Leaving aside the problem of evil (which is touched upon in our Skeptic’s Corner), perhaps the biggest barrier erected by our modern minds against a saving knowledge of the truth is the chronic incongruity between (both) our sincere ideals (and our pious rhetoric), on the one hand, and our actual lived experience, on the other. While we may rightly refrain from judging others, it is difficult not to despair in the face of our own failures and inconsistencies.
This general sense of incongruity and personal inconsistency comes to light as follows:
- in the conflict that we experience between the flesh and the spirit (a la Romans 7)
- in the apparent absence (in our personal experience) of anything remotely resembling the promised victory over this conflict (a la Romans 8)
- and in the underwhelming evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives (a la Galatians 5).
The purpose of this essay (together with its sequel) is to attempt to remove the aforementioned sense of incongruity (construed as an obstacle to faith) by further illuminating this classic conflict, together with its ultimate resolution. We will attempt to accomplish this by drawing a careful distinction between the carnal mind, on the one hand (together with the order of appearances which is its correlate), and the mind of Christ, on the other (which is itself the order of Being) — and also by showing how those who sincerely desire to transcend this conflict (which arises in the order of appearances) can do so if (and insofar as) they authentically recognize and honor Reality (which IS the mind of Christ).
If that seems like a lot to take in all at once, try breaking it down as follows:
- The order of appearances is generated in, by, and for the mind of the flesh…
- The order of Being, in contrast, IS the mind of Christ, aka Reality or True Nature (in contrast to Fallen Nature).
- The conflict of Romans 7 arises at the point of intersection between these two minds (or orders) as we take our eyes off the Lord and attempt to proceed (in the order of appearances) on the strength of the flesh alone.
- More precisely, the individual who is experiencing the conflict is attempting to replicate, in the order of appearances, an ideal that can only be realized– indeed, IS only realized –by the mind of Christ in the order of Being.
- Deliverance comes when we are able to recognize (and distinguish between) each of these “minds” or “orders” and are willing to give due honor and precedence to the mind of Christ.
- It is at this point that our apparent lives begin to reflect that which we ARE– in Chirst –in the order of Being, rather than our desire to merely appear a certain way (whether in our own eyes, in the eyes of others, perhaps, or even– as we may imagine it –in the eyes of God).
Assuming that is at least partially intelligible, so far so good… Let us consider two additional points of reference that should help to further situate and frame the discussion which is to follow:
1) Just as there are two archetypical men– Adam and Christ –so there are two archetypical minds: that of the flesh and that of the Spirit…
With regard to these two men and their respective minds, it may be helpful to think of the former (the carnal mind) as being entirely oriented towards that which is sometimes referred to as the horizontal dimension, while the latter (the mind of the Spirit) is vertically inclined. Whereas the former tends to think (exclusively) in terms of genealogy and causality and is preoccupied with control in its temporal relationships (perpetually attempting to reconstruct the past and anticipate the future), the latter is, in contrast, steadfastly attuned to our Spiritual origin and destiny (i.e. our eternal life in Christ). As it is written:
- “Marvel not that I say unto you, you must be born from above” (John 3:7).
- “We have the mind of Christ” (I Corinthians 2:16).
- “Old things have passed away, behold all things have become new and all things are of God” (II Corinthians 5:17).
2) The flesh and the mind of the flesh can be fruitfully compared to the “ego” or the “egoic mind” (see also: The Carnal Mind ≈ The Egoic Mind).
With regards to this second point of reference, more conservative readers may want to consult John Piper’s The War Within: Flesh Vs. Spirit. While this reference to Piper should not be construed as an endorsement of his more general perspective, it is worth noting that he also seems to acknowledge that “the flesh” or “the mind of the flesh” is at least roughly equivalent to the ego.
