07 Dec 2022

A Change of Nature

There was a time in my life when I thought that dealing with conflict was simply a matter of applying some conflict management techniques and magically problems between human beings are solved.

The real issues are much more complex. One of the principles I’ve learned (but sometimes fail to do) seems counter-intuitive, but before we try to manage conflict with another person, we first must have a repentant attitude towards God.

The biblical concept of repentance is a reasoned understanding and acceptance of God’s standards of good and evil, coupled with feelings of regret for living in rebellion against those standards. It is recognizing that you are a marred image of the Creator and desperately in need of a restored relationship with Him.

This understanding will motivate you to turn away from self-determination and actions contrary to God. These contrary thoughts and actions are called sin. In turning away from self-determination, you can turn to God to begin a new life. Repentance is more than the intellectual acceptance of Jesus Christ, and it is more than conversion to a set of beliefs. It is a total commitment to becoming a restored child of God and a disciple of Jesus.

Just because God, through Christ, reached across the chasm to offer reconciliation doesn’t mean that we are suddenly no longer “by nature the children of wrath.” Repentance involves accepting the need to have your nature changed.  It leads to obedience to God’s instructions about how life is supposed to work.

God wants more in your life than just behavior modification.  He wants to change your corrupt nature. But how can human beings experience a change in nature?

The apostle Paul looked at the unique qualities of human beings and realized that there is a “spirit in man” that makes us dramatically different from animals. This is another way of expressing that human beings are made in the image of God. It is this unique aspect of human beings that gives us the ability to do geometry, to write a song, or to experience empathy.

He explained to the Corinthians: “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of man that is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:11-12).

Paul did not encourage his readers to explore the secrets of finding the god within. Human beings may be made in the “image of God,” but we are incomplete creations. The apostle, who wrote to the Romans that the natural mind is the enemy of God, taught the Corinthians that the human mind by itself is inadequate to know the spiritual ways of God: “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (I Corinthians 2:13-16).

Christ crossed the chasm to offer reconciliation. The required human response to God’s grace is repentance. God must then introduce His Spirit into a union with the human spirit in order to launch the transformation from being “children of wrath” to becoming children of God. Jesus is the divine nature exhibited in uncorrupted human nature. God, through His Spirit, now introduces the divine nature into corrupt human nature in us (2 Peter 1:2-4).

Authentic Christianity must involve a change in nature. Through God’s Spirit, you can begin to have your old nature changed into the new nature of a child of God. Paul wrote to the Romans:

“For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may be glorified together…” (Romans 8:15-17).

The dilemma of introducing God’s divine nature into corrupt human nature is that we will experience intense internal struggles as our own nature resists His nature. Religious tracts, claiming that a simple prayer and acceptance of Jesus produces eternal salvation, and that nothing else is needed, reduces Christ’s sacrifice to cheap grace and the Christian life to a label without substance.

The first step of salvation is accepting Christ’s sacrifice as a substitute for the eternal death we deserve. God’s work of salvation in us involves much more than our simple acceptance of this sacrifice. Salvation is the way God is saving us from death and recreating us according to our original purpose—to be His children.

Authentic Christianity involves the struggle to submit to God’s nature. This struggle will continue all the days of our physical lives. Spirit filled Christians will have moments of faith and moments of doubt; times when we will resist temptation and times when we will succumb to sin; times when we will handle conflict in a Christ-like way; and times when we will offend or struggle with forgiveness. The end result of this struggle is that God will change our nature.



From The Mercy Effect, copyright © 2018 by Gary Petty

To read other CGN blog posts by Gary Petty click here!

About the Author

Gary Petty is a 1978 graduate of Ambassador College with a BS in mass communications. He worked for six years in radio in Pennsylvania and Texas. He was ordained a minister in 1984 and has served cong