Grace: Do I Have a Sinful Nature?

Grace: Do I have a Sinful Nature or is it the Flesh?As we continue to grow in our understanding of grace, it is essential that we really understand this concept of “sin nature”. What is it and how does it apply today? I believe most churches teach a wrong concept of “sin nature”, and in doing so, many people are trapped in a fear-based, anxiety-provoking understanding of sin.

What is a “Sinful Nature”?

The Bible says we are born with a nature to sin–an inward motivation to sin. We don’t learn to sin; rather, it comes natural to us since birth. When we come into this world, our spirits are dead and we must be born again (John 3:3-7).

Today, under the New Covenant, there are only two states of existence: the natural and the spiritual. This is how Paul describes those two states by comparing Adam and Christ in 1 Corinthians 15:47-49,

The first man was of the earth, made of dust;
The second Man is the Lord from heaven.

As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust;
And as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly.

And as we have borne the image of the man of dust,
We shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.

To move from the natural (state of Adam) to the spiritual (state of Christ), you must be born again. Once you are born again, your flesh has been crucified. According to Galatians 2:20, it is no longer you who live, but Christ in you.

The Sin Nature is Dead in Christ

Once you have put your faith in Christ and are born again, your sin nature is dead. You have died to your sinful nature and are now alive “in Christ”. You are now a new creation:

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17, emphasis mine).

Your old self, your old nature has “passed away.” All things “have become new.” It’s a finished work!

You no longer have a sinful nature. You have the nature of Christ inside of you.

Sinful Nature versus Flesh

Today’s modern teaching of the “sinful nature” is based on some recent translations of the Bible. Modern translations like the New International Version (NIV) and New Living Translation (NLT) use the term “sinful nature” throughout the New Testament. However, it’s more of an interpretation than a translation. In both the King James Version (KJV) and New King James Version (NKJV) of the Bible, there is no use of “sinful nature”. It’s only in newer translations.

So, what is this word being used for “sinful nature”?

The Greek word that NIV and NLT translate “sinful nature” is the word sarx. It is defined as “the flesh, the meat of an animal, the body (as opposed to the soul or spirit)”.

The KJV and NKJV version simply translate sarx as “flesh”. It’s your body, the natural part of you that experiences this reality through the five senses–taste, touch, smell, hear and see. The flesh is very different than the sinful nature.

Take Romans 7:18 for example and read both the NIV and the NKJV:

  • “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” (Romans 7:18, NIV).
  • “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find” (Romans 7:18, NKJV).

Why is this important? Your flesh is this tangible part of you where sin resides. Sin lives in your flesh. But, if you believe that sin in your soul and spirit, that your nature is to sin, then your identity is all about sin management. But, if you can believe that your nature is good, that you are a child of God, then there is hope to live a victorious life. You can conquer the flesh, because Christ did.

But, I still sin.

So do I. As long as you are alive, your flesh will be prone to sin. But, God has somehow uniquely separated your soul and spirit from your body when you become a believer. Your body is dead to sin. Romans 8:10 says,  “If Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” In Christ, God considers your body dead because of sin. So, we are encouraged to do the same: “Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).

We no longer have a sinful nature. It has been crucified and buried with Christ. Our new nature is the nature of Christ. He lives inside of us. If we can truly understand and believe that Christ lives in us and that we have a new nature in him, then it will empower us to walk in freedom. With the nature of Christ in us, we can overcome fear, anxiety and panic attacks.

Prayer: Father, show me that I am a new creation in Christ, that my old sinful nature has been crucified, dead and buried. I am alive in you.

Grace: From Sinner to Saint

Grace: From Sinner to SaintToo often, we define ourselves through sin. When we mess up, we verbally and mentally abuse ourselves. You’re so stupid. Or, when we know what to do but don’t do it, then we just give up, Why even try? This vicious cycle of defeat can be terribly frustrating and create anxiety and fear in our lives.

Here’s how Paul, the Apostle, described his own experience with sin: “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate” (Romans 7:15). When we are sin-conscious, all we see is our mistakes, our failures, our shortcomings.

