Freedom from Independent Self
On New Year’s Day I did what millions of others did. I watched football. Naturally I had my favorite players, but I began to wonder if it would make more sense to give credit to the forces at work behind the scenes. The teams were picked by selection committees. The committees responded to pressure to invite the best players available. The television networks probably determined the starting times. And the advertisers and tickets purchasers paid for it all.
On the playing field the two teams tested each other’s strengths and weaknesses and planned their strategy accordingly. The score and the clock were other factors which influenced their play.
The people with the most control did not even appear on the field of action. They were the coaches. In each contest the teams executed the instructions of these hidden combatants. The coaches were the realities that these young men expressed. So tell me, were the players themselves free?
When I talk about Christ living His life through a Christian, I take time to explain that we are either indwelt by the spirit of self-serving love (Satan), or we are indwelt by the Spirit of Christ, who is self-giving love. This awareness can only come by God’s revelation and is not understood by natural man. Indeed, many Christians have not had this revelation.
Believers sometimes ask me, “What about my freedom?” I usually answer, “What freedom?” Shocking as that curt answer may sound, the fact is that no person is ever free and unaffected in life.
In article after article UNION LIFE has shown that spirit is the ultimate reality. We are spirit realities being expressed by means of humanity. Thus, the human is a vessel. The purpose of the vessel is to contain and to pour out. The vessel is not the contents and cannot become what it contains and still contain it. A proper understanding of vesselhood is fundamental.
We must also have a clear understanding of the “independent self.” Independent self is the basic plank in the platform of this so-called freedom. It’s a shaky plank to stand on, because it simply isn’t true.
Jesus knew nothing about independent self. Jesus knew that He was under the control of his indwelling Father. John 14:10 speaks directly to this point. The vessel, Jesus, was a manifestor of the Father Spirit, so of course Jesus attributed His words and works to the Father. And yet He was not Father; He was the Son. In John 8 Jesus says that He speaks what He has seen with His Father. Was He an independent self with freedom? I think not.
The relation of electricity to a transformer is a useful analogy. The electricity represents the indwelling Father. Unseen and Unknowable. A transformer is the vessel and thus the means through which the electricity becomes seen and knowable. Electricity is seen and known through the functions it performs via the transformer. It is not seen and known in its essence.
The analogy is simple enough. Electricity manifests itself through the transformer, just as the Father manifests Himself through Jesus. But we have also been made transformers through Christ’s atoning cross and indwelling life. Ignorance of this fact causes many believers to still labor under the lie of the independent self.
The defense of freedom dies when the lie of independent self is understood. An individual does not exist independent of the god he worships. Rather, he is the means of expression for the god who indwells him. Thinking we are independent selves is a result of the Fall. All humanity is plagued with this false notion.
When I was found by the Lord, I did a complete about-face. I was spun around. My thoughts were suddenly about God and for God. My love was directed toward God, but I was acting from the lie of independent self. I wrongly supposed that it was independent I loving a God outside me. As a young believer I operated from this lie, so I naturally assumed that I was a free person.
I’ve talked a lot about lies. Now let me say something about truth. There is Truth which is absolute and there is that which a person operates from in his daily life which he calls truth. I simply mean that it is truth to him. It is not necessarily Truth. That’s not a difficult distinction, is it?
Let me relate that distinction to the question of freedom. A Christian may operate by thinking that he in an independent self in love with God, serving God and striving to please God. That is true to him. He sees himself operating independently of any union with God. He thinks he makes his own decisions with God’s help. The results of these decisions show him whether he is in God’s will or out of it. He concludes that he operates from his own strength.
Biblically where can we place this sincere person? You guessed it. We see him as Paul’s example in the seventh chapter of Romans, particularly the latter half. He operates as a separated self seeking to become a good person. He thinks this is the true picture. To him it is true, but it is not the Truth.
I would label such a person a Christian under the power of sin. Though a forgiven sinner, he remains under the power of sin because he is still preoccupied with self. Concentrating upon self is always sin even though every desire of the person may be for a “good” self. The illusion of being a free, independent self will keep a Christian under the power of sin every time. Freedom is an illusion because independent self is the ultimate illusion.
Freedom makes a good argument for personal responsibility. However, the responsibility is placed upon the wrong person. The Christian assumes the responsibility because he sees himself “down there” and God “up there.” He thinks he is separate from God and must do his best for God.
A simple equation may illustrate the point. One plus one equals two. A believer plus God’s help equals a good Christian. This is separated thinking. In this equation all the pressure bears down on the believer, the vessel. It is on the wrong person. The believer can never become anything but what God has made him.
The question of personal responsibility is very important. I confess to having reservations about people who understand “Christ is in them as them” yet tell me that they have no choices. Jesus made responsible choices in every situation. So do we. The whole point of the revelation of “Christ in union with us as us” is that we live a life of responsible choices. If all we have is ourselves, then we must know how to operate.
The choices we make are the choices of the “Christ in me as me,” just as Jesus made the choices of his Father (John 14:10). God expresses His words and works by means of me, the vessel.
This understanding of responsibility can be described by the equation one plus one is one. This is union! It is two in one, duality in union.
According to this equation, “one” is vessel and the other “one” is Spirit (Deity), and a vessel must be present for the Spirit to express Himself. This negates the notion that that responsibility rests upon the vessel to become someone or something it was never intended, nor even capable, of becoming. This is a union on the level of spirit (1 Cor. 16:7). It is a union of His Spirit with us; spirit, soul and body. In this union His life is expressed by us.
First comes the choice of faith. As believers we have all made that choice. Next comes the affirmation of union. Then follows the responses of faith in all situations, from faith to faith. This kind of faithing comes from knowing, which in turn comes from faithing. One leads to the other.
I have tried to expose again the old lie of independent self. It rests at the root of a false trust in personal freedom. As with the football teams, we are hedged in by all sorts of circumstances and situations of God’s making with which we must deal. No escape is possible. We execute the life of the unseen Life of Him who indwells us.
We respond with choices that by faith are made from the “duality in union” position. We speak, we choose, we respond. At the same time we know it is really Christ acting by means of us. We are no longer slaves to the power of sin.
We have driven a spike through the heart of the lie of independent self and buried it. Sin no more has dominion over us. Instead of insisting upon a non-existent freedom, we are set free to be God in action. I say “no” to freedom “for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” I say a resounding “yes” to duality in union, for in this position we become the spontaneous expressions of the indwelling Reality who is Christ.
Published by Union Life Magazine, May-June 1981