Last month we dealt with our battle with the world, the spirit of the world, and it’s earthly attractions. Let me remind you that Jesus said, “In the world you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33). And John reminds us in 1st John 5:4-5 that we overcome the world through our faith in Jesus Christ. Paul also adds in Galatians 6:14, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ by Whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world.” Jesus overcame the world and its power over us at the cross.
So to summarize the scriptures above, John says our faith in Christ and the cross gives us victory over the world and Paul says we not only have victory over the world because of Christ and the cross, but the world has no affect on us whatsoever because we are dead to it and it is dead to us. Now we take that same principle and apply it to our victory over our flesh, our sinful nature, and sinful desires.
There is and always has been a movement that teaches that we no longer have our sinful nature at all after we are born again. They teach that Jesus’ death and resurrection completely destroyed and abolished our sinful nature and when we are born again, we become perfect. It is labeled as sinless perfection. John dealt with the same doctrine in the book of First John. When I say dealt with it, I mean he addressed it bluntly and truthfully. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” ( 1st John 1:8) The word sin in this scripture points to the sinful nature that exists in every man and woman. It is very simple. One who is an unbeliever has a human nature (the body), and a sinful nature (the flesh), but no divine nature (Holy Spirit). One who is born again has a human nature (the body), a divine nature (Holy Spirit), and still has the sinful nature (the flesh) within them. An example of this is found in Romans 7. When Paul records this chapter, he is already gloriously converted, saved, and born again. He is a mature believer in Jesus Christ and a minister of the Gospel. But this is what he says. “I don’t understand my own actions. I do not practice what I wish but the very thing I loathe. I know that nothing good dwells in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I can’t do it. When I fail to practice the good deeds I desire to do, it is the sin principle that dwells within me.” You can read more of the heartfelt description of his battle in Romans 7:7-24. It is a definitive description of Paul’s understanding that the sinful nature still exists within him even though he was born again on the road to Damascus.
I am so glad Paul was being real. He could have succumbed to self righteousness and lived with the attitude that God chose him to be the greatest apostle ever, but he knew that it was only by the grace of God that he was who he was. He was genuine enough to admit he still faced the battle of his sinful nature each and every day. This is why he proclaimed, “I die daily,” meaning he had to crucify his selfish and sinful nature every day. And so does every person that is born again.
I am not going to go any further in this Devotional attempting to convince anyone that we have a sinful nature within us, but I now transition to overcoming our sinful nature.
What does Paul say after the description of his battle? “Oh wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of death (the sinful nature)? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24,25)
The Church around the world just formally celebrated Easter and the resurrection of Christ from the grave. The account of Jesus’ last week of His life on earth should be fresh on our minds and in our hearts. In reality though, this message of Easter and Passion Week should be fresh in our hearts and minds every day. The pure Gospel is summarized in Christ’s birth, ministry on earth, suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension. And the center of the hope of mankind is pinpointed in the cross and the empty grave. So what does this simple Gospel message have to do with my sinful nature? I know my sins are forgiven, but don’t I have to deal with my flesh on my own? If I battle against my own selfish desires, don’t I have to try harder to conquer them? Doesn’t the pressure of not sinning fall completely upon me? That last question may hold a fraction of truth, but not in the way you may think.
It is interesting that Paul explains his battle with his sinful nature in Romans Chapter 7, but the principles of being victorious over his sinful nature are found in Romans Chapters 6 and 8. It was as if Paul wanted to surround the truth that he battled his sinful nature with the principles of how to have victory over it. This Devotional would be many, many pages were I to expound on Paul’s marvelous teachings in those two chapters, but I encourage you to take the time to meditate on those Scriptures and allow Holy Spirit to teach you and reveal to you that you are an overcomer of your sinful nature. I will, though, expound over the first few verses of Romans 6.
Again the question is, what does the cross and the resurrection have to do with me overcoming my sinful nature? Read this portion of scripture and meditate on it. Romans 6:3-10: “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him: knowing that Christ being raised from the dead hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.” Without expounding over each verse individually, let me sum it up this way. When Jesus died on that cross, He took my sins and my sinful nature upon Him and nailed it there. My sins and my sinful nature were buried with Him in death. My old man, my old nature and my body of sin died with Him.
To this point someone may say that the sinful nature is then destroyed and we don’t have to deal with it anymore, but we must read on. Romans 6:11-14: “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” These Scriptures absolutely indicate that it is a continual choice to crucify our sinful nature daily and to not allow it to reign over us. Our victory was at the cross, but it is a continual victory as we yield ourselves unto God. Yes, this is once again a message of surrender. We surrender ourselves to the finished work of Jesus Christ that took place on the cross each and every day. We no longer serve and are slaves to sin, but we serve and are slaves unto God. Paul uses the word “walk” in Romans, Chapter 8, pertaining to our daily commitment to God. “We walk not after the flesh (our sinful nature) but after the Spirit” Romans 8:1, 4. “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” Galatians 5:25. The life of walking in the Spirit cannot be manufactured or generated in ourselves, but is a result of a yielding to Holy Spirit and His power to walk in Christ through us. The Holy Spirit will not live our lives of righteousness for us , but He lives it through us as we make continuous choices to surrender to Him ourselves as instruments of righteousness.
C. S. Lewis said, “No man knows how bad he is until he has tried very hard to be good.” No one has conquered their sinful nature by trying harder. No one has had their sins forgiven by working to be forgiven. The only way to receive salvation from sin is to humbly surrender to the finished work of Christ, and the only way to daily conquer the sinful nature is to continue surrendering to the finished work of Christ. That continual surrender will result in Holy Spirit infilling us on a daily basis and regenerating us daily in walking in newness of life. Titus 3:3-7 sums it up as well: “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; that being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
Let me close by saying that the daily surrender to the finished work of Christ and to the power of Holy Spirit is not only important, but will bring a joyous confidence in the life of a believer. There should be no sense of defeat in the life of anyone who is truly in Christ. It is a sad lot to see someone who is apologetic and defeated while labeling themselves as Christians. Jesus conquered the world and our sinful nature on the cross. He sealed that victory with His resurrection. It is Christ’s death and resurrection that gives truth and power to Paul’s words in 1st Corinthians 15:55-57, “O death where is thy sting? Oh grave where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be unto God which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” We are citizens of Heaven now. (Philippians 3:20) We are seated together now in heavenly places in Christ Jesus now. (Ephesians 2:5,6) Let us immerse ourselves in Christ and as we do the victory won at the cross will be ours daily over our sinful nature. Then the resurrection life will raise us up over sin and its power. We are more than conquerors through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.