Sin Nature Control
Galatians Lesson #059
August 1, 1999
“Father, we do thank You for the privilege we have to gather together here this morning to study Your Word. We know that Your Word says those who worship You must worship You by means of the Holy Spirit and by means of truth.
The only way that we can understand how to worship You is by understanding the revelation You have given us, about yourself and the protocols for worshiping You, and then we do that on that basis.
Father, we thank You that Your Word illuminates every area of our lives and that by it we can learn how to live with You and we can adjust our thinking to reality and that we may glorify You to the maximum with our lives. Now Father, as we study Your Word this morning help us understand how these things apply to our own lives. In Jesus’ name, men.”
Open your Bibles with me to Galatians 5:16. We continue our study of what it means to walk by means of the Spirit. This is such a crucial issue because it relates to the very core of our spiritual life.
At the moment we put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, God the Holy Spirit regenerates us. That means that at that instant He creates a human spirit and simultaneously imparts that to us. It is that immaterial human spirit that enables us to understand the Word of God and enables us to have a relationship with Him.
But the human spirit in and of itself is not enough to overcome the problems of sin and the lusts of the flesh. In the Old Testament every believer was regenerated, they had a human spirit. Yet they were not able, on the basis of the Mosaic Law, which was an external standard of life comparable to a standard of morality, to overcome the flesh. Because to live the spiritual life involves something more.
In one sense that is what is taught throughout the Old Testament dispensation, that if we are going to truly live for God, man by man’s efforts cannot do it, he cannot save himself. Neither can he live the kind of life God would like him to live.
In the Church Age we have a unique spiritual life based upon God the Holy Spirit.
This is something that I am amazed is not taught very clearly. It is really not taught clearly at all in the reformed or Calvinistic tradition. I remember when I was in seminary in Dallas working on my PhD and taking a seminary course on the theology of the Holy Spirit, we had to read several different theologies.
Probably the best work written on God the Holy Spirit, though it is short in a few areas, was written by a reform theologian named Abraham Kuyper. He was a brilliant man, not only was he a brilliant theologian but also he managed to be prime minister of the Netherlands and to conduct a major overhaul of their government.
He also led a true revival in that nation which is fascinating considering that in his entire 500-page work on the Person and work of the Holy Spirit he never addresses the subject of the filling of the Holy Spirit and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. And he barely touches on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
In all of reform theology they do not seem to put an emphasis on the Holy Spirit and His unique role in the Christian life. This is one of the major flaws in all Protestant theology since the Reformation. With the Reformation they only went so far. Luther, Calvin, the reform tradition, reform theology, relates to those areas, those denominations that trace their heritage back to John Calvin. Presbyterian churches, Congregational churches, Reformed Baptist churches, although they differ in that arena of baptism, all of these trace their theology back to Calvin.
In the Methodist churches there is a complete overlooking of the doctrines of the Holy Spirit and how He relates to the spiritual life. It wasn’t until in the 19th century that we begin to see a recovery of an emphasis on the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately that got distorted in the perfectionist camps of Wesleyan theology, holiness theology, and Pentecostal theology.
There were different influences taking place through the revivals, through the prophecy conferences and the Bible conference movement in the late 19th century. It was in that context that people like C. I. Scofield, Lewis Sperry Chafer, and some others began to really work through a lot of the implications of what the Bible said about the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.
That surprises a lot of people and we get misinformed into thinking that somehow that if something is historically new it may not be biblical. Just because the systematization of a certain doctrine is new, doesn’t mean that it wasn’t understood in some vague way throughout the centuries.
You can always see that different people at different times understand these things but they just don’t really work it out, they don’t really investigate it, they are not asking the tough questions like, what exactly does this mean?
I know that some of you have been in churches where you have heard a lot of exhortations about walking by the Spirit and yet nobody gets into any mechanics and tries to explain it.
Unfortunately that kind of thing is true in many churches and theologies throughout history. People come right up to an issue and they just restate what the Bible says and hope that everybody automatically knows what it means.
We are taking some time to try to investigate what these concepts mean so we can put them into practice in our own spiritual lives.
Galatians 5:16 begins with this command, “I say walk by means of the Spirit.”
We have here a very important phrase, EN PNEUMATI, EN plus the noun in the dative PNEUMA indicating something to do with the Holy Spirit as the instrument or means. What we learn here is that the means for living the spiritual life, for having victory over the sin nature, is going to have primarily something to do with the Holy Spirit.
The way we know that this is the Holy Spirit, because the word HAGIOS is not used here, is because of some of the things said later on, for example the “fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22 and 25, “if we live by the Spirit we walk by the Spirit”, these phrases can only apply to the Holy Spirit so they can’t apply to the human spirit. So we know that the dynamic for living the spiritual life is going to be God the Holy Spirit.
Then there is the statement “I say walk by means of the Spirit”, this is the mandate, “and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh.”
