The Psychology of Sin…

Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 

Romans 7:24

As a follower of Christ for over twenty years I have come to understand the struggles between my flesh and the Spirit of the Almighty. The Apostle Paul teaches that the fallen human nature is inherently rebellious against God. We inherited this nature from Adam known as the Adamic sin nature. Unfortunately, it was not eradicated when we became Christians. It is still within us... but we are no longer forced to follow its desire! "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."     (Galatians 5:19-21)

The Apostle Paul also had the struggles that we all share today and describes it as a war against our souls.

This term waging war (NIV), warring (KJV), or at war (NRSV) is antistrateuomai, to be at war with, from anti, over against, hostile opposition + strateuō, to engage in a conflict, wage battle, fight."  In chapter 8 we read, "The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God" (8:7, NRSV).

This concurs with several other New Testament references that characterize the Christian life as conflict: "[The flesh and the Spirit] are in conflict with each other." (Galatians 5:17) "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle (strateuō) within you?" (James 4:1) "Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war (strateuō) against your soul."   

(1 Peter 2:11)

The human nature of man is the human value system that stands in direct opposition to God's value system. The flesh is "the body which is dominated by sin" ... "the unregenerate and sinful state." The NIV nearly consistently translates this meaning of flesh as "sinful nature."  The 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.

In Romans 7:14-25 we'll explore our struggle with the flesh, 14 "We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature  a slave to the law of sin."

 

In Romans 8:1-17 we'll see how the Spirit can enable us to live free of the flesh. "So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. 3 The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature.  So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. 4 He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.

5 Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. 6 So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. 7 For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. 8 That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.

9 But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you.  And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.  10 And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. 11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

12 Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do.13 For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

 

15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” 16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering."

By no means is the Apostle Paul propagating the thought of cheap grace or extreme legalism. Instead he is revealing the secret of victorious Christian living. The human nature of man is the human value system that stands in direct opposition to God's value system. Here flesh is "the body which is dominated by sin" ... "the unregenerate and sinful state." The NIV nearly consistently translates this meaning of flesh as "sinful nature."  The 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.

In Romans 7:14-25 we'll explore our struggle with the flesh, 14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature  a slave to the law of sin.

 

In Romans 8:1-17 we'll see how the Spirit can enable us to live free of the flesh. "So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. 3 The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature.  So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. 4 He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit."

5 Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. 6 So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. 7 For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. 8 That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.

9 But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you.  And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.  10 And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. 11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. 12 Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. 13 For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” 16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.

If we pamper the flesh and give into its desires, we are merely feeding a monster that will grow that much stronger. The flesh is the enemy of our soul and wages war against it. The secret to righteous living is by the power of God’s Holy Spirit abiding in a believer’s life… which one will you choose today!

 

Peace,