We are all born with minds and natures that are closely associated with our bodies. Our brains, which are part of our bodies, process our experiences with what we see, hear, smell, taste, and feel into thoughts. Our thoughts are so integrated with the rest of our bodies that they can elicit hormonal reactions that influence our feelings of pleasure, anger, fright, and even sexual impulses. For instance, a normal emotional response to a slap on the cheek might include anger and fear. Both of these emotions stimulate a hormonal fight-or-flight response that raises our pulse rate and dries our mouth. It is our nature that determines how we react to the thoughts and emotional stimulations of our bodies.
Old Nature Corrupted
The Scriptures teach us that Adam’s fleshly nature was corrupted when he sinned. He passed that corrupted nature on to each of us, so that we are all born with a sinful nature. And even if he hadn’t, we have all sinned and corrupted our own fleshly natures just as Adam did. Romans 5:12 (NKJV) tells us this: “Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.”
Our fleshly natures are totally corrupted by sin. We are not only sinners by practice, we are sinners by nature. The reason we sin is that our fleshly natures are so selfish, proud, and full of lust, that we cannot please God. We need to acknowledge, as the apostle Paul did in Romans 7:18, “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells.”
New Nature From God
The good news is that we can obtain new, sinless natures from God. When we repent and accept the death of Jesus Christ as the payment for our sins, we are redeemed by His blood and born again by the Holy Spirit. First John 3:9 tells us that “Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for (God’s) seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.” In other words, as a child of God, every Christian receives a new nature from Him that cannot be corrupted by sin. Our new natures are holy instead of sinful.
The old fleshly nature is generally called “the flesh” in the Bible, though it is also called the “old man” or “old self” in Romans 6:6, Ephesians 4:22, and Colossians 3:9. The new spiritual nature is usually referred to as the “Spirit” or “the new man” or “new self.”
Our biggest problem is that we are still in the same bodies that our old sinful natures are a part of. Throughout our lives our old fleshly natures struggle with our new spiritual natures for control of our behavior. As Galatians 5:17 puts it, “The flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”
An Old Testament Illustration
An interesting bit of imagery in the Book of Genesis illustrates this struggle remarkably well. Abraham offering Isaac on the altar in chapter 22 is a prophetic type of God the Father offering His Son on the cross as the sacrificial payment for our sins. Abraham sending his servant to get a bride for Isaac in chapter 24 corresponds to the Father sending the Holy Spirit into the world to gather individuals into the Church as a bride for Christ. Finally, the intense struggle in Rebecca’s womb in chapter 25 is like the Christian’s inner struggle. When Rebecca asked the Lord about the struggle within her, He replied that there were two people inside her. One would be stronger than the other, and the older was to be subservient to the younger. In other words, our new nature is to dominate our old fleshly nature and be the one that determines our behavior.
Overcoming The Sin Nature
Since Christ died in our place for the sins of our old fleshly natures, God considers us dead with Christ. Colossians 3:3 says, “You died, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” Romans 6:5-6 explains it this way: “If we have been united together (with
Christ) in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.”
Romans 6:11-14 tells us how to win the struggle: “Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” In short, we are to consider our old fleshly natures dead with Christ, and ignore their sinful impulses. This leaves our new spiritual natures that are alive to God free to respond to the Holy Spirit’s directing of our behavior.
Galatians 5:16 tells us that if we walk in the Spirit we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. Verses 19-26 explain the difference between behaving in the flesh and behaving in the Spirit. “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”
First Corinthians 15:42-49 tells us that there are natural bodies made in the image of Adam and spiritual bodies made in the image of Christ. Even though we were born with natural bodies that die, all Christians will be resurrected with spiritual bodies that are not subject to death. Verses 51-55 go on to assure us that we may not all die, but we will all be changed. “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye … the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’”
When our natural fleshly bodies are exchanged for our new spiritual ones, our corrupted fleshly natures associated with our old bodies will be gone, and our incorruptible spiritual natures will be in complete control of our behavior. This will be the redemption of our bodies (Rom. 8:23), and the final end of the ongoing Christian struggle.
By Bud Morris
A Christian’s Happiness
“A Christian’s happiness is proportional to how much he allows his divine nature to develop and be active. The more he gives way to the desires of his fallen nature, the more he will become miserable and unhappy because of the depressing effect it has on his divine nature.”
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org