2 Samuel 17 / Jeremiah 21 / Romans 7-8
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
The other law that Paul starts to develop here is the animal nature, to which the humans were bound when they trusted and conspired with the animal (the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals, so it was a sort of representative of them) instead of God. God had made things very simple for them, then the serpent came in and made things very complicated, introducing all sort of possibilities and logic that created distrust in God and trust for something else. Therefore, as is one of the most fundamental formulas that God uses with the humans, they were given over to what they chose in their hearts to serve, which is the declaration of love. Once they were given over to it, then it just existed in them as their new nature, not of a son of God but of an animal because they were made one with the animals via that bonding of their natures. It was in the humans long before the Law of Moses was given and is the reason for the Law, because God knew what was in them to be and do—the same then as it was before, as it is now—and the Law was given to counter that which was in them.
Do not hate your brother in your heart. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.
One purpose of the Law was to prevent total chaos in a community of humans who were predisposed not to order and respect for each other, but to greed and selfishness that would tear them apart if not checked. Before they left Egypt it wasn't a problem because they were aligned together against a harsh master who held them tightly in check with an iron fist. After they left they were on their own, with leaders who an unseen God appointed to be over them. And He gave the leaders a Law to give to the people for their good, and His.
Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.
It wasn't just to prevent anarchy and chaos, but to point them back to Him—again, because of what was naturally in them via their instinctual cravings and lusts, which translated into them wanting everything that the Law tried to prevent in them. Their nature, as it is in all the humans, is at its core and foundation that of a wild animal which wants to follow and satisfy its instinctual cravings; not a civilized son of God who wants to out of a spirit of love and gratitude be devoted to and worship the God who brought him out of a land of slavery. It's not naturally in the humans to want to recognize an unseen God, even if He had done overwhelmingly miraculous things in their sight for their benefit, to set them free from a harsh oppressor whose only care for them was motivated by their ability to do more things for it. It is in the humans, rather, to be driven by instinct to persistently find any and every way to take care of its own self, to recognize only its own predicament and consistently address that, which means that gets all the particular human animal's attention, and there is none left for the God who has saved them.
Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.
The sabbath is a good example of a thing that God did to directly combat that which was inside the humans to take care of themselves and their needs so that they forgot about Him. He knew that once they received the inheritance of their own land they would be drawn to want to do the same thing they were doing in Egypt (slaving away at their work). However now they would be motivated by another force, much more powerful than a harsh master who drove them. Now they would be working for themselves, and more work meant a better chance of survival, and when that level was satisfied it meant more wealth and a better name for themselves; respect and honor amongst the humans, the ability to have more sons, etc. They would be so driven by this need to survive on whatever level became available to them, via their hard work coupled with whatever circumstance came their way, that they would get swept away by its power and would forget about the God who had delivered them so they could be free.
They were only free from their harsh master in Egypt to become vulnerable to a much more powerful force, that which lived inside them to dictate to them what they needed to do for themselves. It is an abstract thing that is easy to deny, but it means they are forced to obey its dictates, and they do because they have no other choice. The nature of the animal which lives in the humans to completely and utterly drive them by instinct is what lives in the sons to tend to keep them away from being pleasing to the Father, first of all because they don't know it's even there (because the liars have told them that the sinful nature is something else—what the "bad people," those not like them, do). Second, because it is its purpose to keep them away from the Father by making them unable to be pleasing to Him when they are led/ruled/dominated by it. Most fundamentally, it is the complicatedly numerous and varied, instinctual cravings that need to be addressed and satisfied, and the persistent fears that need to be appeased. Like a wild animal in the forest, driven by what's inside it to do whatever it does, the humans have the same kind of instinct driven nature that is impossible to deny.
The animal nature is not there telling the sons to seek God who is purposely hidden and impossible to find, yet desiring to find the truth of His existence anyway. It is telling us to get for ourselves so we can survive in as good and luxurious a way that we can, and to forget about God because it's not worth our precious time to do that. After all we have fields to plow and vines to prune, cows to milk and sheep to slaughter. We have to go to our puny little job so we can get more stuff for our selves, and retain whatever good name we can afford by our efforts which can cast us in a respectable light among our colleagues and friends. We have a family to support, mouths to feed, and houses to buy which all take so much time, effort and money. So how can, with all these taxing burdens weighing down on our shoulders, a search for God and His hidden truth be of any value to us? Can't we just do what the liars tell us and consider ourselves saved, like it says in the magic book of God, and just go about our animal existences like all the others, because there is so much to do?
Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
That's a good question, because the answer we give, not with our mouth babble about how much we love God, but with our life and what we actually choose to pursue in it; is our own true declaration of what it is we actually love and want most. It is what we will be given over to because it's what we say, in the most true places in us, what we want. If we spend our life and time searching for a God who is purposely hidden—so that we must search in order to actually find Him—we will find God and we will be given God, the only thing that can save us from forever remaining one with the natural creation by going into it and being forgotten by Him. But if we want the things the sophisticated animals (humans) spend their lives and time searching after, trying to attain more of until the day they die and do go into the ground to be forgotten (because they are hidden where no one can see them any more), then that's what we'll get, because it's what we wanted and we spent our lives building up that wall of the declaration of our love and devotion to all the things we wanted—so why wouldn't a God who is fair and just give us whatever it is we truly wanted?
So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.
When Paul says he delights in God's law and has the desire to do good, he means be obedient to God and a slave to finding Him who is hidden, only because He wants to be found. If not, would He be hidden? But he says he cannot do that because there is this other force in him, causing him to always choose the wrong way, the way of sin and death, ruled by that other nature that keeps wanting him to be distracted from his first and only pressing purpose, the only truly valuable thing a humans can spend his life's time and effort doing—searching for the hidden God, what He's like and how to please Him on His terms, not our own.
If you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in distress (because you can't find what it is you're looking for—the truth about the existence of your true Father) and all these things have happened to you (falling under the animal curse of being bound to this unshakable drive to obey its dictates and fulfill its whims), then in later days (when the Father calls you by name and reveals a tiny part of the truth of His existence and the truth of His paternity and your sonship in another unnatural dimension) you will return to the LORD your God and obey him (because He keeps calling you away from the animal curse that He declared you must be set free from, because you're destined to become a child of God instead of the animal). For the LORD your God is a merciful God (a Father who is genuinely merciful to His own child—not just to random animals He doesn't even know); he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers (a copy pointing to the better thing, which is the personal—not generic or random—covenant He has with each of His sons in particular as per Jeremiah 31), which He confirmed to them by oath (I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men. But my love will never be taken away from him).
For the son, looking at a woman lustfully isn't a sin against her, or stealing something a sin against its owner or any of the other other humans, but against the son's Father, who desires His sons to be driven by another nature than the one that lives in the humans to define them as mere animals before Him. He wants His own sons to be faithful to Him, not the humans, because contrary to the humans and their ability to persuade via general opinion, and the threat of being shameful and loathed by them; they are not inherently important in and of themselves, just because they're humans as the sentiment goes they like to propagate amongst themselves. It exists because they are inherently superior to the other animals, but that doesn't translate to them being important to God, who actually sees them not the way they see themselves but the same as all the others because of the nature that's in them all. The humans are to God as nuisance animals like rats are to them—always causing problems, trying to get and retain for themselves, owning and controlling and manipulating everything they can every second, via the instincts that live inside them to drive them as such. Everything is for their own good and purpose because they're inherently so important, so it logically flows that they should be excused to do whatever it is they're driven to do and continue to do.
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
The tendency of the animals to consider themselves so important is one big thing that keeps them away from God because it means their heart is filled with their own self-importance, which is not the heart of a son of God who can hear his Father's voice. The Father doesn't want His sons to be driven by their animal instinct and therefore define themselves as mere animals—especially to consider themselves important because of the instinct that's naturally in them to do it. The sons must be driven by the nature of the son of God, which is explicitly different than what's in the humans. It has to be put into a human, by the Father's intention and then the work of planting and nurturing it there, so it can grow within the animal and begin to push out what is evil and unclean, unable to come near God, and define that one as a son instead. What everyone else is who isn't a son according to the Father is that thing because they are driven by that instinct, the same in all animals to define it as such according to the Father.
