From Natural To Spiritual

It is neither the possession of the Spirit (we can have the Spirit and have yet to learn to walk in Him, in which takes time to mature – Gal 5:25—NC) nor of actual spiritual tastes that makes (but does lead to because of continual desire – Phil 2:13—NC) a man spiritual. The mark of a spiritual man is that he judges of things according to God and not according to man (1 Cor 2:13, 15). He might appear, from his love of truth or his ability to impart his knowledge of Scriptures, to be very spiritual, yet when he acts or gives counsel about an action, or a course of action, it will be seen from which side it derives, God or man, he formed his opinion. It is the action or the counsel indicating an act which shows on which side the control is. The act necessarily tells the nature of the control.

A man is not controlled by the Spirit if he acts out of his nature. It is the act therefore that indicates what is within. As in type with Joshua in Exodus 17, his act—prevailing over Amalek or the reverse – indicated whether Moses’ arms were uplifted or not. There must be power to produce an act. A desire is not power. “The soul of the sluggard desires, and has nothing.” Faith is only shown by works, and the works tell out of the real nature of the faith. That which controls me and orders my course must always be the dominant and greater power, and hence it is in vain to say that one was taken unawares to excuse one’s bad conduct; the conduct is the evidence of the power which is paramount. Hence, though there is spiritual growth in the soul, yet if the flesh be no held in the place of death by the consistent working of the Cross, there will be an acting in it. It is uppermost; it is ever ready, if not mortified, to express itself and to dominate (which is temporal because maturity is eventually wrought in each believer—NC).

We must ever remember that the natural mind, the mind of the flesh (e.g. old man or sinful nature—NC) is as it were at home in us. The spiritual mind (new nature—NC) is the stranger, and quite beyond the natural in all its desires and thoughts; therefore the easy and ready thing for man is to look at things according to nature (or also his nature—NC), and not according to God. In order to judge of things according to God, we must set aside the suggestions of nature, and inquire how the Word of God would lead; and this is faith, and not sight nor feelings. It is faith that guides and motivates the spiritual man. Faith looks to God, sees His mind and accepts it, not only as the best, but also as quite possible, however improbable to nature.

Abraham, even when accepting the Word of God, says, “O that Ishmael might live before Thee!” Ishmael was the child of his self-will; he would substitute him for the child of promise. The child of promise was as yet unseen, of faith; Ishmael he could see. This is nonspiritual, accepting the mind of God, but seeking to have it fulfilled in a natural way. The correction for this is, “Cast out this bondwomen and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son.”

It is not enough that there is an answer to faith, but when the answer is confirmed, which is when Isaac was weaned, in the same day Ishmael was cast out (Gen 21). There is no real spiritual control unless there be a practical bearing about the dying of the Lord Jesus. The simple fact is that, in order to be spiritual, one must not be natural; and the only way not to be natural is to take up the Cross “daily” and follow Him, and this can be done only in faith by the Spirit.

Peter, after he was the recipient of a revelation which flesh and blood could not make known to Him (Mat 16:17), savors not of the things that be of God, but of those that be of men (Mat 16:23). Then the Lord Jesus said unto His disciples, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up the Cross and follow Me.” The spiritual mind in a saint is like a diamond in a quartz rock. It is not enough to possess the diamond in the rock (e.g. not enough to just be saved but to also be used—NC), but all the quartz must be broken away in order that the diamond may entirely and freely express itself (which will eventuate in all believers—NC). It is not enough for a man to know that he has spiritual tastes, or to seek the ministry that will feed them; but he must renounce and reckon dead the nature in him, which like the rock, interferes with and hinders (temporarily—NC) the manifestation of the diamond.

- J B Stoney

Excerpt from MJS devotional for June 22:
“Greater zeal for the salvation of sinners, and the amelioration of the condition of mankind, never was more manifested than at present (1850). This is ground of rejoicing to all the friends of the Gospel. But there is one unhappy symptom of the present times, with respect to Christianity. Zeal for the purity of divine truth has not kept pace with zeal for the salvation of sinners.” -A.C.