“Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts” (James 4:2).
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith” (Matthew 23:23).
“If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit” Galatians 5:25).
In contrast to the perfect peace and rest which is characteristic of the “I Am” presence within us, the carnal mind – aka the egoic mind — is constantly lost in thought and in time – scheming and calculating; looking to redeem the past and secure the future; seeking to complete itself though some anticipated but perpetually elusiveset of circumstances or turn of events. This brings to mind the foolish man who built his house upon the sand:
“And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!” (Matthew 7:26-27).
It is worth noting that those whose lives are dominated by the carnal mind are not necessarily voluptuaries, incessantly pursuing their favorite avenues of sensual indulgence – quite the contrary! They may, in fact, be very religious and may succeed, after a fashion, at making clean the outside of the cup, but like the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, they are like whitewashed tombs which, within, are full of the bones of the dead and all kinds of filth (Matthew 23:25-28).
In the final analysis, then, those actions which are initiated or pursued solely from the standpoint of the carnal mind – whether putatively “sinful” or apparently “holy” – can be reduced to “self-will.” Uninformed by the mind of Christ, such actions can only serve to perpetuate our alienation from the Garden of God and the Tree of Life (if we have yet to recognize the image of God in us) OR to slow our spiritual growth or sanctification (if we are already aware of His living presence in our lives). Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin (Romans 14:23).
Fortunately, it is a universal law that we reap what we sow. To the extent that our lives are dominated by the carnal mind, our actions and attitudes generate suffering—both individually and collectively. By the grace of God, however— as that suffering becomes more and more intense —we become willing to take up our cross and follow Christ. So doing, the Way of life opens up before us:
- Whereas, before, we sought personal fulfillment in the pursuit of money, fame, and sensual pleasures;
- Or, for a time, perhaps, we tried to become righteous or spiritual by dint of our own efforts, in deference to some (merely abstract) ideal;
- We are now ready to exchange our will for God’s will, trusting God to work in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
- We no longer play tug of war with our appetites and inclinations, realizing that this is a battle that can’t be won (cf. Romans 7).
- Nor do we engage in the hypocrisy of the legalist who is content to rest in ritual observances or self-righteous acts to which he or she is already habituated and takes personal pride in (cf. Matthew 23:23-27).
- Rather, we learn to simply observe the vanity of the carnal mind in the light of that spiritual awareness or “I Am” presence which is the mind of Christ (cf. “confession” and “repentance”).
- Dwelling in that light, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus sets us free from the law of sin and of death (Romans 8:2).
- Being found in Christ, we are righteous – holy and without blame. For everything exposed to the light becomes visible and everything that becomes visible is light (Ephesians 5:13-14).
- Elements of the carnal mind may persist, but over time we are sanctified – are made “perfect” or “mature” in the faith – as we continue to abide in Christ.
- Though our outward man perishes, the inward man is renewed day by day (II Corinthians 4:16).
- The law of love remains in effect (John 14:34-35; I Corinthians 13).
- The fruit of the spirit is manifest in our lives (Galatians 5:22-26).
Insofar as we live and walk in the Spirit, it goes without saying that we will promote Christ-centered ideals within our communities and encourage one another – by precept and example – to cultivate virtue in our lives. Nevertheless, we must understand that our ideals cannot become actual – our virtue cannot begin to be perfected – until our self-will is substantially surrendered and the fruit of the Spirit is generated from the inside out. The particular shape this will take, in terms of behaviors and lifestyles can vary widely between individuals (according to their education, temperament, and circumstances) and between communities (depending on the particular culture and subcultures involved). But what is undeniable is the healing power and unconditional love that is to be found in the “I Am” presence which IS the living Christ.
–> Afterword: I Am with you always…