And when it comes to the egoic mind, generally, let us each simply look within ourselves and observe:
- the running mental commentary that is seldom absent from our lives…
- our personal preoccupation with the story of “me”…
- our preoccupation with manipulating outcomes so as to secure that which is “good”, in our eyes, and to avoid that which we fear or otherwise judge to be “evil”…
- our overarching concern with our personal ambition or success and, generally speaking, with that which enhances our personal prestige…
- and even, at times, our inordinate awareness of and preoccupation with our own personal failures and regrets.
Each of the bulleted items above are– or at least can be and tend to be –a manifestation of the carnal or egoic mind. Moreover, in the New Testament (especially in the gospels and the Pauline epistles), it is repeatedly said that such personal preoccupations must be left behind–that, indeed, even the most innocent of our personal preferences must be subordinated to the will of God as we take up our cross:
- “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me…” (Matthew 16:24).
- “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized” (Mark 10:39).
- “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
- “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ…” (Philippians 3:7).
In short, whatever the turn of events, His grace is sufficient…” (cf. II Corinthians 12:9). We need not lean on our own understanding… (cf. Proverbs 3: 5).
Moreover, in addition to these foregoing points of reference, most of us would also agree that the story of Adam and Eve, the gospel narratives, and the Pauline epistles– together –serve to illuminate our first-hand experience of these two minds and their respective orientations to these two very different dimensions (i.e. the flesh and the Spirit; the kingdoms of this world and the kingdom of God; time and eternity; fallen nature and True Nature; appearance and Reality; etc).
Perhaps we can agree, as well, that as we (by the grace of God) become more fully aware of (and more appropriately oriented to) these two dimensions, we can begin to properly distinguish between “the carnal mind” and “the mind of Christ” in our own experience–and can, as a result, stay more fully connected to the locomotive of the Spirit (according to Piper’s metaphor) through which we find deliverance from the conflict in Romans 7.
With these things in mind, then, let us consider a series of scriptures with which most readers will be familiar, but which they may never have considered in this light. In addition to highlighting the distinction between the flesh and the Spirit, generally, this analysis will also serve to demonstrate that while, in the order of Being (i.e. with regards to our eternal life), Christ (and our creation in Christ) is prior, it is nevertheless the case that in the order of appearances (i.e. with regards to our personal and cultural narratives), Adam (the so-called natural man) comes first.
Referring to these two “orders”, as such, is not without its limitations, but this way of framing the discussion should help to clarify the distinction between these two minds and their respective worlds or kingdoms. With that goal in mind, we will paraphrase the scriptures below by interpolating [in brackets] some references to each of these two “orders”, as follows:
[the order of Being] or [the order of appearances].
As we shall see, the carnal/egoic mind, considers the horizontal/natural/temporal dimension (i.e. the order of appearances) to be the only reality (or the only reality that really matters, at any rate). And when the personal ego or “I” usurps the place and presence of God in our hearts– attempting to rule, instead of being willing to serve –this is the “mind” with which we become wholly identified. As a result, we become fully immersed (or lost) in the (merely) apparent world which is thereby generated.
But it is also the case that we have the mind of Christ and that (in and through Him) we also have access to the vertical/eternal dimension (i.e. the order of Being) in and through the power of the Spirit. As such– insofar as we live and walk in the Spirit — it may legitimately be said that we are crucified with Christ and that we no longer live (which means that the “I” no longer sets on the throne of our hearts, trying to manipulate the flow of appearances), but that Christ lives in us (the One who IS before Abraham was — in the order of Being, as such — in the beginning with God).
Relinquishing the throne of our hearts in this way, we die to “the world” (as represented in and understood by the carnal mind) and become alive to the kingdom of God (which IS the mind of Christ–aka Reality or True Nature).
When it is said that we have access to “the vertical dimension” or “the order of Being”, this is not to suggest that we will have (or should desire to have) imaginal (or prophetic) visions of supersensible realms or celestial beings (or future events). Any such (alleged) experience– and even the desire to experience such things –is usually considered suspect (and rightly so). Without denying or disparaging any experience that may authentically unfold in our lives, we would do well– as a general rule of thumb –to adopt Thoreau’s deathbed observation as our motto, namely, one world at a time!