We have seen that is stated in the Greek in one of the strongest ways of negation possible. It is the use of the double negative plus the aorist subjunctive which means if you are walking by means of the Spirit it will be absolutely impossible for you to carry out the desire of the flesh.
The last two Sundays we have been studying the doctrine of the sin nature which is referred to as the flesh because the sin nature is both material and immaterial. It is material in that it is located in the genetic structure of the body and it is immaterial in that it extends its influence upon the soul of the individual. It is the sin nature that is the source of temptation. It is the volition that is the source of sin.
The last two weeks we have gone through several points related to the doctrine of the sin nature. We have looked at the terminology SARX which relates to the material aspect of the sin nature. For example in Romans 7:18, Paul says, “I know that nothing good dwells in me that is in my flesh. For the wishing is present in me but the doing of the good is not.”
We have looked at definitions, and said that the basic definition of sin is that it is any mental, verbal, or overt act which violates the character, standards, and will of God, which are revealed in the Word of God.
The sin nature is the capacity, propensity, and inclination in every human being to make life work independent of God.
One of the things that becomes obvious when you think about those definitions is that we are not restricting sin to that which most people think of as sin.
Most people have a rather shallow and superficial view of sin. We have our lists of the terrible two or the fearsome five or the nasty nine, whatever it might be. You can talk to people about what the worst sins are and they immediately start off with overt sins like murder and adultery and child abuse, or whatever the latest politically incorrect sin is as defined by the culture. And nobody goes to the Word of God to see how God defines sin.
God defines sin as any act that violates His character. But when you look at the sin nature and see that because its inclination is to live independently of God, it is going to produce works that are not necessarily sin but also include acts of morality.
Remember the context of Galatians. Paul is talking to the believers in Galatia who have departed from grace. We talked about how they fell short of grace earlier in the chapter, which means that instead of living a life of grace orientation they are trying to use the Mosaic Law as a basis for living life. They are putting the emphasis on morality.
These are basically good people. We are not looking at a crowd of antinomians. The term antinomian refers to people who are against law, people who rejected absolutes in the Christian life. Every now and then you find some Christian who thinks, “well, Christ paid for all my sins so I am just going to do whatever I want to do. I am going to live like I want to live and I know I am going to get into Heaven because all my sins are paid for and dealt with.”
Of course, that is an abuse of grace and Paul rejects that in Romans 6. God is going to severely discipline the believer who gives in to antinomianism and licentiousness. That life is not going to be very pleasant until they get back with the Lord and get back in fellowship through the confession of sin.
So Paul is addressing a crowd here that is basically moral. He is not addressing a crowd of licentious types. That tells us that the sin nature produces more than just sin.
We also studied that sin originated sometime in eternity past, we don’t know when, among the angels. God created a race of rational creatures that are much different from man. They are individually created, they do not procreate, they do not make baby angels, and they do not marry.
However sin originated in the angelic order and however it was dealt with, we know that God must have had some way—because He is a loving God, a gracious God—some way of salvation was offered, but it was vastly different from that which we know in human history.
Sin originated in the universe when Lucifer fell. And we know that sin originated with mankind when Adam fell in the Garden.
Adam was originally tempted by Lucifer, now known as Satan, who took the form of a serpent. It is interesting to note that according to a “US News &World Report” article about three or four years ago there was a discovery made in an archeological dig in Israel of a serpent that had legs. This was a fossilized serpent that had legs. Because it was fossilized, that means it predated the flood. That indicates that there were still some type of serpents that had legs that probably died out as a result of the flood.
The serpent form Satan took was cursed and, lost his legs, had to go on his belly. There were physiological changes.
When we studied the issues related to the fall we saw that Adam’s sinful decision had a dramatic effect on everything in nature. It changed nature. It did not just change the nature of man so that he became a constitutional sinner and was no longer what he was when he came from the hand of God. But his sinful decision affected his entire environment.
Prior to the fall there was perfect environment, after the fall it is a fallen environment. There are thorns and thistles, the creation groans under a curse. Every category of life, every category of botany, zoology, and anthropology have been affected by Adam’s original sin.
We saw that when Adam sinned he died spiritually. He acquired a sin nature which is passed on genetically to the human race.
What happens is that every cell has 46 chromosomes. At procreation the man produces a seed that has 46 chromosomes which through a process called meiosis splits and throws off 23 chromosomes and 23 continue.
Through ovulation the female produces an egg that has 46 chromosomes and through a process of meiosis throws off polar bodies at two stages which leaves it with only 23 chromosomes.
This process of throwing off polar bodies is a process of purification so the egg is left pure and untainted by sin, whereas through the seed of the man, the sin nature is passed on genetically.
This is why the virgin birth was necessary. When Jesus Christ was born, there was no human male involved. God the Holy Spirit miraculously caused the egg of the woman to be fertilized and He supplied 23 perfect chromosomes so that the humanity of Jesus Christ would be absolutely sinless. There would be a joining of undiminished deity and true humanity together so that as a sinless human being He could go to the Cross and die as our substitute.
