Second Nature

“That the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:4

Have you ever heard something described as “second nature?” We use this expression to describe something when, even though it’s new to us, it’s easy for us to learn.

The Bible tells us that those who are born of God have two natures. First, they have a carnal or fleshly nature that is theirs from the moment of conception. This first nature is also described as sinful and is the root of every desire that is contrary to God and his kingdom. The second nature is that of faith or the Spirit and this is the source of every holy and righteous impulse, inclination and thought.

The apostle Paul, in the verses surrounding our focus text, makes it clear that only actions coming forth from the spiritual nature can ever be holy because these have the Holy Spirit as their source. Even those things that we wouldn’t classify as “bad” would still be considered carnal and unholy if their source is the carnal nature rather than the Spirit. This is the primary reason why we must balance our message of living a life of obedience with our message of living by faith. For the Christian you can’t have one without the other. If we try and produce a garment of righteousness by obedience alone the result is filthy rags. Isaiah 64:6. Holiness can only come from a life filled with and submitted to the Holy Spirit.

But while this spiritual nature comes to us second, after we make the choice to receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior, it would be inaccurate to say that living according to it would be “second nature” to us. Just one chapter earlier, in Romans 7, Paul laments over the difficulty he has in living according to the Spirit. The flesh just doesn’t want to die and it keeps popping up and exerting its influence on the lives we live. And this must be guarded against because living according to the flesh results in death.

So living a righteous life means that we have to live a life where we consciously and deliberately nurture our connection with and relationship to Jesus through the Holy Spirit. In our devotions we ask for more of the Spirit. As we study scripture and live our lives we search for a deeper connectedness so that we can be more secure in Him. And when it comes to the Holy Spirit, Jesus gives us the assurance that if we ask, we will receive, and if we seek, we will find. Matthew 7:7-8.

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