Monday, June 06, 2005

A New Nature

The question posed to Dorothy was, "Are you a good witch or are you a bad witch?" To which she replied, "I'm not a witch at all . . . I'm Dorothy Gale, from Kansas."

I was saved as a child - age 4. Being brought up in a conservative fundamentalist Christian tradition, I was taught that the basic nature of humanity was sin. "We do not have to teach our children how to sin." they said. "By instinct they seem to know rebellion. It's their nature." As I grew up, I was certainly into rebellion and as I began to mature, my sin nature seemed to manifest itself in broader and broader strokes. Without the blood of Calvary, I was hopelessly lost. In college I read through the New Testament and discovered firsthand, the dilemma of my "duel natures" as recorded in Romans 7. There was a war going on, I was told. It was a battle for my soul being fought in the spirit. Would I submit to the good guys and walk in righteousness, or would I succumb to the vile enticements of the devil and walk in unrighteousness? I struggled in this dichotomy all the time. One day I yielded to the good spirit and the next the bad one. Was I a good witch or a bad one?

At first glance, this explanation seems to make sense in light of my own personal experience and the experiences of many people I know. But I have some questions. Surely the struggle that this daily duality causes cannot be the final "abundant life" promised to us by Christ. I thought sin had been dealth the death blow at Calvary. Must I continually defeat it again and again in this constant struggle every day? Most would answer, "Yes!" credentialed by experience and scripture. This idea is further enhanced by the necessity of confessing sin. I was taught that my sins were forgiven when I received Christ, but that daily sin must be confessed in order to be forgiven, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins . . . " We must "fess-up" so that we can "walk in the light as He is in the light" being exposed to the light and thereby maintaining our fellowship with Christ, since He cannot abide in sin. Those that were not "fessed-up" were backslidden carnal Christians who needed to have their fires rekindled. What they needed was to go to a revival or to summer camp where they could re-dedicate their lives and sort of be refreshed and become Christians again. But is this read correct?

Paul's statements in Romans 6:12-23 at first seem to corroborate the dual-nature concept. Here he speaks of a choice we make between these two; either becoming a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness. But if you look at it closely, he is really admonishing the new righteous nature - the one dead to sin - to come out. The old sin nature is dead and is only kept alive by our belief that it still has power over us. When we finally realize and come to believe that it does not have power over us, we are no longer subject to its tyranny.

This holds up against my struggle with homosexuality. I was taught that being gay was part of my old sin nature; my sinful flesh just trying to have its way in me. But after 38 years of struggle - trying to be straight according to all that I had been taught and going through two deliverances - I realized it was only the real me trying to come out. When I finally accepted and believed that it was the real me that God had created, struggling to be set free, I came out and the struggle was over. I thought at first I was merely yielding to sin, but much to my chagrin, I found liberation. Then I knew that the fear I had built up over the years to guard against letting go of the struggle was not of God. Only God can bring liberation. Jesus said that knowing the truth would set you free. It was God who was pulling me so that I could come into the fullness of the plan He had for my life. I was scared to let go of the struggle. I perceived it to be yielding to sin, but it was really yielding to God. The struggle itself was the problem.

Sin is the result of the choice that was made in Eden by Adam to eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. But when I received Christ, I was allowed to eat fruit from the Tree of Life. My original nature was of sin, but was changed. I never had two natures. I just exchanged one for another. Now, I am no longer under the curse of Adam's race, but under the blessing of Christ's race. After having been saved by His grace through faith, must the rest of salvation, my sanctification, now be worked out in a struggle. Many say yes, but I say no. Paul says that in the same way we received salvation, we must now walk with Him. Were we saved through our effort - through works - or through His grace? Was it because we conquered through a struggle, or because we yielded in faith?

I am aware that many will disagree with these ideas - they seem vial and blasphemous to modern Pharisees who want to hold people captive to a doctrine of works. Remember the worst Catholic who ever lived, Martin Luther, was also considered a blasphemer. He nailed his 99 points of faith to a church door in protest to doctrines handed down from the church fathers. They had taught that people could be saved from hell-fire through the purchase of indulgences. The people were held in bondage to this false belief and were being charged a fee by the church for what was already theirs by faith. For his counter-teaching, Luther was ex-communicated and given a death sentence. As it turned out, his visionary ministry led many to grace by faith alone. So it is with me. I am not content to simply receive the traditions handed down to me as truth. The truth must be liberating to me or cannot be accepted as truth. The doctrines of men cause captivity and keep people bound up in order to receive God's acceptance, but I say that we already have God's acceptance and need do nothing to earn it. The struggle is the problem. In order to be liberated from the struggle, we need to cease struggling and accept God's love. Let Him sort out the details.

So am I a good witch or a bad witch? Well, like Dorothy Gale, I'm not a witch at all - but I am definitely good - not because of myself, but because I have the mind of Christ. Christ in me the hope of glory. His love controls me. The old me was crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but He lives through me - and the life I now live in my flesh, He lives through me by faith.


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