What is important is not whether we have celestial or prophetic visions, but whether (and to what degree) we see the Reality of the kingdom– here and now —through the mind of Christ and the power of the Spirit. For it is by clearly recognizing and honoring this Reality— the Way, the Truth, and the Life that is with us always –that we find deliverance from the Romans 7 conflict.
The ego in Romans 7 may “believe the gospel” and “accept Christ” (perhaps in an intellectual way; perhaps in an emotional way; or perhaps in a way which reflects some combination of the two). And while it may be necessary and appropriate for us, as a community, to acknowledge and affirm that such a one is “saved” and will “go to heaven” when (s)he dies by virtue of such “belief” and “acceptance” (insofar as this kind of intellectual and/or emotional posture reflects a sincere desire to participate in the life of the church), it is nevertheless difficult– when and for as long as the conflict of Romans 7 persists –to acknowledge that such such a one really recognizes and truly honors the mind of Christ and the power of the Spirit. Rather, given the lack of trust and reliance indicated, it would seem to be the case that (s)he is still attempting to understand and control the flow of appearances merely with reference to the horizontal plane–that (s)he is not fully connected, vertically speaking, to the locomotive of the Spirit (referring, once again, to Piper’s metaphor).
NOTE: Piper’s metaphor of the locomotive must not be taken out of context. He is not suggesting that the Spirit somehow gives us brute strength to power through difficulties. Let us remember, rather, that His strength is made perfect in weakness (cf. II Corinthians 12:9). Indeed, Lao Tzu’s water metaphor may be more apt (and may also be more comparable to the living water that Jesus spoke of then is generally imagined).
It is also worth noting that none of this is intended to disparage or discourage anyone’s desire to understand the natural world or to take action on the horizontal plane as long as such understanding and action finds its ultimate inspiration and satisfaction in the mind of Christ and the power of the Spirit. Indeed, it is by virtue of such enlightened action (or inaction, as the case may be) under God, that our lives begin to reflect the kingdom of God into this world, Here & Now. But as with most matters of the Spirit, this too is subject to much misunderstanding…
Finally, the idea of being “vertically connected” can, itself, become a matter of pride–and can itself, therefore, be a kind of spiritual trap (i.e. yet another “achievement” or “identity” for the ego to lay claim to). So perhaps it is with some trepidation that we should speak of these things, fully realizing our many limitations (and personal shortcomings) and without suggesting that our lives, as a whole, necessarily provide a very good example for others. Nevertheless, those of us who have struggled with this conflict over many years– and have reflected rather carefully on the transition between Romans 7 and 8 (both in the text and in our own lives) –are naturally inclined (if not duty bound) to share what we have learned. As such– our personal shortcomings and trepidation notwithstanding –let us continue by working our way through the following scriptures which may be fruitfully understood in light of this general framework:
Two Men ≈ Two Minds ≈ Two Worlds or Two Kingdoms:
The Order of Being & The Order of Appearances
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. . . . That was the true Light, that lights every man that comes into the world” (John 1:1-4,9 KJV 2000).
Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth. . . . 27 So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” . . . 31 [And] God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was [In the order of Being] very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. 2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. 2 And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done.
Note, in the verses above, that the creation of God is finished and is declared very good indeed! And then note, in the verses below, that the creation of God– in the beginning –seems to include our creation in Christ:
Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. . . . 2:10 For we are what he has made us [In the order of Being], created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
Nevertheless, the order of appearances and the order of Being are not the same:
I Corinthians 15:46 However, [in the order of appearances] the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. 47 The first man [in the order of appearances] was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.
I John 3:2 Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed [in the order of appearances]. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is [and ourselves as we are– in Him —in the order of Being].
Genesis 2:4 These are the generations [in the order of appearances] of the heavens and the earth when they were created. In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens. . . 7 then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.
