Defeating Our Human Nature (Part 1. Fruit Of The Spirit vs. Works Of The Flesh)
Although part of a series, this article is a complete study on its own. (1 of 18 in series)
Any [bracketed words] contained in Scripture quotes are mine.
"He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before your God?" (Micah 6:8)
"I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh...
...For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be of led the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh 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 told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such things there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another." (Galatians 5:16-26)
This article sets the tone for a series that is based on the Galatians text above. In a separate series, we have already examined the fruit of the Spirit and its nine facets. We spoke of how God shines His Spirit down on us and that we have a choice to move and operate in that Spirit or to move in our own fleshly strength and lust. When we receive His direction with a proper heart and do not hinder it, this empowers us to know things others do not know and to do things that others cannot do. Love shines forth from us when we move with the Spirit. Like a prism breaks up light into the colors of a rainbow, love manifests itself in other forms such as joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and temperance.
Now we will examine what happens when a person tries to live his life without God directing his life and path. All the works of the flesh are familiar to every person, whether or not that person himself has "perfected" any one particular sin in the practice of their own fleshly lust.
As a newborn baby, we are born into this world with an inherited trait that will remain with us all our lives. That trait is sin. This young one depicted in the illustration above wouldn't even be able to "goo-goo" at this point in his life but this baby has sin living in the human flesh that encases his soul and spirit. The first man that was named Adam, decided not to obey the voice of God in the Garden of Eden and he ate the fruit. The moment he decided and then committed that act, the man had sin in him. Because nothing sinless can come out of sinning man, all of Adam's children were born with the same sin trait as their dad. This trait is passed on in the blood and there is no way to get that out of the blood. Human beings are composed of body, soul and spirit, according to the Bible. We are all born with the inherited trait of sin in our flesh but sin also influences our soul; which is comprised of our mind, our will, our emotions; and also influences our heart (the seat of motivation).
"Therefore just as through one man [Adam] sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all had sinned." (Romans 5:12)
"Behold, I was brought forth [born] in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. " (Psalm 51:5)
"Do you speak uprightly, you sons of men? No, you work wickedness; you weigh out the violence of your hands in the earth. The wicked are estranged [separated from God by sin] from the womb; they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies." (Psalm 58:2-3)
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings." (Jeremiah 17:9-10)
As for the human spirit of each person that should be connected to God, each person is born with a spirit that is separated from God. The sin nature in the body of the person and the sins he commits keep that person from being connected in a proper way to God, the source of all life. So the Bible refers to that person's human spirit as being dead. It is not actually dead like a corpse, but it is not connected to God, the source of all life. We know that the spirit is not dead, as we think of dead and rotting things, because the spirit is very much alive if the person dies in their sin and must stay separated from God for eternity in hell. This "dead" spirit is merely silent, it serves no function, for the spirit of the human was created to be forever connected to God.
"But your iniquities have separated you from your God and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear." (Isaiah 59:2)
"And you He made alive who were dead in trespasses [sins that the person themselves commit] and sin [the sin nature passed down from Adam]." (Ephesians 2:1)
"Therefore just as through one man sin entered sin entered the world [Adam passed his sin nature to us, his children] and death through sin thus death spread to all men because all sinned [all inherit sin nature thus all commit sins]." (Romans 5:12)
A connection to God happens at the moment a person throws himself into God's arms and trusts God with his life. The person that does this complete emptying of himself and his pride, willing to turn from his sin to follow Christ is said to be repentant. The repentant sinner that calls on Christ for forgiveness will be forgiven for his sin but more than that happens. That person is changed by God fundamentally on the inside. God will accept that repentance and change him by instantly indwelling him (making His home in that repentant heart). God in a very literal way, comes to live inside of us - "Christ in us, the hope of Glory." (Colossians 1:27) The Bible refers to the body of the redeemed person as a "tent" (2 Cor. 5:2) and as a "temple" (1 Cor. 6:19) in which God the Holy Spirit lives.
"If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away [they cannot come back], behold, all things have become new [re-created]." (2 Corinthians 5:17)
The first change that happens is that the person's spirit that was separated and non-functioning is now plugged-in to God, "immersed into" Christ. A spiritual transaction has occurred in which the the sinner is forgiven and his spirit is then taken and inserted into the body of Christ. At the same instant, the Holy Spirit of God takes up residence in the body of that individual. This transaction is forever and irreversible. We know it is irreversible because the life of that sinner is now "hidden with Christ in God." (Col. 3:23) The connection that the Creator intended for every human is now operating in that saved individual. The second thing that happens is that the human spirit that was dead, separated from God, is now working in conjunction with God's Holy Spirit to influence, change, and rearrange every thought and motivation the person has in their life. It is such a different mental operation put in place by God, that the Bible calls it being "born again" because it is as if the whole computer of the brain was turned off, restarted and rebooted. We are given a new life because the sin trait that is still contained in our flesh is now forgiven by the shed blood of Christ and God will not make us pay for our sin.
"For by one Spirit we are all baptized into [immersed, inserted into] one body [the body of Christ]." (1 Corinthians 12:13)
"For as many of you as were baptized into [immersed, inserted into] Christ have put on Christ." (Galatians 3:27)
"Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God." (Colossians 3:2-3)
People who have not been through this transaction with God have many misunderstandings about it. Some think that mere rearranging one's own thought patterns to modify their own behavior will be good enough. Unfortunately, anything we try on our own is tainted with the sin that is in our cursed flesh. We cannot earn forgiveness by good behavior that we perform. Our salvation is based on the finished work of Jesus, never upon works which we do. Works fall short in any attempt to reach God. (Romans 3:23) We come to God through Christ and throwing ourselves into His loving arms trusting in that finished work on the cross to pay for our entrance into the presence of God. Despite the seeming logic of good works verses bad works buying our entrance, the only way is repentance and trust.
***Please note: There are many religions out there that are incorrectly teaching that a since a baby is born in sin they would be accountable for their sin should they die. That is a lie: [If all that was just said is true about sin and the human condition, then are babies also condemned? The answer is a simple no. Why? because even though babies are born with sin, the way into heaven is based on repentance and trust. A baby and very young children cannot comprehend such concepts therefore cannot make a decision for Jesus. The Bible says that babies are declared innocent, certainly not based on works or a trust decision, but solely because God is a God of love and mercy. Jesus said such were of the Kingdom of God and that children have guardian angels that behold the face of God.] (Mat. 19:14; Lu. 18:16; Mat. 18:10)
The Bible goes so far as to say that without this transaction of salvation in place, the good works that a person does seems like something that stinks and is rotten in God's sight when it is considered enough to buy an entrance to heaven and life. The comparison is made to "filthy rags" which was a term for cloths that hung on posts for the lepers, to wipe their oozing sores. The cloth was termed filthy when it was disintegrating and so decomposed that it could no longer be of use. Then it was some poor soul's job to take and gather them to burn. God says that the best of sinning mankind's rightousnesses are like "filthy rags." If this is the comparison, then imagine what God must feel when we stand before him without Jesus, having only a few things we have done in our lives that stand out to us as being good enough to buy us entrance into His presence. The stark truth is: Only Jesus can get us in.
Though individuals can change their behavior, they can't implement works of the Spirit without the Spirit living in them. Imitating joy, peace, kindness, and the rest, will be of the flesh because that is all an unsaved person has to work with, that comes to them naturally. On the other hand, a person who has the Holy Spirit indwelling them, now has the capability to surrender themselves to the One living in them and see the fruit of that surrender.
And that is the "rub."
Even though a born-again person has his spirit made alive and is indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God, that person must still surrender his thoughts and will to God to be able to withstand the temptation of the flesh. Even if a person genuinely knows Jesus as his Savior, that person will succumb to his own flesh which is at war with his spirit if he does not walk with Christ.
The SPIRIT vs. The FLESH - always at war with one another.
Everyone thinks they have an idea of what the "normal" human condition is, because they themselves are human. They believe that their own experience explains why they struggle and fall prey to things they know are not good for them. Scripture says that sin is the reason for all our struggles, all our woes, all our sadnesses, every one of them. In the mind of the unsaved this is foolishness. They are in a kind of blind bondage where their own sin holds them captive. Jesus offers freedom, and new eyes to see the state of their own human condition.
The term "human nature" was coined in conjunction with the theory of evolution, which the world now touts as fact. It is usually used to explain or excuse behavior that is similar or somewhat resembles the animal kingdom. For animals, who are body and soul, instinct is the dominating force in their lives. God has given them instinct to breed, to eat, to survive when humans would fall down and die. But God has granted humans a spirit to go along with their soul. Animals have no spirit. The spirit is the thing that separates us from the animal kingdom. Animals have not sinned as have humans, they continue to obey the voice of their Creator as instinct drives them, living the lives ordained for them here on their home, earth. To excuse every disgusting thing sinning flesh devises, the behaviorists explain that "it is only human nature."