You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
Because of the nature we're born with that drives us like all animals to survive, we're always trying to gauge in our mind if we're properly surviving or not in so many different ways, constantly needing to reassure ourselves that we're okay enough to feel safe and good. When we see something that threatens us like our neighbor acquiring something we don't have, or a position or identity we haven't attained to, that nature in us immediately flares up and we can't even help it. Those are just two of the numerous instincts, urges and cravings that live in the humans' hearts and make up the animal nature in them, that which completely rules them.
This is what Paul is just beginning to get at here in this letter, written at a time when the Law of Moses was important to a significant fraction of the population. Paul didn't know it before because he hadn't been given eyes to see what was true according to God—many secret things contained within the motivations for why it was given and the things it tended to guard against. The humans are the last ones who can recognize the power of the animal nature in them, which is keeping them from pleasing the Father and finding His love, against what they think is in them (something good). They may have a desire to know God and study the word diligently, praying unceasingly. However, until one has that supernatural key that unlocks all of the mysteries that God on purpose keeps from the humans, they cannot know the nature of sin and death, as Paul is describing it here.
They may feel themselves led by it as it comes up in them, but they can't see it for what it is, so they can't know what it hinders them from, or where it even comes from. Even though they may acknowledge it, they just brush off the way they naturally are never as the sinful nature, but just the way they are. Then they say that sin and the sinful nature is something else altogether, because they cannot admit that they are the devil, that it naturally lives in them and cannot just be turned off whenever they feel like it, or can be ignored like it's not there. They end up thinking that sin and death are not being able to live up to performing commands that haven't actually been issued by God, or the Lord, so aren't legitimate commands at all. Of course the flip side of that is that when they think they are performing the non-existent (according to God) commands and rituals, then they become smugly confident in the notion that they are pleasing God by them, and from that position all kinds of judgments and other things happen in their little world based on and driven by lies and other commands and requirements made up not by God, but other men.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
The crux of everything, what it all boils down to, is that the presence of the animal nature—perfectly installed in and inhabiting the humans—is the reason they cannot truly love anyone or anything but themselves. Therefore they cannot ever fulfill the new commandment of the Son, which takes precedence over everything else. They think that the way they are always being drawn, to first and foremost look out for their own selves, is totally justifiable in so many ways (primarily though because they consider themselves as humans to be so important). Because they can't see it as the sinful nature, they can't do anything about it so they can't see or know the way to God.
The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
God's true children, just like their Father, are hidden to the natural creation and not revealed. They are taken in secret—right in front of the creation's nose however unable to be seen because that is the Father's way—and are being kept there by the Father, safe for Himself and His desire to one day have His completely family with Him where He is. Now the Son is with Him, which may be enough but the fullness isn't yet complete until all of the sons who ever existed in their human bodies are with their true Father, together with each other, safe in the Father's house.
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (the way I go).
No one goes to the Father except by going along the same path the Son walked on. That path that is the process of becoming and remaining clean by not being led by the nature of the unclean animal (the serpent). For the sons who follow the firstborn Son, it is having the animal nature pulled out of them and and the nature of the Son who looks like his real Father put into them. It is a supernatural, miraculous process which must be deliberately initiated and carried out by the Son in those the Father has chosen to be His sons. So even if they saw it they couldn't initiate that process or see it through even in the smallest way, because the animal nature is first of all too deviously instilled and integrated into everything they are to even be noticed, and second it's too powerful to just be overcome by will power or any other natural force the humans may possess.
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
So we come around to what Paul is struggling to describe—that God's sons are actually and totally at the mercy of their Father to release them from that power and nature that keeps them from finding Him and the treasure He has for those He has chosen. As we learn about the ubiquity and the sheer power of it to completely rule us, we actually do see that there is nothing good in us that can save us and make us right with God. We see how quickly it leads us away to hold us captive to do its will, and displease the Father, and by that we see that there is nothing in us that ever can make us right.
