by Jesse L. Smith
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"..Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." -2 Peter 1:4
For years I lived in the countryside of Gilroy and would regularly run through large tracts of land where people kept horses as pets. Some of the owners would regularly exercise the horses – but others treated them little different than a cat or dog, leaving them to roam freely most of the day with regular feeding times. As I would run past the enclosures of these animals they would always crane their necks at me and then look the other direction as if to say, “Who do you think you are?” Some of the feistier beasts would then give a brief display of true running prowess just to put me in my place. I realized that no matter how hard I trained or worked at running – the very least of these animals would always make my greatest running performance laughable at best. What I could only hope to attain by hard work and discipline – they had by nature.
The human body like any other design in nature has a set of specifications that allow it to perform at a certain level in various capacities. As knowledge of the human body increases we are getting a better idea of the limits of human performance. So refined is this understanding that world class athletes from all over the world often perform so closely to one another that the difference between a gold and silver medal may only be a few milliseconds. Human performance however is not limited to only physical activities – but also to social and intellectual efforts. It could be said that any activity that can be metered on some scale of performance has limits that are common to all humanity.
Human belief systems all have the common denominator of performance. These systems of beliefs, whether they be religions or self-help books are all designed to optimize human performance to reach toward the limits of human potential. It goes without saying of course that human nature itself is the limiting factor in all of these belief systems. Human performance can only take an individual so far – and when compared to a creature like a horse with a higher or superior nature when it comes to running, there will never be any comparison. Christianity however is distinguished from all human belief systems in that it promises a new nature to all who believe – complete with a different set of specifications. 2nd Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
When it comes to goodness, the Apostle Paul was well aware of the limits of his old nature apart from Christ. In Romans 7:18 he wrote, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” Paul realized that humanity has a greater capacity to understand what is good than to actually perform what is good. This in essence is the very quality of humanity that causes us to feel condemned before a Holy and Pure God. Just as Adam and Eve hid from the presence of God in the garden of Eden because of their sin, our own conscience witnesses against us in God’s presence.
Because human nature itself prevents us from fellowship with God – it is necessary that God provide us with a new nature in order to have fellowship with Him. Unlike human belief systems however – we have access to this divine nature by faith in Christ instead of performance. Paul describes the transformation that takes place in those who believe, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should walk in newness of life.”-Romans 5:4 When we believe that our old nature died with Jesus on the cross – we not only receive forgiveness of past sins, but the power to live a new kind of life! The reason we are able to walk in newness of life is because Jesus Christ Himself now dwells within us. Paul said in Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; not yet I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
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