There’s a difference between our spirit nature and our natural nature. There’s a dichotomy. In the spirit we have been born again. Our spiritual father is God and we carry his image, his “DNA.” His Image is sinless and holy. Therefore in our spirit nature we are completely without sin, made in the image of God.
Our natural nature, though, is sinful. It was born of a natural father who had sin in his body.
Therefore we have a dichotomy. In one sense we are completely sinless and in another sense we are completely sinful. There’s no easy way to explain it. It’s a mystery. It’s the same mystery as Jesus was fully God and fully man. It wasn’t that he was one or the other, it was he is both. It is a supernatural mystery that we cannot comprehend. But it seems explainable this way: Jesus was fully God in his spirit nature and dwelt in the natural in a flesh and blood body resembling that of the natural nature, yet he had no natural nature (sin) in him. Likewise, we are without sin in our born-again spirit nature, and we are full of sin in our corrupted natural nature. This is what Paul talks about as the new man and the old man.
So how do we work to conform to the image of Christ? Do we work in obedience in our natural man to live a sinless life, or do we live in completeness of our new man in Christ?
Sin originates from the root of sin, which is the fallen nature. Righteousness originates from the root of righteousness, which is our new life in our spirit man in Christ. The more we focus on who we are in our spirit man, our identity in Christ, the more we conform to that image in our natural man. The more we conform to His Image, the more we act from the spirit man and the less we sin from the natural man.
It’s just as I teach on Behavior. What you believe determines your behavior. If your focus is from the natural man, your behavior is that of the natural man, and it requires immense discipline to control the sinful desires of the natural. But if your focus is from the renewed, spirit man, then your behavior emanates from there and your inclination is more towards righteous behavior than sinful behavior. This is similar to a thin person who knows he is thin and identifies himself as being thin, and therefore eats and exercises properly and doesn’t diet versus an overweight person who sees himself as overweight, identifying himself as being overweight, and therefore works on disciplining his body by dieting and exercising because his natural inclination is to eat wrong and exercise wrong. One stays thin, the other is a yo-yo, losing weight then gaining it back over and over again.
Observation: The conservative church preaches from the natural nature and says, “discipline yourself to live more righteously.” The grace church preaches from identity and says, “know who you are in Christ and live from that position.” The objective is the same, it’s just they come from different perspectives. I believe the “identity” perspective is more sustainable than the other.
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