The result of the transmission of the sin nature through the male of the human race is that every single individual is born physically alive but spiritually dead. That means they cannot have a relationship with God, they cannot go to Heaven, and they cannot do anything to gain God’s approval. Every single person is born with every aspect of his being corrupted and polluted by sin.
Furthermore, we cannot understand God, we cannot understand the things of God. We cannot understand spiritual phenomenon because of the lack of a human spirit. It is necessary at the point of gospel hearing for the Holy Spirit to act as a human spirit for the unbeliever so that they can come to understand the gospel.
I have summarized the first 8 points, so now we will jump back into the outline at point 9.
9) Adam became a sinner by sinning. We sin because we are sinners. Every human being is born with a sin nature and that is why you sin. It is your nature to sin. It is the nature of a fish to swim, the nature of a bird to fly, and your nature to sin.
If you have a little baby, it is the nature of that baby to sin. As a parent it is part of your role and responsibility to teach your child the Word of God and to teach them self-discipline so they can grow up and control their sin nature.
10) We saw that sin changed man constitutionally. The term constitution refers to the basic composition or structure of something. Everything in the world has a constitution. Steel has a certain chemical constitution. Wood has a certain organic constitution. An animal has a certain constitution that is made up of biological life.
Scripture says animals also have nephesh, which is a principle of life. They have an animal soul. Human beings have a distinct nephesh, a Hebrew word meaning soul or life. The nephesh of man is in the image and likeness of God. The human race, male and female, was made in the image and likeness of God.
And yet when Adam sinned that image became degenerate or tarnished. When Adam was created he was created in the image and likeness of God. After the fall, Adam is changed. When Adam and Eve began to have children, Scripture says they are in Adam’s image, no longer in the perfect divine image.
Although that image is residual, it is tarnished. That is still what makes man unique. That is why God sent His Son to die on the Cross, because every human being is unique and important, because they are in the image of God even though they are obnoxious to God because of the sin nature.
11) We saw that sin permeates every aspect of humanity. This is what is meant by the phrase “total depravity”.
Total depravity does not mean that every person is as bad as they can be, and every human being is as wicked as they can be. It means that in the totality of their person, in their soul, their self-consciousness, their mentality, their emotion, their conscience, their volition every aspect of their soul has been affected by Adam’s sin. Every aspect of their soul is different from the way it came originally from the hand of God. It is all tarnished by sin.
Genesis 6:5, “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
Ecclesiastes 7:20, “Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and never sins.”
Ecclesiastes 7:29, “Behold I have found only this, that God made men upright but they have sought out many devices.”
In other words, they have acted independently of God seeking to make life work apart from God.
12) There are various misconceptions about sin in terms of its definition. Some people say that sin is selfishness, but that is not quite adequate. While all selfishness is sin, not all sin is selfishness.
Another inadequate definition of sin is that sin is unbelief. While all unbelief is sin, not all sin is unbelief.
Another attempt at defining it is to say sin is lawlessness, but that too needs to be defined. Sin is a violation of law if you understand law to be the complete reflection of the character of God. It is better to say that sin is any act that violates the character of God.
13) We saw that our sinfulness has a tremendous effect upon God. This is not an emotional effect or one that changes His character, but it is that man’s sin has elicited from God a phenomenal response.
Because God, in eternity past, knew that Adam would sin, God determined to provide a solution. And that solution is one that is adequate to solve the problem.
That means God is not going to do much more than is necessary to solve the problem. He is going to do all that is necessary, but not more than is necessary. And what is God’s response to sin? His response is that He sent the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God, to take on human flesh, to live a life as a man and to go to the Cross to die as our substitute.
The pain that Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, endured on the Cross far surpasses anything you or I could ever imagine.
He who knew no sin was made sin for us. The punishment for our sin, every sin, past present and future, ever committed in the human race, all of the most heinous sins you could ever imagine were poured out upon Jesus Christ during those three hours on the Cross.
The pain He endured is more than any of us could ever possibly fathom. And that is a radical solution, but it is every bit that was necessary. It was just adequate. God could have done nothing less than that to solve the sin problem. That is how horrible and horrendous sin is to God.
In order to solve the problem of man’s lack of righteousness, God had to go to tremendous extremes in order to provide the basic solution.
In our arrogance we rationalize our sin, that it is really not of much consequence, it is just a little sin after all. And we don’t think about the fact that Adam’s original sin involved the act of eating a piece of fruit. That would not make anybody’s top 20 list of the worst sins of human history.
And yet it is the worst sin in human history because it plunged the entire race into sin. It is the ultimate cause of all suffering and misery in human experience.
In order to solve that basic problem of sin God had to send His Son to die on the Cross for our sins, even our “little” sins. Even our favorite sins that we think aren’t that bad would have elicited that response because that is how horrible and destructive sin is.
14) All sins (past, present, and future), of every human being were paid for by Jesus Christ on the Cross. Therefore, the issue is no longer sin. The issue is what do you think about Jesus Christ? That is the solution. Sin is no longer the issue because every single sin is paid for by Jesus Christ.
The issue now is the righteousness of God. That is the standard. Nobody can get into Heaven or have fellowship with God unless they have perfect righteousness. Man is negative righteousness (–R), he lacks perfect righteousness.
Isaiah 65:6saysthat “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.”
So that man, even at his best, cannot come up to the high standard of God’s perfection. If you do not accept Jesus Christ as your Savior then all you have at the end of your life, if you add it all up, no matter how good and wonderful you are, all you have is –R.
But if you put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, then God the Father takes the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ and He imputes or credits that to your account. So the basis of your salvation is that you now possess the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. God looks at you and says, I don’t see your negative righteousness, I see the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ and I declare you to be just. That is the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Sin is not the issue, the issue is Jesus Christ.
15) Once you put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ you still have a problem, you still possess a sin nature. But now you have a new nature. You have a sin nature which is called the old man in Scripture because it goes all the way back to Adam. It’s called Adam’s nature, Adam’s original sin. There are various terms used for it, but it is basically the sin nature. At the point of salvation you acquire a human spirit.
The propensity of the human spirit is toward God. This is the natural inclination of the human spirit, to direct you toward a life with God. The sin nature has a different inclination and that is toward independence [from God]. This is why there is now a battle in your soul. This has gone on throughout human history.
But the human spirit itself is not enough to overcome the problems of the sin nature. So in the Church Age we have a unique ministry of God the Holy Spirit in three ways.
The first is the baptism of the Holy Spirit which is unique to the Church Age. The first believers to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit were the disciples and believers on the Day of Pentecost in approximately AD 33. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not an experience. It is an instantaneous act that takes place at the moment you put your faith and trust in Christ alone.
God the Son, Jesus Christ, uses the Holy Spirit to transfer you and identify you with His death, burial, and resurrection so that we become positionally identified with Christ and we are entered into union with Him so that we are new creatures in Christ. That is all related to the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Nothing like that ever took place before in human history.
Second, we are indwelt by God the Holy Spirit. He takes up His residence in every single believer at the instant of salvation. And as is consistent with the ministry of God the Holy Spirit throughout history, He makes our body a temple for the indwelling of the Shekinah Glory.
You may not know it but God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit all take up residence in the believer at the instant of salvation, so that our body is indeed a temple or dwelling place for the Trinity.
Third, we have the filling ministry of God the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit works in our lives to teach us doctrine, to recall doctrine to our mind, to store doctrine in our soul to fulfill the whole process of “metabolization” and to then produce in us a transformed character. To change us into the character of Jesus Christ and to produce in us certain character qualities that reflect Jesus Christ. That is what we will be studying when we get down to Galatians 5:22 under the category of the fruit of the Spirit.
It is these three ministries of God the Holy Spirit that make the spiritual life of the Church Age believer radically different from that of any believer in human history. We have assets and privileges as a result of this that no other believer in history has ever had.
This is why the least believer in the Church Age is greater than even the greatest believer of the Age of Israel, because of all that has been done for us and provided for us through the ministry of God the Holy Spirit.
And so it is through the ministry of God the Holy Spirit that we are going to be enabled to have victory over the sin nature. Because this battle continues and it is a battle between the sin nature and the Holy Spirit who indwells and fills us.
This is the thrust of the verse we are talking about, Galatians 5:16, “Walk by means of the Spirit and you will not fulfill the desire of the flesh,”
And Galatians 5:17, “for the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.”
The flesh and the Spirit are in opposition to one another. They are at war with one another. And the result is that you may not do that which you please.
Verse 15 focuses on the fact that we now have a new nature, a human spirit and sets up the basis for warfare in the soul.
16) In the Church Age the Holy Spirit has been provided to enable the believer to fulfill the divine mandates for living out the spiritual life. And this, in this passage, involves the concept of walking. As we have seen in Ephesians 5:18 the concept of the filling of the Holy Spirit which is part of the mechanics for being able to walk.
Before we go any further we need to look at point 17, we need to understand the mechanics of the sin nature. And we need to remember what Jeremiah 17:9 says, “the heart, (that is the inner lobe, the thinking part of the soul, the mentality of the soul), is more deceitful than all else.”
This is the rationalization quality of the mind. We rationalize away our wickedness, our sinfulness and we get caught up in arrogance. In self-deception where we say, “well, that is not really a sin.” We start to rationalize it and get caught up in self-justification and we try to justify our sin. The mentality of the soul is very deceitful and believers get into a tremendous amount of self-deception.
Let’s look at the makeup of the sin nature. Draw it out in the form of a diamond and the upper area is the area of strength. The lower area is the area of weakness. We call this the area of weakness because that is the area where we are most prone to sin. Whenever this type of situation comes up our knee-jerk reaction, before we ever think, as soon as we get in that situation we turn draw and fire before we ever think about it.
