Stop! Just stop it right now! Why do you do these things? Why can’t you behave? Of course I had no answer. I never knew why. I just did whatever came to mind. My biggest problem was self-centeredness. Throw in a pinch of poor impulse control and you have the ingredients for the making of a hellion. This, of course, is nothing we haven’t seen a thousand and one times before. Everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) Left to our own devices, we live in the flesh. People lie, cheat and steal. They feed their vices at the expense of others. They argue and fight. They fail to love and refuse to forgive. They hate and “give paybacks” to those who have wronged them. They take the Lord’s name in vain. They covet. They judge others while failing to “take the plank out of their own eye.”
Is man innately evil? Why do we sin? Has it always been this way? Or did humanity inherit a “sinful nature” when Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden? God placed Adam and Eve in the midst of a veritable paradise. “And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” (Gen. 2:9) God gave Adam dominion over everything as far as the eye could see. God had just one condition. He said, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Gen. 2:17) God did not create the human race sinful, but upright. We fell into sin and became sinful due to the disobedience of Adam.
Paul talks about man’s rebellious human nature. He describes our flesh as being in an unregenerate and sinful state. The New International Version of the Bible consistently translates this meaning of flesh as “sinful nature.” Paul teaches that the fallen human nature is inherently rebellious against God. We inherited this nature from Adam and, unfortunately, it was not eradicated when we became Christians. It is still within us, but we no longer have to be under its thumb, following its dictates. We don’t have to be led around by the nose. As stated in Romans 8, once our spirit has been reborn, we have the Holy Spirit within us Who is strong enough to keep the flesh from getting the upper hand.
Our flesh motivates the selfishness we sometimes feel, the whining about our circumstances, the petty jealousies, the jockeying for power in the office and in our marriages, the lure of pornography, the desire for money and possessions, and all the rest. Galatians 5:17 tells us that the flesh and the Spirit are in conflict with each other. The New Living Translation puts it this way: “The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.”
As Galatians 5:19-21 says, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.” Man in his present fallen state is not basically good. He is deceitful and conniving. Yes, there is some good in him. But the good is corrupted. No part of man is any longer perfectly good. All is a mixture of good and evil. And certainly man’s “flesh” is corrupt. In Romans 7:18, Paul says, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.”
Unrighteousness is often spoken of in Scripture as something belonging to the human race as a whole. This implies that it is the property of our species. In other words, sinfulness is considered a property of human nature after the fall. Thus, it must be concluded that we are all born sinners, since we are all born human and sin is regarded as a property of humanity. Ephesians 2:1-3 says, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”
Your flesh is the tangible part of you where sin resides. Sin lives in your flesh, not in your soul and spirit. It is important to recognize this, or else your identity is all about sin management. If you can believe that you are now a child of God, that your nature is reborn, then there is hope to live a victorious life. You can conquer the flesh, because Christ did. 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
But I still sin, you might say. So do I. As long as you are alive, your flesh will be prone to sin. But, God somehow uniquely separated your soul and spirit from your body when you became a believer. Your body is dead to sin. Romans 8:10 says, “If Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” In Christ, God considers your body dead because of sin. So, we are encouraged to do the same: “Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:11)