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
We always have these cravings, urges and impulses that well up from within us, and these things come from the nature that's still in us which is designed to rule us, and will continue to define us as the animal we are if we allow it to. We're not inherently special or good whatsoever because all we ever constantly want to do is our own will and desire, to build up and please our self, which declares where our heart is and what it wants. But, in the words of our true brother Paul, we put to death the misdeeds of the body (by denying the animal the right to rule us), we can come alive to our Father who wants to rule us (to be as any good father wants to be for his own son), but can't because we are far away as per the terms of the curse (the creation being frustrated must be kept from God). Anything we might say about how we want to follow the Son may be good intentions, but remains conceptual unless we begin to become being freed from what actually binds us. It's not some theoretical sinful nature that we don't believe is there, ironically because of its power to beguile us. It is who we are at our core, in our heart, as defined by the nature we have been realistically bound to, which is pathetically and completely unable to be right or ever please God, any more than a wild rat can please a man.
That is the dilemma Paul is trying to describe at the end of chapter 7, having a desire to please God, but always being swept away by this other, stronger force which makes him a prisoner to it to serve it and do its will instead of what he intends to do. A beauty in this passage is that Paul admits that it's coming from inside him. It's not some devil external to himself, trying to tempt him to do what the bad people do (like the fallen angel Satan the evil god, standing in front of the Son); but it was his very nature, what he is at his core, what is living in and comes from out of his own heart, as per the words of the Son about the condition of man.
Jesus called the crowd to him and said, "Listen and understand. What goes into a man's mouth does not make him `unclean,' but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him`unclean.' "
Peter said, "Explain the parable to us."
"Are you still so dull?" Jesus asked them. "Don't you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man `unclean.' For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man `unclean'; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him `unclean.' "
The devil is a powerful force, something that lives in man to make him unclean and evil (only able to ever truly love himself), which means he is separated from God and unable to please Him or come into His presence, find his way to Him or know His love. It is also something that prevents him from truly loving his brother because it never carries with it the desire to love anyone but himself, unless that action will get him something better in return. In that case it's obviously not love but manipulation for his own sake, to better his position amongst the humans or in its mind, to feel safe on the survival level, or feel like he might be redeemed because of it. Love is not caring what you get back, which is impossible for the animals because they are driven to care, because they need to survive and there's no coming out from that predicament of being ruled by it unless it is the intention of the Father that that one become a son. It cannot be forced, which would then be manipulation in an attempt to get something. The most one can do is to keep searching for God if that is in him, and God who is just will reward.
This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.
The humans often read the words of Jesus and Paul and the others and say to themselves and to the others in their community, "Okay, now let's love each other because that's the Lord's command and we want to follow the Lord." What they can't even begin to realize is that that is impossible because of their condition as animals. They aren't aware of that law which states that animals cannot love (they can only feebly pretend to love someone other than their own flesh and blood, which they are driven by instinct to "love," meaning it's not a love that they can take credit for), so they have to keep up a charade that they are able to love their brother as themselves, not comprehending that it's an impossible thing to do because of the nature that rules them. If that realization of the reality of them not able to carry out the command to love ever crops up in them they brush it off as "That's just the way things are," or "We're not perfect," which brings the implication that they're mostly good, able enough to please God and be right according to Him, even though they cannot do what's commanded in a truly honest way.
What they invariably end up saying to themselves and the others is that oh well, because they know the correct facts, and that is more important than what they actually do, even if it's obeying or not obeying the direct command of the one they claim to be able to follow. The reason they're able to excuse themselves like that is because they're persistent in practicing the outward rituals, and think that God recognizes anything good about that, as they want to recognize because they realize it's the only thing they have. What they don't understand is that the early believers did those things not as a matter of commandment, but out of a love for the Son and a response to what they realized he had done for them to set them free from the animals nature. Their condition because of its power over them would have meant that they were abandoned to the grave except that the Son overcame the power of death in them—those few who had been chosen. The binding commandment Jesus gave them which ratifies the new covenant is the command to love each other, not to meet together or break bread every Sunday, or read the Bible every morning, or refrain from certain this or that behavior, which is all external to the actual relationship the son must be engaged in with the Father that can bring him closer, and further away from the animal.
