Self-Consciousness and Christ Consiousness
by Norman P. Grubb
We are desperately conscious of the two opposing principles of good and evil through all life. They confront us in human nature, in the business, political and social world. They give rise to the constant tensions among nations, races, classes, right down to our own family circles; They are the theme of ethics and religion. They come closest home to us in our own personal lives, the conflict of flesh and spirit, the interweaving of prosperity and adversity, joy and sorrow, friendship and enmity, justice and injustice, health and disease, kindness and cruelty, through the whole garment of life. Now, though we are Christ’s, we share in this divided world. We are part of it. We eat its food, partake in its activities, earn its money, taste of its sorrows and tragedies, and endure its temptations. Though one’d with Christ in spirit, we are still one with the world in body. Therefore, though new men in Christ, we still have a duality of consciousness: we have self-consciousness, world-consciousness, we are in the world (but not of it: John 17:13,16), in the flesh (but not of it: Gal.5:24), in self (but not of it: Gal.2:20). A great proportion of our waking hours must necessarily be spent in the affairs of this world, with Christ in the background rather than foreground of our consciousness. Sin only enters when we are consciously drawn into activities and attitudes which we know to be displeasing to Him. While we are in this divided world, we cannot have solely a Christ-consciousness. We must also have a self-consciousness: certainly it is the renewed self which knows how to maintain its abiding place: yet it is also a self-conscious self, responsive to al the stimuli of its environment, therefore as open to temptation fleshward as to Christ-control spiritward. It is still a case of “nevertheless I live”, as well as, “yet not I, but Christ liveth in me”.
The name God has given to humanity separated from Himself by the Fall – is “flesh” (Gen. 6:3). We are all flesh, Even the Savior, when He came to be among us, was “God manifested in the flesh”. Not until the resurrection of the body, the final and complete state of unification with our ascended Head, can any member of the human race cease to be flesh. Flesh implies consciousness of separation from God, self-consciousness apart from Christ-consciousness. That does not necessarily mean something evil. Christ “in the days of His flesh” was conscious of his human self as apart from the Father with whom He was one (e.g.John 5:19). It is not flesh, which is evil, but the lusts of the flesh. And even they are not evil unless they are permitted to reign instead of serve. Self-consciousness, flesh-consciousness, is the normal and essential prerequisite, as members of this fallen human race, to a continuous life of faith, for it compels us constantly to “look away” from our helpless selves unto Jesus (Heb.12:2): and as we do so, flesh then becomes the servant and manifestor of Spirit. But the moment we fail to look away, then flesh becomes an evil thing, natural “desires of flesh and mind” have us in their grip, and become dominating, discordant lusts, and we their slaves.