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Nature of Things
David A. DePra
The need for redemption – indeed, the need for a Savior – is predicated upon the fact that man is spiritually dead. And because we are DEAD we need LIFE. Unless this is true, Christianity is a lie.
What God created in the beginning – a man who was one with him in spirit, and who had the LIFE of God in Him – was NORMAL. The NORMAL man was naked and unashamed. But things became ABNORMAL once Adam sinned by rejecting God. As the greater result, humanity AS A RACE became alienated from God, and became absolutely ABNORMAL creatures. Get that. ABNORMAL is the KIND of creatures we are. Nothing will help us, and nothing can fix us. The only solution is that we must die, and be raised as new creations in Christ.
Now, if you examine this, you will find a principle emerging. It is a principle that runs all through the Bible, and characterizes redemption itself. That principle is this: LIFE comes only from DEATH. Or, to put it another way, NEW LIFE is only possible through the DEATH of the OLD life.
LIFE emerges only from DEATH – for a reason. It is not a matter of an arbitrary choice by God to make it so. No. Life can come only from death because of the nature of things.
The nature of WHAT things? Every thing we have just mentioned. The need for redemption, and the principle of life from death – all of these are predicated upon the fact that things, as we see, them, are ABNORNAL, wrong, dead, and in bondage to sin and darkness. Thus, all of it must be set aside – be brought to an end through death, if new LIFE is to emerge. THAT is the nature of things, and it is from that starting point that God works.
“The nature of things,” explains the need for suffering in this world, and in the Christian life. If everything was normal in the eyes of God, and did not need to be made brand new, there would be no suffering necessary. But the suffering is necessary because it is the nature of the old creation to resist God. THAT IS THE PROBLEM and it is THE NATURE OF THINGS. Thus, because God will not violate free will, as He restores all things back to Himself through Christ, and the OLD resists, suffering will result.
There is much suffering in this world that has nothing to do with God. That is a fact. But for a Christian, much suffering has to do with the fact that God is birthing us, and growing us, back into a relationship with Himself. And every part of us will tend to resist this – at least at first. This is a warfare that produces suffering.
The reason you and I suffer as Christians is not because God decided to make things hard. It is because of the nature of things – because of OUR nature, and the nature of the realm in which we live. In the life of the average Christian, realms collide, natures collide, and something is being brought to birth. This will produce suffering. But in the end, if we hold to Christ, victory is assured.
Christianity has TWO sides – TWO sides because of the nature of things. The one side is the DEATH side. The death side is necessary because we cannot have new life until we relinquish the old. This will be accomplished by the work of the Cross. But then there is the LIFE side which springs out of the death – and ONLY out of the death. And it is there that true fellowship in Christ Jesus is possible.
Christians today more and more are denying and neglecting the DEATH side. They focus on the LIFE side. But this is error. It is a denial of the Cross, and again, denies the true nature of things. And when we deny the DEATH side, we are right where Satan wants us – happy with ourselves in Adam.
The gospel is the GOOD NEWS of Jesus Christ. The good news is that Jesus has already done everything necessary to deliver us from ourselves, and from this evil age. Jesus has already overcome, “the nature of things,” through His death and resurrection. All we need to do, once God brings us into this light, is, “repent and believe.” We can be born again IN HIM.
But it is right here that we see WHY any presentation of the gospel that avoids talking about us as sinners, or about our need for repentance, or about suffering, is heresy. Such a gospel is really denying the nature of things. It is therefore a lie. When preachers today refuse to preach the need for repentance because they want to gain members for their church, when they are more concerned about being, “seeker-sensitive,” than they are about being, “Holy Spirit sensitive,” they are LYING to people about the nature of things. They are lying about the condition of man, and they are lying about the Redemption itself. Indeed, such a gospel suggests that Jesus wasted His time and energy dying on the Cross – because we really aren’t all that bad after all.
Unless we see we are sinners, we will not think we need a Savior. Unless we see we are helpless, we won’t think we need grace. Unless we see our nature is bad, we cannot value God’s goodness. If we have not all sinned and come short of the glory of God, there is no need for repentance. Oh, we might believe the DOCTRINES – but we will not SEE THE TRUTH. Yet today’s modern gospel presents man in every possible light EXCEPT that of a sinner, who is accountable to God, and who must repent of sin. Yet it is that fact that stands at the foundation of Redemption. Deny it, and you are denying the very nature of things. Deny it and you are, at best, deceived, and at worst, a hardened unbeliever.
I do understand that there is an opposite extreme. Some present the gospel as a threat of punishment. It is a depressing, fearful message that keeps people dwelling upon their unworthiness. This is also error. The Truth of God will absolutely expose our unworthiness. But not as a thing unto itself. No. Our unworthiness will be exposed in the light of HIS GREATNESS, mercy, and love. In short, we must see the Truth about ourselves, but cannot truly do so, unless we also SEE HIM. And if we do see Him, He will carry us outside of ourselves – our focus will be upon HIM, not upon ourselves.
The moment I leave a revelation of the Person of Jesus Christ out of any presentation of the gospel, and turn it into nothing more than a doctrine to believe in, I will create problems. If I tell people they are sinners, but don’t help them see the Savior, I will leave them hopeless. But if I tell people they are not really sinners, but side step this and tell them only about a Savior, I create a false gospel of self-esteem and cheap grace. No. This is exactly why the gospel is a lifting up of the Person of Jesus Christ. People must SEE HIM. If they don’t, the message will do them little good.
Much of today’s modern gospel does deny that we are sinners – although this is usually acknowledged as a doctrine. But in reality, the modern gospel is more of an accommodation of man’s fallen nature -- if not an affirmation of it. Jesus has become someone whose job it is to make us, “better people,” and one who is supposed to make us feel good about ourselves. False teachers like Robert Schuller are telling us that our problem is NOT sin. Rather, he tells us that our problem is that we think we are sinners. False teachers like Joel Osteen tell us that the way to bring people to Christ is to REMOVE the offense of the Cross. This is an abomination in the eyes of God. These men are the very definition of what the Word of God defines as a false teacher who teaches, “another gospel.”
It’s time for the Christian church to wake up. There is a great deception taking place. And it is clear where it is going: The church is denying the nature of things. We are more and more denying that we are lost, dead spiritually, and in rebellion against God – by nature. What used to be ABNORMAL according to scripture, is now being proclaimed as OK – as NORMAL. Thus, more and more will the need for Jesus Christ be preached.
As I mentioned, I am very aware that in decades past, and often today, the gospel that is preached is a negative one. Some preachers pound people into the ground for being sinners, and in doing so, take the focus off of the Savior. This kind of preaching makes the gospel, not good news, but a threat of punishment. This is not the Truth either, and what it really does is stampede people to the gospel of self-esteem -- to the affirmation of, ”the dignity of man.”
But when are Christians going to stop reacting to each other, and begin seeking God for HIS Truth? First, we have a gospel that is a threat of punishment, that focuses on what rotten souls we are. Then, in reaction to that, we have the gospel of self-esteem, that focuses on how good we really are. First, we have the charismatics, with their focus on signs, wonders, and supernatural experiences. Then, in reaction to that, we have many non-charismatics, who react to that by outlawing all signs, wonders, and all possibility of experience. It is just one reaction after another – all to each other. And off to the side is Jesus Christ, patiently waiting for us to STOP and seek HIM.
At the end of the day, however, THE NATURE OF THINGS is going to be there. You cannot deny or escape the nature of things. You must DEAL with it. And the only possibility is through the CROSS of Jesus Christ.
The gospel of Jesus Christ, if preached in Truth, will result in you and I being convicted as dead sinners, who are WRONG with God. But parallel to this negative realization, will come a revelation of Jesus Christ as our Savior. God never shows us the Truth to bring condemnation upon us. He shows us the Truth to bring illumination. But central to that illumination is that the gospel must tell the Truth about our condition – it must tell the Truth about the nature of things.
As mentioned, it is because of the nature of things that Christians, even long after they have been born again, will continue to suffer. For despite the fact that through Christ we are delivered from the realm of darkness, and are dead to sin, and are alive to God, there is much struggle involved in coming into the reality of these things. The reason is not that God sat down one day and decided to arbitrarily make it hard. No. The reason is the nature of things. The nature of things makes suffering necessary.
Here are just a few of the possible hundreds of passages which show that the nature of things mandates, not only the grace of God, but a necessary suffering, in getting free of that old, abnormal creation:
the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into
the glorious liberty of the children of God.
For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together
until now. (Rom 8:21-22)
all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing: for to will is
present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
you not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except you be
reprobates? (2 Cor 13:5)
the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which
are saved it is the power of God. (1
Once we recognize the true nature of things, it ought to explain much. It ought to explain why the most faithful and obedient Christian is going to suffer. This is not a sign that something is wrong, but rather, a sign that something is right. For in order for that which is ABNORMAL to come into an experiential restoration back to NORMAL, there must be many birth pangs. For how can creatures in whom there is NO Truth, come to walk in the Truth? How can creature whose minds are at enmity against God, come to have the mind of Christ? Yet this is the task at hand. And it is the job of the Holy Spirit.
Christianity is hard – it is hard, not because we have to work to earn anything from God. No. It is hard because of where we start – with no Truth in us. Thus, it is hard because of the NATURE OF THINGS. That which we have freely received from God is going to seek to invade every part of us, and seek to bring us into conformity with Christ. This will be met with continual opposition. That won’t feel good. But in the end, it will set us free.
We need to come to terms with the fact that this age is the age of ADVERSITY. It is the age, because of the nature of things, where we are coming BACK to God. We are not converted to Christ to be happy, be rich, or live a trouble free life – despite the fact that there will be many blessings in Christ that we do experience. But Christianity is the kingdom of God through the life of His Son being set up in our hearts. There is little in us or outside of us that is going to harmonize with this. It will product adversity and conflict. THAT is the nature of things.
The Gospel and Suffering
The nature of things – including OUR nature – is at enmity with God.
You didn’t decide for yourself to be born that way.
And God doesn’t blame you for it.
What God does blame us for is our affirmation of the sin nature, and our
neglect or refusal to hand ourselves over to Him -- once we see the way
out in Christ.
In the final analysis, there is really only ONE THING you and I can do
about ourselves. And it is the ONE
THING that God does require that we do. Indeed,
this ONE THING is so vital and so important that our eternal destiny hangs upon
whether we do it or not. What is
that ONE THING? Just this:
God requires that we hand ourselves over to Him.
Now don’t misunderstand. I’m
not saying we don’t need to believe or obey God.
In fact, unless we are doing this ONE THING I mentioned, it is
questionable whether our faith and obedience is real.
Indeed, doing this one thing IS faith.
If we are REALLY handing ourselves over to Him, we are doing it because
You see, if I am surrendering to Christ because I’m afraid I will go to
hell IF I DON’T, then I am not seeing the Truth – despite the fact that,
yes, I will go to hell if I don’t. But
can we see that it is possible for a person to surrender to Christ simply as,
“fire insurance,” but to really NOT be surrendered to Christ at all?
Sure. People do that all the
The true gospel does not say, “Believe in Jesus, or else!!!” For if that were the gospel if would be a denial of the
NATURE OF THINGS. Think about it.
Without Christ, you and I are already spiritually dead, and on our
way to hell. Why would God say to
us, “Believe or I’m going to punish you by sending you to hell?”
No. Rather, the true gospel
says to us, “You are already spiritually dead and hell is your eternal
destiny. But Jesus came to give you
LIFE. Repent and believe, and you
will be saved.”
So we see that there really is only ONE THING we can do about ourselves
– turn to Christ by faith, once God gives us the light of the gospel.
This ought to make sense. I
am saying that NO – we cannot save ourselves, or make ourselves good, or birth
ourselves anew. But I am saying
that YES, once God brings us light – we can relinquish ourselves to God.
We can take all the bad we are and surrender to God.
We must see this. A
spiritually dead sinner cannot make himself alive.
But once God brings the light, a spiritually dead sinner absolutely can
surrender the dead sinner that he is over to Jesus Christ.
If you have a SELF you can surrender SELF – even as a spiritually dead
sinner – for spiritual death does not deprive you of your free will once God
gives you LIGHT. This is the ONE
THING we can do, and MUST DO. Our
eternity hinges upon it.
this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved
darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For
every one that does evil hates the light, neither comes to the light, lest his
deeds should be reproved. But he
that does truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that
they are wrought in God. (John 3:19-21)
But once we hand ourselves over to God, and are saved, the trouble will
not end. We must continually hand
ourselves over to God. At first, we
won’t even know what this means, or what to hand over, or how to do it. God will show us. But
having relinquished ourselves to Christ and been born again, we must now LIVE
OUT that surrender, or as Paul put is, we must, “work out our salvation with
fear and trembling.”
Christianity is not a party. It
is not a ticket to wealth and an easy life.
This doesn’t mean it is a morbid, depressing life either, but we are
here dealing directly with the NATURE OF THINGS.
With OUR nature – which is going to clash continually with God’s
nature. But is this not a GOOD
THING? Is not this sort of trouble
and suffering a sign that everything is RIGHT?
Sure. That is the only
rational under which God could tell us to REJOICE in our sufferings.
Christians are people with CHRIST IN THEM – and because of the nature
of things, this will mean that everything in us that is not of Christ will clash
with our new life. Suffering will
result. Christians are people with
TRUTH in them – and as that Truth unfolds, all of our error will have to be
exposed. I am not talking about
facts or doctrines. I’m talking
about our entire frame of reference for living – our inner constitution.
It is in darkness, and God wants to bring LIGHT.
Christians are people who have surrendered the throne to Christ, but who
have little idea what it means to live under Him as Lord.
Being dethroned is not fun. It
will require suffering, as this will cut across everything we know.
And so we see that suffering is the result more of the NATURE OF THINGS
– the result of the clash of two natures – then anything else.
Naturally, we tend to focus on the negative.
We try to SAVE what God wants us to LOSE.
We try to bring to life what God says is dead. Often, we don’t even realize what we are doing.
But everything I am describing, despite the conflict and suffering, is
the most positive things imaginable. It
is REDEMPTION being worked out in you and I.
It is what it means to be born again.
If you are upside down in the eyes of God, but think you are right side
up, and God begins to truly turn you right side up, what are you going to think?
Well, you are going to think God is turning you upside down, because you
thought you were already right side up! Or
to put it another way, if you and I are at peace with ourselves – but a lost
soul – God must disturb our peace. This
will seem like a bad thing. But it
is all geared to getting us to where we are at peace with God.
Notice that the apostle Paul speaks of trouble and suffering as business
as usual for anyone in whom Christ lives, but that the outcome is to our benefit
and to God’s glory:
I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared
with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Rom 8:18)
then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with
the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;
That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the
lusts of men, but to the will of God. (1 Pet 4:1-2)
think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though
some strange thing happened unto you: But
rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his
glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. (1 Pet 4:12-13)
brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience.
But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and
entire, wanting nothing. (James 1:2-4)
You will notice that this isn’t a matter of, “logging in suffering time.” No. This is a matter of coming under the impact of the death and resurrection of Christ. This will mean death to our flesh and self, and life in Christ. There is no other way for life to come forth except through death. It is a Truth we need to realize.
So if you are a Christian, but never have any distress, I’d worry.
Or, I’d get ready. There is no such thing as a Christian who is growing in the
grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ that will not suffer. You will also rejoice greatly.
You will have many blessings. You
will find true purpose in life. But
you will suffer along the way. You
will have to. The nature of things
Of course, today we have many who preach a message that suggests that all
that God does when we are saved is ADD something to us that sort of makes us
better people. This message would
lead us to believe that we receive the Holy Spirit, “on top,” of what we are
in Adam, and that this makes everything ok.
From the point of our baptism in the Spirit, we are told that God simply
does a rebuilding project to make us into the beautiful people that we can
Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Millions
believe it. And the end result is
basically correct – God does want us to find our identity in Christ, and that
will be quite beautiful, won’t it? I
mean, we just read a bunch of passages about, “the glory to be revealed in
us.” That’s beyond what any of
us can measure as to the good things ahead of Christians.
But there is a problem. In
order to rebuild us, God must first tear down the old us.
Indeed, the Holy Spirit has not come to merely ADD Himself to us, making
us better people. No.
Rather, the Holy Spirit has come to SUBTRACT from us everything of the
old creation. And then to make us
brand new. That’s were the
trouble and suffering comes in.
God is not interested in salvaging the old creation.
He is not come to affirm you and I, and make us feel good about
ourselves. We don’t believe it --
but the continual quest to feel good about ourselves is what is WRONG with us.
God wants us to be set free from this self-focus and feel good about HIM.
We don’t believe this because, again, this runs against the nature of
things. God’s goal, is, in fact,
a state of being that is far removed from anything we know.
But saying that is simply a testimony of just how far removed we are from
God’s original thought for mankind.
The Bible is filled with passages that show that the life of Christ is to
come into people who have initially no compatibility for Him:
hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the
things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searches
all things, yea, the deep things of God….But the natural man receives not the
things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he
know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
(1 Cor. 2:9-14)
We start to be compatible with God only by first surrendering to Him through repentance and faith. That is a moral beginning. But it is only the beginning. Then the Holy Spirit will indwell us, and begin a work to form us together with Christ. The Holy Spirit will tear down the old and build up the new. God has come to fill us with the fullness of Christ, and that is going to require life from death. The work of the Cross. If anyone has told you differently, you have not been told the Truth.
Why is Christianity so hard? Because man’s fall was so deep. THAT is the nature of things. God is bringing us back from the kingdom of darkness, and from a condition of total corruption. It is a condition that we are at home in. So the change and adjustment hurts and confuses us. But in the end, we will agree with Paul that the sufferings of this life are not to be compared with the glory – His glory – that we will realize, not just in the ages to come, but as a down payment in this life as well. We will have a NEW NATURE in Christ Jesus.The Good News - Home