Do we see our own human nature clearly enough to constantly repent of what we really are? This article will help you see the REAL YOU!
"YOU'RE AN idiot, Smith!" bellowed the drill — sergeant to the raw recruit. On the command "right turn," Smith had made a crisp, mechanical movement to the left. "What are you, Smith?" "I'm an idiot, Sergeant!" echoed Smith in respectful obedience. Smith knew he'd really be an idiot to say anything else. Since he wanted his weekend pass, he gave the right answer. In counselling for baptism, God's ministers have met many Smiths people who wanted to be baptized just as sincerely as Smith wanted his pass. These people have read the booklet on baptism and the article on real repentance. They know how to reply to a minister when he asks, "What are you?" Yet is it enough just to know the right answers?
We could train a parrot for baptism if words were all that were necessary. We could ask the parrot, "What are you?" and it would obediently reply, "I'm carnal! I'm selfish! I hate myself!" We could then say, "This parrot seems to have a good attitude" and go out and baptize it. Ridiculous? Of course! Yet you can say, "I'm carnal, I'm a burnt out hunk of junk!" without really seeing your nature as God sees it. And remember, even after baptism, God expects us to be constantly aware of and on guard against our human nature. How can we, like Paul more than twenty years after his conversion, say and mean it, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom. 7:24.) Paul constantly repented of what he was humanly. He was constantly changing, constantly growing in God's nature. We, too, can grow only as we see the flaws in our own nature, repent of them and change. How can we get a clear picture of what we really are? Is there anything or anyone that will mirror our own nature?
Children Mirror Our Own Nature
David was able to look back over his whole life and see that he had sinned from the day of his birth: "Behold I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Ps. 51:5). Here is one great key to seeing ourselves as we really are — follow David's example. Go back to your childhood. Better still, observe the habits of children — your own if you are parents — and realize that they have the same nature as you. Children are the purest reflection of unadulterated carnality. Each newborn babe comes with an invisible label: "Guaranteed 100% carnal." So, children can help us see ourselves as we really are, stripped of the deceptive veneer of politeness and do — goodism painted on us by this world's civilization. Unlike us, children make no effort to disguise their own carnality. From birth a baby is 100% selfish. Watch it at feeding time: the baby's mouth latches onto the nipple of the bottle and from that moment a rapid one-way traffic takes place. If a baby at this stage could think, the last notion to come to its mind would be, "It's more blessed to give than to receive — won't you have a drink first?" No! With a relentless sucking motion the bottle is drained to the last drop. Here is the clearest picture you will ever get of human greed and selfishness. No thought for others: just get, get, GET! Brethren, let's not color this picture with such phrases as "Ooh!... isn't he sweet?" "Oh! isn't she a little angel?" or the normal worldly bromides about the essential purity and innocence of little children — they are not pure or innocent AND NEITHER ARE WE! WE are grown-up children with exactly the same carnal pulls and drives as little children. The trouble is most of us can't see these drives! Just as we cloud the true nature of children by calling them little "angels," so as grown-ups we camouflage our human, carnal nature by a show of goodness. In this we mirror the nature of Satan who appears to others and undoubtedly to himself as an angel of light, but who at heart is as evil as sin. We may think that as grown-ups, we have overcome this greediness — but are we naturally as concerned about others' welfare as with our own? Have you never stood in line for a bus or a movie where few seats were left and found yourself wishing YOU were at the head of the line? Or did you naturally think, "How wonderful that the people in front of me will be able to get a seat even though I may not get one!" Anyone who thinks that the latter is a true picture or how he normally reacts to his fellowmen has still not fully realized that "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked!" Certainly such a person has not yet come to "know it" (Jer. 17:9). Don't deceive yourselves in this satanic way. As you watch the baby zealously yet greedily guzzling the milk, realize that this is an accurate picture of what we are without God's Spirit: "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these evil things come from within, and defile the man" (Mark 7:21-23). All of these traits start at birth and are with us till the day we die. Let's look at them more closely.
The Pride of Human Nature
Children have pride and so do you and I. The first time my daughter was able to pull herself to her feet and look across the cushions on the couch, she swelled visibly with pride. Then she looked around as though expecting us to acclaim this tremendous feat with wild applause. Yet what to her was an earth-shaking event, to us was just amusing. After all we, as grown-ups, sit down on the couch without even thinking about it. In a similar way, what to us are great feats, are puny in God's eyes. Job probably thought his pyramid was a great achievement, and yet to God Job had just pulled himself over the edge of the couch — now what was so great about that? When did you last repent of having a high opinion of yourself? Think for a minute — we show our pride in our own strength every time we fail to realize our total dependence on God. Look at a small child. It is blissfully unaware of how completely dependent it is on its parents. Yet, lock up the house and leave your child by itself and it would die within a few days. Are some of us so unaware of our complete dependence on God that we risk missing out on prayer for a few days? Our faith in our own strength, our pride, causes this attitude, which can be fatal. What makes you think you can get by with less prayer and study than that recommended by God's ministers, than that recommended by God's word? — your pride!
