Let us talk about unregenerate, sinful man.
Before we are “born-again”, we all live lives of varying degrees of outward and inward morality. Yes?
We all have different strengths and weaknesses. Some are strong-willed and disciplined and some are weak willed and undisciplined. Some, when they put their mind to a task stick to it and win the battle. Some decide to quite smoking, and with shear determination, quit smoking. One may try the patch and gum and nothing seems to work for them. Some struggle with drugs and alcohol abuse and some do not. Not every lost sinner is a drug addict. Some see what drugs do to people and decide to never indulge. Some are raised by an alcoholic parent and decide to never touch the stuff. Some have too much respect for their own bodies and for others to be used or use others as toys to satisfy their own sexual desires, and some are sexually promiscuous; for various reasons. Some decide to stick to a diet and are successful, some simply cannot seem to deny themselves pleasure for more than three days; some find coarse and vulgar language distasteful and crude and some cuss like a sailor; and the list goes on. I think you get the point. Unregenerate man has varying levels of natural strength based on the strength of their will, self-determination and self-discipline and live varying degrees of “sinful” or moral lives.
Why is this so important to understand? It is important to understand because as Christians we seem to have a very short sighted, and perhaps even erroneous, understanding of what occurs when a person is “saved”. We get confused about the outward life of a person and the inward change that has taken place.
A person who (because of their own nature and strength) lived a life outwardly less sinful (was loving and giving; didn’t practice habitual sinful activities--was “morally” a very strong and disciplined person) will appear as a “strong” Christian after they are reconciled to God through Christ. A person who was weaker “morally” will struggle more with the old nature.
The work of regeneration is perfect as to kind, and perfect as to parts, extending to all his powers and faculties—but is not yet perfect as to degree—as an infant has all the parts of a man, though it is not arrived at the full stature of the perfect man. And thus it is with souls that are new-born, which made a worthy divine say, "every regenerate man is two men"—that is, he has a new nature in him, which is wholly for God, and an old nature still in part remaining, which is wholly for sin. And these two natures residing in the same soul and in all of its faculties, which are but in part sanctified—the corrupt nature, the flesh, lusts against the spirit, or holy nature in his heart—and the spirit against the flesh; and these being contrary, the one to the other, souls that are born again cannot do perfectly the things that they desire, because of sin that dwells in them.
There is then no true holiness in mere morality. Much as there is in such a character that is highly esteemed among men, there is nothing that is right in the sight of God. The principle and motive of such a character is at a great distance from all that God requires and loves. “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” The moral quality of actions lies in the disposition of heart with which they are performed. A man may be very moral, but if the disposition of heart with which the acts of morality are performed be not such as God requires and approves, though he may believe he is going to Heaven, he is in the broad way to hell. Mere morality never aims at the heart and would never touch it if it should. It may lop off the luxuriances of human depravity, but it never strikes at the root. It may not sink into the baseness of degeneracy, but it never soars to the purity of holiness. It is a fascinating picture, but it is cold and spiritless as the canvas on which it is delineated. It is like the twinkling glow worm which borrows all its light from the putrescent and earthy substances of which it is composed, but sustains no relation to the luminary which imparts light and heat to the universe. However fair this exterior, and however accordant with the expectations of the world, it falls far short of what a man must be to become either holy or happy.
Reader: If our old nature was more disciplined and strong willed prior to being saved we will have less of a struggle mortifying the flesh since we have been doing that most of our life (not in a “saving” way, in a temporal way). It is our disposition that has been changed, not our old nature.
Let us not judge our brothers and sisters based on outward morality. Let us have compassion on one another and understand that sanctification is a process and there is, and will always be, (while the old nature still resides) an inner battle. Ask a man about Christ before you ask a man about his “walk with Christ” and you will find out a lot more about the disposition of this man’s heart and soul.
To be continued……