The new commandment Jesus issues is to love each other, and if that is not in place then it doesn't matter what else you do, which is the argument of Paul in 1 Cor 13. It does not matter if you do this or that, if you perform miracles or move mountains or have the greatest faith ever, or can prophesy in the name of God, or anything else; if that other condition is not in place—THE commandment issued by the Lord. Feigned or intended love is not good enough, because that's not love. So there is no possible hope of being right according to the command the Son issued, or ever pleasing God, of being good enough to be redeemed from the earth. This is the hopeless situation that Paul discusses.
It's hopeless because there is no way to truly love, because the animal nature keeps drawing us back into that impossibility with its instinctual, uncontrollable cravings, urges and impulses to continually, only serve and love our self. Any other effort to, for instance, love our brother as our self, will be a failure because of that condition of being an animal, and God's new Law which says that animals cannot possibly love in a way that pleases Him, or that can make them right in His eyes. It's not necessarily that they fail with their efforts to love, or that they just can't love hard enough, but it's their very condition that makes it impossible to love adequately—so they can never please the Father.
The beginning of chapter 8 is Paul's solution to the dilemma, and the cause for praise amongst those who have been given the solution to that very problem. But everything rests on the condition of "being in" Christ Jesus, and being under the control of this other thing that he now introduces, the spirit of life, which "sets us free" from that other condition that he just got done developing, the condition of being a mere animal which cannot love. This solution to the problem of being hopelessly unable to ever please God is presented as a condition: "If the spirit of God lives in you."
You did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear (which defines you as an animal), but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.
However, the spirit of God doesn't just go willy-nilly living in anyone and everyone who might want it to, and so assume God is bound to their inklings about what they might want. The spirit of God lived in a handful of people in the first century, not because any of them chose Him, but because He chose them first and they responded—as if to say, as Abraham said, "We choose you back. We desire to be your sons enough that we are willing to give up everything for that treasure of knowing your love, what only a son can know."
We don't know what His decision is based on, other than the fact that that's what He wants to do, that is His will and purpose to do it, so it is done that way. One does not become controlled by the spirit by their own efforts, or desire, but because they have been chosen to become sons, and God has initiated it first. The response of how we'll respond to that decision is within our power, it is a choice we make as a response to what is already in us.
So we can only be led by the spirit instead of the animal if the spirit is already there, giving us the choice about who we're going to choose, who we're going to love. So we can only love if He first loves us. We can become transformed from that animal which cannot love into a son who can first love God and then his brother, and that only out of our response toward God and the work He is doing to pull the animal instincts out of us and give us new instincts, which are to love God and therefore we're able to truly love. Then we begin to become able to please Him, because He can see Himself in us. His nature begins to rule us instead of the nature of the snake, and His spirit lives in us to do that work of transforming us, so we actually look like authentic sons to Him.
We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.
Again, loving our brother is not merely intending to love him, or even treating him right most of the time. Love is the genuine attitude we have in our heart, put there by God so that our nature at its most fundamental and core level is actually transformed so we don't intend to love but come up short, nor is it a matter of effort or being good. It's not being led by the animal nature, but being led by the spirit of God. It's not just a concept, but is a changed nature, changed from an animal into a son.
The Law of Moses came after the giving of the animal nature to the humans, and in that way it was powerless to make one of the humans into a son instead of an animal. The work that Jesus did is the work of fulfilling all of the Law's requirements so that that could happen, for some who lived under the Law, some who lived before the Law was given, and some who lived, are living and will live after it got fulfilled and replaced by the new Law, the new commandment, and the new covenant—to be a son of God and defined as such by His nature leading us, instead of being animal and being defined by being led by that nature.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
The love that can only come from God is the treasure that a man seeks for all his life—it is the kingdom of God. Few ever find it because it's hidden and secret, and only even available to those who have been chosen to have eyes to see what's actually valuable—real treasure versus only an illusion of treasure—and ears to hear the voice which tells them that. The love of God is anything and everything but cheap or easy to get, contrary to what the religious leaders try to fool everyone by. It's so much different than what the humans think that it's un seeable, therefore unrecognizable as something they would even want; and 100% unattainable unless one is chosen to be able to see it, recognize it, attain to it by being transformed from animal to son.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.