What is the “Sinful Nature”? Part 2

In Part 1 of this 2-part series, we acknowledged how awkward it is to talk about sin in a culture like Los Angeles where evangelical Christians are already seen as despicably judgmental, vile creatures. Many Christians these days, including pastors, seem to prefer to omit the word “sin” from their vocabulary because of the negative connotation. “Jesus is love”, we hear. Yes, I say, but how do we know what love is, and how do we fully experience love, without a recognition of sin?

See, if you and I want to really know Jesus, if we want an intimate love relationship with Him, not just one where we admire Him from a distance, but a kindred spirit connection where we gaze into His eyes or cry on His shoulder while He wraps His arms around us, if we want THAT kind of relationship with Jesus Christ, then we need to understand sin.

The sinful nature is part of each one of our personal histories. Those of us who have put our hope in Jesus instead of ourselves have been recreated in a very special way such that sin (and the flesh) no longer reigns over us like a slave master. Let’s take a closer look at this dark part of each of our stories.

Pledging Our Allegiance to Another (Eph. 6, Col. 1:15-20)

The Bible is alarmingly clear that there is an actual kingdom of evil, and that before we met Christ, we were vassals of that kingdom. Most of us didn’t know it, of course…though perhaps some of us had a sense of the darkness that reigned over us. But in reality we gave our allegiance not to our good-hearted Creator-Father but to the tricky, wily, evil likes of Satan himself.

Now make no mistake: at the beginning of time, we human beings were created by God, to fill up the earth, bearing His image. We are not creations of the enemy! The enemy had no right to us, none at all, but he came and told us lies. And we believed his lies. We pledged our allegiance to another.

Is it strange to think there is an enemy of our souls, an army of dark forces in the heavenly places? Some of us come from a more naturalist background that doesn’t leave much room for a seemingly bizarre notion of evil spiritual forces. But others of us have a vague awareness of dark powers. Spirituality abounds in LA, as on any given day we might walk into a popular clothing store which also happens to sell books about astrology and auras; or perhaps come across the spooky images of Santa Muerte. Psychics and mystics inhabit our street corners. Obscure rituals and seances occur behind closed doors. Kids’ shows and video games explore the use of ouija boards to communicate with shadowy beings in another realm. In some ways, we have become so accustomed to the presence of darkness in our city that we barely notice it anymore. 

Acting Out

Remember all the lies Satan tells us about ourselves? Satan likes to play on our fleshly weaknesses to tell us our identity is something other than a glorious reflection of God. Most of us have a personal identity that is mixed up with a sickening dose of shame and self-loathing, whether we are fully aware of this or not, whether it is on the surface or not. And, well, we act out our self-identity. 

If we think we’re scum, we will live out that sad self concept. If we believe we’re little controllers of the universe and all the planets will only stay in place with our feverish efforts, then we will put on our work gloves and try to push and pull and tweak everything and everyone around us till we drive them crazy. If we push down our shame by convincing ourselves we’re the shiz, then we are going to be narcissistic jerks. No way around it. 

One of the most horrifying displays of sin lately has been exposed through the “Me Too” movement. Women everywhere are finding the courage to voice how they were victimized; sometimes these ladies had held their secrets for years, feeling ashamed and afraid. 

In many cases, these precious women come to a belief that they must have deserved the abuse. This radically impacts their identity: “I must be deeply flawed in a way I don’t even understand for these things to have happened to me.” Women with this identity often feel unworthy of care and protection. They then act out in a multitude of ways: substance abuse, sexual promiscuity, cruelty towards their fellow women, etc.

Generational Trauma

As a therapist, it’s hard to miss patterns of family trauma and sin passed down through the generations. When I think of original sin passed down through Adam, sort of a “gene” that all of us inherited, I also think of the multi-generational transmission of trauma. 

I wonder if there is some hint of this idea in passages like Deuteronomy 5:9, “…for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me…” Maybe, just maybe, part of the curse of sin is that it tends to carry down through a few family generations, causing recurring injury and pain. 

Post Mortem 

The Bible says that in our sinful state we were DEAD. Muertos. Kaput. Out for the count. Breathless, heartbeat-less, pallid, and plagued by rigor mortis.

Dead people can’t do much. In our zombie-like state we had no access to life, to what made life good. We used our energy for silly, meaningless things, not for that which would bring meaning and zest to our existence. 

Most of all, life comes from the Breath of Life Himself, the great I AM whose own life force is the only thing that can vivify man or animal. In our sin we were cut off from our oxygen tank, our Breath of Life Creator-Father. That steady flow of noxious gases into our lungs didn’t do much for us. We missed out on real love – sure, we could feel a sort of generous niceness towards others at times, but we knew little of authentic self sacrifice – the kind of self sacrifice that comes from a heart place of abundance. No, our thin, diluted “love” was more motivated by a need to be liked, or to be appreciated, or to have some value. We missed out on truth – the understanding of who we were and who God was and the worldview that connects all the dots of history and makes sense of mysteries small and great. We missed out on life calling and purpose, something greater than mere suicidal angst to get into paradise, or vague humanistic wishes to somehow “better mankind”. We missed out on the fullness of human emotion, because JOY and PEACE are fruits of the Spirit and only fully known in Christ. 

Hope

Even though talking about the yuck of sin isn’t necessarily that fun, facing it for a minute makes the good news of the Gospel that much more exhilarating.

In the darkness, we were told lies that enslaved us, but now we are being ushered into the Truth that is only seen in the light.

We were cheating spouses who threw away our partner’s adoring love, but now we have run back into His arms, set to engage in intimacy with Him forever.

We were slaves of a wicked tyrant who wanted nothing more than to steal, kill, and destroy. But now we are slaves of love, bond servants of peace.

We were drowning in our own shame and behaved out of a defensive, survivalist mentality that only destroyed ourselves and others. But now we have fully come into our identity as beloved sons and daughters of the King.

We adopted disfunctional habits from our parents and passed them on to our children, but now our minds are being renewed and our hearts revivified to cultivate a legacy of truth and kindness and break generational curses.

We were dead and our existences were little more than sorry attempts to pass the time, but now we are dignified as ambassadors of the gospel, with a calling and purpose and value beyond comprehension.

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