Three forces of the old person – and the remedy
Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, was a courageous reformer who died for his faith. He was a man of the truth of the Word, and the Book of Common Prayer is a compilation of declarations of truth as we would say in today’s language.
THE new nature or the new person is one of those areas where we like to say we know the theory but we don’t like admitting that we are not seeing it realised in practice.
Too often, we still carry around fear and anxieties, doubts and feelings of guilt or worthlessness. So what the Bible says may be true, but we can be resigned to believing that it isn’t true for us. Why is that?
Deceits of world, flesh and devil
The Litany of Thomas Cranmer’s 1549 Book of Common Prayer contained this sentence which is the basis of a common saying: “From all the deceits of the world, the flesh, and the devil, Good Lord, deliver us.” Scripture doesn’t give us the exact “world, flesh and devil” phrase, but on the basis of the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:15-17) and the beginning of Ephesians 2 (Eph. 2:1-3) we can run with it.
The world doesn’t believe in new birth, new creation. The world says: “Can a leopard change its spots?” If everything around you is saying that the way you’re made is the way you are, that’s a pressure.
The flesh we’ll come to in a subsequent post, but suffice to say that for Christians who are born of the Spirit flesh is still a force to be reckoned with. As Christians we live according to the Spirit, not the flesh or sinful nature as the NIV renders it (Romans 8:1-9) but habitual independence means we still have a tendency to walk according to the flesh . Too easily we fall back into the old rut.
The enemy is a particular enemy of our new life. If he can get us away from the lifegiving truth, we are on a slippery slope downwards towards confusion and unbelief – and disabled as a threat. God’s kingdom is realised in us by our accepting and believing the truth, which is why that is always the focus of the attack. The devil will do all he can to get us to swap the truth of God’s word for something that seems similar and plausible, but is not actually what the word says.
There are four key truths about this new nature that we come into through Jesus, to get hold of.
- We were spiritually dead in our old sinful pattern of life. Before giving our lives to Christ, we were on a selfish, independent track and felt condemned for it
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
- Coming to Christ, we experience a step change. We were darkness, we are now light. Not half and half – darkness and light don’t mix. Our nature was darkness and our nature is now light.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light…
- The old life has gone – we died to it. Paul talks about this transition in his life in the perfect tense: “I have been…” and in the Colossians verse, “You have died…” This is the part that is harder for us to accept. There is a part of us which died
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, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
- We receive Jesus and at that point we are regenerated and recreated, spiritually. Who we were has given place to who we now are – looking a lot more like Jesus. This of course is what attracts other people to Jesus – they see something of Jesus in us, coming through our own character and personality.
2 Cor. 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
2 Peter 1:4
…He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature…
These Scripture all come down to one firm, uncompromising truth. We accept Jesus’ sacrifice for us and lordship of us, the Holy Spirit comes, what was dead he makes alive and what was kicking off before is put to death. We are renewed. We have been. It’s done. Know these verses and allow their truth to grow strong in you, and the world, the flesh and the devil
The part that is a work in progress is the flesh (or sinful nature) which is addressed in Jesus’ prayer by the line “Lead us not into temptation”. That takes nothing away from the change from spiritual death to spiritual life.
More about that to come.
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