The devil tempted the first man by trying to convince Adam that God is not the final authority over each individual. He also tried to get him to believe that man is his own god. When Adam fell for these temptations, he also fell from his position with God. Ever since then, there is no part of the human personality that has not been negatively affected by his fall. The mind, the will, the emotions—all have been affected. Man’s inner personality has been warped so much by sin that we cannot even trust ourselves anymore. There is, therefore, no need to look anywhere else but inside ourselves to find the source of all sin.
We think of freedom these days as being independent, having no master over us. But for the child of God, our first obligation before our heavenly Father is not to convince Him that we are free agents now, but that we have found a new Master we can willingly submit to. No Christian should submit to any of his former masters any longer, particularly sin and the Law. Paul declared himself a willing slave of Jesus Christ, because he realized that the only way to find the freedom we all desire and need is to submit to our new Master in Heaven.
The devil also attempted to deceive Jesus, the Second Adam. But Jesus did not come to Earth to represent Himself; He came to represent all mankind. The devil tried to convince the Second Adam to proclaim that He is the Son of God, to assert Himself before mankind because He had special rights, privileges, and powers. This was his central stronghold when he tempted Jesus. He told Him to remember who He is and to make use of His divine power. Then the world would fall at His feet. But Jesus replied that He did not come to do His own will, even though He is the Son of God. He came to Earth at this time for one purpose only —doing His Father’s will. “…not My will, but Thine…,” He said (Luke 22:42).
Anyone who becomes a child of God is set apart unto Him. He then becomes a target for this same kind of temptation. The devil wants the child of God to declare that he has achieved something to be grasped for—something he has a right to be proud of. But what was God’s purpose in saving us and setting us apart unto Him? so that His will could be done in us—like it was in Jesus. Jesus walked this Earth totally dependent on His Heavenly Father. But the devil kept trying to move Him away from this attitude to one of independence of God. Thankfully, he could not lead Jesus astray. Jesus displayed to us instead a perfect example of obeying, submitting to, and depending on God.
In some situations we may feel a strong need to be self-assertive. Feeling this need shows that we are struggling over who is going to be in charge. But if we continue to go around asserting ourselves, spiritual progress will end in our lives. What it all comes down to is—who will rule my life—Jesus, or me? We often try to raise our attitude of independence and stubborn self-will to the level of God, but without wording it that way. We say things like “strength of will,” etc., as if that was good. God does not see it as good, but as a disgusting weakness. The Man with the greatest will of any who ever lived on Earth was Jesus, but He never used His will the way we think of it. He led a life of gentle submission to God instead. Never did He act independently of God the Father. Never did He assert Himself or demand that His own will be done. Instead, He said, “…learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart…” (Matthew 11:29).
A personal life merged with God starts displaying His characteristics, but not so with individuality. It only shows natural characteristics and they mock His meek and lowly Son. We learn from His Sermon on the Mount that individuality needs to be destroyed, while personality needs to be lifted up. How very important we think we are!—until God’s Holy Spirit gets hold of us. When God becomes all-important to us, we cannot totally abandon ourselves to Him until our own self-importance humiliates us. Human nature was designed by God for Himself. But when we declare our own individuality, our human nature is brought down to the selfish level of being just for me. Personality is a different matter. It involves being merged with someone else, like a young man who is totally changed when he falls in love. He is transformed from being someone out to please himself, to suddenly wanting to please his beloved in all things. He desires to be merged with the one he loves, as if they were one new person together. The two no longer remain as two, insisting on being separate individuals. Love changes all that.
What is the natural man’s main characteristic? Individuality. The spiritual man’s? Personality. Becoming a Christian means entering into a personal relationship with our Creator, which can never be an individual act.
Jesus never mentioned a need to be an individual, but only a personality, so “that they all may be one.” His own personality was a perfect copy of His Father. Once we become born again, God’s Spirit enters our personality and we receive strength and life from Him. He transforms our old selfish motives and desires into His own pure ones. Our personality is set free as we are changed from being an individual into God’s intended purpose for us. How does He do this? The key word is love—in becoming personally, passionately devoted to Him. Then we are able to extend this same love to others. We have not yet arrived at what we are going to become, because God’s grace is still working on us. He is altering our flawed old personalities. He does this by taking our human personality and merging it with His own power—just what the Gospel is all about! Our business as Christians is to make our individuality conform to God’s Son in us. If we truly want to be disciples of Jesus, we will cut the ties of individuality that hold us back and go forth with unsparing zeal toward our Savior, and Master—Jesus Christ!