This is Sunday, not a regular Monday, Wednesday, or Friday blog day.
But tomorrow is the 14th anniversary of Ken’s death and I wanted to take a day to step away from my usual themes and think back. Memories juxtapose in my mind – seems like not so long ago and seems like a lifetime ago.
And after much thought, I decided to do something different. Instead of talking about the last days before he passed away, I want to talk about the first days …
When and how we met …
To tell the true, underlying story, I need to go back to when I was a little girl in Pennsylvania. (Okay, let’s be truthful here. I have wanted to do a blog post on the importance of teaching kids about the old and new nature for months and this seemed like a good opportunity to do so.)
My dad was a young pastor. His first pastorate had been one of him “guilting” the people into doing better, trying to be good, living the perfect Christian life, and always striving, but never quite making it. That’s the kind of church in which he grew up. He had been to Bible school, but this constant struggling was a mindset he couldn’t shake. He was discouraged and the people were discouraged. Would he ever be a “good enough” Christian?
When we moved to Altoona, Pennsylvania, he started a season of intense personal Bible study and slowly learned about God’s grace.
And along with his new understanding of grace, he discovered the old and new nature (often known as the flesh and the spirit). Even when we become a new creation in Christ, that old nature is still with us.
We cannot make our old nature good because it can do no good. We can’t make our new nature better because it is already righteous before God. Yes, there IS a struggle but the struggle is to allow the new nature to have control. The Christian life is not one of striving to make the old nature as good as the new, but rather to “feed” the new nature so it is the one that is resilient and controlling our thoughts. We do that by studying God’s word, talking to God in prayer, and surrounding ourselves with positive influences. We feed it by constantly growing in Christ.
Suddenly our new life in Christ made sense to Dad and he began developing his thoughts on the old and new nature.
So while other kids were learning about David and Goliath, Dad was teaching me the names of the two natures. I don’t know how young I was when I could rattle them off, but I know I knew them well by the third grade. I know, because I remember the exact spot where we were driving and my parents got into a small argument and I said quite confidently, “Your old natures are showing” which was not a brilliant thing for a kid to say to her parents at THAT moment which is probably why I remember it.
One of the first verses I learned was Galatians 5:17: For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
The thing is – I knew and I understood it as a kid. As I look back, I think this is one of the key doctrines that guided my faith. I knew that even as a Christian I would make wrong choices … I needed to allow my new nature to take over and get back on track.
I learned …
- That it’s not about me obtaining some standard – my own righteousnesses are as filthy rags.
- That my righteousness is found only through Christ (and the new creation I am in HIm).
- That I could not clean myself up. My old nature (flesh) was filthy dirty and always would be. My new nature (spirit) was spotlessly clean before the Lord.
- That the battle inside of me when faced with temptation is a result of the conflict between my flesh and spirit. (And is naturally present in the Christian’s life. If we don’t feel that fight, something is wrong.)
- That even the Apostle Paul felt the struggle. (Have you read Romans 7 lately? The good I wanted to do, I don’t do. O wretched man that I am!)
I am so thankful for my heritage and that I was taught this so young. I wish every kid (and adult) understood this.
Here’s a start. You can read these verses with your kids.
In the back of my childhood Bible, I wrote:
NAMES OF THE OLD NATURE
Flesh – Galatians 5:17
Natural Person – 1 Corinthians 2:14
Old Leaven – 1 Corinthians 5:7
Old Self – Ephesians 4:22
Outer Self – 2 Corinthians 4:16
NAMES OF THE NEW NATURE
Spirit – Galatians 5:17
Spiritual person – 1 Corinthians 2:14-15
New Lump – 1 Corinthians 5:7 (Thinking about being a “new lump” in our Christian life is sort of fun.)
New Self – Ephesians 4:23-24
Inner Self – 2 Corinthians 4:16
By the time I was in college, my dad often spoke on the subject of the two natures at conferences and other churches and was in the process of writing a book about the subject that was published by Moody Press: Adjust or Self Destruct. After enjoying ten years of popularity it was republished under the title: The War Within You. I was used to people coming up to me and telling me how my dad’s teaching on the old and new nature changed their life … as they understood the natural struggle and God’s gift of grace. Even today, decades later, there are a couple reviews on Amazon saying how Dad’s explanation of the old and new nature changed a person’s life.
Now you might be thinking, I thought this was the story of how you met Ken and this isn’t about that at all.
I know. This is the background. Part 2 tomorrow.