Monday, January 28, 2013

Who we are - part 2

Since our position before God is perfect in every detail, does this mean we are living perfect lives now?  No, we know that isn't true.  So we're perfect but we're not perfect?  Yes, because now we have two natures instead of one — an old, totally corrupt nature AND a new, perfect nature — and they are waging a war within us (Rom 7:14-25; Gal 5:17).

The old nature in the believer is the "desires of the flesh." It is called "the flesh," "the old self," "the natural person," "the the mind that is set on the flesh." And just as "those who are in the flesh cannot please God," (Rom 8:8), so are those things which we as believers do in the flesh cannot please God. "The flesh" is totally depraved. God calls it "sinful flesh" (Rom 8:3), warns that it looks for "opportunity" to do wrong (Gal 5:13), and says that "the works of the flesh" are all bad (Gal 5: 19-21).

When we receive Christ, our old nature is not cleaned up (Rom 6:6; 8:10; Col 3:3).  Rather, God considers it dead and instantly gives us a new creation (Jn 3:6; 2 Cor 5:17; Gal 2:20; Eph 2:1-6; 4:20-24).

From that moment on our "new self" and "old self" aggressively compete for possession of our mind, emotions, and body. Spiritual growth is needed to strengthen our "new self" in this war, and there is no growth without Bible study and prayer (Rom 8:26-27; 10:17; Eph 1:16-18; Phil 4: 6-7; Col 3:16; 4:2; 2 Tim 2:15; 2 Thes 1:11-12; Heb 4:12). A relationship with a local assembly of believers is also essential to growth, so that we may "…encourage one another and build up one another..." (1 Thes 5:8-14).

It's important to understand that struggling with our old nature is a lost cause. It’s like wrestling with a chimney sweep — you just get dirty. The only way to victory in this battle is not in fighting, but in recognizing that the battle has already been won, that He died our death so that we may now bury our old self and forget him (put off "the old self") and focus all our attention on Jesus Christ and our new life in Him (put on the "new self").  I think Stam says it well:

"'The flesh,' even as it remains in the believer after salvation, is that which was generated by a fallen begetter. It is the old Adamic nature. It is sinful in itself. It cannot be improved. It cannot be changed. 'That which is born [begotten] of the flesh is flesh,' said our Lord (John 3:6), and it is as impossible to improve the 'old man' in the believer as it was to make him acceptable to God in the first place. The 'old man' was condemned and dealt with judicially at the Cross. Never once is the believer instructed to try to do anything with him or to make anything of him, but always to 'reckon' him 'dead indeed' (Rom. 6:11), and to 'put him off' (Col. 3:8-10).

After describing this battle within us all (Rom 7), Paul comes to a conclusion in Rom 8:1 and bursts out in praise, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus."  So although our walk may be one of confusion, our position in Christ is one of peace — we are complete in Him (Col 2:10)!

To me, the following poem describes this battle rather well:

Two natures beat within my breast.
One is foul, the other blest.
The one I love; the one I hate.
The one I feed will dominate.
(Author unknown)

A day is coming when we will no longer have to deal with our old, dead natures. Only our new natures — which are already perfect in every way — will go home to be with the Lord.  What a glorious day that will be!

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