Do you ever feel like there are two equal powers inside you with completely opposite desires? One part of you wants to serve God and love other people. The other part seems more comfortable entertaining sin. The comparison can feel there is a civil war taking place within our mind. This is a common feeling for many Christians, which can explain why some of us struggle to live a life that pleases God.
For example, when a lustful thought enters your mind, your initial reaction might be, “I shouldn’t do that.” But, as a Christian, did you know it’s also within your heart to not follow that desire? Ezekiel 36:27 says,
“I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”
Yet, for many Christians, there seems to be a recurring weakness within us to succumb to temptation, even though we know we’ll regret it. What causes this sinister battle inside of us? Are we really involved in a personal civil war?
The Bible clearly says no. There is no civil war. We do not have two nature, one good and one bad. Instead, Romans 6:6 explains that we only have one nature:
“Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.”
The Greek language is much clearer than what we read in today’s English. The verb phrase that Paul uses, “was crucified,” means that our old self (old nature) was crucified once and for all. It will never rise from the grave to haunt us ever again. It was left in that tomb where Jesus was buried.
Here’s our problem, though. When we read Scripture, we see something called “the flesh” that causes the battle we face against temptation. And, many Christians are never taught that the flesh and the old nature are two different things. The old nature is gone, but the flesh is not. To muddy the waters ever more, the New International Version Bible translated the flesh as “sinful nature,” which sounds a lot like old nature, doesn’t it? (The NIV scholars have corrected this issue in their most recent edition.)
The old nature (old self or old man that remained in the grave) was the deepest core of who and what we were in Adam. This is what made us sinfully rotten to the core. (Jeremiah 17:9) It died and was replaced with the new nature a.k.a. our identity in Christ. (Ephesians 2:6, 2 Cor. 5:17)
The “flesh” is a set of coping strategies we have developed for living independently of God, even though we are united with Him. Just because we are Christians, we can still choose to make decisions independent of God’s will.
Some people might argue, “Flesh…nature…so what? This stuff is all just semantics. It doesn’t really matter.” Actually, it matters a lot, and here’s why.
Since we only have one nature, which is our identity in Christ, our new normal is a heart and mind that desires to live a loving, holy, and righteous life. Contrary to popular opinion, our core desire is not to sin. The normal mode for every Christian is to live a pure life, rather than a lustful, angry, or depressed life. It’s normal for you to live with a Biblical positive self-esteem, rather than a fleshly one of trying to measure up.
None of us will ever do this perfectly. But, it is still the deepest desire of our new heart, which is our true identity in Jesus Christ. So, take comfort knowing you are not engaged in a civil war with yourself. The real battle has already been won by Jesus. And, you can live victorious, because only have one nature that truly wants to serve God.