I. My Sin Nature
The quest for a life that is spiritual starts with sin. Even though God made me in His image, I have not been a good image bearer of Him because of the sin in my life. However, I do not always have to be a slave to sin. I have learned that I was a slave to sin from one teaching from Jesus as well as chapter 6 of Romans.
Photo Credit: Paul David
A. Romans 6 and the Mosaic Law’s Role in Sin
Romans 6 points out the power of sin in the life of man.
Since the fall of man in Genesis 3, man has had a sinful nature that has kept the “flesh” in his life active and well. The act of Adam and Eve going against God’s will and eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil caused them to be destined to death. Part of the curse spoken to Adam explained his death, “By the sweat of your brow you will have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19). God told Adam and Eve that if they ate from the tree they would die, and that is what happened—they were banished from the garden and not allowed to live forever. Because of this sinful nature God created the Mosaic Law to show the people their sin and provide distinct ways that they could become close to Him.
While the Mosaic Law showed God’s people what was wrong, because of humans’ sinful nature, it also stirred up a desire to do wrong. Paul explains this in Romans 7:5, 7, 10: “When we were controlled by our old sinful nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death. . . It was the law that showed me my sin. . . The law’s commands, which were supposed to bring life, brought spiritual death instead.”
As humans we have a sinful nature and that sinful nature became more apparent in light of the Law.
B. What My Sinful Flesh Means
What does this slavery to sin mean for me?
It means that I too was a slave to sin before confessing to know Jesus Christ. However, once I confessed my belief in Jesus, the sin nature was broken. My best attempt to summarize the ideas Paul is sharing in Romans 6 is that I was once a slave to sin, but when I confessed my belief in Jesus I was baptized by the Holy Spirit.
This baptism by the Holy Spirit means I died to my old sinful self and was raised to life as Jesus was. I am no longer a slave to sin because Jesus came to earth, died, was raised to life again, and ascended to heaven. My bondage to sin has been broken by Him and I live in the freedom of God’s grace.
What does sin look like?
Because of sin people have to deal with broken relationships, death, the need for forgiveness and reconciliation, crime, separation from God, and fear of the future. For me personally, sin manifests itself in inadequate feelings about myself, fear of rejection, and not treating my wife correctly.
Thankfully, God has provided grace that has freed me from sin. The work of grace has already been done. Chuck Swindoll explains this in his book, The Grace Awakening, by saying, “Now that Christ has come and died and thereby satisfied the father’s demands on sin, all we need to do is claim His grace by accepting the free gift of eternal life.”[ref]Charles R. Swindoll, The Grace Awakening: Believing in Grace is One Thing. Living it is Another (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1990) 8.[/ref] From the very beginning God made me in His image and wanted me to be like Him. However, because of the fall, I have not lived up to that.
Fortunately God has provided a way for me to live a life that is spiritual and that will draw me closer to Him.
II. Processes and Practices to Bear God’s Image
The things I know for sure about my flesh and sinful nature are that I:
- cannot remove it,
- cannot train it, and
- cannot redeem it.[ref]Victor Anderson, “Spiritual Life,” unpublished class notes for PM101 (Dallas Theological Seminary, Fall Semester, 2013).[/ref]
This means that I will never be perfectly like God. In fact, the more spiritually mature I become, the more aware I become of my struggle against the flesh to do what is right. Therefore, I must engage in the conscious and lengthy desire to become more and more like God.
Thankfully, the Holy Spirit wants to engage me to move toward spiritual maturity. Lewis Sperry Chafer would explain my allowance of the Holy Spirit to work in my life as a “yielding” to the Holy Spirit. Chafer explains, “To be yielded to Him is to allow Him to design and execute the position and effectiveness of our life. He alone can do this . . . He alone has power to place our feet in that path and to keep them there, and he alone has love for us what will never cease to prompt him to do for us all that is in His wisdom, power and love to do.”[ref]Lewis Sperry Chafer, He That is Spiritual: A Classic Study of the Biblical Doctrine of Spirituality (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1918), 87.[/ref] This yielding allows the Holy Spirit to direct my path and my steps to do what is correct, therefore moving me closer and closer to God.
