"It Isn't Me!"

By John David Clark, Sr. - September, 1992

"If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.

Old things are passed away. Behold all things are become new.'

But now put ye off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing you have put off the old man with his deeds, which is corrupt according to deceitful lusts, and have put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

The "new creature" which one becomes when he is born again is perfect. He has faith. He is sinless. He is full of charity and good works. He is wise and patient. In Christ, he is made, as Paul states, the very "righteousness of God" in Christ.

Many people have shaken their heads in smug contempt at a young person in Christ who, from old habits, does not exhibit the qualities which they expect from a person claiming to belong to God. But it takes time for any newly converted person to learn what it is that God has made him. It is not that the Spirit of God is unable to change a person; on the contrary, the problem is that the change is so great that many times it takes years for one to realize fully and put into practice the changes which Christ has made in his soul! It is not that Christ is insufficient; rather, it is that he is so very sufficient that it takes us a while to catch up with him. His work is so great that we cannot in a short time appreciate or apply it all.

Old habits are difficult to break, but when one becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus, that new creature has no old habits. Old habits belong to the old creature, not the new one. When one is born of the Spirit, the change from the "old man" to the "new man" has been made, but the change is so great that it takes some of us years to realize just how free from the past we are. The difference is so vast that we sometimes cannot at first realize it, and when we don't realize what has happened we can easily do things that we have been accustomed to doing.

One attribute of the "new man" that I want to point out is that of discernment. When I first began to follow Jesus, as I sat in a Bible study or prayer meeting, an unexpected feeling of anger and discontentment would sometimes overshadow me. I wrestled with this for what seems, in retrospect, to have been several years, ashamed to confess the puzzling problem to anyone. I can remember, on one occasion after this had happened, going off to myself and praying. Almost in despair, I said, "Lord, no one has mistreated me. No one has insulted me. You've blessed me very much. There is no problem anywhere with anybody. I am not angry! WHY AM I ANGRY?" It was very frustrating. But, thankfully, God answered my very sincere question, in His time.

One day I was visiting Brother Earl Pittman, and he began to talk about a problem he had been having. Now, Brother Earl is a line fixer in a hosiery mill, and many times he has been blessed with insight into the Scriptures or life situations while walking the line, meditating on God. This day he had been praying as he worked about why at times he would become angry for no reason. In a Bible study, he told me that day, or at a prayer meeting, he would be feeling fine, when suddenly an anger would come over him, leaving him mystified. Of course, I was interested in hearing about this.

Then, Earl excitedly said that God showed him the answer, an answer so simple and right! "God showed me", he exclaimed, "IT ISN'T ME!" Talk about relief! God had given me my answer, too. Of course it wasn't I. The new creature that I had become in Christ doesn't have a problem with anger. Those feelings had to be coming from somewhere else. And when I realized, at long last, that in Christ Jesus I had been made free, I stopped blaming and condemning myself for the bad feelings that sometimes came around, realizing that I was merely discerning someone else's spirit, someone who was having a hard time and needed help.

Afterward, whenever that unexpected anger began to be felt, I immediately would whisper a prayer for whoever it was who was bearing a burden that day, frustrated by misfortune. And I can honestly say that from the day of my conversation with Brother Earl to this day, I have not once been bothered by that problem again. The truth really does set one free.

Everybody in Christ is what I call a "feeler of spirits". In other words, everyone is susceptible to influence from the spirits around us. When you are in the presence of a person who has a proud spirit, the possibility exists that you will be influenced by his words and actions. Solomon wrote, "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise, but a companion of fools shall be destroyed." Everyone of us is influenced by the company we keep because everyone of us is a "feeler of spirits". Problems arise, however, not merely because we feel the spirits around us; there is nothing wrong with that. Indeed, it can be a wonderful thing. As Solomon just said, the good spirit of a wise man in Christ can influence others around him as well as can a bad spirit of a foolish man.

