Conquering Human Nature
by Hermanus W. Smeenk
The Origin of Human Nature
When God created Adam and Eve, He created them free from influence by Satan. God created both Adam and Eve with the knowledge they needed which allowed them to walk, talk and to make the necessary decisions required for everyday living. God also provided them with the ability to choose whether they should obey Him or not. As implied by the account in Genesis concerning Adam and Eve being misled by the serpent, we can infer that they were both of an innocent and naïve mind. Neither Adam nor Eve even suspected the serpent of duplicity when it tempted Eve, and through her Adam, to eat from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
The account in Genesis tells us that immediately upon partaking of the fruit, their eyes were opened and they saw that they were naked. At this point, their innocence had been compromised and their human nature was linked directly to Satanís influences. Ezekiel tells us that when God created Lucifer, He created a perfect being, until iniquity was found in him (Ezekiel 28:15). Thereafter, God changed his name to Satan, meaning "Adversary". When Jesus Christ walked upon the earth, he said that Satan was a liar and a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44). Furthermore, we also learn that Satan will attempt to overthrow God, but will not prevail but will be cast down to the earth (Revelation 12:7-9). Satanís attitude of hate towards God and man is mirrored in the mind of men and has been so ingrained in our minds that we obey Satanís influence in our lives automatically, without even so much as giving it any thought.
The Nature of Human Nature
Our human nature, like the pull of gravity, exerts a downward pull on our character. Satanís influences and temptations lead us to follow the road of greed and selfishness, hate and anger towards those individuals whom we perceive to stand in our way of fulfilling our pleasure. James tells us that man is tempted when he is drawn away and is enticed to follow his own lust which, when it has conceived, brings forth sin and sin brings forth death. Until we received Godís Holy Spirit, we follow after the lust of our flesh and our eyes.
When a thought comes into our minds to take a set course of action, we blindly follow it until we complete the act that was conceived in our minds. If we want something and it is in our power to obtain it, we will go after it. If another individual speaks harshly of us, we will take revenge against that person. We think nothing of taking things that we can use from our employers, we engage in adultery and fornication, and disobey any law that prevents us from achieving the goal in our minds. We speak evil of our neighbor to put him down while elevating ourselves in our pride. Violence is in our hearts and our thoughts are evil continually.
We hardly ever consider the long-term effects of our action as long as the short-term results of our actions bring us gain or pleasure. Once we allow ourselves to start on the road of greed, hate and selfishness, our human nature moves us from one sinful act to another. The acts we perform become progressively worse until either the law of the land or death stops us. We have no respect for our neighbor and lie to his face. A liar may first become covetous, then a thief, then a murderer until in the end, human life has lost all value to him. Some individuals become so hardened in their evil ways that it may be impossible for them to ever repent and turn from their ways. For that reason God may allow those individuals to be destroyed before they reach that point.
What Does The Bible Reveal About Human Nature?
Jeremiah wrote, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked" (Jeremiah 17:9), and he also admits "O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps" (10:23). In Genesis we also read "Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Genesis 6:5). Paul also wrote "There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God; they have all gone out of the way; they have together become unprofitable; there is none that does good, no, not oneí" (Romans 3:10-12). Paul explained that the "natural" mind of man, is essentially hostile to God and His law: "The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be" (Romans 8:7).
The Nature of Godís Holy Spirit
In contrast to human nature stands Godís Holy Spirit. Even as Godís nature differs from Satanís nature, so it also differs from human nature. In contrast to Satanís and our nature, which are rebellious and hateful towards God, exhibit greed and selfishness, utter lies and are full of deceit, and cause man to follow in Satanís ways which ultimately result in eternal death, Godís nature is love, unselfishly giving, always speaking the truth, never tempting anyone, and seeks to serve man and direct him in the paths of righteousness, endows him with wisdom and knowledge, and results in eternal life, freely given to man, on condition of obedience to Godís will. Whereas human nature exerts pressure downward towards greater evil, Godís Holy Spirit exerts pressure upward towards righteousness and love towards God and fellow-man.
How Can We Overcome Human Nature...
We have been enslaved by Satan to live our lives according to his will and dictates. By ourselves, it is impossible to break away from that slavery and lead a righteous life in accordance to Godís laws and statutes. This was the reason Jesus Christ had to suffer and die on the cross. Having accomplished that, He paid the ransom for our lives so that we could be reconciled back to God for His guidance and direction in our lives. This is what Adam and Eve would have received had they not taken the fruit from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Having then become reconciled and put right with God, the way was now opened for God to call us to a life of righteousness and to receive the power from Him to overcome our human nature. This we can now do since Satan no longer has a hold over those of us whom God has called and to whom He has imparted His Holy Spirit.
Having then been called by God and having been convicted of our sins by the Holy Spirit, we can now repent from our unrighteous ways, be baptized, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands (Acts 2:38). We can now receive power from on high to help us refuse to be led by our human nature and choose to obey God. However, we must remember that without the Holy Spirit, we are unable to exhibit the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Even Jesus Christ said while in the human flesh, "I can of Myself do nothing" (John 5:19 and 30). Jesus also told His disciples "without me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). This tells us that we must look to the Father, not to ourselves. We must be among those "who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ, and have no confidence in the flesh" (Philippians 2:3)....And Then Live a Life of Overcoming?
[From The World-Ahead: Autumn 1997, Volume 7, Issue 2, Be an Overcomer]
We must follow Johnís instruction, "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever" (1 John 2:15-17).
Paul found that human nature was still a part of him even as a converted Christian, as he wrote: "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. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me" (Romans 7:18-20). And Paul further explained, "So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin" (Romans 7:25). As John also cautioned, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us (1 John 1:8-10).
Paul also tells us in Romans 8, "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace" (vv. 5-6). And Paul added, "You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God is in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His" (v. 9) that is, such a person is not a Christian.
We receive further encouragement from Paul when he adds "you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Galatians 3:26-27) that is, we have taken on His very characteristics. Like Paul, each Christian should be able to say, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). It is through the Holy Spirit that Christ actually lives His life in us. And itís what makes obedience to Godís commandments possible (cf. Romans 5:5; 1 John 5:3). If we do not have this Spirit, we are not true Christians (Romans 8:9). The indwelling of Godís Holy Spirit is the only factor that determines if someone is actually a Christian or not. Furthermore, to remain a Christian we must be "led by the Spirit of God" (v. 14), growing in godly character (cf. Hebrews 6:1; 2 Peter 3:18).
Paul also explains the increased spiritual understanding that Godís Holy Spirit brings: "But the natural [carnal, unconverted] man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. For Ďwho has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?í But we have the mind of Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:14-16). Paul elsewhere tells us, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5).
Only through studying the Holy Scriptures and living by every word therein (Matthew 4:4) and by learning to walk daily with God in constant communion through fervent prayer can we truly use the mind of Christ to overcome our human nature, Satan and his sinful world. We must "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and follow the biblical examples of godly individuals who fasted in order to draw closer to God as did Christ (Matthew 4:2) and Paul (2 Corinthians 11:27). By continual Bible study, fervent prayer and fasting to draw closer to God (Isaiah 58:5-11), we can learn to draw on His Spirit" (Philippians 1:19), thereby receiving the power from on high to overcome every problem or obstacle that we will ever encounter (cf. Luke 24:49). The inner changes brought about through the Holy Spirit will produce the visible "fruit" of Christís character, which can be seen in our outward actions (Galatians 5:22-23).
How can we acquire Godís nature and characteristics? Continue to read the next chapter titled: "Godís Will and Characteristics"
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