A. Living by Grace Above Sin’s Dominion
In addition to the work of the Holy Spirit, Charles Swindoll provides three things that Christians can utilize in order to live by grace above sin’s dominion and on the quest for a life that is spiritual.
The first is “knowing.” This is a knowing what Christ has done for me. Knowing that He came to break the power of sin in my life is something I must realize when attempting to become spiritually mature. More specifically, I need to know this verse and memorize it: “We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. . . And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him” (Rom 6:6,8, emphasis mine). I must know who Christ is and what He has done for me so that I can participate in what He has planned for me.
The second thing I must do is “consider.” I must consider and ponder what it means to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. Paul writes in Romans that Christ died to break the power of sin, but now He lives for the glory of God. That is when Paul writes, “So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus” (Rom 6:11, emphasis mine). I must consider what Christ has done and I must live for the glory of God.
The third thing I must do is “present.” Now that I know what Christ has done for me and I have considered what my responses should be, I am to present myself to God as holy. I am to stay away from evil actions, desires, and allowing my body to be used for evil. Instead, I am supposed to present myself to God holy and complete, always doing what is right for the glory of God.
B. Spiritual Disciplines Help
How do I become more and more like Christ and evolve into spiritual maturity?
Spiritual disciplines are one of the ways. Why? Because spiritual disciplines are “something that sensitize us to God’s will.” They help me to get in touch with God and how He feels.
For example when fasting and experiencing the pain of hunger I cannot help but remember the pain Jesus and God must have felt as Jesus was crucified. When I am reminded of that pain, I cannot help but be motivated to attempt to live my life in a way that removes sin. This motivation helps me yield to the Holy Spirit so that He can guide me in life to become more spiritually mature.
C. Relationships Help
Another way to move toward spiritual maturity for me is through relationships with others. This is seen in the fact that human beings are naturally relational in nature. God saw that it was not good that Adam was alone, so he made a helper that was just right for him (see Genesis 2:18). From the very beginning God made humans in relationships with one another.
I must admit that God probably did not make Eve so that she could “help” Adam become more like God or for him to become more spiritually mature. Eve was created before the fall, therefore there was no need for God to make Eve to help Adam become more spiritually mature or more like God. My purpose in using this Scripture reference is to show the necessity of humans being in relationship, not that Eve was created to help Adam become more God-like.
An example of this was when King David needed Nathan to help him live according to God’s will. Nathan confronted David and showed him his sin and how it was affecting his relationship with God. Furthermore, the book of Acts and the New Testament epistles are full of examples of people in relationship doing ministry together in an effort to serve others and help them become more spiritually mature.
It is important to recognize that human beings are able to assist each other when they gather together and both attempt to live a Godly life. They will be able to pray for each other, encourage each other, discuss theology, share what they are each learning about God, and provide correction when one might need it. It is through relationships that I will be able to learn and grow toward spiritual maturity.
III. The Image of God and How I Know I am Spiritually Mature
If I strive to become more spiritually mature and to be more like God, I need to know what God looks like: God’s image is primarily an image of holiness.[ref]Tim Ralston, “Spiritual Life,” unpublished class notes for PM101 (Dallas Theological Seminary, Spring Semester, 2006), 1.[/ref]
God’s glory is perfect, complete, whole, uncontradictory, and full. These are qualities that I will never be able to fully attain. So how do I know that I have at least begun to bear the image of God? I can do my best to walk in the direction that will lead me to become more like God, but because of my sin nature I know I will never perfectly get there. However, the practices I have outlined previously (some of which I have already begun to do) will slowly move me closer and closer to spiritual maturity.
Even if I cannot become a perfect image bearer of God, I know that I have at least reached spiritual maturity when I am congruent with the nature and direction of God. I am mature when I am aligned with God’s purpose. Knowing who made me and striving to be who He originally created me to be is summarized well this way: “Man is made in God’s image and reflects God’s glory” (1 Cor 11:7).
I am on a quest for a life that is spiritual so that I may reflect God’s glory by bearing the image He made me in.
Question: What does your quest for a life that is spiritual look like?