Published October 9, 2008
Related Sunday School Lesson, Bible Studies for Life, Oct 19
One of the most difficult things to understand as a Christian, especially if you are a brand new Christian, is that your old nature (the “flesh,” that which is in opposition to God) cannot be reformed, eliminated, improved, or rehabilitated. And when you live in the old nature but try to produce the fruit of the new nature (vv. 15, 18-21), it can be very frustrating and even depressing (vv. 23-24). This is the main idea of our focal passage.
Ignorance was bliss
In the life of every Christian, there are two natures. Pascal called it the principle of wretchedness and the principle of greatness; Teresa of Avila called it the moat around the castle and the interior mansion inside the castle; C.S. Lewis called it the diabolical self and the celestial self; and the apostle Paul called it, in Romans 7, the flesh and the spirit.
This old nature, the “flesh,” cannot ever be fixed; it can only be dealt with properly and successfully by being usurped and replaced! That is, in the life of every Christian, under the terms of the new covenant found in Christ, there are many good spiritual urges and instincts that can be identified, developed, strengthened, and released through spiritual habits and disciplines.
In Christ, we are introduced to a whole new set of beautiful, godly, and wonderful passions that can be released when we choose to live, not according to the “flesh,” but according to the “Spirit.” These, then, can eventually expel and displace those passions which are less than noble.
This is actually what a growing, maturing Christian looks like. A moralistic culture looks at the challenges of our world and says, “Just do what is right!” A therapeutic culture, on the other hand, says, “Let’s fix it!” The Christian world view, however, says, “Let’s release the miracle of the Spirit of Christ in the lives of God’s children.”
What’s the problem?
While it is true that the Law is “holy and just and good” in that it reveals what God wants, it cannot give us power to obey His will (vv. 9-12).
This is why the secret to spiritual success comes only when we allow the Spirit of Christ to indwell and control us in such a way that He motivates and works through us. And then, when that happens, it is not so much what we do for Christ, but what Christ does in and through us.
Being a Christian is not just doing something; rather, it is primarily containing Someone (the Spirit of Christ). So it is Christ Himself who is the new nature that we receive upon salvation.
Technically speaking, therefore, we shouldn’t just ask Christ to give us something like love, power, gentleness, righteousness, etc. Rather, because He is all of that and more, we need only to let Jesus Christ be Lord of our lives (v. 25a) and then He will become those things in you and me!
This is why the New Testament calls God’s handiwork in us the “fruit of the Spirit” instead of our “works for the Spirit.” God is the One who, through the Lord Jesus Christ, actually produces His “fruit” in our lives.
So, never make the mistake of trusting in your old, fleshly, carnal nature. We will have it until we leave this earth. We must render it helpless on a daily basis by our deliberate decision to practice the lordship of Christ.
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