us and none can escape it. Many would fain believe that in extinction of being, lies the greatest hope the future can afford. But indeed the disintegration of the physical body is but the beginning of hopelessness, for every son of Adam, apart from grace, passes at his death into the realm of death, to come under the power of him who is lord of that dark and dismal region. But even that is not the end, for after that lies the judgment of the Great White Throne, before which the earth and heaven flee away, and from that lie the hopelessness of Adam in terms beyond our definition, but real beyond any doubt. It is what the book of Revelation terms "the second death." Before every son of Adam lies a bitter future. We may make money we may add fame with its laurels and leave after us a name at which men may wonder, we may realise every ambition that has moved within our hearts, but death will have us, death, the realm of death, the second death. Then what a purposeless, futile vain masquerade is life in the lot of Adam, in whom all die!
Once this is seen and understood, however we may be willing to look into these same Scriptures to know how God deals with such a problem. God redeemed the world before He created it, and the gospel of redemption is therefore addressed to this crucial issue. It requires but little insight to see that the urgent need of each individual man is that his human spirit dead in sin, shall be brought to life. "In Adam all die but in Christ all are made alive". Let a man look to God's beloved Son, Jesus, Himself no son of Adam, but the Son of Man and Son of God, perfect Man and perfect in His Deity. He is the secret. Where that sinful nature with which we were born is abhorred, and its sinful acts sincerely renounced, God will do His work of grace. He will unveil to the son of Adam in his sin Jesus the Son of God, made sin by the blood of His cross, for the race of Adam. There he shall see the one righteous man dying for the sin of the world. If any son of Adam, turning from his sin, with all his heart receives the atonement of Jesus achieved in his blood, God will accept him, and Jesus from heaven will bring his dead spirit to life and impart to him the Holy Spirit.
Henceforth he may live in fellowship with God. By faith in the living Christ in heaven, he will yield himself to His will. The Indwelling Spirit will bring life and energy to his human spirit so that he may control all his life in the power of God, and live through his mortal body the life that pleases God and blesses others. By such means and by such means only, the natural man, the man of soul, can become the spiritual man, the man of spirit. He is no longer hiding from God but seeking His face, no longer thinking Christ and His cross and His blood as foolishness, but seeing therein with a mind enlightened by the Spirit, the wisdom of God.
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