The Garden of Eden is a great example of what happens when we move from being God-conscious to sin-conscious. Before they sinned, Adam and Eve enjoyed an incredible relationship with God. They walked together in the cool of day and spent time together. Their fellowship was invigorating and full of life! There was no awareness of sin. There was no right or wrong. No rules. There was no knowledge of good or evil. There was just fellowship with God.

Then sin happened. Immediately, humanity was aware of sin. They had become sin-conscious: they were hyper aware of their failures, mistakes and shortcomings. So, when God showed up, they hid themselves. Adam said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself” (Genesis 3:10).

The immediate response to sin is shame. When shame sets in, we hide ourselves from God and we become afraid. We often experience fear because we pull away from God due to sin and shame. I don’t believe God ever pulls away from us. He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). It’s always us pulling away from him. Like Adam, we hide ourselves from him because of shame. And in the same way, God is continually pursuing us because of he loves us so much.

From the day Adam and Eve sinned, all of humanity has lived sin-conscious, defining ourselves by following rules, doing what is right and not doing what is wrong. Today, many, many people live sin-conscious. But, that’s not how God wants us to live.

When Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect life and then died for our sins, he made a way for us to be sinless in God’s eyes. In Christ, we are no longer sinners. In Christ, we are perfect, holy and righteous. In Christ, we have moved from being sinners to being saints.

“But, I still sin.”

Yes, so do I. As long as we live in these physical, mortal bodies, we will experience sin. If you continue reading in Romans 7, Paul talks about this war in our members (our bodies) that wages on continually (v. 23). But, our flesh (our body) is not who we are. We are spirit and soul. The real you is not defined by the physicalness of your body. “Your real life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).

Sin has very real consequences in this life. If you murder, there are consequences. If you steal, there are consequences. If you treat your body poorly, there are consequences. Sin will affect your physical life.  But, sin should not define you because in Christ, God does not see your sin.

Honestly, we have it backwards.

We think that because of sin God is not pleased with us, so we try harder not to sin and clean up our lives. If we can stop sinning for awhile, then we can go to God with our needs. We wait to be clean in our own eyes before we approach God. But, that’s backwards.

God says, “You are clean and holy in Christ right now. Come to me as you are and let me help you with those areas of weakness.” Strength to stop sinning does not come from us trying harder. It comes from spending time with God and allowing him to help us.

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:17).

Prayer: Father, reveal to me that my sins are gone, washed away and that I am holy and perfect in your eyes.

The Love of God: It’s Unconditional

The Love of God: It's UnconditionalGod’s love for us is unconditional. His love is not based on our performance, our goodness, or anything we can or can’t do. His love is a gift, freely given to us. All we have to do is receive it.

“What about sin? Doesn’t sin separate us from God?”

I believe there was a time when sin did separate us from God. Isaiah 59:2 confirms, “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.”

Before Jesus came to earth, people lived under a different agreement or different convenant with God. Their sins were held against them. The High Priest would perform daily sacrifices to deal with the sins of the people. Until Christ came, sin separated people from God.

Today, we live under a new agreement, and Jesus—our new High Priest—died once for all of our sins. Here’s how the writer of Hebrews describes it: “Under the old covenant, the priest stands before the altar day after day, offering sacrifices that can never take away sins. But our High Priest (Jesus) offered himself to God as one sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down at the place of highest honor at God’s right hand” (v10:11, 12).

Did you catch that? Jesus died as “one sacrifice for sins, good for all time.” Paul explains it this way, “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19). Jesus died for your sins, once and for all. They are dealt with completely. Your past sins, your present sins, and your future sins are no longer counted against you.

This is great news! Now, there is nothing that can separate you from God’s love. “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38, 39).

Nothing can separate you from God’s love. Nothing. He made a Way for you to come to him just as you are. What’s holding you back? “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

I encourage you this week to boldly come before the throne of grace in your time of need. Jesus made a way for you to do that. God is ready to receive you, with his arms open wide and a loving smile on his face. He wants you to come running into his arms. He loves you more than you know.

There’s nothing you can do to disappoint God.

Prayer: Father, show me how much you love me. I come to you right now just as I am. Receive me into your arms of love.