Here is the battleground which every Christian find themselves in. Here is where we struggle to believe God over our senses and our natural, reasoning mind. This is universally experienced and inescapable regardless of our gender, age, nationality, social standing, etc. What we need to learn is 'how to win this battle.'
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Isaiah 55:9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Faith is the avenue we walk on... to obtain the higher life in Christ. We must ascend to God; through faith, believing His Word over our mind and thoughts. In our natural earthbound state we try to live and walk in faith, believing the Word, and at the same time are bombarded with doubts and questions. Our own intellect and reasoning capacity is our enemy. For our natural reasoning is carnal. Faith is of the spirit. There has been an over-abundance of faith teaching in this generation. Few today have not encountered one or another of the various faith movements in the last twenty-odd years. Yet having had the teachings and experiences they offered, how many are walking in newness of life as a result.
What comes to mind most readily are the ministries of Kenneth Hagen and Kenneth Copeland during the 1970's. What we see all through man's history (and in our own lifetimes) is that God will quicken and move on His people, waking them up to KNOW HIM, and at first it is wonderful. But man eventually takes over what God is doing, and in his own strength tries to control and direct what they in truth, know nothing about. The original Spirit that gave the life lifts, and we are left with the shell rather than the substance, and create another branch on the 'denominational teachings tree.' We see ourselves going through the formula's, trying to manipulate the results. We need to learn that 'we' will never dictate to God what to do or how to do it. When Jesus walked the earth he was confronted with man's reasoning abilities. Let's look at some examples of how he responded:
Mark 2:6-12 But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only? And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts? Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house. And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion.
These men were not the drunkards and derelicts of the streets... but the religious leaders of the day. They did not recognize Who Jesus Christ was and is. They saw Him only as a threat to their hold over the people. But He knew their hearts and thoughts, even as he knows our hearts and thoughts today. And He took pity on the people, demonstrating to the unbelieving as well as those that believed... that He does have power to forgive sins... by healing the sick man. What He said there is a good demonstration of WHO HE IS. To the scribes (and our natural reasoning) their would be a difference between forgiving sins and healing. Yet there is no difference, to the Son of God. One thing is no more difficult than the other to grant.
Mark 8:15-21 And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod. And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have no bread. And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened? Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember? When I broke the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? They say unto him, Twelve. And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? And they said, Seven. And he said unto them, How is it that ye do not understand?
Even though the disciples were chosen and walking in close proximity to the Lord, they had not yet been changed. They were not yet able to grasp the things of God... except with their limited, carnal, mind. Jesus was speaking of spiritual leaven, but the disciples assumed he was referring to something they had failed to do... bring bread. We are no different today. When it comes to interpreting and understanding the things of the Spirit, we approach them from the carnal realm of thinking... in an attempt to bring spiritual things down to our level of understanding. We can see... and hear very well in the natural... and still be spiritually deaf and blind.
1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
We are not going to find spiritual discernment by attending a fine College, University or Seminary. We will find it by taking to heart and believing every word that Jesus spoke. Many things Jesus said are hard to comprehend. He spoke in parables that are as much misunderstood today as they were when he first delivered them to the multitudes that followed Him. What we are faced with here... is the struggle that rages between being ruled by our mind (rational thought, logic) and being led by our Spirit (our inner witness, the word of the Lord to us personally).
1 Corinthians 8:2 And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.
We must draw near to God with all our heart. We must be willing to sit at His feet and learn... for the only way to develop spiritual discernment is through the power of the Holy Spirit enlightening our understand. The world is full of people with great intellect and reasoning abilities? but very few with spiritual discernment... very few with the mind of God. We are told in the Bible that we must bring our thoughts under control.
2 Corinthians 10:5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.
Romans 8:6-7 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
Not only must we bring out thoughts under control... but we must allow God to renew our minds... to totally, radically change our way of thinking.
Romans 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
This is a part of the death process... the death of 'self.' Our 'old man' must be put down. And he isn't going to go quietly... He is going to kick and scream all the way. Self-preservation is one of man's strongest natural instincts... self-sacrifice is 'un-natural' to man... that is why when an individual acts selflessly, it is considered noble and altruistic. Yet this death to self... is a part of taking up our cross and following Christ. Only as we are willing to lay down our will, our thoughts, our desires, our imaginations... and seek to more fully know Jesus and His Resurrection Power as a reality in our lives will this come about.
Because faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen, believing is critical. All natural, rational thinking is totally contrary to faith. The rational thinker wants physical evidence in order to believe. We must learn to believe above, beyond and in spite of our physical senses... above our fears, our lack, above what we see with eyes and hear with our ears. Believing is the door through which we can move from the natural to the spiritual. Our believing must be grounded on Jesus and what He taught. The life He lived is the example we are called to follow. As we walk in the path of faith... we will have obstacles to overcome... both from within and from without. But do not allow anything to cause you to stop pressing forward or detour from the path once you start. We all will stumble and fall, and at first our vision is pretty limited, but as we doggedly persevere the way will become easier... Because our faith and trust in God will become stronger than our doubts and fears. There are many who will try to use reason and logic to convince you that this quest is crazy. There are many who will tell you there is a different way... an easier path to take. This is a lie.
2 Corinthians 11:3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
To the natural man... the way of the cross is a thing of abhorrence. The natural man is willing to accept Jesus as Savior... to accept that Jesus went to the cross to pay for our sins... but balks at the idea that we too must bear a cross. That we too must die. We need to realize that it is only as we die... that we finally begin to live. Rather than running from the cross... we should be running to it. Rather than trying to avoid any form of personal suffering at all costs... we need to recognize that it is through our suffering we are conformed into His image.
Hebrews 2:10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
Ephesians 1:17-19 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power.
Ephesians 3:17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.
Philippians 2:5-8 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
Isaiah 55:8-9 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Just think of that! If we could truly grasp the truth, that God desires to have a loving relationship with us, personally, we would gladly embrace the cross. We would seek to die to our flesh and be changed with all our heart and soul. God is the One drawing us unto Himself. He knows what has to be cut out, and how to accomplish the changes we need in our lives. When the battle is raging... let us keep our eye on Jesus... and not the battle. When our mind is flooded with doubts and fears... let us learn to thank and worship Him. We must exercise our faith. James 2:20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? We must be aware that the battle is being waged over who will sit on the throne of our hearts... Christ or self? We will never taste victory as long as 'reason' is in control. Only as we learn to walk by faith, believing in things yet unseen, will we overcome. The rewards of taking the way of faith are so great that they are almost beyond our comprehension. The enemy of our souls will use every means at his disposal to try and keep us tied to the bonds of reason and the appetites of the flesh. But we can overcome and break through the veil of the flesh.