This past week, I have heard, discussed, and constantly been reminded of the word innate. I have been humbled by the stark difference by my God’s innate character and my insufficient one. As I was consistently reminded of this difference, I couldn’t help but realize just how much I fall short of God’s glory. That is what makes His love for me so amazing, though! The fact that He still loves me and that He died for me although I fail to be anything close to perfect is clear proof of an indescribable, unconditional, eternal Love! It just doesn’t make sense when thinking of it in human terms, which is why no amount of words that I have can completely explain the depth of that Love.
But even though I knew all of that to be true, throughout this past week I focused a lot on the fact that God is so innately magnificent and that I am so innately not. I focused a lot on the difference, and I realized it is kind of disheartening to reflect on. It is difficult to constantly think that my innate character is a dark, gruesome, disgusting, sinful being, and there have been many times in my life that I focused so much on the fact that my nature was so depraved that I lost sight of just how great my God is. This time, though, I had a wonderful realization of God’s infinite wisdom that changed forever how I perceive this “stark difference”.
The first thing that I acknowledged was the grand list of God’s innate characteristics. It’s quite easy to list out all of the perfect pieces that describe our God. [Our God is loving! Our God is merciful! Our God is gracious! Our God is just! Our God is powerful! Our God is holy!] The list of what our God can go on and on, but no matter what is on the list, we can be certain that our God epitomizes that characteristic. When I say that God is merciful, I can be sure that God, when the time is right, is the perfect portrayal of mercy without fail. All of these characteristics are innate in God. They are completely natural responses to whatever a circumstance calls for. On the other hand, when we are talking about mankind, it is clear what our overarching innate characteristic is.
We are sinners, and we cannot deny that. If I had my way, I know that I would revert to the disgusting, depraved person that I previously described. I don’t want to dwell on it, but at the same time I have to acknowledge that realizing I am a depraved being is what brought me to Christ in the first place. It proved just how badly I needed Him, and all believers have been through a similar process of realization. But after we realize this and after we come to trust in the Lord, should we continue to focus on the fact that our innate being, our nature, is sinful and depraved?
10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) 11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:10-13
What I realized this week is that something amazing happens after accepting the free gift of salvation. Our attention no longer remains on the sinful nature that once plagued our lives. I recognized that what is innate in me can change by the grace of the Lord that gave me victory over death! My focus is to grow to complete maturity, and that spiritual maturity pushes me to a new point. It gives me a new stature, “which belongs to the fullness of Christ”. I grow and mature to hopefully be a direct reflection of Christ one day.
Our focus is clear. I know what I need to be. I know what I can be. I know what I can help others to be.
But how do I do it?
14 As a result, we are no longer to be children,tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. 17 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. 20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Ephesians 4:14-24
So, this is what happens. I was saved, but my sinful nature still remained. Christ has won me victory over sin, and He gives me the tools to conquer the nature that I see living in me. He gives me a new man that is no longer chained down by that nature, but the old man is still in me itching to come out! I have to actively put on the new man. I have to go out of my way and make a conscious effort to make sure that my decisions and actions are guided by the Lord, but there is good news. I will mature.
The more I do it; the easier it becomes. And as I continue to actively live for Christ and like Christ, it will start to become natural. It will start to become innate. My thoughts and my actions will be so unified with my fellow believer and Christ that my natural response would be a direct reflection of God’s innate characteristics. I will grow to be so consumed by Him that everything I do will testify to who He is! It doesn’t just happen though. It takes time and effort.
So, ask yourself this: are you taking the time and are you putting in the effort?
Put on the new man! Claim the victory that Christ won for you! Be righteous! Be holy! Be merciful! Be just! Be loving! Be everything that God is because through Christ you can be! Change what is innate in you.