Today I was Reminded that I Have a Sin Nature
I have a skin problem due to an immune issue. I’ve mentioned it before and it’s one of those issues where my immune system is hyper-sensitive to many things. It gets really excitable over dust, dander, allergens, etc., often causing raised areas on my skin which in turn become really itchy. The more I scratch, the itchier and more raised they become. It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy as one problem works off of or antagonizes the other.
It began in earnest in the mid-to-late 1990s and it is one of those unfortunate situations that has no known cure. Because it’s usually not fatal (but extremely annoying), there really hasn’t been any long-term research into it either. Doctors are left to treat symptoms to eliminate the itch, swelling, redness, etc.
One of the ways they do this is with a few powerful drugs like Prednisone, a corticosteroid. While Prednisone has what some might call “curative” properties, there is a price to be paid. It is known to cause irritability, fatigue, intensity, bloating, increased blood pressure, increased glucose levels, and a battery of other cataloged side effects from taking high does of this drug.
My doctor – in an attempt to quiet my immune system down so that my body would begin to heal and stop itching – placed me on a fairly high dosage of Prednisone, a dosage I’ve never been on before. I began to notice a change in my personality two days ago but simply thought it was due to a change in temperature and/or a reduction in another medication I happen to be on.
As we attended church yesterday, I was a very foul mood. I hate admitting that, frankly, because as a Christian, aren’t we supposed to exude love, faithfulness, kindness, and in general, a Christlike attitude and demeanor? Yes, I understand that this is what we are to shoot for and too often fall short of the goal, but when you actually realize that you are not even close to that, while seemingly unable to correct the problem, it is very off-putting to say the least.
I held it together while at church but as the day wore on, I realized my attitude was becoming even worse. What to do? At that point, I hadn’t necessarily made the connection between the Prednisone and the way I was feeling. This morning, I began to realize that the Prednisone might be the problem. Unfortunately, I had to drive an hour a way into the north for a doctor’s appointment. But gee, what could happen?
Let’s just say that if some stranger were to see my demeanor as evidence of my attitude, there would be nothing that would cause them to believe I was a Christian. I felt absolutely devoid of anything that even remotely resembled Christianity. That, my friends, is truly tragic. I was amazed at how quickly things within me came to a head too.
After I left my doctor’s appointment, I actually had a verbal altercation with a complete stranger in the parking garage! I was so emboldened and unafraid that I said whatever I wanted to say and believe me, some of it was not pretty. I was actually surprised at how quickly certain things poured out of my mouth, having apparently made the journey there from my heart to the world in one swell swoop.
As I traveled home, I still had two more appointments, but with my “righteous fury” dissipating, I allowed myself the time to reflect, admit, and confess. For the most part, I was simply and completely flabbergasted. I had nothing to say in my defense. I had abysmally disappointed myself, so imagine how God felt?
I was a Christian! I have been declared righteous by God Himself because of my faith in Christ’s redemptive work on my behalf! How could I have those thoughts?! How could I say some of those things?! Where did they come from and how did they get there? O wretched man that I truly am!
We all know the short and true answer is that even though I am a Christian, saved by grace efficaciously because of the sinless life and death of Jesus, my sin nature remains with me. That is not letting me off the hook because it is loathsome! In fact, I do not have the capacity to fully understand just how loathsome it is to God because I spend too much time excusing myself for it or viewing it through rose-colored glasses! In truth, there is not one good thing in me apart from Christ!
I am reminded of the verse that commands us to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand that in due time, He will lift us up (1 Peter 5:6). Wow, really? There was nothing humble about me or my attitude today. Not one thing. In fact, it would have been far better for me to not even get out of bed! There is no excuse for my behavior. None. I was not humble. I did not imitate or exemplify Jesus in life or death. My actions and words were atrocious and inexcusable. Arrogant much? Yeah…
Yes, the Prednisone may have acted to cause further irritation and even anger. But guess what? If I had no sin nature, it would not have been able to accomplish even that. I am still responsible for the way I act and for the things I say.
I spent much of the day in prayer (the first right thing I had done), at first thinking that God wanted no part of me. The truth is He wanted every part of me, including and especially those parts over which I feel I have no control.
Unfortunately, I cannot go back to the person with whom I got into a verbal incident because I have no idea who he is. I cannot undo what I said. I cannot undo even what I thought or intended to imply. In reality, my soul is laid bare before God and myself. I was once again reminded how quickly spiritual death can spring forth from the sin nature that is embedded within us.
I am still reeling from the shock of the whole thing. Here I had been thinking that over the years, I had been making some type of progress in Christ. In fact, over the past few months, I had come to terms with things that God obviously needed to clear out of my life. I thought I was actually following His lead, holding His hand as He led me through peaks and valleys, dutifully and willingly following Him where He chose to lead.
But I arrived to today and saw myself for who I am. Disgusting. Despicable. Arrogant. Pernicious. Defeated. Sinful. I am all these things.
Yet, God still sees me as “righteous” because it is Jesus’ righteousness that is applied to my life through faith. God still sees me as “perfected” because He sees the end from the beginning. He sees what I will become because as far as He’s concerned, I’m already there since He sees every phase and aspect of my life in His eternal present, something that is impossible for me to see and/or appreciate.
I live with myself on a daily basis, just as you do. I see the faults, the foibles, the dreaded sin that stems from the flesh working in tandem with my own personal sin nature. I see how easily it can ignore the presence of the Holy Spirit to bring me to depths that I thought I had long ago left in the dust.
Am I better for what happened today? Have I grown? I realize with more clarity two very distinct things, both encapsulated by Paul’s cry for freedom from sin.
For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate (Romans 7:15).
Of course, his answer – the only answer – is found in Jesus.
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25)
It’s true. Jesus does rescue me and He will continue to rescue me. Along the way though, I have the ability to make not only my life a living hell, but I can pour hell onto other people’s lives as well in the process.
Though I will always be “positionally” considered “righteous,” when I sin, I immediately cut off fellowship with God. My fellowship with God stops. It’s halted until I deal with the problems I create. Being righteous is only part of the equation. That righteousness allows us to enter into and remain in fellowship with God. When we sin, we are still positionally righteous, but our fellowship with God is broken and must be fixed. It can only be fixed by our willingness to identify problem areas of our lives through the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and confess those sins to God, seeking His forgiveness.
Yes, interestingly enough, when I became a Christian, all my sin – past, current, and future – were forgiven and forgotten. That is the righteous part of my union with Christ. The reality though is that there is a very real practical factor in my relationship/walk with God in Christ and that is the part that is affected when we sin. It’s very much like having an argument with someone for whom you care deeply. You argue, communication stops because harsh words may have been said. During that time of non-communication, things can either get worse or cool down. Eventually, in any loving relationship, the two who argued move back toward one another trying to make things right. In a human relationship, it takes two to work things out.
In our relationship with God, the fault always lies with us, never God. We are the ones who need to move back toward God. He waits for us and His throne room is always open to us. But we need to move past our pride and be willing to confess our wrongdoing so that He can (and will) receive us back into fellowship.
There will be many Christians who leave this life who never knew that they were out of fellowship with God. They had/have salvation and that’s really all they cared about. They failed to understand that they were supposed to be in relationship with Jesus, a relationship that would expose their sin, bring it to the surface, and allow God to siphon off that “dross.”
There will be multitudes of Christians in eternity who will be very surprised to learn that they were declared righteous due to their faith in Jesus and His redemption, but did not walk in fellowship with God in this life. They will lose everything except their salvation (1 Corinthians 3:12). I do not want to be one of them. Days like this occur so that my sin nature can be seen for what it is – tragically sinful and abhorrent to God.
Lord, I am so very sorry for what I allowed to erupt from within me today. There is no excuse except to know and understand that the sin nature will take advantage of everything it can to produce spiritual death in me. In realizing that, I also realize that though the means to that spiritual death can sometimes be artificial, my guilt in the matter is still very real.
All I can do is what I’ve always done. I throw myself on your undeserved mercy, not only for myself but for those I have offended today. Lord, I thank you for your forgiveness. I thank you that your goal is to produce within me the reality of Jesus’ life. The process is painful and stark at times, but supremely necessary.
As painful as it is at times, I am thankful for the knowledge that I have not “arrived” as there is clearly a great deal within me that you need to bring to the surface in order to filter out of my life. I am supremely sorry that I do not live every moment of my life in submission and service to you. I’m sorry that I have a sin nature in the first place. I’m sorry when I allow it to reign in me.
Pick me up. Place me on solid ground. Let me walk in your ways that I would bring you much glory. Help me to resist the devil (as well as my sin nature) so that in all things I might please you. Thank you all the “do overs” you allow me to have. I am sorry that they are needed.