By Fred Pruitt
(This is a much-revised version of a previous article.)
1) Do you think the human ego is “the devil?”
“The devil is the human ego,” is not a phrase I use. But I know others who do consider the human ego to be the devil.
The human ego. What is it? I cannot give a firm definition, other than to say I am using the term to simply mean our consciousness of “I,” or individual personhood. The psychological world has many definitions with “ego” in it, but I stay with our simplicity.
One of the things we learn is that just as Christ is inner, so the devil is also, “inner.” And by “inner,” here I am not meaning necessarily within YOUR spirit but the devil, being “spirit,” is only truly seen in spirit. His realm is only spirit. That does not mean he does not affect the realm of flesh and blood, because he does, but only that his work is error-spirit, and error-spirit manifests and lives in flesh and blood, but primarily occupies the mind.
In spirit, in the human self, one of his best hangouts has always been the human ego. The “ego” first was the Lord’s, but in tricking Adam and Eve he invaded that sanctuary. He long-ago hid himself there. As a result, in our unbelief we are deceived into believing in our own self-ability to do good or evil, not knowing that darkness and pride of self is our lord and master, i.e. the devil, and that it is his lusts that we do (Jn 8:44).
But because of this he sits on the seat of pride in each individual human being from birth, as part of our inheritance through Adam. He has taken the inner holy place in man, and made it an abomination of desolation, replacing the glory of God that was intended to be there but retreated in Adam, with the idol of sin. The idol of sin is that I am my own God, I am my own master, I control my own destiny, I have the right to overcome others to accomplish what I want.
And he fights for that spot of primacy in the human person, in that he hides himself so well and with such suave and such normalcy, that no one for a moment suspects that he has moved in and runs the store. The modern technology-oriented world mindset thinks “the devil” is silly superstition from the past, something about which Satan laughs every day. That’s how he as an “angel of light” masquerades in the very depths of our human personhood, right in the false sense of independent self, in self-acting, self-seeking, self-protecting, self-responsible self. And we have all walked there and the world, at least in the temporal sense, walks in it and it is running pretty much everything — in the temporal.
And that is what this level of the Cross is all about. The first level of the Cross is understanding our forgiveness and restoration into the house of God. It’s the Cross “for us.” But this next level of the Cross we are speaking of here, is the Cross “in us.” This is where we learn that when Christ died, we died, and that false spirit went out of us, and the true Holy Spirit came into us to enliven us into Life in the Spirit. Flesh life didn’t cease at that point, but it was instead quickened as we awoke to new life in the Spirit of God, and we begin to see that the devil — the offence, the “man of sin,” the abomination of desolation, has been taken out of our inner selves in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Then we begin to know, in this second stage of the Cross, “in us,” how it is not by our own life we live, but by His in us. That we are not just ourselves alone, but we are a union of selves where He and I are one, just as He is One with the Father and the Spirit. The same oneness. He prayed for that same oneness in John 17, and we individually come to know the Father’s answer to Jesus’ prayer in our inner selves, as we begin to know, after we know that the devil has no more place in us, since the imposter has now been replaced by the true King, that we are walking in oneness with Him.
And now that same “human ego,” or I’ll just say, “sense of ‘I'”, instead of being the hiding place for the liar which it has been all our lives, becomes now the dwelling place of the Truth, Jesus Christ. The devil is no more there, and what was sin (in me) is now righteousness. (2 Cor 5:21) In the Cross and Resurrection He delivered us from sin — the devil, by becoming sin for us, and through that we (you and I) became the righteousness of God.
And there is no caveat there when Paul writes that. He makes it a simple factual statement — this IS who you are! You are righteousness.
2) Do we choose, or does God choose for us? Or is choice even important as an issue?
Of course choice is important. It is our function as persons. To choose is the most basic thing we do. Life is not possible without choices. I’ve heard people say that we do not “choose” anything, God chooses it all and “we” are left out of that picture. To some people it seems contrary to grace, that we make choices.
The word the Bible uses most often regarding choice, is faith. Faith is never mentioned without action – a word, a deed, a movement. Every time faith is mentioned, it involves a word or an activity. “Faith” is used 245 times in the New Testament. “Believe” (which is a verb) is used 124 times in the New Testament. “Unbelief,” which is a noun just as “faith” is a noun, is the opposite of faith, and occurs 16 times. That’s an awful lot of New Testament territory devoted to something to which we need no longer pay any attention.
The question is, who chooses? Where does the faith come from?
This “union” truth which we speak, only comes to us as revelation by the Holy Spirit. While we can write it out and study it doctrinally and scripturally, which we try to get out to to people to help in their understanding, ultimately the light from this must come from the Spirit, as well as the “ability to live it.”
