Pohutukawa Coast Presbyterian Church
Clevedon Presbyterian Church
Kawakawa Bay
Clevedon Kidz

Human Nature vs Life in the Spirit

November 15, 2020
Mark Chapman

Human Nature vs Life in the Spirit

November 15 2020

May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of our hearts, be acceptable in your

sight O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen


So Paul is writing to a church in the 1st Century

a church that was going through all kinds of

debates about who belongs and who doesn’t

and what you had to do to be a real Christian

and he is writing that the disputes they are having, are all to do with what is the driving

engine in our lives.


What drives us,

what controls us

what motivates us.


And I would suggest that the same is true today.


And he seems to be saying that there are two forces competing

to be the driving engine

in your life and mine.

One is our human nature

the other, is the Spirit of God.


Basically, he is saying, our human nature is to do with selfishness,

and the Spirit of God is about love.

And these two are opposed to each other

you can’t be selfish and love at the same time;

you can’t love and be selfish at the same time.


And so he lists a number of things that

our human nature is prone to

is the cause of all our problems.


“It shows itself in immoral, filthy, and indecent actions;  (20) in worship of idols and

witchcraft. People become enemies and they fight; they become jealous, angry, and

ambitious. They separate into parties and groups;  (21)  they are envious, get drunk,

have orgies,”


Don’t get bogged down in the list

rather understand that Paul is suggesting that

in this whole mess of things

relating to the culture of the day

there is one overriding issue

and it is, selfishness.

Life is about me;

life revolves around me

and what I want to do

regardless of anyone else.


Once you have selfishness

you have division.

Thinking differently is not a bad thing

but when the attitude is

it’s my way or the highway

then it is a bad thing.


So you see how countries like Yugoslavia that are created out of

different ethnic groups

how they hold on to their culture

and their old



I was talking to some Americans from the southern states

and they assured me

they weren’t yankees

they were Confederates

and they still flew the confederate flag.


And of course as long as they do that

they won’t see themselves as the united states of America.


And it doesn’t take genius to see that all around the world

our culture and our past grievances still define.





the middle East

China, the US

New Zealand

I would say that everywhere you go

our past, our ethnicity

defines our attitudes to one another.

Paul would say, that’s what human nature does.


It was the same in Jesus day.

And the wonderfully, amazing, difference

the gospel of Jesus made

was, as the apostle Paul could say,

in  Jesus the walls of division are broken down

as Jesus makes of diverse and different people.

one new race.

One new culture.

One new people

who define themselves not as where they were born

not their country of origin

not their heritage

not their national identity

rather as one family in Jesus.


This is why as Christians we never get to anxious about who wins the rugby .. right?


And I have found this in the church

when the church is at it’s best

that we can come from different

cultures and races

and backgrounds and we become

one people, a new race.


At times I make a big deal about being from Canada

but there are a lot of Canadians I struggle with

and feel alienated from

and New Zealanders of course

and that’s my problem

but I find myself

more at home with Christians

and if it’s possible

as I think it must be, this life in Christ

is my true home

and my true identity, if that makes sense.


Over the years I found my family not in my siblings

but in men and women

who were and are, my brothers and sisters

mothers and fathers in the faith.

And maybe that’s what Jesus

meant when He asked

who are my brothers and sisters?

Those who do the will of my Father in Heaven.


And this is what Paul seems to be saying.

The church at Galatia

were people from all backgrounds

and they and their views of what a Christian should be

was in part, based on their cultures.

Paul is saying, your culture, where you have come from,

your ethnicity

should not define you.

Because it will always be a cause for division.

You will separate in parties

which means

exclusive groups.

And then there will be contention

because that’s what human nature does.


Instead, Paul writes, there is a better way to live

and that is to be controlled by God’s Spirit.

Or as Jesus says:

We must be born again

or born from above.

We cannot be the church of Jesus

unless we are born of the Spirit of God.


I understand that to be, not the cliched version that we hear of so often,

but a surrender

to the love of God

that will burn out of us

all the divisiveness of our human nature

till all that is left in us

is pure unadulterated love.

That’s the goal.

That’s what you and I are to be striving for.


The community deserves,

needs such a people to be a light.


But what we tend to do

is read our Bibles more, that’s a good thing, but ..

Jesus said to the Bible experts – you search the Bible but you still don’t find what God

would have for you.

Or we attend another course on discipleship,

or buy the latest book

on how to do whatever;

attend another conference,

but really brothers and sisters all they tend to do

is conform our prejudice. Right?


What we are called to do – is put to death our human nature.


Now Paul uses an interesting term here.

He writes: those who belong to Christ Jesus have put to death their human nature with all

its passions and desires.


The word translated, put to death, in some of our Bibles, is the word for crucify. Paul is

writing of the crucifixion of the human nature.

Why the term crucifixion?

Paul, as any in the Roman Empire,

knows that a person who is crucified is not dead.

Not yet.

That’s the goal, but it can be a long process.

I wonder if he is suggesting that

the transformation he is speaking of

is a process.

It can take time.

So we can go, yeah, I’m crucifying my human nature

on a metaphorical cross

but then when someone crosses us, we hope down off

and give whoever a swat

and then get back on.


Maybe that’s why Paul writes:

go on being filled with the Holy Spirit.

It’s an, every moment of every day

openness to the healing power of God’s love.


Maybe our prayer could be:

Lord, I surrender myself to your arms of love

that your love may burn out of me

all things that cause division

that I may know my true identity - your beloved child.



Now unto God the Father, God the Son and God, the holy Spirit, be all the honour and

glory, world without end. Amen

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