The following article is a continuation of a series of thoughts my friend Art Licursi entitled; Casting Down Imaginations.
Part 3 of 10 – The Sin-Nature Within Man’s Flesh Body
We today as believers are in fact the members of “the body of Christ” right now on earth. We have Him, His life and His guidance that flows to us from Him as “the Head” of “the body” (Eph 5:23). Just as The Lord’s “Spirit of life” dwelled in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, so today the Lord’s “Spirit of life” dwells in every member of the “body of Christ.” We each are well equipped by His resurrected “Spirit of life,” which is precisely located within “our (human) spirit” (John 3:6, 1Cor 6:17, Col 1:27, Gal 2:20), which is located in “the midst of my (our) body” (Daniel 7:15).
The Lord is presently seated at “the right hand of the Father,” withholding His wrath and judgment yet to come to the earth. Thus His manifestation is personally absent from the earth today. Yet at this time He has us as the members of “the church, which is His body” (Eph 1:22b-23a) on earth. Christ desires to utilize our soul’s mind, to lead our emotion and will; to flow His life and love through us to others. The only mind Christ has on earth is the minds of the members of “the body of Christ. He lives in us and desires to flow His love and the good news of His “gospel of the grace of God” to others… through us.
But none of us are born with a mindset that is in agreement with God’s nature or His eternal purpose and plan. When we are first converted we still have the same twisted fallen mindset of Adam, but then we also now possess Christ’s “Spirit of life” with His mind resident within our spirit. “For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind (nous, intellect) of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16), but we need to permit His mind to flow through our mind.
So long as we walk in accord with the Lord within, yielding our mind to His mind and will, we are walking in the presence and “mind of Christ.” The key to living in accord with God’s eternal purpose is that we gain a renewed mindset or attitude of mind, which is one of submission to His spontaneous prompting or limiting that we sense within us to guide us.
Romans 12:2 And be not conformed to this world (Gk aion, age): but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Ephesians 4:22-23 That ye put off concerning the former conversation (behavior), the old man, which is corrupt (defiled) according to the deceitful lusts (of the flesh); 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;
Acts of sinning are always the result of the promptings of the Sin-nature that indwells the flesh body of all men since Adam’s fall. Paul writes the Ephesian believers, describing this Sin-nature as the “SPIRIT that now WORKETH IN THE CHILDREN OF DISOBEDIENCE,” by which men suffer the sinful “DESIRES OF THE FLESH AND OF THE MIND.”
Ephesians 2:1-3 And you (believers) hath he quickened (made alive), who WERE DEAD IN TRESPASSES AND SINS; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the PRINCE OF THE POWER OF THE AIR, the SPIRIT that now worketh in the CHILDREN OF DISOBEDIENCE: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation (manner of living) in times past IN THE LUSTS OF OUR FLESH, fulfilling THE DESIRES OF THE FLESH AND OF THE MIND; and were BY NATURE THE CHILDREN OF WRATH, even as others.
All of us, as Adam’s progeny, were conceived in this “Sin.” Psalms 51:5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. Thus, Sin is part of our innate human condition at birth and so long as we live in our physical body. “Sin” in the flesh of man is the original Sin “nature” that we were born with.
Paul here lists the “works of the flesh,” which are the acts of the “Sin” in “the flesh.”
Galatians 5:19-21a Now the WORKS OF THE FLESH are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like…
The word “flesh” in the Greek is “sarx,” meaning the “meat,” or “flesh body” but “the works of the flesh” are the acts of the Sin-nature, extending from “the flesh” to also pollute “the mind.” This list of the “works” or sins “of the flesh” (above) includes both “body sins” such as adultery and fornication, and also “sins of the mind” such as “envyings” and “idolatry.” Sinful men are those that choose to live by yielding their polluted soul’s mind of the “the flesh.” Thus they live by their “carnal (fleshly) mind” (Rom 8:7). In this way we may be the “servants” of “Sin.” Paul below instructs us concerning which we will serve, either to Sin or righteousness.
Romans 6:19 I speak after the manner of men because of the INFIRMITY (INABILITY) OF YOUR FLESH: for as YE HAVE YIELDED YOUR MEMBERS SERVANTS TO UNCLEANNESS AND TO INIQUITY (SIN) unto iniquity (sinning); even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.
All believers, “have the mind (nous, intelligence) of Christ” always available and operative within our spirit (Rom 8:8-9) to guide our minds (1Cor 2:16), but they also are free to choose to yield their body members to the impulses of the flesh or serve the Lord within them.
God is a lover of others; He is other-centered, and He streams His love and gifts out to others. “For God so loved the world He GAVE His only begotten Son…” (John 3:16). Being made in God’s “image,” man was made to be a lover of others, but we see that man is basically self-loving and self-serving (perhaps offering occasional random acts of kindness). How did man, who was made in God’s image, become so different? We know that through the fall of Adam mankind became defiled and twisted. Mankind thereby also acquired a false mindset of the “Sin nature” that usurped fallen mankind. “…the carnal (fleshly) mind (Gk. phroneo, MINDSET) is enmity against (in opposition to)God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” (Romans 8:7).
Paul commends us to a renewed mindset to replace the self-serving mindset of the flesh. We can adopt the actual mindset which of Jesus of Nazareth maintained when He lived on earth. He with His mind lives in the believer’s spirit. Philippians 2:5 Let this mind (Gk. phroneo, MINDSET) be in you (in your soul’s mind), which was also in Christ Jesus: Jesus had the humbled mindset to only do the will of “the Father.”
Most honest believers will admit that we as all men are first born as self-lovers; our thoughts concern our own self. Our thoughts are self-based most of our waking hours. No doubt this is why Paul wrote this to the new believers at Rome . Romans 12:3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, NOT to think of himself more highly than he OUGHT to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. Only as our faith and trust in the Lord grows in the knowledge of His love, sovereign grace and care toward us, can we become secure and more other-centered as the Lord is. Our thinking then begins to change.
You can be assured to know this, that throughout our lives, through both our failures and successes, we are in a process of “learning Christ” (Eph 4:20), learning to think and live righteously in and by “the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” as our new life. We’re being trained for glory, to live and reign in righteousness.
So yes, we may fail at times, but be assured that we live under God’s grace, that new paradigm wherein there is “NOW no condemnation” for those “in Christ” (Rom 8:1). Just as we would never condemn a small child who is learning to be potty trained or learning to walk but has moments of failing, so the Lord never condemns His children. He picks us up and says “let’s keep walking.”
By all our experiences, good or bad, God our Father is at work using every situation for us to grow up into who we in fact are “in Christ.” Philippians 2:13 For it is God which worketh IN YOU both to will and to do of his good pleasure. He is using our circumstances and situation of life to reveal His love to us and to thereby motivate us, teaching us how to live righteously by relying upon “the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” who now is our only legitimate “life” (Col 3:4a, Gal 2:20).
We have somewhat answered the question of identifying the real source of these sinful thoughts of our mind and how can we deal with them. But the Apostle Paul offers us more insight.
The fact is that though we as believers are saved from judgment and we possess Christ alive within our spirit, we still live within a Sin-laden flesh body that Paul calls the “body of Sin” (Rom 6:6), also called the “body of this death” (Rom 7:24). It is this Sin-infected “body of flesh,” which contains our individual soul’s self-being and spirit. That “flesh” makes us prone temptation, provoking us to acts of sin.
Yet, the fact of the Pauline “gospel of the grace of God” is this. The good news of the Pauline mystery gospel is that we have been freed from the power of the Sin-nature (Rom 6:6-7). How can this be? The answer is that we have been crucified with Christ and the Sin-nature, still resident in our flesh, has no power over us because WE IN FACT DIED with Christ (Gal 2:20). Though we are tempted by the impulses of “the flesh” toward whatever kind of sin, we as Christians no longer have to follow the dictates of that sinful nature that Paul calls “the flesh.”
The fact is that there is a new nature within the believer’s spirit. We can say there is “something good” in man, but only because it was put there by God to renew man. That “something good” is the resurrected sinless “Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” His life bears the sinless nature of Christ, which has been imparted to every believer.