This is no good if it’s just “another teaching.” We are speaking a total thing here. Almost every other “teaching” I have heard promises success if its principles are applied. But we are speaking of something which the human person cannot make work or make happen, by anything we do. We cannot, by applying principles, produce the out-flowing life of the Spirit. He does not respond to rubbing a magic lamp of our own efforts.
I cannot tell anybody “how” to do it. Because we really cannot do anything. But we think that either we can do it, or that we should be able to do it. Most of us actually think that not only should we produce God’s works, but we also can produce God’s works, if we just do this or that, believe this or that, apply this or that.
What many end up with by that road is failure (if we’re honest) and that just heaps on guilt on more guilt, because since we have been convinced we can, and that we should, but we have not, then we have only ourselves to blame.
This is about coming to the end of all that. It is the only way into understanding and living in a union life, because all that previous life of striving and trying to abide, and making sure we are making all spirit and not flesh choices every day, is out of a life that thinks that it CAN do it and that is its part in the agreement. God does His part by providing the power, the love, the commandments, etc., and it is our part to choose correctly first of all, then to apply his wisdom, or take the power He provides, and use it correctly. Learn the “techniques!”
However, while we have all in some way lived in that “God does His part, I do my part” sight, we find we don’t do our part so well. At least I didn’t.
Paul’s struggle in Romans 7 is exactly about all that. And as you know, that is the theme of “The Axe Laid to the Root.”
But Jesus simply said, “The Son can do nothing himself. But what He sees the Father do, the Son does the same.” And, “I can of my own self do nothing.”
That was something that Jesus was walking in — doing nothing of himself. Note this: He DID NOT say He did nothing. He said He did nothing of Himself!
Then how did He live His life? If Jesus, born of a virgin as the Holy Son of God, could do “nothing” of himself, of what, then, are we capable? If Jesus could do “nothing,” what can we do?
But Jesus chose, didn’t He? Yes, He did. How did He choose? How did He decide where to go, who to heal, what to preach on the mountain? The same way He did everything: “The Father that dwells in me, he does the works.”
The Son can do nothing — the Father does the works. And works got done by Jesus doing nothing of Himself. When I have shared this in places, people have actually said to me, “Well, if I do nothing, nothing will get done.”
Here’s a guy who did “nothing of Himself.” This is what the apostle John wrote about His activities:
“And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.” (John 21:25)
Choice between alternatives is one of the most constantly occurring phenomena in the universe, and we cannot escape it. On the human level, if we decide to not choose anything whatsoever from now on, eventually they will come and take us away to the looney-bin, because we could wind up in a corner of our attic unclothed, covered with filth and living in our own waste. Maybe some might think that is a joke but I know a person who experienced that very thing. Choices, like air, water, heat, food, shelter, etc., are necessary for life.
If anybody lived a “Grace” life, it was Jesus of Nazareth. And He was choosing all the time, day in and day out. He didn’t not consider Himself presumptuous to make choices, since He knew the Source of His choices.
“And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean.” (Matt 8:2,3)
“And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:41,42)
Ok, then, how do I choose? The Son can do nothing — the Father does the works.
I really don’t know how it works. The Father does it in me, that’s all I know. I live, yet not I, but He. I choose as He chooses in me, whether somehow conscious of that fact or not. Honestly, I don’t think about it too much. My attitude, which has come from the experience of living Christ, is that He’s got me, He and I are one, and I am safe daily and hourly in my “choosing,” because everyone of them are His choices.
Isn’t that being presumptuous?
No, it is the truth. Jesus said, “I and my Father are one,” and they were so enraged by Him talking about walking around as God in human flesh, that they killed him for blasphemy. They could not bear truth in the flesh, but cared rather to protect their positions and their much safer God off in the ethereal — the god they had made up in their imaginations who conformed to their own image, rather than they to His.
It is Jesus who first declared His intimate one-person-ness with God, who prayed that same oneness that He knew would be the oneness we walk in and know, too. So I just believe it and share it, because it is something I have seen and heard, too. (John 17: 11, 20-23).
“I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me.” Very simple. It’s not me living, but it is He living. People say, “Ahem, uhh, well, you’ve still got to do this and remember that.” But you don’t. He lives in us, living His life, and we find rest and liberation there, not into sin or license but into living out the life of Christ within — which is a life that knows the Cross for others – but we’re not talking about that yet.
3) Where does obedience come in?
