Rom 7:5,6 For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
Jesus said to Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (John 3:3) The Greek word used for “again” is ἄνωθεν, which can mean “from above”, or “again” or “of things which come from heaven.” Jesus was telling him that something supernatural had to take place in Nicodemus’ heart, that the natural realm and his human nature were not enough, that he couldn’t see or perceive the kingdom of God, which is unseen, unless the eyes of his heart were enlightened. To see spiritual things Nicodemus must have spiritual insight, he had to be transformed in the depth of his being. He needed a brand new nature.
The essence of the New Testament is that Jesus reveals to us that we need a new birth and a new nature. We need to be born again, redeemed, and regenerated. We who are in Christ, are a brand new creation through Christ. Because we have a new nature implanted in us when we become regenerated, we no longer have to be bound by our old, sinful nature. The process of becoming a new creation is called in theological terms “regeneration,” defined as “a secret act of God in which he imparts new spiritual life to us.” God initiates the process of regeneration and it is totally a work of grace. We believe, and God puts a new nature in us. Regeneration is one of the great mysteries in Scripture. When we are regenerated, we move from being governed by our sinful nature to being governed by Christ’s Spirit; we who were spiritually dead become spiritually alive; we who were separated by our sin from God’s presence are brought into His presence; we who trusted in our own goodness and abilities trust in Christ; we who were lost become found.
Because the new nature comes from God, it is perfect. We are not perfect, but the new nature is perfect. Our new nature cannot produce the “acts of the flesh.” (Gal 5:19-21) Likewise, the old nature cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22,23). That’s why Paul said that the Spirit and the sinful nature are in constant conflict with one another. The two natures are mutually exclusive because each is rooted in two different kings with two different kingdoms. One is from Heaven; the other is from Earth. We cannot gratify the desires of the sinful nature and be led by the Spirit at the same time. There is no middle ground, no place of neutrality. That’s why we cannot simply try harder to be a good person. It takes a new nature, not a stronger will, to produce the fruit of the Spirit.
Oswald Chambers said, “The characteristic of a disciple is not that he does good things, but that he is good in his motives, having been made good by the supernatural grace of God. The only thing that exceeds right-doing is right-being…Jesus is saying ‘If you are My disciple, you must be right not only in your actions, but also in your motives, your aspirations, and in the deep recesses of the thoughts of your mind.’…The purity that God demands is impossible unless I can be remade within, and that is exactly what Jesus has understaken to do through his redemption…The great wonder of Jesus Christ’s salvation is that He changes our heredity.” (My Utmost for His Highest, July 24)
Jesus is not asking us to be better people, but to be transformed people. He changes our heredity, our nature, so that what was impossible and unnatural for us to be is now natural and normal as we are infused with the Spirit of Christ. What was unnatural to us before – righteousness – is now normal. What was impossible for us before – genuine love – is now natural, normal, part of our new heredity.
It is a mystery to me how God transforms ordinary, selfish, sinful people into brand new creatures. He doesn’t make us just better people, he makes us new people, transformed by His touch, able and desirous of wanting to please Himself. So, if you don’t know Christ personally, you need to be born again, from above. If you do know Christ personally, you need to realize that you are a new creation and that you don’t need to be governed by your old nature anymore. You are set free!
2 Cor 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!