Problems arise when those who feel the spirits around them do not discern the spirits they are feeling. As I once did, when a wrong spirit is felt, many of God's children condemn themselves for feeling it instead of realizing they are only "picking up on" a spirit which is around them. IT IS NOT YOU! The "new man" has no such feelings! He has no such lusts, no covetousness, no hatred, no envy, no arrogance. He is perfectly satisfied with God. He expects to be taken care of by God, and he loves his neighbor as himself. That is who you are in Christ, because that is what God made you when He gave you His Spirit! And all these other strange, contentious, unclean spirits traveling about in the world will be felt, yes, but need not be followed. As Jesus said of Satan when he saw the mob coming to arrest him, "Now the prince of this world cometh, but he hath nothing in me." Brother, Sister, he has nothing in you, either.

The reason newly converted saints sometimes listen to and follow the foolish, vain spirits around us is that those spirits are familiar to us. Before we forsook sin and came to Jesus, we lived our lives obeying those lusts, and we know them. "We ourselves also were once foolish", Paul wrote to Titus, "disobedient, deceived, serving diverse lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another." We know those spirits well. But they are no longer a part of us in Christ! We can feel them because they are everywhere around us, but they are not us! All things about us and in us have become new. Oh, that we all could take this in, and stop acting under the influence of some wrong spirit we used to know!

Even carnal men know it is dangerous to travel while under the influence of strange substances. One could loose his freedom to drive by doing so. In the kingdom of God, it is dangerous to travel under the influence of the strange spirits about you. Resist them, and maintain your liberty in Christ. Paul said it this way: "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made you free, and be not entangled again in the yoke of bondage." To the church at Ephesus, Paul wrote, "You were once darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord. Walk as children of light."

It confuses folks who are looking on, that those who are born again do not always exhibit the wisdom or uprightness which a "new creature" in Christ ought to exhibit. But often, the reason this happens is that the errant child of God hasn't yet realized what he is in Christ, that he does not have to emulate the proud, or envy the wicked who prosper, that he does not have to stay sick, or depressed, or confused about the way of righteousness. My dear friends, we are dealing with a God Who is so great that even those of us who are given a new Spirit with which to live this life must labor diligently just to perceive the greatness and the extent of His mercy on our lives.

Knowing the reality of spiritual influences, John warned the church to "Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they be of God." But to be able to try the spirits, one must know the truth. Otherwise, he may "condemn the just and justify the wicked". Just imagine! Jesus was accused of being demon-possessed by the men on earth who should have known God best. Isaiah, that ancient warrior of faith, prophesied that it would happen. He said, "When we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. And we hid as it were our faces from him. He was despised and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows, yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted."

"Woe to them who call evil good, and good evil", Isaiah said, "that put darkness for light, and light for darkness, that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter." Then, to avoid God's "hot displeasure", we must come to the knowledge of the truth and no longer be confused about who we are in Christ. To be led by the Spirit which the Father has given us is real, everlasting life. To see things as God sees them, no longer confused by the ungodly spirits around us is to live in peace. To call good, good, and evil, evil, and to know which is which, is to know God. This is a struggle of faith, the real warfare of the Spirit, and the reward for victory is eternal life.


REVELATION

I suppose that there has been as much controversy concerning the Book of Revelation as there has been with any book ever written. Now, as the time for these events to transpire comes upon this unsuspecting world, God is making clear the order of events which we are about to face. These things will come suddenly upon most men, but the church should not be found in the confused darkness of sin. We are to know what to look for, so that the day of Christ will not take us by surprise.

Many teach that the Church will suffer through none of the tribulations which are soon to afflict the earth. This is utterly wrong and scripturally baseless. Not only will the Church go through a time of great tribulation, but it must do so twice before the coming of the Lord for his saints! Part of the reason so many who profess to belong to Christ will "fall away" from the faith, as Paul said, is that they have been taught that the Church will not suffer through the coming tribulations. Expecting to be caught away to heaven before the trials begin, the disappointment and confusion will be too great for their faith to overcome. It may be a good question to ask, "Are you ready for Jesus to return?" But a more timely question is, "Are you ready for him not to return yet, and to go through the tribulations which must precede his coming?"


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