Obedience to commandments is not the occupation of adults. Obedience to commandments is primarily a children’s issue, when the devil beats us up with the law. Whereas our Spirit unction now is to leave the elementary things — there are plenty of teachers for those — and go on to the deeper things of God, where the only “obedience” that concerns us is the “obedience of faith.” (Rom 1:5; 16:26). But we will have to take a moment to mention this view of “obedience.”
It’s pretty much a given, that when many people mention obedience, “personal behavior,” is usually in the forefront of their minds. And Paul does say quite a bit about that, so it’s no wonder so many people major on themselves, instead of God. Because when one’s focus is on one’s behavior, one’s focus is on oneself. The only way to focus on oneself is to be as if apart from God. “Self-occupation” is what the law breaks, because it finally “kills us” with our inability to live it. “I was alive once, without the law, then the commandment came, sin revived, and I died …” (Rom 7:9).
There is for many of us a time of settling in the Lord and taking a stand that we belong to Him, that we are His person. In our early days, because perhaps these were the things the Spirit overcame in us, we might take stands on personal moral issues, habits, the “outer things” we most often think of when somebody mentions “sin.”
For many, in the beginning it is about being “delivered” from things we used to do, and making a “clean break” with “the world.” There is nothing wrong with that. Praise God!!!
Another corresponding thought that accompanies the pre-occupation with our behavior, is that if we are God’s, then who we are to others matters, because we are supposed to be in some way representative of Him. So for quite a number that begins a serious effort on our part to do our best for God, and to obey Him, rely on Him, trust Him, do good, love others, help others, keep down the flesh, listen to the Spirit, learn His word, etc. Always with us “down here” seeking divine approval and blessing, with God “up there” sending down blessings and tribulations and like the big giant Hall Monitor In the Sky, always frowning and disapproving and meting out punishments for our many mistakes.
Praise God, it is often the case that that very struggle for God leads to a downfall, because this committed self, which knows it loves God with all its heart, finds out through living life that it falls far short. The evidence is plain. We haven’t done all we said we would do. We haven’t been all we thought we would be.
That is the struggle that takes us through, not doctrinally or theologically, but by the reality of which Paul is speaking, the bondage of Romans 7 into the Spirit liberty of Romans 8. Where in Romans 7 he finds himself doing what he strives not to do, and visa versa. He wants to OBEY — to keep the commandment that said, “Thou shalt not covet.” He has the will to obey, he says further down, but he can’t make it happen. “For to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” (Rom 7:18). Though he willed to do it, still he could not keep the commandment!
He finds that Another must do it. That is the message of Romans 8. Another does it in us, top to bottom, a-z. Christ our all in all. No parts sticking out of Christ. Baptism. Drenched.
So in the New Testament the commandment of “obedience” is fulfilled by the One giving the commandment. Not the party which cannot ever fulfill its part because it is “weak, through the flesh.” (Rom 8:3).
Jesus in Gethsemane shows that in the hour of temptation, the Father continues to do the works, and in this awful temptation to become separate from God by entering into his own (“separate” Jesus’) will, which pulled him to the breaking point, in that agonizing scene God prevails.
Gethsemane may have been the darkest, most dangerous hour the universe ever had. It is an hour when God is tempted to oppose Himself, and possibly pull apart the fabric of the Godhead, by means of the Son who has been overcome by a separate will. This would only serve to prove Satan’s claim, that the infection reached into the Godhead itself, that even God Himself could not help Himself to prevent His Only Begotten from separating into the strong delusion that He must, in the end, be for Himself.
Jesus had said continually during His years of ministry that He had only one will — the will of His Father. That was all he was. Yet here in Gethsemane this separate Jesus shows up, one who is tempted to think that maybe there’s another way, even though in Spirit He already knew.
So yes, it was the truly human humanity of Jesus of Nazareth that was pulled into such great stress in his temptation that he perspired blood. And what would we expect but such a great tension in the creation that night? He was about to take on the power that had enslaved the world since Adam, and remove him from his place, and to set up His Eternal Kingdom. This is far beyond our comprehension.
This is not just a doctrine of the Christian faith, but rather an event that actually takes place in all of us, when we see, as the scripture says, like lightning lighting the entire landscape from east to west all at once, that this reality is that the Christ has sent light into all the world, and that He has changed all the darkness we formerly knew into light, so that we live in universe of light, and this light goes farther than the eye can see or the brain can comprehend, penetrating every single nook and cranny of creation and self, and this is only a little of it. But everything was at stake here. Humanity and the whole creation. He must succeed.
