Christianity 201

December 5, 2018

We Have Both a Sinful Nature and a Divine Nature

A few weeks ago I shared a conversation with someone on the very topic of today’s article. We live in the intersection of two worlds; this world and the world to come; and we possess both a fallen nature and an Imago dei nature. Keith Giles is an author, podcast host, house church pastor and blogger at Patheos.  This is our third time highlighting his writing here at C201.

Please click through to read articles here at source. We post them here as a matter of record and for email subscribers, but you are strongly encouraged to send some blog traffic to the original writers’ site of origin.

Our Divine Potential

The question usually gets framed as something like: “Do you believe that humans are all born in original sin?” or “Do humans have a sin nature?”

For me, the problem is in the question itself. It assumes the answer before anyone can really consider all the variables.

As an example, we could factually say that every human being goes to the bathroom on a regular basis. So, does that mean that humans are poopers by nature? Well, yes, but is that our identity? Is that who you are?

Of course not. The fact that everyone poops is not a reflection of their nature, or their character. It’s just a fact. People poop. But, who we are is so much more!

So, the fact that people have the potential for evil, or even that we all sometimes act in ways that are selfish, or unforgiving, or hateful, or harmful, does NOT mean that this is who we are by nature. Why? Because these same people – you and me – are also constantly doing things that are thoughtful, and kind, and selfless, and compassionate, and good.

In other words, we all have the potential for both good and evil. We are no less born with a sinful nature than we are with a righteous nature. Everyone has the potential for either, or both, at any given time.

The Good News is that we also have the potential to share in the Divine Nature of Christ:

“His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature.” (2 Peter 1:3-4; NRSV)

This is the other reason I reject the notion of Original Sin, because it keeps us in a pre-Christian state of mind where we are hopeless and helpless to overcome our darker tendencies. The Good News is that Christ empowers us to live (abide) in the life of Christ and learn to participate in his Divine nature.

In other words: We all have the potential for both good and bad thoughts/actions, but if we abide in Christ we can start to experience our Divine Potential.

The emphasis, then, is not on our sinfulness, or our tendency to fail, but on our awesome ability to be like Christ (which is the whole point of the Gospel of the Kingdom).

We are not only called to walk as Jesus did, we are empowered to do so, and have been given “everything we need for life and godliness.”

So, rather than fixate on our sinful potential, the shift we need to make is to focus on our divine potential.

You are not a sinner, even if once in a while you sin. You are a child of God who is made in this Divine image, and you have been given everything you need to grow into this new nature today.

You have a Divine Potential. Start living in that reality as soon as possible.

Why not right now?



Christianity 201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from across the widest range of Christian sources. Sometimes two posts may follow on consecutive days by authors with very different doctrinal perspectives. The Kingdom of God is so much bigger than the small portion of it we can see from our personal vantage point, and one of the purposes of C201 is to allow readers a ‘macro’ view of the many ministries and individual voices available for reading. Please click through on titles to read articles at the site where they originally appeared.

September 9, 2017

“What is This You Have Done?”

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Today we’re returning again to the blog of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. The author of today’s piece is Lisa Rieck. This is another site you might want to bookmark and check back with from time to time. Click the title below to read this at source.

The Sorrow and Mercy of God

“What is this you have done?”

These words from God to Eve in Genesis 3:13 are always heart-wrenching to me when I read them. I imagine so much anguish in his voice.

Because of course God isn’t just talking about Adam’s and Eve’s one decision to eat from the one tree they were explicitly told by God, in his one command, not to eat from. This is the God of the universe speaking. A God who took exquisite delight in creating a world exactly as he wanted it. A God who was wild about these two people he had made in his image, and about their intimacy with each other and with him. A God nearly incoherent with joy regarding the eternity of beauty and goodness and rightness he could see stretching out before him.

It’s hard for most of us to imagine the glory of the world those first two chapters of Genesis describe because we’ve only ever known a world disfigured by sin. But try to picture it. Every plant vibrant with color. Every animal thriving, both on its own and in relationship to other animals. Human relationship free from blame or shame or fear or hurt or jealousy or dishonesty, with each person being fully known, fully loved, fully satisfied in the most complete way.

