Can You Tell Me The Way?

Our "Fallen" Nature

The forgiveness we experience through the sacrificial death of Jesus does not change our disposition to sin. It is misleading to say we are sinful because we sin. The truth is that we sin because we are sinful, and being forgiven does not mean that we shall not sin again. We commit individual sins because we have a sinful nature. We can still be tempted and have sinful habits. This is a different issue from forgiveness and has to be dealt with separately. We have to experience the Cross from a different perspective to undergo the next important change. We must see now how the death of Jesus deals with our sinfulness. For this, Jesus draws us into himself, so that we can now say that we are "in Christ". This means that we can identify with him, and with his death on the Cross. The death of Jesus becomes for us the death of our sinful nature. Jesus on the Cross, identifying with us, deals with what we DO. Our identifying with Jesus on the Cross, enables him to deal with what we ARE.

Part Four

Release From Captivity

Before we begin the next important step of our journey, there is an issue that may be relevant to some. This is the question of baptism. From Peter's account in Acts chapter 2, baptism was one of the things needed when the people asked what they must do (verse 38). If the matter has not already been settled, you may ask when therefore should I be baptised? Baptism is more than a purely symbolic act, although it is indeed full of symbolism. It does nothing in itself to change us. It is an outward expression of a change taking place within us, but it does not cause the change. What causes the change is God responding to the desire of our hearts. It is a demonstration of our seriousness. One thing that baptism symbolises is cleansing, that is inward or spiritual cleansing. The water represents the agent for the washing away of our sins. The water does not wash away our sins, it is the death of Jesus and the shedding of his blood that does that. However baptism is an appropriate expression of the reality that has happened within us. Baptism however has other significance apart from cleansing us from sin. We are going to look at this now, so before you choose baptism wait until you have a fuller understanding of all that it means. We will return to this issue in part 5.

We are now moving in a new direction, but our path is still dominated by the Cross. Here we are viewing the Cross from a different perspective. By God's grace the death of Jesus brings forgiveness, because he died in our place. He took upon himself the consequences of our sins, and suffered the punishment that ought to be ours.The guilt and the shame that were rightly ours have been lifted from us.

However, this does nothing to change our basic human nature. Even though past sins have been forgiven, we still continue to sin. This is because of what we are; the way we have been made, and the way we have developed. We have a sinful nature, that is a leaning or inclination to do wrong. We have inherited faulty traits from our parents and ancestors. All around us we have examples of wrong-doing which we copy. Life is full of temptations, and no one is strong enough to resist them all. One temptation is to idolatry, that is to the worship of false gods, including worship of oneself. Self-righteousness causes complacency and is a sin which is particularly invidious. All these are the origins of sin in our lives, and because over time they have become habitual, they have become the power of sin within us.

Look at these verses in Paul's letter to the Galatians, chapter 5 vv 19 - 21. "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." These things are the product of the sinful nature which has to be got rid of.

Another, similar passage to consider is Colossians 3 vv. 5 to 8. "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourself of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language from your lips." Paul goes on to use an analogy. He says getting rid of the sinful nature is like taking off old clothes, and the new nature in the image of the Creator is like putting on new clothes.