We do not, cannot really, understand His place I think. I can only say that He was trusting to the point of death — which is a complete giving up of all, everything, throwing in the towel, the whole enchilada — believing that in His death the Father would do two things: first, redeem humanity and all creation, and second, bring Him OUT, after He had fully taken on all the sin into Himself to overcome it, so that He was raised The Victor over sin, in each of us, and in all the creation as well.
No one, not even Jesus, could do such a thing. Jesus lived, died and was raised again by the Holy Spirit just as we experience. The Spirit of the power of the Father!
That is because out of His struggle, He walked in rest. To wrestle in the Spirit is where we settle matters in Christ and God, but out of those wrestlings we learn that He is upholding our steps. “Behold my servant, whom I uphold.” Is 42:1. This was written for the Messiah, who was then forthcoming, but Who now has moved into and lives in us, and as us!
Then, having that victory, having moved from double-mindedness, where one minute I’m walking in the flesh, the next I’m walking in the spirit – “WHO SHALL DELIVER ME [FROM THIS MADNESS]? (Rom 7:24 – brackets mine) – the deliverance, contrary to what many are taught and believe, comes. So many are camped in the last part of Romans 7: 25, believing that life is an endless un-winable struggle between the flesh and the spirit. But that “belief” is a bill of goods. It is incorrect. It comes as the pure water of life when we see and come to know by the Spirit Rom 8:2,3a:
“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.”
From then on, we live in the obedience of faith, rather than precepts. There is only one obedience in the obedience of faith. Just one.
“Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” (John 6:28,29).
“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:17,18).
“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4,5).
The obedience of faith. And before I move to this next issue, one more personal comment about this faith issue.
Remember – “the Son does nothing of Himself.” Do you see it yet?
One day I said to the Lord, “Lord, you’re even going to have to do the believing here, because I can’t do that, either!” Made all the difference in the world.
4) Do we really find God’s “rest” in this life?
“There is a rest for the people of God,” it says in Hebrews 4. This is something I would simply define as coming into an inner rest by knowing an inner upholding of Christ, which becomes the center out of which we live our lives.
There are many ways of expressing how it comes. It comes first as a knowing, perhaps, that we are kept. That we are sustained.
It comes when we realize that He told us He would be in us a well of water springing up, and that we would never thirst again. One day I had to say, “Well, I guess you’ve done that, since you promised it. So you are an always running spring in the middle of me, flowing up in me and spilling out of me all over the place.”
It comes when the Spirit quickens in us that we cannot do anything of ourselves, that our only sufficiency is in Christ, and no other, or no-thing else.
It comes when we realize that He redeemed me to be His life expressed in the world and that He will accomplish His work as He pleases in my life. He will bring about His promises, like He brought Isaac at the appointed time and even worked Abraham’s self-effort attempt to make the promise happen, into the plan.
It comes all those ways and more, but the rest comes, and we realize that in His rest, we can finally relax in Him. The job (of upholding us) has always been His, but we have had to test our mettle so that we could come to the same conclusion, too.
Temptations still come. Humanity is still very much human. But love becomes the predominant operation in our sight, and we begin to marvel at how the Father is so continuously and perfectly in time and place bringing light out of darkness and rest in the middle of a storm in a boat on a lake. He IS rest in the middle of us.
“I will both lay me down, and sleep, in peace, for thou O Lord, only maketh me to dwell in safety.” (Ps 4:8)
One more thing about rest. It is all inner consciousness. I heard Norman say that a lot, and he had power when he spoke. I would “hear” it. Still, it took a while before it settled in me.
But it does settle. The Spirit does it. Somehow, there is a direct connection back to the stillness that is before all things, and in all things we find it alike. It is equal in distress and celebration. It is equal in joy and sorrow, and even equal in life and death. Because we find in it all, in all that “moves,” (which is everything in creation, since nothing can exist or be “manifest” without motion), it is all an equal out-flowing of God, Who is above all, through all, and in all.
That is the “inner” consciousness of the Spirit, and it is out of this within, that our life flows outward. It does not necessarily reveal itself clearly in our outer consciousness, but the Spirit’s settling in our faith, keeps it going within, though we may put no conscious thought to it, nor even be at outer peace. But nevertheless, “I live yet not I, but Christ,” – Who we are, inwardly, is Who we are!
Coming to that faith by the Spirit, is the rest of God. We may be running 100 mph on the outside. Living in the rest of God, since it is the rest OF GOD, might make us busier than we’ve ever been! Because the 3rd level of the Cross, the Cross in us for others (which is our dying daily), is turned outward, no more focusing on ourselves since we are kept, and life now is flowing out, not self-reflective inward.
No reason to not let the love flow, and what life it is, to be in the river!
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30).