All of this and so, so much more was changed in a minute, in what seems like a flippant decision on Adam and Eve’s part. Of course, they could not have known what the full implications of their action would be, since they had no concept of sin or brokenness, imperfection or guilt. But God obviously did. And so, as he uttered his question, I imagine the span of history flashing before his eyes: Cain killing Abel. The Israelites enslaved in Egypt. Children sacrificed to idols. War between nations from the first civilizations to the present. John the Baptist being beheaded. Mary and Martha weeping at Lazarus’s tomb. The Black Death. Genocides in Cambodia and Rwanda and Ukraine and Germany and Guatemala. The Trail of Tears. Miscarriages and abortion. Affairs and divorce. Cancer and dementia. Families torn apart by deportation. Poverty. School shootings. Slavery. Mass incarceration. White supremacist rallies in Charlottesville. I wonder if it all rushed through his thoughts in an instant.

“What is this you have done?”

This is not to say that I think I would have chosen differently than Adam and Eve. I’m sure, had I been in their place, I too would have been persuaded that tasting the fruit, testing God’s words a bit, wouldn’t matter much. Isn’t that the way the devil always works? He tells me today that my jealousy, my bitterness, my judgment of others or my self-condemnation, my fears, my silence in the face of injustice, are not that big of a deal. He tells me that I have not contributed to racism because I did not march in Charlottesville this weekend. He keeps me dulled to the pain and far-reaching effects my sins of omission and commission have.

I imagine, though, what also flashed through God’s mind in that instant was what it would cost himself and his Son to make things right. His question was not without hope—but that hope did not cancel out or override his sorrow. Nor does it today; I believe he still suffers and grieves with us in the pain we experience from our own sin and from the sins of others, even though he has set in motion, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, the redemption of all things.

Today, as on so many days, I am trying to hold those two things in tension as well—a horrified sorrow that does not end in despair, and a grounded hope that does not make light of the gravity of sin.

I’m also finding hope in ten other words from Genesis: “But Noah found favor in the sight of the LORD.” Amidst a world gone completely evil, where “every inclination of the thoughts of [people’s] hearts was only evil continually,” and “the LORD was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth,” God saw the (I imagine) quiet faithfulness of Noah.

Given the rampant wickedness he knew was coming, it seems like God must have been tempted to end things right away in Genesis 3. By Genesis 6, we know that his grief over the wickedness in the world was so great that he did, indeed, send the flood to destroy most of what he had made. But not all. As has happened over and over throughout the history of the world, God was merciful, seeing and saving the ones who could not be moved from their faithfulness to him, despite being surrounded by utter evil.

And that renews my faith that every seemingly small act of obedience matters. Every kind word. Every risk, in conversation or action, that helps me know someone different than me politically or ethnically or denominationally or religiously a bit better. Every dollar given away joyfully. Every “thank you” spoken, and meant. Every beautiful poem or painting created. Every act of listening that seeks to really understand. Every truth told. Every renouncement of racism. Every meal shared with every orphan and widow. Every hurt forgiven.

Most days, I feel more aware of the world’s evil than of God’s mercy, more cognizant of the fact that we have inherited the painful effects of Adam’s and Eve’s sin than of the truth that those who believe in Jesus have also received every benefit of his death and resurrection. But as Paul wrote in Romans 5, “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” Which means that every day, through God’s Spirit at work in us, we can choose differently than Adam and Eve did. We can—and must—choose obedience over disobedience, worship of God over worship of self, humility over pride, life over death.

And when we fail, as we will—when I fail—I can and must refuse to blame someone else, like Adam and Eve did, and refuse to listen to Satan’s lie that my own seemingly small sin is not that big of a deal. Each time I rebel against God, my work is to hear his question to Eve in my head, ringed with the sorrow of a Creator watching the destruction of the world he created to be good and beautiful. I must be willing to look straight at, to name, to reflect on and lament the ways my particular sin has contributed to that destruction, hurting others and myself and perpetuating the broader sinful structures and systems of our world.

Because though God’s question came from grief over the death that had entered and would continue to enter the world, even this weekend, even today, it can lead us to life if we let it move us, next time, to choose faithfulness. To receive God’s forgiveness, and then show forgiveness to others. To take every opportunity to be kind. To work for justice for all, even when it means giving up some of our own power and privilege. To live in genuine relationship with others. And, in the face of every evil, to choose obedience to the God who grieves with us, grieves over us, and still chooses mercy. Over and over and over again.