Chapter two of Genesis marks the point of intersection and transition (in the text) between the vertical and the horizontal. Humanity, as portrayed in this verse, seems poised between the order of Being (in the presence of God in paradise) and the generations of the heaven and the earth that are destined to unfold in the order of appearances (in the wake of our original sin). This psycho-ontological mystery is expressed in the form of a myth, to be sure–but a myth which is undoubtedly true nonetheless:
“And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).
“Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, has God said, you shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die. And the serpent said unto the woman, You shall not surely die: For God does know that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods [in the order of appearances], knowing good and evil .
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened [to the order of appearances], and they knew that they were naked . . . And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD… [and from the order of Being]. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where are you? And he said, I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And he said, Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree, of which I commanded you that you should not eat? (Genesis 3:1-11).
“Because you have . . . eaten of the tree, of which I commanded you, saying, You shall not eat of it: cursed is the ground for your sake; in sorrow shall you eat of it all the days of your life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field; In the sweat of your face shall you eat bread, till you return unto the ground; for out of it were you taken: for dust you are, and unto dust shall you return. Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden [and from the order of Being], to till the ground from which he was taken [in the order of appearances]. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way of the tree of life [and the order of Being]” (Genesis 3:17-19; 23-24).
Paul picks up the story in Romans 5 as follows:
Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned— 15 . . . much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. . . . 17 If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one [in the order of appearances], much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ [in the order of Being]. 18 Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. 19 For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death [in the order of appearances], so grace might also exercise dominion through justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord [in the order of Being].
Ephesians 2:1 You were dead [to the order of Being] through the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. 3 All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else [in the order of appearances]. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses [in the order of appearances], made us alive [to the order of Being] together with Christ — by grace you have been saved — 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are what he has made us [in the order of Being], created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand [i.e. “in the beginning”, prior to the order of appearances] to be our way of life.
It is at this point that we can begin to appreciate the bearing which this distinction has on the inner conflict of Romans 7. Indeed, the transition portrayed in Romans 7 and 8– analogous to that described in Genesis 2 and 3 –once again corresponds to the point of intersection in our lives between the vertical and the horizontal. Only this time– as is the case in the prodigal son’s return –our spiritual trajectory is reversed as we, by the grace of God, lay down the forbidden fruit and take up our cross:
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus [in the order of Being] has set you free from the law of sin and of death [in the order of appearances]. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh [i.e. giving precedence to the order of appearances] but according to the Spirit [i.e. giving precedence to the order of Being]. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 To set the mind on the flesh [and the order of appearances] is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit [and the order of Being is] life and peace (Romans 8:1-6).
“But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you. So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you live according to the flesh [and the order of appearances], you will die; but if by the Spirit [the order of Being] you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God” (Romans 8:12-14)
[As such, we] “bear fruit for God . . . not under the old written code [in the order of appearances], but in the new life of the Spirit [in the order of Being]” (Romans 7:4,6).
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God” (Galatians 2:19-20).
“Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).
“Everyone who drinks of this water [in the order of appearances] will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them [in the order of Being] will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14)
“So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away [in the order of appearances], our inner nature is being renewed day by day [in the order of Being]. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen [the order of appearances] but at what cannot be seen [the order of Being]; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal (II Corinthians 4:16-18).
“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life [in the order of appearances], what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?’ or “What will we drink?’ or “What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness [the order of Being], and all these things will be given to you as well. “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:25 -34).
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth [in the order of appearances], where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal [i.e. become fully invested in the order of Being]. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God [i.e. order of Being] and wealth [i.e. the order of appearances] (Matthew 6:19- 24; cf. Luke 12:15-21).