All have heard the saying, "I'm only human." What that saying means is that humans have weaknesses and limitations. Sitting alone, that statement conveys a valid point, we humans are flawed creatures. The thing is, people don't keep that context for those words. They don't use it as a statement of fact for an objective viewpoint on the human condition, but instead use it as an excuse to do whatever they wish, as if they have no choice in the matter at all.
"I cheat on my wife, well, I'm only human."
"I cheat on my taxes, well, I'm only human."
"I steal from work"..."I yell at my children"..."I freak out, tweak out, spazz out, I'm only human!"
God does not accept those excuses. We are accountable for every deed we commit, for every word we say, and every thought we think. How, you may ask, can a person ever be in control of every idle thought or word that may spring forth from admittedly sinful lips? Well, the short answer is we can't... but - the longer answer is that we can learn to follow the Spirit's lead and moment-by-moment be able to say no to sin.
After one cries out to God for forgiveness, their past, present, and future sin is forgiven and they will be declared righteous in the judgment. That does not mean we don't sin anymore but we are not punished for our sin in hell. Does that mean we can sin anytime we want and do whatever we choose? No. Remember the person that is born-again has God indwelling their heart and God will no longer allow them to sin indiscriminately, taking pleasure in it. Now the Holy Spirit is working to move the saved Christian away from committing the sins that they loved and practiced all the time. He is convicted and though he may sin, he will return to God because the Bible says that any who continue and practice sin, getting pleasure and no conviction because of it, are not truly inhabited by the Spirit of Christ. As the born-again person sins, he is chastised, disciplined by God. His joy in the sin is removed. A person that has joy in the their sin is not one of God's children, else God would move him away from that which is bad for him. So God's wish for you becomes what you want for you. Your "want-to" changes. You could rationalize doing any sin you entertain for long enough, but be prepared for the Lord to turn you over His knee and make you feel the scourge, because He loves you and calls you His son.
"Is not destruction for the wicked, and disaster for the workers of iniquity? Does He not see my ways, and count all my steps?" (Job 31:3-4)
"But I say to you for every idle word men may speak, they will give an account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned." (Matthew 12:36-37)
"For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man." (Matthew 15:19-20a)
"And you have forgotten the exhortation that speaks to you as sons: 'My son do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.' If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers then you are illegitimate and not sons." (Hebrews 12:5-8)
Walking with the Lord produces wonderful things in a person's life. Going through phases of clinging to the flesh or dallying in sin despite the Lord's chastening, produces certain conditions that we will examine in the installments to come. The world makes these symptoms of spiritual sickness seem as though it is the normal and healthy way in which to live. We will look at each of the works of the flesh and give ways to become stronger against them.
I remember well the life I led before I came to Christ. I remember my slipping back many times into the sins that "so easily beset me." Now I see that the Lord has made me stronger and I slip far less than I did when I was a younger Christian. God does make my life hard when I sin and if I continue to rebel (which at times I have) He has increased the pain until I changed my path. I have learned to love my Father. I have learned to monitor my thoughts to live "safer distances" away from that which tempts me. I will always sin until my flesh is redeemed and my sin nature is removed, but I battle and can overcome with Jesus on my side. I just wonder about all the people who do not know Jesus and I hurt for them.
Are you, dear reader, a Christian? Have you emptied yourself before God and asked Him to save you from your sin? I know that God has spoken to your heart as to your need of a Savior. He has knocked on your life's door many times and whispered His pleadings in the night. Maybe it was when someone you loved died or when you hurt over something in your life and God whispered His love for you and you knew that God wanted you to come to Him. Maybe it was when you had no money in hard times or maybe it was a blessing that whispered to you. Maybe it was through a child that you love or the absence of a loved one. God uses things in your life to offer you life and He knows how to make sure you hear.
Coming to Christ is easy. You don't have to do anything other than believe and receive His forgiveness. Do you believe in Jesus, that He is God in human flesh that came to earth to die for your sins? Do you believe that you are a sinner in need of a Savior? If you do, then you can call on Jesus to save you.
Pray this: Dear Lord Jesus, I believe that You are God in human flesh that came to earth to die for all sin. I know I am a sinner and if I die without a Savior I will go to hell. Please Jesus forgive me of my sin and save me. I believe that you died for me and were buried and were raised for me. I throw myself into Your arms trusting You to hold me. I do not cling to my sin and way of life, I give them up to follow You. Come into my heart so that I may truly live. I pray this in the holy name of Jesus. Amen.
Others in this series of independent articles: