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What is the sin nature?

We've got good news and bad news about being human. The good news is that we're capable of doing pretty good stuff. We have the capacity to love, give, serve, sacrifice. The bad news is that all of those things don't come naturally. A person may think, "I go to church, listen to my parents, respect others, and get good grades. I'm a good person!" Sure, good for you, man. But without God, your tendency would lean toward selfishness, arrogance, and pride. Those are some of the hallmarks of a sin nature.

It would be nice to think that humanity is inherently good, but the Bible tells us that all humans are sinners (Romans 3:23). Most people don't regularly plan to do wrong, right? At least, we hope no one reading this plans on doing wrong today... But having a sin nature means that our natural tendency leans toward sinfulness.

So, what is our sin nature and what does it mean to have a sin nature?

The Ugly Truth About Sin Nature

Sin nature refers to every human being's tendency to rebel against God's ways (Isaiah 53:6). Humans are naturally prone to sin, which shows that we are all literally BORN with a sinful nature (Psalm 51:5)—it is, unfortunately, not optional. No one has to teach a child to lie or be selfish; it just comes naturally.

Think of when you were a kid. If you got in trouble for breaking something, what would be your first response? Hiding it? Blaming the cat? Pretending it never happened? You see? Sinfulness is our natural response to things because we're born with it.

When we think twice about how to respond, looking to God for guidance, that is when we might have a chance at responding rightly. But that's something learned—not a natural response. With the Holy Spirit's help, we can begin to make better choices (John 14:26), but our sin nature is something we will struggle against for the rest of our natural lives.

The Sinful Flesh & the Earthly Nature

The Bible often refers to the sin nature as the “sinful flesh” which encompasses “acts of the flesh.” If that sounds kind of gross, it kind of is. Acts of the flesh are defined as “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like” (Galatians 5:19b-21a). Our sin nature is also referred to as our “earthly nature,” which includes “sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5).

Everything belonging to our sinful flesh and earthly nature is in direct opposition to God's holiness, and we are all sinners (Ecclesiastes 7:20). The Bible warns that those who regularly make choices in accordance with their sinful nature will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:21b). But don't lose hope. Keep reading to the end, because there IS a solution to our sin problem.

Where did the sin nature come from?

OK, so all humans are sinful and commit sins every day. To say, "I'm not sinful!" would be a lie (1 John 1:8). But how did we get like this in the first place? Good question.

God is perfect and holy and hates sin, so we know He didn't create us with a sin nature. Everything God made was declared "good"—including humans (Genesis 1:27). Part of that divine goodness was the gift of free will for humanity.

In His great love, God gave us the gift of choice. He didn't want perfect robots who would act in perfect obedience. He gave humankind a choice: Love Him or hate Him. Accept Him or reject Him. Follow His will or ignore His will. To hate Him, reject Him, or ignore His will is what we now call sin.

Adam and Eve had free will too. Things went OK for a little while but then Satan tempted them with beautiful lies about the fruit of a forbidden tree. They succumbed to the temptation, freely choosing to disobey one of God's only stipulations for living in paradise. With that first disobedience, they introduced sin into the world, staining the good nature God had given them for every generation to come (Romans 5:12).

What's so bad about a sin nature?

The biggest consequence of having a sin nature is separation from God. Being sinful makes it impossible to have a right relationship with God, which means that, on our own, eternity with Him in paradise is not an option (Psalm 5:5; Romans 3:23). Romans 8:7-8 tells us, “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.” Yikes. What wretched creatures we are! The final consequence of our sinful nature is major: death (Romans 6:23).

The Good News: A Solution for Our Sin Problem

Of all the human beings who ever walked the earth, there was ONE person who never sinned: Jesus. Jesus wasn't born into sin because He was born from a virgin woman named Mary. The Spirit of the Lord caused Mary to become pregnant supernaturally (Luke 1:26-28; Matthew 1:18-23), thus removing Adam's half of the lineage.

Jesus is God and never sinned (2 Corinthians 5:21). Because of these truths, Jesus was the perfect "sacrificial lamb" to atone for the sins of all humanity (1 Peter 1:19; 1 John 2:2). John 3:16 tells us that "God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."

The good news is that, although we inherited our sin nature from Adam, we are invited to share in Jesus' inheritance and gain a NEW nature (2 Corinthians 5:17). How? By believing that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, then came back to life (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Acts 16:30-31). Once we have accepted these truths about Jesus, we are new creations in Christ!

Does having a new nature mean my sin nature goes away?

Being a new creation doesn’t mean our sin nature is eradicated, but it does mean that we once again have easy access to that "good nature" humans were created with originally. Yes, we'll still battle with temptations and sinful struggles, but we don't have to do it alone anymore.

God has given us the Holy Spirit to convict, guide, and instruct us (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:14). Once we have accepted Christ, the Holy Spirit comes to help us see sin as God sees sin. We can also find help in other believers who can pray for us, learn with us, and provide godly advice. Once we are given new life in Jesus, our desire to live for God ought to come first (1 John 3:9).

God has provided the means for us to overcome our natural tendency to sin and will help us become more like Jesus. Take heart. Even as we struggle against sin, God is sanctifying our lives so that we will reflect His Son (1 Thessalonians 3:13).

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TL;DR

Humanity's sin nature consists of everything that goes against God (Galatians 5:19-21; Colossians 3:5). Sin nature became our inheritance when Adam and Eve first disobeyed God and spoiled the "good nature" God had created them with (Genesis 1:27; Genesis 3). The payment for this sin nature is death (Romans 6:23). The good news is that Jesus, who lived a sinless life, sacrificed Himself on our behalf. We can now choose to trust in Him for the forgiveness of our sins and get a new nature and a new inheritance (1 Corinthians 5:17; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). God has provided the Holy Spirit to help us overcome our natural tendency to sin and become more like Jesus. Even as we struggle against sin, God is sanctifying our lives so that we will reflect His Son (1 Thessalonians 3:13).

By: Vivian Bricker

Vivian loves learning, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She is dedicated to helping people learn more about Jesus and is ready to help in any way she can. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, cooking, drawing, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, you can find her soaking up the sunshine or going on an adventure.

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