Building off the last few posts I think it is safe to say that man does not have a "sinful nature". Man is not intrinsically evil. Man was created in the image of God for good purpose. The notion that God created someone in His image to be evil means that God is evil. God is not evil, He is good. Man has chosen against his Creator to sin. It is the devil that is evil and desires to destroy us. We sometimes get talked into that destruction via the devil's deception and our choice to sin.
Over and over again in the new testament we read to "put off the old man", "you are no longer dead to sin but alive in Christ" and "be a slave to righteousness". There are a ton of these before/after comparisons. So why is it that some Christians still feel enslaved to sin? Why do they feel they are fighting a losing battle? Why are they losing the battle? Is that what we signed up for when we gave our lives to Jesus? I often hear Christians quote either one of these verses as support for their perceived helpless position.
"Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak."
"Watch ye and pray least ye enter temptation. The spirit truly is ready but the flesh is weak."
This verse was spoken by Jesus to the disciples in the garden of Gethsemane before He was arrested. I think Jesus is talking about Himself more than anything else since the diciples didn't yet have the indwelling of the Spirit...but that's a whole other post. Anyways...where there is the English word willing and ready in these verses is the same Greek word prothymos. Prothymos simple means willing or able but is from the root word thymos meaning passion, heat, glow, ardour. The root word for thymos is thyo meaning sacrifice. You see this isn't a competition between the spirit and the flesh. Notice the verses don't say "the spirit is ready but the flesh takes over." No. Jesus is simply stating there is no power in the flesh. The power is in the spirit. If you do not have that power than you are not willing or ready. If you are in fact ready to have the passion and the sacrifice that the spirit demands of you I say this...START WALKING.
Yes, God has delivered you from death via salvation. Yes, the blood of Jesus has atoned for your sins. Yes, the Holy Spirit has put His seal on you. You are forgiven. You are accepted. You are saved. You are a new creature. But in all of this you are just standing there motionless. You must take up your cross and follow. Be imitators of Jesus. Choose righteousness. Live in the freedom God has given you by His grace. You must grow the the Spirit in your life. Starve the flesh and feed the Spirit. It is the only way you will have the power to overcome sin and be transformed. It is the only way you will be able to live in victory the remainder of your stay here on earth.
"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." 2 Cor. 3:17-18
So how do you grow the Holy Spirit in your life? Well I will tell you what worked for me. Me, being someone that for 25 years was a half-ass Christian. I tried to believe in God but do things my own way. That left me in bondage to sin via drinking, drugs and boys. Things got so bad that one night I attempted to take my own life. The next morning I knew things had to change. So I started walking...hard...like I meant it. That was 11 years ago and I must say freedom is worth the effort.
Think of growing the Holy Spirit in your life like building a campfire. What elements do you need for a fire? Wood, oxygen and a flame. Wood is the the cross. Jesus died for our sins to take the penalty of death. Now we must die to sin as well.
"For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life." 2 Cor. 2:15
"For you died, and your live is now hidden with Christ in God...Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly members: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed which is idolatry. You used to walk in these ways, in the live you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with it's practices and have put on the new self , which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of it's Creator."
Now when we look at this list of things not to do most people seem to focus in on the "big" sins. Sexual sin, lust, evil desires and idolatry. They think it is just too hard to get rid of those things in their lives and give up. Now if we were to focus on the "little" sins...anger, greed, slander, jealousy and lying etc I think we would be a whole lot more successful. Now we know sin is sin. There is no big sin or little sin, but we seem to make this separation in our minds. Do you know that the Greek word for lust is empithymeo. The rood word is the same as above; thymos. Which can also mean angry or fierce. You have to get to the root of your bondage. You didn't just wake up one morning in bondage to something. If you focus on the little things the big things will fall away. Stay on top of your sin so that it doesn't take control. Repent right away.
"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to the one who is striking at the root."
Henry David Thoreau
" Therefore prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do." 1 Peter 1:13-15
Next in our campfire we need flame. This is the spark in you when you first decided to follow Jesus. This is the new man. This is your faith, hope and loving yourself and your neighbor.
"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together." Col 3:12-14
"Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good." 1 Peter 2:2
It goes on to say be thankful, teach and edify one another. Worship together, fellowship together. So really this is helping each other out. Get yourself together with some people that have the same goal as you. Get with people that will build you up and not tear you down. Get with some people that will keep you accountable in your walk with Jesus. Read the scriptures to build your faith and hope. Talk to God in prayer. Worship God in thanksgiving. Look guys if you don't actively do these things you will be dead in the water. The fire and wood are our responsibility. We must choose to do those things. When we do do them the third element of our campfire comes into play. That is the oxygen of the Holy Spirit.
"For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received a Spirit of sonship." Romans 8:15
"We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God that we may understand what God has freely given us. " 1 Cor 2:12
"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a Spirit of power love and self-discipline."
2 Tim 1:7
Do you see guys? You have to have all three elements for the fire to burn. You have to take action and get your will in line with God's will. This doesn't just magically happen when you become a Christian. You have to walk. You can't put off the old self if you don't put on the new self. Like wise you can not put on the new self if you don't put off the old self. You can't do either of those things if you don't choose to walk in the Spirit. If you put the effort in God will meet you. He wants you to be free!
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Gal 5:1
"But when anyone turns to the Lord, the veil [of their hearts] is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." 2 Cor 3:16-17
"Do not put out the Spirit's fire...test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. May the God of peace sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be keept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it." 1 Thess 5:19-24