We have seen then, that the mind of Christ (and the order of Being) is ontologically prior to the carnal mind (and the order of appearances). Nevertheless, from the standpoint of our fallen minds (and our personal and cultural narratives), Adam and the carnal mind appear first. In fact, it is our identification with the carnal mind and the order of appearances which obscures the order of Being and the kingdom of God which is the primary Reality. Indeed, it is in this light that we should understand the verses below which state unequivocally that these two orders are mutually exclusive.
Note: While there is a lot of repetition in these verses, it is nevertheless instructive to see them all together as follows:
Matthew 10:37 He that loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And he that takes not his cross, and follows after me, is not worthy of me. 39 He that finds his life [in the order of appearances] shall lose it: and he that loses his life for my sake shall find it [in the order of Being].
Matthew 16:24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world [in the order of appearances], and lose his own soul [the order of Being]? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
Mark 8:34 And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 35 For whosoever will save his life [in the order of appearances] shall lose it [in the order of Being]; but whosoever shall lose his life [in the order of appearances] for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it [in the order of Being]. 36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world [in the order of appearances], and lose his own life [in the order of Being]? 37 Or what shall a man give [in the order of appearances] in exchange for his life [in the order of Being]?
23 Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. 25 What does it profit them if they gain the whole world [in the order of appearances], but lose or forfeit themselves [in the order of Being]?
Luke 14:26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, yea, and his own life also [in the order of appearances], he cannot be my disciple [in the order of Being]. 27 And whosoever does not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sits not down first, and counts the cost, whether he has enough to finish it? . . . 33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsakes not all that he has, he cannot be my disciple.
Suffice it to say, that all these verses pertain to the the priority that we must (unavoidably) give to one or the other of the aforementioned “minds” or “modes of being” (or “orders”). One of them is “carnal” or “egoic” (i.e. it pertains to “the first man” and the order of appearances–the one who hides himself from the presence of the Lord, desiring to manipulate the flow of appearances to his or her personal advantage rather than to walk with God). And the other one is “spiritual” or “transcendent” (“the second man”– the Lord from heaven — the One who IS, eternally, in the beginning, with God).
As indicated above, this “second man” — which we experience as the mind of Christ and the power of the Spirit — is prior in the order of Being, but is (from the standpoint of our fallen minds) realized later in the order of appearances. This results in considerable ambiguity as the coming of the kingdom is discussed and anticipated in the texts:
Luke 17:20 And when he was demanded by the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God comes not with outward observation [in the order of appearances]: 21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you [in the order of Being]. . . . 33 Whosoever shall seek to save his life [in the order of appearances] shall lose it [in the order of Being]; and whosoever shall lose his life [in the order of appearances] shall preserve it [in the order of Being].
John 12:25 He that loves his life [in the order of appearances] shall lose it [in the order of Being]; and he that hates his life in this world [in the order of appearances] shall keep it unto life eternal [in the order of Being]. 26 If any man serves me, let him follow me; and where I AM, there shall also my servant BE: if any man serves me, him will my Father honor.
Matthew 13:44 Again, the kingdom of heaven [and the order of Being] is like unto treasure hid in a field; which when a man has found, he hides, and for joy thereof goes and sells all that he has [in the order of appearances], and buys that field [the order of Being]. 45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking fine pearls: 46 Who, when he had found one pearl of great price [i.e. the order of Being], went and sold all that he had [i.e. the order of appearances], and bought it.
“Verily I say unto you, Except you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven [the order of Being]. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3-4).
For as long as our horizon is restricted to that of the carnal mind, the kingdom of God can only be imagined as coming by observation–as something which will arrive at some point in the future. But as soon as the carnal mind is recognized, as such– and seen through or transcended —the kingdom of heaven can be seen in Reality to have been within us, among us, and at hand, all along.
Moreover, our dying to the carnal mind (and the order of appearances) and our childlike awakening to the mind of Christ and (the order of Being) is portrayed as our being crucified with Christ and being raised with him in newness of life:
“Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death [to the order of appearances], so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life [in the order of Being]. For if we have been united with him in a death like his [to the order of appearances], we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his [to the order of Being]” (Romans 6:4-5).
John 11:21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I Am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation; That is, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself… ” (II Corinthians 5:17-19, KJ2000).
As indicated above, most of these scriptures will be very familiar to most readers. Nevertheless, we have considered them together, in this order and context, in hopes of more effectively illustrating that while the mind of Christ and the power of the Spirit— which we have referred to as the order of Being –is accessible to all who desire it (whosoever will may come and drink of the water of life freely), just because we say, “Lord, Lord”, does not mean that we are are really on the Way of Life to which we are called.
While the “Lord, Lord” reference may not be entirely appropriate at this juncture (since it might seem to suggest an element or degree of hypocrisy that is not characteristic of the ego in Romans 7), nevertheless– all his good intentions notwithstanding –it seems clear that he has failed to adequately recognize the mind of Christ and to honor the power of the Spirit. Instead of entering– vertically and victoriously –into the promised land (i.e. the order of Being), it seems that he is still primarily oriented toward the order of appearances on the horizontal plane and, to that degree (at least), it would seem that his heart is not really in the right place– not entirely, at any rate –and he is not, indeed, doing the will of our Father who is in heaven (cf. Matthew 7:21).
As such, while it may be perfectly appropriate– in an effort not to discourage those who find themselves in this transitional stage –to say that ego in Romans 7 is saved and will, indeed, go to heaven when they die–rising again “in the resurrection on the last day” (saved yet so as by fire, perhaps), it would still seem to be the case that he:
- …does not seem to have any first-hand knowledge of the resurrection and the life that Christ says, “I Am”;
- …does not seem to be “raised in newness of life”, here and now ;
- …and does not seem to be experiencing the joy of his salvation or the peace that passes understanding.
Nor, in the final analysis, is there any indication that is he bearing fruit for God…in the new life of the Spirit (cf. Romans 7: 4,6).
So, the question remains: Is there a way to more effectively point such a one to the mind of Christ and the power of the Spirit so that the promises of abundant life and fruit meet for repentance can be realized NOW?
To be sure, Piper’s understanding of “the flesh” as being more or less equivalent to “the ego” (in contrast to “the mind of Christ” and “the power of the Spirit”) is a step in the right direction. So, too, is our general recognition of “the vertical/Spiritual” dimension (in contrast to the “horizontal/temporal” dimension). Moreover, these insights have only become clearer as we have drawn a more careful distinction between “the order of appearances” (which is represented in and by the egoic mind) and “the order of Being” (which IS the mind of Christ).
From this standpoint, it also becomes clear that our egoic/analytic minds naturally attempt to divide the world up into BOTH social and political groups AND material and financial resources (of various kinds) which we are then quite naturally inclined to manipulate (in a variety of ways) as we attempt to arrange the turn of events to our personal advantage (imagining that life is a zero sum game and that if we don’t secure our share, someone else will benefit at our expense).
But this is not the Way of Life/Christ. Nor is it the way of Christ to simply paint by numbers–attempting merely to conform to rules or patterns of behavior laid down by others in our community (however highly respected or idealized).
Such attempts at conformity or imitation are not without value– indeed, they are on one level essential –but they are, nevertheless, preliminary steps on the way to moral and spiritual maturity (our “school master”, so to speak). For just as the ego in Romans 7 ran up against the limits of his ability to keep the law, so we run up against the limits of our ability to embody such values and imitate such behavior. And like the ego in Romans 7– assuming we are both sincere and determined –we will at some point find ourselves similarly frustrated in our spiritual walk. And while it may be that real answers often (if not always) come to light in the wake of such struggles, let us do what we can, Lord willing, to minimize the time and energy that we and others must invest in failure and frustration by learning to more effectively recognize the mind of Christ–and to more appropriately honor the power of the Spirit NOW.
NOTE: That is name of the second essay in this series: The Mind of Christ and the Power of the Spirit. And for anyone who might be interested, this is the prequel: