Overcoming the Old Nature

Before Christ, our total person was dominated by the flesh and oriented toward sin. Now that Christ dwells within us, our hearts are oriented toward God, but we still have a remnant of propensity toward self-autonomy (flesh or old nature). We can overcome this by the power of the Spirit. The old “I” died with Christ and has risen to a new “I” with a new heart and a new orientation. Notice this shift from old “I” to the new “I” in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God.” This new orientation toward God radiates outwardly to increasingly minimize the propensity of the old nature. The Holy Spirit dwells in the new heart and seeks to fill (control) the entire person.

At salvation, the old self was crucified (see Romans 6:6). The finished work of Christ made that possible when we received Him by faith. Paul says to the new believer, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). The old self was crucified with Christ, but it is our responsibility to crucify the old nature and to put the old nature (flesh) to death. In repentance we crucified everything we knew to be wrong. We took our old self-centered nature with all its passions and desires and nailed it to the cross.

The reality of our actions is experienced only in accord with the faith in which it is done. We crucified everything we knew to be wrong with all the faith we had at that time. However, our knowledge of the truth and our response in faith were not yet mature and complete. We grow as we appropriate more and more of Christ’s life by the power of the Holy Spirit. As we grow, the reality of what we did in principle (that is, crucifying the flesh and its old self-centered influence) becomes increasingly more real in our experience. As long as we choose to believe the truth and live by faith in the power of the Holy Spirit, the flesh will be rendered inoperative.

Crucifying the flesh is a mental battle. “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires” (Romans 8:5). The channels of temptations to live independently of God are the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life. If we set our minds on those objects, we are living according to the flesh, and the deeds of the flesh will become evident (see Galatians 5:19). If we set our minds on the things above, we are living by the Spirit (see Colossians 3:2).

Crucifying the flesh is also a crisis of the will. We can choose to live by either the flesh or the Spirit. The moment you are tempted, turn to God and whisper a little prayer: “Lord, have mercy on me and fill me with Your Holy Spirit.” If you have given in to the temptation, then start with confession. It is your choice. Choose wisely.

Dr. Neil

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