The other morning Oswald Chambers challenged me with a comment about the natural and the spiritual.
Gal 4:22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. ESV
I have always understood that the son by Hagar, Ishmael, represents the “natural” and the son by Sarah, Isaac, represents the spiritual. But what I didn’t see was the picture of turning (sacrificing) the natural into the spiritual. It’s God’s order of things that the natural (our old man/nature) be transformed into the spiritual by obedience to His Word and His Spirit.
Abraham had to offer up Ishmael before he offered up Isaac, and the only way we can offer up a spiritual sacrifice to God is by presenting our bodies as living sacrifices. That’s what the process of sanctification is all about. Yes, God sees us as fully sanctified in Jesus but we have to walk that out; walk out our salvation with fear and trembling. And that entails a deliberate commitment of ourselves to God, just as Abraham made deliberately offered up Isaac.
Chambers summed it up: If we do not sacrifice the natural to the spiritual, the natural life will mock at the life of the Son of God in us and produce a continual swither [hesitation]. This is always the result of an undisciplined spiritual nature. God is not with our natural life while we pamper it; but when we put it out in the desert [as Abraham did Ishmael] and resolutely keep it under, then God will be with it; and He will open up wells and oases and fulfill all His promises for the natural [Gen 21].
Our keeping the natural out in the desert so our spiritual can develop is at the heart of walking out our salvation …
Romans 8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. ESV