We Are Natural Murderers, Liars and Thieves
Now look at some of the other traits in human nature pinpointed by Christ in Mark 7:21. Notice Christ mentions thefts, and deceit or lies. Every child naturally tends to steal and lie. Think back to your own childhood. Did you never steal an apple from a neighbor's garden or a toy from Woolworth's counter and then perhaps lie about where you got the article in question? One man I counselled with said that he'd always known that it was wrong to steal, lie, or murder, and that he had never done so. Even if this were true, could a man take any credit for his actions? Remember, many nations and tribes who have never heard of God's commandments believe that it is wrong to steal, lie, commit murder, adultery, etc. How did they come to have these laws? The answer is that they would never have built up a civilization without certain basic laws which are also contained in God's Ten Commandments. These pagan nations did not adopt the law "Thou shalt not kill" out of consideration for their neighbor. They did not bring in a law against stealing because they wanted to protect their neighbor's property. No! They adopted these laws because they personally did not want to be killed — because they personally did not want their own property stolen — because they did not want another man to run off with their wife. God gave His Ten Commandments to us not only for the smooth running of society but to help us have the right respect for Him and for our fellowman. Man of course has completely discarded those commandments which show his relationship to God (the first four), and has only grudgingly restrained himself occasionally from killing, raping and stealing from others because he doesn't want these things to happen to himself. Little children naturally hate, steal and lie — contrary to the opinion of the sweet little old ladies who've never had children — yet rare is the man who will admit that he desires to do these things. I did once meet such an individual who admitted he loved to kill. He was a professional soldier who enjoyed outwitting the enemy, loved the thrill of the chase and of beating the other man to the draw. War, in which there are no rules, allowed this man to run wild with his unfettered carnality. If you don't believe that all men naturally want to kill, rape and steal, you only have a short time to wait before this fact is amply demonstrated. Already laws are so weak that crime is soaring out of all proportion to population growth. Daily, we can read of juvenile delinquents stabbing someone or strangling them with a bicycle chain just for the "kicks." Each new "law" seems to abolish one of those laws necessary for the existence of organized society which keeps human nature relatively in check. Are you so lacking in understanding? Have you so little insight into your own nature that you still believe the laws against killing, stealing and lying were brought in out of the goodness rather than out of the selfishness of men's hearts? Do you still believe you personally have kept these laws because you also were "good"? God says our righteousnesses are as filthy rags (Isa. 64:6) because they are all based on selfishness and greed (Gen. 8:21).
Human Disrespect for God
Children do not naturally respect their parents any more than we naturally respect God. Christ mentions "blasphemy,'' which is a basic disrespect for God, His wisdom and judgment. In the same way, since children, we have grown up disrespecting our parents' wisdom and judgment, feeling that we have been woefully mistreated on the few occasions that they may have corrected us. Right from birth we are easily offended. Sometime ago we saw our daughter crawling toward the electric light cord. We had to correct her to prevent her from going near it. Of course, she wept brokenheartedly at this "injustice." At eight months old she didn't have the mind to understand that if we hadn't punished her she would sooner or later have bitten into the plastic cover and electrocuted herself! In the same way, we, even as members of God's Church become easily offended when corrected on some point for our own good. We aren't able to see ourselves and our own rotten attitudes as easily as God's chosen ministers can, and consequently we sometimes feel we're being done an injustice. How like children we are! Even with God's Spirit to help us, there is far too much of our carnal "childish" self still alive — there is still a great deal to mortify, to crush. The main problem is not seeing ourselves from God's point of view — carnally full of "evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness..." Let's take a look at some of the other deadly traits inherited from our parents (Job 14:4) and above all let's be realistic about them — admit they exist in us!
Ever Been Jealous?
Like you and me children are naturally jealous. I remember one man intentionally giving attention to our daughter to see what effect this would have on his own son. The lad responded immediately by wanting to have affection shown toward him. Later, when he thought no one else was watching, he tried to twist Elizabeth's nose. Amusing? In a way, yes, but how often does this feeling well up in your own heart? Older members will sometimes be jealous of newer members who are far more yielded to God and who consequently may be given positions of responsibility in the Church. Sometimes an older "member" might even try to downgrade in the eyes of others the newer, more zealous man. Even if they have never resulted in direct action, let's admit that such thoughts of jealousy do occur in our minds. Envy, much akin to jealousy, is very evident in children. Think back to your own childhood; what was your reaction when someone gave your brother, sister or friend a present? Did you automatically think "What a blessing it is for them to have this present?" Of course not! If we're honest, we'll admit we thought, "Why should they have it? I want one too." Where along the line between childhood and adulthood did this carnal attitude magically vanish from our nature? It never did — all too often such feelings cause us to envy the possessions of other people. Occasionally a person has even stopped paying his tithe because he wanted more of the physical goods that others around him possessed.
Children Are a Blessing
By now, we can see that whether they're little boys or girls, children are not "sugar and spice and all that's nice." Look further and you find that children are spiteful, foolish and boastful. They form cliques; they gossip. Yet children are also a great blessing once we realize that they show us the very flaws that are part of our own nature. Some think that we lose these flaws at baptism when we bury the old self and receive God's Spirit. It's like a snake, they think, which casts off its old skin to reveal a shining new one. Yet, we do not slough off human nature at baptism. Rather, God's Holy Spirit which is to guide us "into all truth" shows us more clearly the plain truth about ourselves. God says that our heart is so deceitful that man unaided cannot get a true picture of what he is like. But, with the help of God's Spirit man can see accurately what he is — he can see his own nature in the raw.
Our Goal — God's Nature
Each year with God's help, you can come to have more disgust of the real YOU. That is why Paul, over twenty years after conversion, could say with greater conviction than most of us, "I know that in me (that is in my flesh), dwelleth no good thing.... O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Do we see ourselves plainly enough to continually repent and desire with all our heart to change our human nature for God's divine character? Do we "through the Spirit... mortify [kill off] the deeds of the body"? Far from being fond of ourselves, let us, like Job, come to see ourselves from a God's — eye view, so that the next time you ask yourself the question, "What am I?" you can say, "I'm carnal, I'm selfish, I hate myself!" and really mean it!