The sinful response is the automatic response. In fact, we are quite comfortable with those sinful responses. We have deceived ourselves into thinking we can handle those problems and situations best through our own sin nature.
This is the area that produces personal sin in three categories. We have overt sins, like murder and adultery. We have sins of the tongue, gossip, slander, maligning, lying. And we have mental attitude sins such as anger, hatred, jealousy, and envy. All this is part of the production of the area of weakness.
The area of strength is where we don’t deal with sin but we do produce many good deeds. We call this human good or dead works. It is called dead works in Hebrews 6:1.
The motivator of the sin nature is in the middle. This is the lust pattern. The lust pattern is the internal motivation of the sin nature. It produces lust in a variety of categories, a combination of categories. There is power lust, approbation lust, which is the desire for approval, to get stroked, to get recognized.
There are a lot of people who make it through life and they have tremendous success in the human realm because they are motivated by approbation. They are the ones who are driven by getting all sorts of recognition and rewards at the office. And they are the ones who like to put every piece of paper they ever got in life and every little detail up on the wall so everybody knows that they accomplished something.
Not that it is wrong to put your diplomas on the wall, but I am talking about the people who put everything on the wall. They want you to know everything so they can get stroked and they are motivated by approbation.
Some have money lust, a desire for money. There is materialism lust, the desire for the things that money can buy.
There is social lust, the desire for recognition and friends, putting an emphasis on friends, romance, fellowship.
There is sex lust, chemical lust, pleasure lust. There is crusader lust, this is a desire that every time something happens that you disagree with, you want to go on a political campaign in order to straighten everybody out because everybody is so messed up in life. That is crusader lust and you want to make sure everybody gets straight.
There is lust for revenge as well as inordinate ambition resulting in inordinate competition. There is nothing wrong with ambition or competition in and of itself. But when you start getting to the point where that feeds your approbation lust and your power lust, then you have gone beyond the pale and are being driven by the lust patterns of the soul.
The trouble with lust is that it divorces the person from reality. Lust places a certain object, whatever the object of lust is, whether it is money or materialism or recognition or power, lust defines happiness and meaning for life in terms of that object.
If I am going to have happiness in life then I have to control the people around me. I have to be in control of my life. So you get people who become very obsessive compulsive, a psychological term and yet the Bible recognizes it as simple lust to control.
I think it is better to stick with the biblical terminology because then you can find a biblical solution to the problem.
You get caught up in trying to control people. Or maybe you have a lust for sex and you think that a sexual relationship is going to be the key to happiness and joy. Or you think of social lust, being involved with certain kinds of people is going to be the key to meaning and purpose in life.
The lust pattern starts to divorce a person from reality, and distort reality in terms of whatever is the object of lust.
It causes a person to start pursuing all different sorts of strategies in order to fulfill that lust. These become human viewpoint strategies of life to try to come up with meaning and happiness and the result is always maximum misery in life.
That may not appear for a while. It may take ten, fifteen, twenty years of chemical abuse, alcohol abuse or pleasure abuse, whatever it is, before you finally realize you are empty in your soul. Before you finally realize it doesn’t work and you are miserable.
What usually happens, instead of looking for happiness in terms of power lust you just shift gears and start looking for happiness in terms of pleasure lust. You are constantly shifting from one lust pattern to another in order to try to find happiness and meaning in life. It is a complete rejection of everything God has to say.
There are different mechanics. For example you have approbation lust, and you can have approbation lust toward man or toward God. And let’s say, in your particular sin nature, and remember, those of you who are married, your sin nature is different from your spouse’s sin nature. I think one of the most important things couples can do, especially before they get married, is to figure out what the sin nature of the spouse is like. Because you have to live with that person’s sin nature the rest of your life.
The sin nature has trends and on one side. You have a trend toward legalism and asceticism and asceticism is the idea that you are going to impress God with what you are giving up. And on the other side you have licentiousness, lasciviousness, and antinomianism.
If you have a trend towards legalism and self-righteousness and your spouse has a trend toward licentiousness, you are going to have a lot of problems. You have to decide if you are going to be able to live with your spouse’s trends. If you didn’t figure that out, it is too late now. Don’t think, I married the wrong person, I can’t live with their sin nature anymore, I am going to go find someone whose sin nature I can live with. No, the issue is sanctification. As you grow in spiritual maturity and you control the sin nature, then you can live together.
That is what a Christian marriage is all about. As you’re growing together as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ and you both are learning to operate on the principles of the spiritual life instead of operating on the sin nature, then you move toward Christ-like character and the effects of the curse literally become rolled back.
Now I am not saying you become perfectionistic or the sin nature is no longer as powerful, but because of the overpowering impact of God the Holy Spirit the effects of the curse are diminished in Christian marriage.
