After preaching a message on temptation, the pastor was approached by an old timer in his church who commented, "Preacher, I don't know about you, but for me, sin sure seems to come natural!"
The old timer was right. Sin comes natural. Obedience to God comes supernatural.
"I see another law, working in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members" (Romans 7:23).
"The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:2).
An important truth shines forth from both the old timer and the Apostle's Paul's statements. Sin does come natural to us because in our original birth, we descended from sinful Adam. The Bible teaches that we were in him when he disobeyed God - "In Adam all die" - and thus his chosen subservience to the law of sin becomes ours by birth (I Corinthians 15:22). Unfaithfulness to God is our natural proclivity, and we hardly have to choose to sin. It just comes naturally. Indeed, we don't have to train our children to do the wrong thing, do we? But directing them to do the right thing is hard, and requires much determination and consistency by parents.
When we are born again through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the indwelling Holy Spirit enacts a new law in the very depths of our spiritual being. He begins to work in us "both to will and of God's good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). However, the law of sin inherited from Adam remains with us, according to God's good purposes and wisdom. Conflicting motivations and desires therefore reside in believers. "The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary one to the other" (Galatians 5:17). Desire for sin, and the capacity to fulfill it resides in our fleshly faculties and members. Desire for faithfulness, indeed, even delight for obedience resides in our Christ-inhabited spirits. "I delight in the law of God after the inward man" (Romans 7:23).
In times of conscious temptation, we are very naturally aware of the law of sin. "I see another law in my members" wrote Paul. That is, sin comes natural. We feel its pull, we sense yearning for its expression, and the truth of the matter is that little choice has to be made to fulfill the strivings of sin. Conversely, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus often does not present itself so consciously in our thoughts and desires. This law dwells in our spirits, and must accordingly be affirmed and accessed by faith. As Paul declared, "I delight in the law of God." When tempted, we must join our brother of old in believing and declaring that regardless of how loudly our flesh may scream at us of its desires, our true delight is to walk in the faith and obedience of the Spirit.
In essence, our choice in times of temptation is simply that we must make a choice. If we fail to do so, sin will come very naturally in our thoughts, attitudes, words and deeds. However, if we remember the Word of God's declaration that Christ lives in us by His Spirit, and that He is working in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure to the degree that "I delight in the law of God after the inward man," we are enabled to make the choice of faith whereby we walk in truth. "Awake to righteousness, and sin not" (I Corinthians 15:34).
Our flesh is not who we most deeply are. "Ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be that the Spirit of Christ dwell in you" (Romans 8:9). But it feels like who we most deeply are. The choice must therefore be made, the choice to make a choice. We must believe that through Christ, our delight is to trust and obey. Every fleshly emotion, thought pattern and physical sensation may seem to counter, demanding that we simply allow the river of carnality to flow along its normal course. Nevertheless, we stand to make our determination. Again, we "awake to righteousness." We choose to act according to the supernatural reality of the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. Upon this basis, we then walk in faithfulness through the power of life in Christ Jesus. Obedience thus "comes supernatural" as we put to death our fleshly and natural proclivity through the Spirit (Romans 8:13).
"Wherefore He saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise."
Tomorrow: a practical illustration