Saturday, April 10, 2010

Second Nature

While having a great time yesterday morning teaching in the New Life disciple program at the local Rescue Mission, one of the guys made a comment that I found really insightful. God often teaches me more from the questions and comments from these men who are infants in the faith than I think I impart to them. Funny how that works, huh?

We were in the midst of a study of what the gospel of Christ says about slavery and freedom. This is a subject most of these guys can readily connect with, since they’ve lived the life of enslavement to all kinds of things – drugs, alcohol, sex, whatever. And they recognize (far better than most good people) that the root of that slavery was and is bondage to sin, to Satan as their spiritual father, and ultimately to their own selfish desires. So when they read Jesus’ words in John 8:31-36 about the truth of the Son making them free, they’re all over that. These are men who have been willing slaves to the cruelest master of all – their own sin – and want to really know and experience the freedom from that bondage that comes only in Christ.

And they also connect with Paul’s statement in Galatians 5:1 – “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” They feel every day the pull of their still-active sin nature that would take them captive to themselves again if they give it the chance. And they also experience the tendency we all have to substitute a list of man-made or self-imposed rules and laws for the freedom we’re given as believers in Christ to live by the Spirit. And that also means voluntarily submitting to those whom God has placed over us in spiritual leadership positions. In the case of these disciples, that’s the Rescue Mission staff.

So as we were discussing this subject of being free to submit to Christ and to His leaders, one of the guys named Don made a comment about dealing with that. He said, “It’s second nature to me to want to rebel against authority.” That statement stopped me in my tracks. Because what he was expressing, even though I’m not sure he realized it at the time, was the reality that every Christian deals with in working out the battle of the two natures that are at work in us. That reality expressed in Galatians 5:17: “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” The spiritual nature which is made alive in Christ and that frees us from bondage to self and sin, vs. the sinful fleshly nature that still seeks its own head.

But as this man stated, that rebellious, sinful, selfish nature is his second nature. As a redeemed person in Christ, that sinful nature has been crucified, robbed of its power and dominion over him, dethroned from the position of master (Romans 6). And therefore, our flesh is not our only nature, not even our first nature, but rather our second nature. A nature that’s still active and that we can and often do still allow to govern our thoughts and actions. But in a real sense it is our second nature. A nature that we are no longer slaves to. A nature that we are now free to subdue, by the power of Christ and His Spirit working in us synergistically with our own transformed mind and will.

So as I reminded Don, praise be to Jesus Christ that his rebellious nature is now truly his second nature. God has given him, and all who trust in Christ, a new and eternal and redeemed first nature intended to rule our lives and willingly submit to Him as our new Lord and Master.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

He IS Risen...Indeed

Haven't been able to focus on anything blog-worthy lately as my attention has been on my father in law's health issues. He's currently in hospice care as the last few days of his life pass. What a gift of God's grace to allow my wife's father Bud to have the time to gather with family and say goodbye, to make his wishes clear, to impart final words of wisdom. Once more showing the mercy and grace of our Lord.

But that's not what I'm thinking about right now. Approaching the culmination of this Holy Week, my mind is on the reality of the resurrection of Christ. The Christian's cry of celebration on Resurrection Sunday is this: "He is risen!" A clear, direct, unambiguous statement of fact. And not that He has risen, or that He was risen. He IS risen. Not just a past event, but a present reality. He rose from death to life, and He remains alive, in a resurrected state. Christ's resurrection isn't of the same category as those of Lazarus or others in the Biblical record who were raised from the dead. They didn't stay alive, they had to eventually die again. But Jesus Christ has risen, and is risen, never to suffer death again.

And all who have trusted in Him and His sacrificial death on the cross will likewise share in that resurrection. He not only resurrects us to spiritual life in regeneration so that we can respond to Him - He also guarantees that even though we may physically die, we have life eternal like His, and will ultimately be resurrected in a manner like His as well, never to perish again.

In fact, through personal faith in Jesus Christ, my father in law is facing the end of his physical life with the sure promise of eternal life and resurrection in Christ. How anyone can face death apart from that blessed hope and assurance, I can't imagine.