Let’s say you have approbation lust towards God. This will then hook up with the trend toward legalism and the trend toward asceticism. As you seek to fulfill your lust pattern to seek God’s approval you are going to start to come up with all kinds of ways to impress God with how wonderful you are and how moral you are and how good it is that you are in His church so that He will be very proud of you.
And the result of this is that this is going to produce an incredible amount of self-righteousness and you are going to make everyone around you absolutely miserable with how good you are. Before long, God is going to have to deal with your insatiable arrogance.
Take somebody who may have a trend toward licentiousness or antinomianism. Their lust pattern if approbation, they want to be accepted by other people and this is coupled with a social lust. In order to be accepted by other people they will start compromising the basic values they have in life. They will start to say, “well, I know it is really wrong to do that, but if I take a stand now they will not like me. They will think I am some religious nut, so I am just going to keep my mouth shut and not say anything and hopefully, over time, I’ll get an opportunity to witness down the road. For right now I won’t make any waves.”
In order to fulfill the lust for acceptance, the values and absolutes of divine viewpoint start being compromised and the sin nature is in control of the soul. Ultimately that is going to produce misery and it is ultimately self-destructive.
So that takes care of approbation lust.
Let’s say you have power lust. Sometimes you get this in a church and men with power lust become deacons in the local church. They think that this is going to give them tremendous power and decision making and they are going to straighten everyone out and show them how the church ought to run so that it is better than it has ever been before. They are God’s gift to the local church.
Now I haven’t detected that we have that problem here, but I have certainly been in churches where I have had that problem. I’ve seen that problem at work on a deacon board and there is nothing that is more miserable for a pastor to deal with than five or six different deacons who are all operating on power lust and they are going in different directions.
I think in my first church I spotted at least half the men on the board were operating on either power lust or approbation lust. About half of them were moving toward legalism and the other half were moving toward licentiousness. It took about two years before that exploded all over everybody. That was a real mess. No group of people can be more miserable than a bunch of believers who don’t understand the dynamics of the spiritual life, are negative to doctrine, and are operating on giving their lust pattern free reign.
So we have approbation lust, power lust, and crusader lust.
Crusader lust often works in conjunction with approbation lust towards God and legalism and asceticism. The person operating on crusader lust has usually elevated two or three different things to such an inordinately high status that if they are violated, the reaction in their soul is an incredible anger.
They are angry at society, they are angry at government, they are angry with the Democratic party, they are angry with the Republican party. And they are mad at Christians because isn’t the church supposed to transform the world? We have to get out there and we have to start marching up and down with our signs so that we let everybody know that we are going to be salt and light in the world. That is usually how they argue the passages they go to and misinterpret and misapply.
Then they give themselves over to crusader lust and they get involved in Christian activism. Now Christian activism is really almost an oxymoron. Activism has its roots in pure human viewpoint thinking. That somehow there is some social evil or social wrong we are going to right it by going out and having demonstrations, sit ins or non-violent demonstrations, whatever it may be. Of course, some of the major thinkers who came up with this philosophy for activism were people like Mahatma Gandhi and others who were not believers at all, who were not Christians, not operating on a Christian worldview.
And what happened is that Christians have gone over here into human viewpoint thinking, saying, “oh, well, that is a good methodology. Let’s just incorporate that methodology over here and maybe we will be able to have an impact on our culture and our society.” But you are doing a right thing maybe, sometimes it is a wrong thing, but let’s say your goal is right, but you are doing the right thing in a wrong way.
This is something that many Christians do not understand, that is not only important what you are trying to do, but it is how you are doing it. Methodology says something and if you are using the wrong methodology to accomplish a right goal it is still wrong. A right thing done in a wrong way is wrong. A wrong thing done is a right way is wrong. And a wrong thing in a wrong way is wrong. Only a right thing done in a right way is right.
Christian activism is using the devil’s tools in order to try to whitewash the devil’s world. Somehow you convince yourself that the goal is going to glorify God, and it won’t. That never happens.
Christian activism is one of the greatest dangers to our society today. It shows the arrogance that is operating among many, many Christians today, as well as the level of frustration that is expressed because we are living in a world that is falling apart. We are living in a society that is negative to God, that has rejected the Scriptures. So many Christians are reacting to that and trying to figure out some way to recover our society and to get back to what they think was a more Christian society.
Now there have been times in the history of this nation when Bible doctrine had a greater impact. It is a difficult test to live in a culture and in a world where you are increasingly viewed as a minority and as a hostile minority.
That puts a lot of pressure on believers to try to figure out how to solve the problem. And rather than trusting God, rather than going about the task of just teaching the Word, making sure the gospel is clear, and realizing that the issue is volition, they always try to come up with some new method.
The problem is some method, we are just not doing enough, we just haven’t latched onto the right technique and if we just had the right technique then we could change everything. And the problem is not methodology, the problem is not technique.
