One of the most freeing truths that I have encountered in my Christian life was far more controversial than I could have ever imagined. I had grown up reading the NIV ’84 and saw Paul’s description Christians: new creations who are still battling the sin nature. I had been taught that because I have two natures, the one that I fed into would have victory: if you indulge your sinful nature, you will die; but if you walk by the Spirit as a new creation of Christ, you will live. I felt like my growth, even my future as a Christian was all up to me.
As I began to study Paul, I discovered that not all people shared the view that we have two warring natures within us. With a little more digging, I discovered that whenever Paul talked about the battle with sin, it wasn’t because of a ‘sinful nature’ but because of our flesh. The NIV ’84 had obscured this idea in its translation. So I began to hunt for what Paul was saying.
As I read more, I came to see that “the flesh” in Paul’s thinking is ‘a spiritual power operating upon our unredeemed bodies.’ Rather than thinking that I have two natures – a good and bad one – I began to think of myself as living as a redeemed person groaning for the redemption of my body in a groaning world (Rom. 8:22-24).
It wasn’t until years later that I would be given a book by Charles Leiter. In his work Justification and Regeneration, Leiter summed up these truths so clearly:
Not only does every fallen son of Adam have a bad heart; he also has a bad record in the eyes of God’s law. Sin both defiles him and condemns him; its power rules within him, and its penalty rests upon him. Man is both helpless and hopeless— his plight is truly impossible. Into this situation of darkness and despair a great light has shone. Jesus has come. He can and will save His people from both the penalty and power of their sins. He does the former in justification; He does the latter in regeneration… Justification takes place in heaven, in the courtroom of God. Regeneration, on the other hand, takes place on earth, in the heart of man. Justification is a declaration by a Judge; regeneration is an act of creation by an omnipotent Creator.
Though I have walked imperfectly and struggled with sin, my perspective has changed. I am a new creation. I have been given the new birth. I am a new man who has a new nature with new desires. The war that I fight has a certain outcome: victory. My record is cleared and my heart is free!
What about you? Do you know of the victory won for you on that hill outside of Jerusalem by the carpenter who took the nails in his hands and feet? We sing this truth: “When faced with trials on every side, we know the outcome is secure. And Christ will have the prize for which he died: an inheritance of nations.”
Let’s worship this Sunday as free people – free to love, to live, to hope, and forgive!
As we gather for Sunday worship, we want you to meet with God and be transformed by the Word. Prepare your heart by reading the passage and listening to the songs for Sunday.