There are many terms used in Christendom which do not bear the test of Holy Scripture. For example, we hear of 'Changing one's Nature' or 'Improving one's Nature' or 'Self-improvement' etc. As one examines what the Scripture has to say regarding the condition of man, it soon becomes apparent that man can do very little himself with regard to lasting self-improvement.
We are all born with a terminal condition called 'sin and death', and no matter how we want to do what is right and proper, we still continue to do that which is wrong. It is only when we come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, that something can be done about our condition. In John's Gospel we are given a very clear statement indeed:
That which is born of the flesh (Old Nature) is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit (New Nature) is spirit (John 3:6).
It is quite obvious from this verse that all believers have two natures. As a result of these two natures we experience a conflict, the flesh against the spirit. A conflict can only come about by two parties being involved. It is the intention of this article to examine some of the results of possessing the Old Nature.
This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, (new nature) and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh (old nature). For the flesh (old nature) lusteth against the Spirit (new nature), and the Spirit (new nature) against the flesh (old nature): and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit (new nature), ye are not under the law.
Now the works of the flesh (old nature) are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:16-21).
The apostle Paul is not only giving sound advice to the Galatians, but advice to all Christians in every age, verse 17 confirming what John said in John 3:6. If we are honest with ourselves, is there not something in that dreadful list with which we can identify? There is a warfare raging in every believer, and verses 19-21 catalogue a list of despicable behaviour which is the result of possessing the Old Nature.
Let us look more closely at the meaning of some of those words that are given in the list.
Words and their meanings Lasciviousness Excess, licentiousness, to exceed the bounds of restraint. In other words, not to exercise any form of discipline.
Variance To quarrel.
Revellings Revelry, wantonness.
These words alone show how corrupt the Old Nature is. No wonder God does not attempt to improve it, but gives us a New Nature. This same principle can be seen in Revelation:
And I saw a New Heaven and a New Earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea (Rev. 21:1).
Again God does not attempt to improve this old heaven and earth, but creates new ones.
When we come to the Epistle to the Romans we read:
For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God (Rom. 8:5-8).
Surely the aim of every believer is to honour and please our Lord Jesus Christ, but in the Old Nature that is impossible. Paul, in Romans 7:18 is in conflict with himself:
For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh), dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find not.
If we read the context of this verse we get an even clearer picture of what Paul is saying. It is important therefore to read Romans 7:14-20. This is a battleground within all believers.
Coming to the epistles of the Mystery, concerning the Body of Christ, we read in Ephesians 4:17-24 that the struggle Paul was experiencing in Romans is still applicable today:
That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man (Old Nature), which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man (New Nature), which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
The term 'to put on the new man' is a wonderful expression. It means to clothe oneself (Gr. enduo). The philosopher, psychologist, and psychiatrist, say that we inherit this condition at birth. We are told children are inherently good and have to be taught to do wrong. This reasoning could not be further from the truth. The Scriptures tell each of us:
Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me (Psa. 51:5).
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned (Rom. 5:12).
One has only to read history and take a look at the present world, to see how appalling man's behaviour has been. There is hope for mankind, but not in the efforts of man. The only hope is centred in Christ.
For since by man came death, by Man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Cor. 15:21-22).
What a glorious promise is given to all who put their trust in the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Next time we will look at the New Nature in every believer.