The problem is volition. We live in a culture where the vast majority of people have rejected Christianity, rejected the gospel and many, many Christians have just rejected biblical Christianity. The result is we are under divine discipline where you can see we are going through the various stages of divine discipline as outlined in Romans 1 where God goes through three different stages where He gives people over to the results of their sin nature.
The final result is going to be the destruction of any culture or society that continues to give the sin nature that level of dominance. This is where we are headed as a culture unless people turn back to the truth of the Word of God.
We always have to watch out for crusader lust because as soon as we wake up in the morning and see the newspaper and realize what somebody in Hartford or Washington DC or some other governing power has done, we immediately want to react in anger.
That is because we tend to think, in this society anyway, that politics changes things. The only thing that really changes anything is Bible doctrine. The solution is never political, the solution is always spiritual. No matter what we do, unless there is a transformation of this culture based on the gospel and doctrine then all we are doing is, as J. Vernon McGee used to say, polishing the brass on a sinking ship.
That is exactly what most Christians are trying to do. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be involved in politics at the local level all the way up to the national level. Every believer should be involved in the political process. We should be politically knowledgeable. We should know what the issues are. We should write our congressman, we should be involved. That is fine, that is different from activism.
Christian involvement is one thing, Christian activism is something else. Because every citizen in this country has certain roles and responsibilities in relationship to government, we should be involved. But that is different from going out and marching, or going on a crusade, or all these other things that people come up with to try to influence the political process.
We have a sin nature. The sin nature produces personal sins, it produces human good. It is motivated by lust and it trends in one of two directions, either toward legalism and asceticism or toward licentiousness and antinomianism.
The interesting thing is that everybody’s sin nature works differently. Not only that, but your sin nature today works differently from the way it did ten years ago, or twenty years ago. When you were 25 you might have trended toward licentiousness and antinomianism. Twenty years later you might trend toward legalism and asceticism.
The temptations you easily yielded to when you were 15 or 16 might be quite different from the ones you succumb to when you are in your 50s or 60s. Every era is different. You change, everybody changes. The person who sits across the church from you has a completely different sin nature from you. The areas where he has no problems you have problems. The area where you have problems he doesn’t have problems.
That is why we are not supposed to judge one another, because we don’t have the right to. Just because you don’t fall prey to their sin doesn’t mean that you don’t fall prey to any sin. Because we all have sins that easily beset us.
This is the problem in the spiritual life, that we are involved in the struggle between the sin nature on the one hand and the Holy Spirit, Who indwells us, on the other hand.
Before we get any further I want to turn over to James 1 and we are going to see something about the dynamics of how the sin nature operates.
Remember, the sin nature is the source of temptation, not the source of sin. The source of sin is your volition. You are the one who decides. You may say, “Well, I didn’t know it was a sin.” That is not an excuse. Ignorance is no excuse for violating the law. That is a basic principle for all laws.
Just because you don’t know what the speed limit is, just because you are ignorant of the fact that you are driving through a school zone and the speed limit is 20 and you are driving 40 is not going to change anything when you hit some poor kindergartner walking across in the crosswalk. Sincerity is not the issue.
That example may shock some of you, but it is intended to. Too many people think that because we are sincere, because we firmly believe in our convictions, somehow that makes it right. But we can be sincerely wrong. Just because you were ignorant that something is a sin doesn’t mean you didn’t want to do it, you did. You wanted to do it, you did it, it’s a sin and you are responsible for it.
The same thing is true in the realm of insanity. There is no such thing biblically as an excuse by reason of insanity. The reason a person becomes insane or mentally deranged, unless there is some odd physical or biological reason for it, usually the biological is the result of bad decisions, not the cause of bad decisions.
You start out in life, you are not born schizophrenic, you are not born mentally deranged, nobody is. They may have mental problems but that may be the result of birth defects. Then, as you go through life, day in and day out, I don’t know how early this starts, it could be three days out of the womb, but you start making decisions. Now the thing is, when you are 1 year old you are not volitionally conscious. But you are making volitional decisions. In fact, I have been around a lot of people who are 30, 35 years old and they aren’t volitionally conscious either. Sometimes you wonder if they are conscious at all.
You are not aware you are making decisions, but you are making decisions. Those decisions start setting habit patterns. You can watch this with your children. You can see it from the time they are infants. They start responding and reacting to certain things in their environment a certain way. This develops habits and trends for how they deal with frustrations, problems, adversity, whatever it is. Those habits and trends are all based on human viewpoint.
Whether you like it or not, that child is born with a sin nature. That means that that sin nature is either producing human good or it is producing personal sin, one or the other. What is one thing that that child cannot produce? The child cannot produce divine good, no matter how wonderful that child is, he can never make any decision or carry out anything that is not human good or personal sin.
Now this is where this gets hard for people, because we get emotional. We look at that child and say, he is so innocent, how can you say that about that innocent young life? Because he is not innocent. None of us are born innocent. We have to understand what the biblical doctrine of hamartiology teaches. We are we are all born with a sin nature, Adam’s original sin has been imputed to that sin nature, and because of that, from day one, we are going to produce personal sin.
Just because we are not cognizant of it yet does not mean it is not sin. What happens between the age of, let’s say, one day and eight years this person has developed habit patterns, thought trends and various strategies based on human viewpoint for solving problems and making life work. Sometimes we use the term manipulation. You can see how your kids have you twisted around their finger and know just what buttons to push to manipulate you into whatever they want. They do this by the time they are four or five years old. They haven’t thought it through consciously, but they are doing it.
Now I am going to shift gears here and show you where this leads us. Let’s say you have a case (and this happens far too often) where a child is born into a family in which the parents are really screwed up. There is serious physical and sexual abuse in that family.
And that child is raped and mistreated, beaten up, cigarette burns on the body, day in and day out. Miserable. It ought to make us weep when we think about this scenario. But you know what? That child is doing the same thing, developing on the basis of the sin nature, trying to solve those problems. And the result is they start making decisions.
They start going into extreme cases of denial, projection, distorting their reality just so they can handle the horrific situation they are in. But all those solutions come from the sin nature and they are human good and they are personal sin. And ultimately, even though for a while they may make life work for them and they may be able to handle that, 20 or 30 years down the road it is going to destroy them.
There isn’t any difference, except in degree, between that and the person who is operating on pleasure lust and says, “oh, well, the key to happiness and meaning in life is partying. So we are going to party and we are going to have lots of alcohol and drugs and we are going to have lots of women or men or whatever your preference is.” And as long as they seem to have that, there is a level of happiness in their life and they think everything is working.
But sooner or later, it may be a year, five years, it may be twenty years, life is going to come crashing in on them. Now we look at an example like this and we think it is wrong to solve problems in life through drinking and sex and partying and pleasure, but this child here is innocent and he doesn’t even know he is making bad decisions. That is what makes it hard for us to understand this scenario, or to accept the scenario. That is why we always have to stick with what doctrine says.
Doctrine says that with the sin nature every one of us starts trying to make life work on our own terms from day one. Whether the problems are extreme and excessive or the problems are small, we are still trying to solve problems in life apart from God and that is the thrust of the sin nature. What happens is that between birth and adulthood, let’s just say 20, I know that is being optimistic, we develop all kinds of strategies, both overt strategies and thought strategies for handling the problems in life.
And now something dramatic happens in your life, you begin to realize maybe your strategies don’t work, somebody gives you the gospel and you are saved. Now what happens is you have a whole lifetime to relearn. From day one you have been drilling yourself. You have all kinds of strategies, you don’t even think of these things anymore, you just automatically respond and react to certain situations certain ways.
Now you have to change all that. That is why the Scripture says that we are to renew our minds. We have to rethink everything in our lives because now, for the first time, because we have the Holy Spirit and Bible doctrine we can see what reality is. It doesn’t matter if you are the child growing up with the silver spoon in your mouth where you have everything given to you or you are a child getting the most horrendous abuse imaginable.
The result of both is because you are a sinner, because you are not saved, because you do not have a human spirit, you do not understand how to view reality. Every human being, up to the point of salvation, is divorced from reality and they can’t interpret what is going on around them correctly. In some scenarios there might be more establishment truth than in other scenarios, so they are a little closer. But the bottom line is that because they are a sinner they are trying to make it work.
Now you are saved, you have a human spirit, the Holy Spirit and the sin nature that’s been dominating your life for 20 years. Now you have to figure out how you are going to win this battle because the battle is on and it takes place between your ears. That’s why the issue is to learn the Bible so that we can renovate our thinking. Learn what reality is according to God, so that we can make accurate, objective decisions, analyze our problems, and solve them on the basis of the only solutions that count, those that are in God’s Word.
“Father we thank You for the opportunity to look at Your Word this morning to study these things and to see how Your Word addresses every single situation in life. It helps us understand the basic realities of our nature. We know, Father, that You knew from eternity past that Adam would sin. And we know that You would understand all the horrible dynamics that sin and the destructiveness of sin in human history. You provided a perfect solution to sin, You sent Your Son, Jesus Christ to die on the Cross for our sins, as our Substitute. And You provided the information we need, and the indwelling and filling of the Holy Spirit so that we would have the power to understand, appropriate, and apply that information so that we could see our lives change, change into the image of Jesus Christ.
Father we pray that if there is anyone here this morning who is without hope, without eternal life, uncertain of their eternal destiny, that they would take the opportunity right now to respond positively to the gospel. Jesus Christ died on the Cross for our sins. It doesn’t involve works. It doesn’t involve moral reformation. It doesn’t involve church attendance. The only thing that is important is faith alone in Christ alone. The Scripture says it succinctly, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”
Father, we pray that You would help us to remember these things, recall them to our minds so that we may be able to think them through and understand them, see how they relate to our own lives. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.”